I'm not the good guy this time...
November 1, 2010 10:03 PM   Subscribe

I LOVE movies where the villian is played by an actor who is typically cast as the good guy hero in their roles in other films. Off the top of my head I can think of Harrison Ford in "What Lies Beneath", Robin Williams in "One Hour Photo", and John Travolta in "The Taking of Pelham 123" Can you give me more examples? Preferably good movies :-D
posted by razzamatazm to Media & Arts (79 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Michael Mann's choice to cast Tom Cruise as the villain in Collateral actually came off quite well. I think that's the most memorable Cruise role in the last decade.
posted by cirripede at 10:08 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Tom Hanks as a/the villain in The Ladykillers was pretty good.
posted by AMSBoethius at 10:09 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fred MacMurray in The Apartment and Double Indemnity.
posted by null terminated at 10:10 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Based on your mention of Travolta, I was going to mention him in Swordfish, but you indicated a preference for good movies. ;)

Anyway, null terminated beat me to the Double Indemnity suggestion. Excellent movie, and about the best example of this that I can think of.
posted by xedrik at 10:20 PM on November 1, 2010


It's not a movie, but season 4 of Dexter has John Lithgow (from the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun) as a villain, an oh so creepy villain.
posted by bjrn at 10:22 PM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Harrison Ford was also a villain in The Mosquito Coast. Can't remember how good the movie was.
posted by Cheminatrix at 10:31 PM on November 1, 2010


Denzel Washington - Training Day
posted by meowzilla at 10:34 PM on November 1, 2010


Nathan Fillion from Firefly is hero by name only in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog".
posted by Triton at 10:34 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Training Day - Denzel won an Oscar and everything!

Sin City - Elijah Wood goes from Hobbit to freaky homicidal maniac.

Batman Begins has Liam Neeson being all secretly evil, and I didn't see this one, but I gather that Taken has him playing...not a bad guy exactly, but he doesn't sound like the nicest of fellows.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Matt Damon as the homoerotic bad guy, woo!

Wanted, Chain Reaction, and Hard Rain - I wouldn't really call any of these good, but it's really goddamn jarring to see Morgan Freeman, the man with the most trustable voice in the world, play the bad guy for a change.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:36 PM on November 1, 2010


John Lithgow's probably not the best example since other than 3rd Rock from the Sun he's got a good career in baddies - Cliffhanger, Footloose and the like.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:37 PM on November 1, 2010


Henry Fonda in Once upon a Time in the West
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:42 PM on November 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Once Upon A Time in the West, with Henry Fonda in the bad guy role, is perhaps the classic example.
posted by Artw at 10:42 PM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nathan Fillion from Firefly is hero by name only in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog".

Nathan Fillion played a villain quite well in Season 7 of Buffy.

Also:

Paul Newman as the villain in The Hudsucker Proxy.
Henry Fonda as the villain in Once Upon A Time In The West.
Kathy Bates as the villain in Misery.
Nicolas Cage as the thoroughly despicable anti-hero in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans.
Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are both pretty nasty in Death Becomes Her.

Spoiler alert: James Cromwell jnf n onq thl va YN Pbasvqragvny.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:43 PM on November 1, 2010


Also: Jeff Bridges in Iron Man and Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:47 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope you don't mind older films. Robert Mitchum was a big-time leading man back in the day. He played the villain in "Night of the Hunter" and by all accounts was terrifyingly effective.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:47 PM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, spoiler alert again: Alan Tudyk (aka Wash from Firefly) jnf n ivyynva - na njrfbzr, njrfbzr ivyynva - va gur svefg frnfba bs Qbyyubhfr.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:48 PM on November 1, 2010


These are fantastic guys! Keep it up!
posted by razzamatazm at 10:49 PM on November 1, 2010


Historically called playing "against type," it's one concept that didn't start out as a made-up TVTrope phrase.
posted by rhizome at 10:52 PM on November 1, 2010


Sean Connery as the bad guy in The Avengers (I think?) But it was a pretty awful film.
posted by The otter lady at 10:52 PM on November 1, 2010


Kevin Costner in Mr. Brooks. Robert Redford plays an unsympathetic character in Inside Daisy Clover.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:54 PM on November 1, 2010


Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son. The best unintentional comedy of 1993.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 10:57 PM on November 1, 2010


Charlize Theron in Monster is perhaps the most dramatic example I can recall in recent years.

