Top 50 Acting Performances: Psychopaths & Sociopaths

September 2021, Adrian Țofei

These are the acting performances of psychopaths/sociopaths on film that impressed and/or inspired me the most from childhood till recently. They’re not necessarily the ones I consider to be the greatest or most realistic ever recorded, it’s a highly subjective list of the performances that influenced my acting & filmmaking career the most. Check out my other film lists as well!

Top 10

  1. Kathy Bates directed by Rob Reiner in Misery (1990)
  2. Christoph Waltz directed by Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  3. Javier Bardem directed by Joel & Ethan Coen in No Country for Old Men (2007)
  4. Joe Pesci directed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas (1990)
  5. Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver (1976)
  6. Bette Davis directed by Robert Aldrich in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  7. J. K. Simmons directed by Damien Chazelle in Whiplash (2014)
  8. Michael Douglas directed by Joel Schumacher in Falling Down (1993)
  9. Jake Gyllenhaal directed by Dan Gilroy in Nightcrawler (2014)
  10. John Jarratt directed by Greg McLean in Wolf Creek (2005)

Top 25

(in chronological order from 11th to 25th)

  • Carey Mulligan directed by Emerald Fennell in Promising Young Woman (2020) – review
  • Robert De Niro directed by Martin Scorsese in The Irishman (2019) – review
  • Rosamund Pike directed by David Fincher in Gone Girl (2014)
  • Michael Eklund directed by Brad Anderson in The Call (2013)
  • Matthew McConaughey directed by William Friedkin in Killer Joe (2011)
  • Dieter Laser directed by Tom Six in The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
  • Stanley Tucci directed by Peter Jackson in The Lovely Bones (2009)
  • Blanche Baker directed by Gregory Wilson in The Girl Next Door (2007)
  • Sergi Lopez directed by Guillermo del Toro in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  • Rick Hoffman directed by Eli Roth in Hostel (2005)
  • Ralph Fiennes directed by Steven Spielberg in Schindler’s List (1993)
  • Anthony Hopkins directed by Jonathan Demme in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Michael Douglas directed by Oliver Stone in Wall Street (1987)
  • Rutger Hauer directed by Ridley Scott in Blade Runner (1982)
  • Anthony Perkins directed by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho (1960)

Top 50

(in chronological order from 26th to 50th)

  • Patricia Clarkson directed by Jean-Marc Vallee in Sharp Objects (2018)
  • Barry Keoghan directed by Yorgos Lanthimos in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
  • Ian McShane in American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)
  • Zachary Quinto in American Horror Story: Asylum (2012)
  • Pat Healy directed by Craig Zobel in Compliance (2012)
  • Vincent D’Onofrio directed by Jennifer Lynch in Chained (2012)
  • Evan Peters in American Horror Story: Murder House (2011)
  • Isabelle Fuhrman directed by Jaume Collet-Serra in Orphan (2009)
  • Daeg Faerch directed by Rob Zombie in Halloween (2007)
  • Colin Hanks directed by Eric Nicholas in Alone with Her (2006)
  • Elliot Page directed by David Slade in Hard Candy (2005)
  • R. Lee Ermey directed by Marcus Nispel in The Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Cal Robertson directed by Ben Coccio in Zero Day (2002)
  • Robin Williams directed by Mark Romanek in One Hour Photo (2002)
  • Bill Paxton self-directed in Frailty (2001)
  • Denzel Washington directed by Antoine Fuqua in Training Day (2001)
  • Ben Kingsley directed by Jonathan Glazer in Sexy Beast (2000)
  • Christian Bale directed by Mary Harron in American Psycho (2000)
  • Doug Hutchison directed by Frank Darabont in The Green Mile (1999)
  • Ted Levine directed by Jonathan Demme in The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Billy Zane directed by Phillip Noyce in Dead Calm (1989)
  • Glenn Close directed by Adrian Lyne in Fatal Attraction (1987)
  • Tom Noonan directed by Michael Mann in Manhunter (1986)
  • Erwin Leder directed by Gerald Kargl in Angst (1983)
  • Charles Chaplin self-directed in Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
  • Peter Lorre directed by Fritz Lang in M (1931)

Listing these performances doesn’t mean acceptance of the potentially illegal, unethical or immoral behaviour of any of the actors, neither that I agree with their opinions on any subject matter. It also doesn’t mean (obviously) approval of any actions or ideas expressed by the characters they play.