As this list will show, regardless of the year, movie-goers will always love to see a deranged lunatic galloping across their screen; be it the smart, well spoken 1950’s psychopath, or the hidden face and sadistic brutality of the 00’s psychopath. All psychos have their motivations, whether it’s sheer inhumanity to man, actual mental illness, revenge, or a warped childhood, they all have their own agendas, most of which are pursued with hilarious single-mindedness and zeal. You gotta give it to the movie-psychopath, there certainly has been some memorable ones.

#12: Bruno Anthony from Strangers on a Train (1951)

"I have the perfect weapon right here!...These two hands"

In Hitchcock’s early classic, Bruno Anthony is the wealthy layabout son of an industrial tycoon. He doesn’t like his dad – at all, and in fact has attempted to ‘swap murders’ with famous tennis player Guy Haines; Bruno offs Guy’s bothersome (and pregnant) ex, while Guy is forced to murder Bruno’s dad. Bruno is absolutely hilarious, insane and completely obsessed with murder, qualities which Jack Nicholson definitely picked up on for many of his latter roles. In one classic scene, Guy sneaks in to tell Bruno’s dad of his mental son’s plans, and finds Bruno in his bed, fully dressed in evening attire.

#11: Babs Johnson from Pink Flamingos (1972) 

"Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!"

Played by the (probably actually insane) transsexual ‘Divine’, Babs Johnson is absolutely concise in her world view. Shit and filth rules, OK? Her insanity stems entirely from the fact that she is so worried about people thinking she’s not utterly disgusting, thus she ups her own (at times bafflingly untouchable) ante. Some of her escapades completely confirm that she is, in fact insane though, so all is well. The scene where her and her ‘son’ lick every item in their rivals house is so utterly confusing and weird that it is burned into my mind forever.

#10: Begbie from Trainspotting (1996)

"That lassie got GLASSED!...An' nae cunt leaves here till we find oot whitt cunt DID et."

Seen above glassing the ‘lassie’ in question, Francis Begbie is quite possibly the most simple psychopath on the list. Bizarrely surrounding himself with junkies, he constantly talks of how drugs will kill you, yet, statistically, Begbie is more likely to kill you than drugs. It’s hard to pinpoint why Begbie is such a foreboding figure, but one reason that comes to mind is the similarity between him and ‘pub nutters’: that is, any mental bastard who is pissed in a pub and doesn’t like you looking at him. Not only is he believable as that, but he’s also oddly fascinating, for all his many faults.

#9: Colonel. Walter Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (1979)

   

"I watched a snail...crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream; that's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor... and surviving."

Kurtz, like many psychos, is also an extremely intellectual and influential figure, in one society anyway. For the U.S. Air Force, he was an outstanding officer, efficient in duty, and effective in his operations. For some reason though, on a trip to Vietnam, he encountered a local tribe and completely lost his mind. His philosophy is not only profound, but completely baffling in it’s complexity – he possesses a world view which only he understands. He has rose to the rank of demi God amongst the natives, and as such has allowed this to go to his head. You know that shit is about to go down when Martin Sheen is drafted in to sort him out…

#8: Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (2000) 

"You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death. And then play around with your blood."

Bateman is a successful, rich, smartly dressed yuppie. He is also psychotically deranged, be it for real, or in his head: make no mistake, he absolutely is. Balancing a thin line between normality and sheer madness, old Pat is as popular as you could hope to be – he has no reason for his psychosis other than exercising the power that he can get away with it. His sick mind is constantly on a tightrope of what is real and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what absolutely is not. He is also a huge fan of Phil Collins and Huey Lewis, something which somehow manages to make him even more insane.

#7: Stansfield from Leon: The Professional (1994)

"Do you like life? That's...good because I take no pleasure in taking life if it's from a person who doesn't care about it."

Stansfield is a Drug Enforcement officer. He is also a huge Beethoven fan and drug addict, and he is about as corrupt as anyone could actually believe, oozing malice and insanity in every shot. It’s probably his position as a high up officer that makes him so unflinchingly believable and terrifying, but certainly a manic performance from Gary Oldman doesn’t hurt; he is so outrageous, terrifying and totally mental that every time he is on the screen it is hard to take your eyes off him, however evil he actually is.

#6: Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde) from Reservoir Dogs (1992) 

"BOY! That was really exciting! I bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan aren't ya?...Yeah...Me too! I love that guy! My heart's beatin' so fast I'm about to have a heart attack!"

Mr. Blonde is a breed apart from even the most psychotic criminals. He is sadistic, as well as being extremely funny, disturbing, as well as being ultimately charming and good looking. But when he does get in the mood to commit extreme violence, he really puts his heart and soul into it. Only a true psychopath could make Stealer’s Wheel menacing. He does it, and for many people, ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ would never have normal connotations again. Tarantino does his best work in making nasty characters have desirable and good qualities, and Mr. Blonde is the start of that tradition, he is a disgrace, but he is also one cool motherfucker.