But also: Heath Ledger as The Joker and Tom Cruise in Magnolia come to mind as iconic examples.
posted by desuetude at 10:59 PM on November 1, 2010


Morgan Freeman, always cast as the-one-guy-you-know-didn't-do-it (the guy plays god, for chrissakes), is a bad guy in Lucky Number Slevin.
posted by phunniemee at 11:03 PM on November 1, 2010


Is Tom Cruise's character in Magnolia really a villain? An asshole, sure, but asshole isn't really the same as bad guy, and in tone he's just an extreme version of the macho manly romantic leads that Tom Cruise often plays anyway...
posted by Scattercat at 11:04 PM on November 1, 2010


...That would be Morgan Freeman playing a bad guy alongside bad guy Ben Kingsley (a.k.a. Gandhi).
posted by phunniemee at 11:05 PM on November 1, 2010


The TV Tropes article mentions some things of note:
• Seth Rogen was truly terrific in the underrated Observe and Report. While not a villain per se, he was an effectively loathsome antihero.
• John Goodman was exceptionally creepy in Barton Fink.
• Keanu Reeves was effective as an abusive creep in The Gift.
• Southland Tales is a weird, weird movie, especially since it only really kicks into high gear after Jon Lovitz appears as an unambiguously evil cop.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:06 PM on November 1, 2010


Louis Gossett Jr. was largely known for sympathetic roles before he did the part of Sgt. Emil Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman". The way I heard it, he read the script and then told them he wanted that part. They told him, "OK, we'll rewrite it to make it more sympathetic."

And he said, No, I want to play that part. Apparently while he was doing that role, he kind of got into that character the whole time, and was difficult to be around. But he won an Oscar for "Best Supporting Actor" for the role.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:06 PM on November 1, 2010


Well, not Henry Fonda, but Peter Fonda plays a pretty slimy guy in The Limey, with Terrence Stamp.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:08 PM on November 1, 2010


Hugh Grant in An Awfully Big Adventure.
posted by brujita at 11:15 PM on November 1, 2010


Gregory Peck in The Boys from Brazil.
posted by cazoo at 11:23 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harrison Ford was also a villain in The Mosquito Coast.

I completely disagree with this statement. He's the protagonist, but not the villain.

However, he is on the side of the baddies in The Conversation.

Gene Hackman in Unforgiven
Robert Duvall in The Outfit
Paul Newman (sorta) in Hud
Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast
Jack Lemmon in Short Cuts (sorta)
posted by dobbs at 11:27 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List
Kevin Spacey in Seven
posted by illenion at 11:27 PM on November 1, 2010


Oh, and Robert Duvall isn't the "bad guy" in The Outfit. He just kicks serious ass, which he doesn't, usually.
posted by dobbs at 11:29 PM on November 1, 2010


Harrison Ford was also a villain in The Mosquito Coast.

I completely disagree with this statement. He's the protagonist, but not the villain.


Agree w/ dobbs. Misguided and tragic, yes, but not a villain.
posted by illenion at 11:31 PM on November 1, 2010


Kevin Spacey was also an outstanding Lex Luthor in otherwise only-ok Superman movie.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:39 PM on November 1, 2010


Oh and Meryl Streep is just fantastic as Susan Orlean in "Adaptation."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:40 PM on November 1, 2010


Bruce Willis is a bad guy in Planet Terror.
posted by aubilenon at 12:23 AM on November 2, 2010


Erm... John Travolta was the bad guy in Swordfish, Battlefield Earth, Broken Arrow, Face/Off...he's almost a pathetic stereotype of a wise-cracking, egotistical, arrogant bad guy now.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:28 AM on November 2, 2010


Kevin Costner in No Way Out.

