You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
This week, the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece “No Country for Old Men” will celebrate its 10-year anniversary, a film in which Javier Bardem gave life to an unforgettable villainous character — his performance is as terrifying as it is worthy of remembrance, rightfully winning him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
But he isn’t alone in being recognized for embodying humanity’s capacity for evil. Here is a list of 18 actors and actresses who have won an Oscar for portraying antagonistic characters.
Amadeus – 1984
F. Murray Abraham takes after the famous Italian music composer Antonio Salieri, who is driven mad with jealousy by the even more famous musical prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). Abraham went up against his co-star Hulce for the award.
Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men” (2007)
Bardem gave life to Anton Chigurh, the sadistic killer who is hunting after Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) after he steals a briefcase full of money following a shootout gone south. As Sandra Bullock accurately stated during the 83rd Academy Awards, Bardem “managed to scare an entire nation with that haircut.” This Coen Brothers classic turns 10 this year, friendo.
Kathy Bates, “Misery” (1990)
Bates embodies one of the most terrifying roles of all time as Annie Wilkes, a psychopathic fan who keeps her favorite author captive in her house after he gets into a crash that leaves him unconscious. “Misery” is the only film based on a Stephen King novel to win an Oscar.
Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood” (2007)
Day-Lewis’ performance as Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed drama garnered him his second Oscar (out of three). He plays a greedy oil magnate who has the proclivity for drinking other people’s milkshakes (it’s a metaphor).
Michael Douglas, “Wall Street” (1987)
With his slicked-back hair and occasional cigar in hand, Douglas’ portrayal of Wall Street stockbroker Gordon Gekko is the epitome of greediness. He gave birth to the famous line: “Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good.”
Louise Fletcher, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)
Decidedly one of the most despicable characters from one of the greatest films in history, Fletcher portrays the evil Nurse Ratched in the Oscar darling, whose authoritarian and ruthless behavior toward the patients at the Salem State Hospital keeps everyone under her control — that is until the rebellious Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) shows up.
Gene Hackman, “Unforgiven” (1992)
Little Bill Daggett, “Unforgiven’s” main antagonist, intends to bring order and stop crime as the town’s sheriff. But his MO is defined by brutality and ruthlessness. This was Hackman’s second Oscar win, after he won for “The French Connection” in 1972.
Anthony Hopkins, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
Undoubtedly one of the most famous villain performances of all time. Hopkins’ masterful work as the psychiatrist with cannibalistic tendencies Hannibal Lecter is iconically cringe-worthy, even with limited time — just 16 minutes onscreen, one of the shortest performances to ever win in the Best Actor category.
Angelina Jolie, “Girl, Interrupted” (1999)
Jolie stars as Lisa Rowe, a sociopath in a mental institution who corrupts and psychologically abuses Winona Ryder’s character Susanna. Rebellious, manipulative, and cold-hearted, Lisa more importantly represents the failure of mental-health treatment within the system.
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight” (2008)
Posthumously awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Ledger perfectly embodies the lunacy of Gotham’s most gleeful villain, the Joker. He died more than a year before he could receive his award, but his performance remains the pinnacle of villain madness.
Fredric March, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931)
Rouben Mamoulian’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is one of the horror genre’s classic films. March stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist who ingests a drug that brings up the evil side within him in the form of Mr. Edward Hyde. March tied with “The Champ’s” Wallace Beery for the Best Actor Oscar at the 5th Academy Awards.
Mo’Nique, “Precious” (2009)
Comedian Mo’Nique astounded audiences with her fantastic dramatic performance in “Precious” as Mary Lee Johnston, a mother who verbally and physically abuses her teenage daughter Precious (Gabourey Sidibe).
Joe Pesci, “Goodfellas” (1990)
Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito in Martin Scorsese’s classic film is based on the real gangster Thomas DeSimone, who was part of a New York mafia. Pesci is both hilarious and ruthless; however, if we learned anything from “Goodfellas,” it was to not tell Tommy DeVito that he is a funny guy.
J.K Simmons, “Whiplash” (2014)
Andrew (Miles Teller), a first-year jazz student at a prestigious conservatory in New York, is invited to join the studio band of legendary conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher loves music so much that he humiliates and verbally and physically abuses his students in the name of musical perfection.
Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton” (2007)
Swinton stars as Karen Crowder, the general counsel of an agricultural conglomerate facing a multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit. She is cold and relentless, especially when it comes to protecting the interests of the company she represents.
Charlize Theron, “Monster” (2003)
Theron’s win for her superb performance in “Monster” was a no-brainer. Her mind-numbing transformation into Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who becomes a serial killer whose victims were some of her clients, was brought to life by future “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins.
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
Who could ever forget Waltz’s performance as the bloodthirsty, loquacious SS officer? Aside from the violence that comes with Quentin Tarantino’s films, it is Waltz’s all-too-human embodiment of the ruthless Nazi that makes us cringe throughout the film.
Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland” (2006)
Whitaker’s performance is sublime as Ugandan president Idi Amen, the despot who spearheaded a military coup in Uganda and led the country for eight years. He was a ruthless ruler who instigated human-rights violations, war, political oppression, and corruption; his regime caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.