#5: Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver (1976) 

"I'M square!? You're the one that's square, man! I don't go screwing fuck with a bunch of killers and junkies like you do. You call that bein' hip? What world you from?"

Bickle is a sad case in cinema, least of all because Taxi Driver is partly based on a true story of a lonely man who has seen the worst a city has to offer, attempting to make it 1% better for a girl he has developed a human emotion for. Though he is obviously quite psychologically damaged, Travis is not one for random psychotic behaviour to just anyone, he targets those, closely following them for a number of months and planning his attack. He almost kills a senator (while posing as an ex-FBI agent), and then finally succeeds in completely annihilating a seedy New York brothel (led by the equally insane Harvey Keitel as ‘Sport’), saving a young prostitute along the way. A compassionate and likeable psychopath? Now I have heard it all…

#4: The Family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 

"Look what your brother did to the door! Ain't he got no pride in his home?"

It’s hard to pick one character from Texas Chainsaw Massacre who is more insane than the other. The young hitch-hiker who cuts his hand  haphazardly after bunking a lift (“Oh that gun’s no good…The old way, with a sledge! You see that way’s better. They die better that way”), Leatherface – the killer, a chainsaw wielding oaf (who is also likely mentally retarded, and shows extreme remorse at times after his killings which he sees as necessary to feed the family) who dresses as the family’s dead mother, the old man who is the father of the family as well as the owner of the gas station (“I just can’t take no pleasure in killing…”), or the half-dead, catatonic Grandfather, the man who likely introduced the disgraceful behaviour to the family? For my money, they all contribute to one absolutely sick family gathering. Lap up their sheer insanity of these twisted Texan cannibals, they won’t hurt ya none!

#3: Norman Bates from Psycho (1960)

"I think I must have one of those faces you can't help believing."

Psycho just goes to show, classic cinema never ages. Over 50 years on, Hitchcock’s Bates’ seems as terrifying and believable as ever. With an advance in modern psychology though, it’s quite likely Norman is a paranoid schizophrenic, who manifests his symptoms by actually dressing up and taking on the role of his mother. He seems genuinely a lovely young fellow, simply bullied by his mother to working at the family hotel. At night, the Bates motel becomes a twisted spot for Norm to exact his revenge against women. It becomes quite clear later on that Norman has been under his mother’s influence all his life, and as such has created two personalities to deal with that – the subservient and pleasant Norman, and the sinister and dangerous Norma.

#2: Frank Booth from Blue Velvet (1986)

"Pour it? No...I want you to fuck it. Shit, yes, pour the fuckin' beer"

As Jeffrey Beaumont says early on in the film, “Frank is a very sick and dangerous man.” Truer words have never been spoken, he is absolutely ill in many ways, be it his odd avoidance of eye contact, his unbelievable sexual habits, or his constant huffing from a portable oxygen cannister, Frank is as demented a villain as he is an interesting and funny one. Punctuating every sentence with as many ‘FUCK!’ and ‘SHITS!’ as he can possibly fit, he is a very threatening presence. In David Lynch films usually, there is a strange and quite eerie sense of evil lurking around every corner, in familiar faces and even places, yet Frank Booth is the most singularly evil entity in any Lynch films, so open and vicious in his evil and insanity that it is not open for interpretation. Every time Hopper confidently strolls on the screen to deliver his lines there is a palpable sense of danger, his unpredictability and insanity combining to provide some hilarious dialogue and truly terrifying scenes.

#1: Jack Torrance from The Shining (1980)

"Wendy...? Darling...? Light, of my life...? I'm not gonna hurt ya. You didn't let me finish my sentence! I said, I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your BRAINS in...Gonna bash 'em right the FUCK in! ha ha ha!"

Writer, family man, hard worker, lunatic. Jack Torrance has it all for sure, and that’s why he’s such an interesting – if incredibly psychotic character. It’s been the subject of much debate as to whether Jack is really a ghost or a man who has lived in the hotel since the start and is reliving awful events, or as would seem, simply a man taking a job over the winter to provide for his family. The Shining is truly scary though, because we see him as a loving father and husband, then we  witness his rapid rollercoaster descent to unquestionable lunacy, trying to kill his wife and child, holding elaborate and intricate conversations with people who aren’t really there and axing a concerned guest in the chest. However enjoyable he is to watch, there is no way he is the kind of character you would ever wish to encounter in real life, each line drips with a tangible terror and madness, the kind of madness that is symptomatic of a man who has completely lost everything he ever had.

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