Tim Robbins in Arlington Road.
posted by essexjan at 12:32 AM on November 2, 2010


Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List

Are you serious?
posted by schmichael at 12:46 AM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Waitwaitwait -- Villain is very very different from anti-hero. Villain is synonymous with antagonist. Antagonist and protagonist don't refer to characters' moral leanings, but rather to their functions within a story. In no way is Kevin Costner the antagonist in No Way Out or Mr. Brooks. Harrison Ford is certainly the protagonist in Mosquito Coast. Paul Newman is the protagonist in Hud. Charlize Theron/Monster. Seth Rogan/Observe and Report. Liam Neeson is hands down the hero in Taken.

Bad people does not equal a movie's 'bad guy.'

Insomnia features another antagonist turn by Robin Williams. It's a pretty good movie, certainly better than One Hour Photo.
posted by incessant at 1:00 AM on November 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dame Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal.
Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.
posted by sively at 1:18 AM on November 2, 2010


Jimmy Stewart in 'Vertigo' - not a villain but not perfect either. Stewart had appeared in 'It's a Wonderful Life' a few years earlier and I read somewhere that casting him in a flawed role was a deliberate choice by Hitchcock.
posted by plep at 1:21 AM on November 2, 2010


Have you seen 'Wolf Creek'?

The killer in that used to host a happy little lifestyle show called 'Better Homes and Gardens'. If you're not Australian though, I don't imagine it'd have the same effect.
posted by twirlypen at 2:01 AM on November 2, 2010


Gary Sinise in Ransom. Cary Grant in that Hitchcock film where he might be trying to kill his wife.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:45 AM on November 2, 2010


Sir Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man
posted by idiomatika at 3:05 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Danny Glover in Shooter

shut up it is too a good movie
posted by elizardbits at 3:28 AM on November 2, 2010


Speaking of Ben Kingsley, his role in Sexy Beast is one of the better heavies of the last decade.
posted by bendybendy at 3:32 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jodie Foster in Inside Man.

(Also, John Lithgow was more of an antagonist than a villain in Footloose.)
posted by tel3path at 4:06 AM on November 2, 2010


Was it Robert Mitchum in the original Cape Fear?

May not be a best example, as I always detected a bit of menace in Mitchum anyway...
posted by sundrop at 4:31 AM on November 2, 2010


Stanley Tucci in Jury Duty.
Johnny Depp in Secret Window.
posted by anderjen at 4:40 AM on November 2, 2010


Michael Keaton in "Pacific Heights"
posted by DWRoelands at 5:02 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brad Pitt in Kalifornia.
posted by fso at 5:13 AM on November 2, 2010


Nicolas Cage as the thoroughly despicable anti-hero in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans

Nicolas Cage in Kiss of Death (this trailer (and movie) is pretty cheesy but he was actually a convincing bad guy in it)
posted by cali59 at 5:31 AM on November 2, 2010


Danny Glover in Witness.
posted by pie_seven at 5:52 AM on November 2, 2010


Bob Barker, Happy Gilmore
Jerry Lewis, King of Comedy
Alicia Silverstone, The Crush
Jack Nicholson, The Witches of Eastwick
Jet Li, The One
Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man
Alan Rickman, Die Hard & Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Jack Nicholson, The Shining
Faye Dunaway, Mommie Dearest
Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Max Von Sydow, Flash Gordon
Natasha Henstridge, Species
John Travolta, Battlefield: Earth
Robin Williams, Insomnia
posted by acheekymonkey at 5:55 AM on November 2, 2010


Glen Ford in the 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma. There's some ambiguity as to good guy/bad guy in the film, but Glen is clearly a villian, and is playing waaay against type.

Plus: Van Heflin!
posted by dirtdirt at 6:01 AM on November 2, 2010


Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed? Awesome film.
posted by badmoonrising at 6:20 AM on November 2, 2010


James Earl Jones in Star Wars.
Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe in Batman Begins.
Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West (mentioned earlier).

Also, I disagree about Lithgow. My first introduction to him was in Buckaroo Banzai, and he played the crazy villain to the hilt.

