Great actors in villainous roles dominate decade on film

Narrowing down the thousands of great performances on film from the past 10 years is no easy feat. Nevertheless, the following performances stood out above the rest, portraying unforgettable characters both real and imagined.


10) Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles-Ray (2004)
Jamie Foxx began his career as a stand-up comedian and on television as part of the ensemble of In Living Color, along with fellow cast member Jim Carrey. Foxx managed to build a resume of some comedic and dramatic roles in Hollywood before getting the chance to play Ray Charles in director Taylor Hackford’s biopic Ray. Even though he did not the singing himself, Foxx simulated the legendary musicians’ body language and speech pattern. He also managed to capture the dark side of Charles with his battle with addictions to drugs and sex. During the making of the film, Foxx studied Ray Charles to better mimic him before the musician died on June 10, 2004.

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9) Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn-The Aviator (2004)
Since her lead role in 1998’s Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett has managed to portray several colorful characters whether she is an elf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or an Irish journalist in Veronica Guerin. She managed to work with legendary director Martin Scorsese on The Aviator where she got to play legendary Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn. Blanchett is simply stunning as Hepburn and steals every scene she is in. Her look, mannerisms and speech perfectly matches the screen legend to the tee, so much so that she was awarded the Oscar by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress.

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8) Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa-Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In his American film debut, Chrsitoph Waltz manages to deliver the best performance of 2009 as Col. Hans Landa. Given the name “The Jew Hunter” for his ability to locate Jews in “Nazi-occupied France”, Waltz portrays Landa not only as a charismatic, cultured and sophisticated man, but also as an evil, sinister and brutal villain. When Waltz makes his first appearance in the movie, you would automatically feel a sense of dread that carries with him in the first scene and throughout Inglourious Basterds. It also happens to be that Landa is the main link that connects all the characters in the film to one another. Look out around award season, as Waltz’s portrayal of the diabolical and charismatic Landa to receive accolades and possible Oscar nomination.

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7) Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow-Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
From Edward Scissorhands to Raoul Duke, Johnny Depp has played many different and inconsistent characters throughout his career. His most memorable role to date is as Jack Sparrow, who makes a memorable entrance as he rides in one top of the mast of his ship, which is sinking. Inspired in part by the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, Depp plays Sparrow as an eccentric pirate who seems to get drunk and/or get in trouble most of the times. Sparrow could be considered the anti-Errol Flynn by taking the cowards’ way out whenever he approaches a dilemma. Despite several flaws in the sequels’ storylines, part of the reason that this movie and the sequels have been successful is due to Depp’s performance in the films.

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6) Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin-The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Before Forest Whitaker got this role, he was generally typecast as the nice guy in such movies as The Crying Game and Phone Booth. In The Last King of Scotland, Whitaker turns in an outstanding performance by playing-against-type as the ruthless Ugandan dictator who rose to power in the 1970s. Whitaker does not portray Amin as merely a bad guy, but as a multi-faced person who can be vicious one second and then he could be friendly. As the film begins to wind down, he begins to become paranoid with the people that surround and will kill anybody he does not trust.

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5) Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman-American Psycho (2000)
Before he rose to A-list star status for his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Christian Bale took the role of Patrick Bateman, a yuppie Wall Street broker who goes on a murder spree. Bale embodies the character as a man bewildered by his environment and desperately wanting to fit in his surroundings. Bateman may appear normal on the outside with his fancy business card and a nice apartment. On the inside, he has an uncontrollable urge to commit homicide and an absence of compassion for fellow human beings. Bale is an actor who was willing to accept the risk of looking ridiculous for a role that requires to inane acts ever committed by a character on film whether is Bale dancing to Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to be Squared” before driving an axe into the head of Jared Leto or putting a gun to a cat’s head and threatening to feed it to an ATM machine.

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4) Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Before Kate Winslet won her Oscar for the role in The Reader, Winslet made her name in playing different characters whether it is Rose from Titanic or a woman stuck in a loveless marriage in Little Children. In between those movies, she starred in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opposite Jim Carrey as a free-spirited woman who is a recipient of a technological procedure where she was able to erase any memory she had of her ex-boyfriend, Joel (Carrey). Winslet’s Clementine is a perfect foil to Carrey’s Joel, who is so fascinated by Joel’s eccentricities and behavior that she instantly falls in love with him. Winslet plays Clementine as a woman who can relate to Joel’s eccentricities as she too has certain ticks like matching her hair color with her mood.

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3) Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview-There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Daniel Plainview is an once-in-a-lifetime role for the actor as the portrayal of his character requires the actor to sink into the depths of darkness as Plainview’s soul is consumed and twisted by greed and money. These obsessions eventually lead room for Plainview to commit selfish and unprovoked homicides and become a crazed and selfish old man in later years. He is a charismatic villain who is as slick as a businessman and has a hatred for people in general, which leads him to distrust anybody he knows.

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2) Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh-No Country for Old Men (2007)
The true standout in the amazing ensemble of No Country for Old Men is Javier Bardem’s role as Anton Chigurh, a hitman with a Prince Valient-like haircut and an unstoppable determination to cut all the loose ends to retrieve a suitcase filled with $2 million to keep for himself. He is not a talkative character, as he does most of his talking with his lethal actions. Chigurgh also has a perverse ways in determining the fate of his victims with a flip of the coin. An example of this is a scene in the movie where Chigurh forces a gas attendant to call “it” when he flips a coin on whether to end the attendant’s life after hearing his woeful tale.

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1) Heath Ledger as the Joker-The Dark Knight (2008)
The late Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker surpasses all the past incarnations of the character whether is Cesar Romero in the original TV series or Jack Nicholson in the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. Those roles were child’s play compared to Ledger’s incarnation of the Joker, in which he successfully portrays the villain as an unpredictable anarchist with a macabre sense of humor. The Joker’s philosophical take on chaos, order and morality of the average human being that makes the character fascinating.

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