Moviegoers know that sometimes the best protagonists are those who are rotten to the core – or at least somewhere nearby. The Self-Destruct Team, which will be released in theaters on Friday, July 30, brings together a team of very twisted judgment super-villains, including Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Idris Elba’s Bloodspot, John Cena’s Peacemaker and Joel Kinsman’s Rick Flag, on a Mission to end a peril Nazi-era cage and Laboratory.
To whet your appetite for the new movie, here’s a guide to some of the most memorable villain protagonists in movie history.
Scarred Face (1983)
Brian De Palma’s captivating crime drama is constantly referenced in Hip-Hop and pop culture. When Bruno Mars sings “Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold” on Uptown Funk, he pays to his cocaine-addicted trophy wife, Elvira Hancock. Even more iconic is Al Pacino’s ruthless protagonist, Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who arrives in Miami in the 1980s with no money and relentlessly (and unlawfully) tries to become a powerful lord of medicine. Montana is a big movie villain because he knows exactly who he is and finds no excuse to do so. “You need people like me,” he says in a famous scene, “so that you can point your finger and say, “This is the bad guy.”Too good.
The Lost Girl (2014)
Rosamunde Pike reinvents the Hitchcock blonde for a new generation in David Fincher’s sparkling psychological thriller. She plays Amy Elliott Dunne, an intelligent and charming woman from Manhattan who seems to be the ideal woman, but who is actually trying to accuse her mature husband (Ben Affleck) of being executed. Along the way, she offers a clear vision of the deeply attractive myth of the “cool girl” that men like her husband believe in. “Men really think that this girl exists,” she said with tired boredom. “Maybe you’re getting scammed because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. She’s right-and it’s Amy’s ability to convincingly pretend that she’s such a convincing villain.
The Taxi Driver (1976)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver is a fascinating and deeply disturbing character study. Travis Bickle from Robert De Niro is a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from extreme PTSD, paranoid Psychosis and motivated fantasies while driving his Taxi through a dark vision of New York. Although the press welcomes him as a heroic vigilante as he shoots down a group of creeps who are chasing Jodie Foster’s child prostitutes, Bickle does not get redemption. We keep wondering if he will finish again and for what purpose – an ambiguity that makes him a truly enduring movie villain.
Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime thriller sparked such a media storm that it was pulled from BRITISH cinemas in 1974 at the director’s request – it would only be released lawfully in the UK after another 26 years. Based on a Novel By Anthony Burgess, it follows the powerful exploits of Alex Delage (Malcolm McDowell), a sociopathic teenager who commits rapes, burglaries and executions while he develops a passion for classical music. Delage has undeniable charisma and a clear awareness that his actions are morally wrong, which makes him – and Kubrick’s Film – all the more frightening.
Training Day (2001)
Denzel Washington deservedly deserved an Oscar for his disturbing performance in Antoine Fuqua’s sinister crime thriller. He plays Alonzo Harris, an LAPD cop who is so determined to act more like one of the bandits he should take over. Harris is completely ruthless in his attempt to bribe Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke), a junior officer he has to evaluate, and even makes him smoke angel dust on duty. Although he boasts that “King Kong cares about me”, ironically, his coming comes on rare occasions when he follows the law. It is a perfectly poetic disappearance.
1992: The Life (1992)
Erotic thrillers may have gone out of fashion, but Paul Verhoeven’s kitsch classic remains fascinating. Sharon Stone appears on the screen as Catherine Trammel, a successful crime writer whose recent book reflects the real-life execution of an aging rock star. Did she bring her down or is someone trying to blame her? Intelligent, unshakable and deliberately provocative, she is a classic villain protagonist who sounds around her male opponent, Detective Nick Curran, The amorous Assassin of Michael Douglas. Be sure to skip the sequel to ropey 2006.
The Joker (2019)
Todd Phillips’ psychological thriller gives an iconic DC villain a terribly believable origin story. Enthusiastically played by Joaquin Phoenix, Arthur Fleck is a failed stand-up comedian who becomes the sadistic series finisher and is increasingly pushed to the periphery of society. This is an extremely disturbing trick that makes the Joker scarier than ever: being a toxic by-product of the cruel society in which he lives, we cannot consider his revolting behavior a tragic Anomaly. In a sense, all of Gotham City must take responsibility for its dark deeds.