Also, my favorite instance of actor playing villain was in Alias when Ricky Gervais played a bombmaker.
posted by hariya at 6:25 AM on November 2, 2010


Oops. Thinking about it, DiCaprio isn't really the villain in The Departed. Ignore me.

How about Eric Bana in the new Star Trek film?
posted by badmoonrising at 6:33 AM on November 2, 2010


John Travolta in The Punisher (2004)
Every movie I've seen Russell Crowe in, he's been a hero, with the exception of 3:10 to Yuma
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:59 AM on November 2, 2010


Steve Martin in The Spanish Prisoner.

I'm also a fan of Brad Pitt in Kalifornia. I think that movie made me take him seriously.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:21 AM on November 2, 2010


Wilford "Quaker Oats" Brimley as the utterly ruthless head of security in "The Firm." I never thought I'd ever cheer at Wilford Brimley being brutally beaten. But cheer I did, and loudly, too.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:23 AM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ben Kingsley in both Sexy Beast and Sneakers. Granted, he seems to only do easy paycheck b-movies now, but at the time it was quite the departure.

Paul Riser in Aliens. It still seems wrong to me.

Devito in Batman.

Famke Janssen in Goldeneye.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:29 AM on November 2, 2010


Some of these are weird answers. John Travolta seems to be undiscriminating in his choices, plating heroes, anti-heroes and moustache-twirlers with equal brio. Famke Janssen had two minor roles in small movies before being cast as the fatale in Goldeneye.

Max von Sydow, in his half-dozen villain turns (Strange Brew, Minority Report, etc). This is a guy who famously played Jesus: with an authoritative voice and a calm presence, you could make an argument for him being the European Morgan Freeman.

Hugh Jackman, otherwise noble and upright in pretty much everything, plays a conniving bastard in Scoop.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2010


John Wayne in Red River
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:13 AM on November 2, 2010


Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:16 AM on November 2, 2010


Bruce Willis in The Jackal.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:09 AM on November 2, 2010


Memento has a pretty nice switcheroo on both sides, using Carrie-Ann Moss and Joe Pantoliano in pretty much the opposite roles from those they'd played just previously in The Matrix.
posted by LionIndex at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2010


Nicole Kidman in To Die For.
posted by rdc at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2010


Michael Palin in 'A Fish Called Wanda'.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 1:44 PM on November 2, 2010


Burt Lancaster in Sweet Smell of Success
Ed Harris in A History of Violence
Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks
Jerry Orbach in Prince of the City
Jonathan Pryce in Something Wicked This Way Comes
Walter Matthau in Charade
Carol Burnett in Annie
Brian Cox in Manhunter
Lena Olin in Romeo is Bleeding
Christian Bale in Harsh Times
Nicole Kidman in Malice
Jeff Bridges in The Vanishing
Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper
Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man
Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted
Benicio del Toro in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
David Straithairn in Dolores Claiborne
Ethan Hawke in Tape
Joe Don Baker in Charley Varrick
Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire or To Live and Die in L.A.

If I could only give one answer, though, it would be Angela Lansbury in the original version of The Manchurian Candidate.
posted by heatvision at 2:12 PM on November 2, 2010


Richard Dawson, the host from Family Feud, as the villain in Running Man.
posted by GJSchaller at 2:35 PM on November 2, 2010


Christopher Reeve played a pretty bad guy in "Deathtrap".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2010


Bill Murray in Mad Dog & Glory
posted by cazoo at 4:13 PM on November 2, 2010


Eric Tsang in Infernal Affairs (the original "The Departed" and a thousand times better). He used to be typecast as a bumbling clown-ish sidekick in HK movies.
posted by amillionbillion at 5:15 PM on November 2, 2010


Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator
posted by Awkward Philip at 6:43 PM on November 2, 2010


Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted

Before she was an action hero, her niche was playing sexy-crazy girls; this role was not against type at all.
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on November 2, 2010


James Stewart in The Naked Spur, Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West.
posted by Morpeth at 2:38 PM on November 3, 2010


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