Forever Marked: 25 Actors Haunted by Their Iconic Villain Roles

The Shining

Some actors are too good at their job, leading viewers to think they are truly as evil and heinous as the corrupt and unhinged characters they play on screen. Playing mean characters can be fun until people start to think you are as awful as your roles. Below are 25 actors and the roles that left them tainted in the eyes of the audience.

1. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford

Mommie Dearest
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Faye Dunaway played Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest and said she was haunted by this role for years. The movie is about Joan Crawford and how abusive she was toward her daughter, Christine. Dunaway captured the brutality and cavalier attitude perfectly, and apparently, people thought she was evil for a long time following the movie.

2. Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom

Image Credit: Open Road Films.

I must admit, Nightcrawler altered my view of Gyllenhaal, too. He is unbelievably creepy and emotionless in this movie, and he portrayed the role so well that I kind of think of him as a skeevy person now. Between this and what Taylor Swift sings about him, his reputation is skewed.

3. Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin

Happy Gilmore
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

I associate Christopher McDonald with many movies, and he often plays a villain. However, many people will never forgive him for his awful character in Happy Gilmore. By all accounts, he is a lovely man, but he is a pro when it comes to playing bad guys that make you want to throw a punch.

4. Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

For me, Javier Bardem is the sweet and handsome final love interest in Eat, Pray, Love, but many people only associate him with his chilling and cruel role in No Country for Old Men. He plays a violent psychopath with deranged morals and is easily one of the most terrifying villains in film history.

5. Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Image Credit: United Artists.

Louise Fletcher portrayed Nurse Ratched maybe a little too well for some people. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in a mental hospital where the patients are abused, tormented, and neglected by the head nurse. Fletcher gave me nightmares, and some can’t get past this evil but excellent performance.

6. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter

the Silence of the Lambs
Image Credit: Orion Pictures.

Martha Stewart broke up with Anthony Hopkins after seeing Silence of the Lambs because she was afraid he would eat her. Of course, she was probably mostly joking, but the breakup was as real as his horrifying permanence as a cannibal was.

7. Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus

Nocturnal Animals
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Ray Marcus is the main antagonist in Nocturnal Animals and delivers a shockingly vile performance that leaves many with hatred toward him. He is an awful man who hurts countless people with zero remorse, and Taylor-Johnson did such a good job that some think of him as a bad guy now.

8. Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.

Jesse Pinkman is a supremely complex character who some love to hate and others just love. Paul plays opposite Bryan Cranston in the popular series Breaking Bad, and, as always, he delivers a sensational performance that evokes emotions of hate and sometimes fear. It’s quite different than some of his funnier roles, such as Todd in BoJack Horseman.

9. Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Something about Agent Smith in The Matrix is so chilling and unsettling. He’s not a typical villain, as he’s not even a real person. Weaving’s spot-on portrayal of this calculated character has haunted him in his other roles. Many cannot shake the eeriness they feel when seeing Agent Smith, no matter what move is on.

10. Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

As much as I love this actress, I, too, have trouble forgetting how horrible she was as Umbridge. And by horrible, I mean she was brilliantly frightening and cold. She is the main antagonist in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and she emotionally and physically abuses the students while destroying Hogwarts along the way.

11. Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

The moment she broke her ankles, I knew I could never trust her again. I adore Kathy Bates in everything, but a part of me will always be a little bit scared of her thanks to her unnerving performance as Annie in Misery. The callousness in her face and sinister delivery of lines will never leave my nightmares.

12. Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne

Gone Girl
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Many see Rosamund Pike as an evil lady thanks to her performance as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. She plays a complete sociopath, and her performance is so convincing that she even seems scary on the red carpet. It doesn't help that she also played a horrifying narcissist in I Care A Lot.

13. Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa

Inglourious Basterds
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Supposedly, Tarantino said he was afraid he’d never be able to find someone who could achieve the cruelness of the character he’d written called Hans Landa. Enter Christoph Waltz. He plays the villainous Landa in Inglourious Basterds and delivers an unsettling performance that many cannot shake.

14. Tim Curry as Pennywise

It 1990
Image Credit: DawnField Entertainment.

While many other actors have reprised Pennywise since the horror movie, IT, came out in 1990, none made the role as bloodcurdling as Tim Curry. I’ll always think of him as the twisted butler from Clue, but many will forever see him as the devilish clown out to hurt children and cause havoc.

15. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Jesse Eisenberg's reputation seems to be intertwined with his callous and unsympathetic portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Whether or not he is a jerk in real life, this role haunts his reputation.

16. Andrew Scott as Moriarty

Image Credit: BBC One.

Moriarty is an iconic character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; he is the nemesis of Sherlock. In the BBC series Sherlock Andrew Scott, a dazzling actor, takes on this menacing role and knocks it out of the park. He was so evil and formidable in his role that people still think of him as this grim criminal.

17. Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

I saw Jack Nicholson in a few movies before I ever saw The Shining, but even I can’t shake the fear I feel when I see his face. I just imagine the horror of him axing through the bathroom door and sticking his face in the hole. To me, he embodies that delusional terror Jack Torrance represents.

18. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Gӧth

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Ralph Fiennes, who seems to be a genuinely sweet and caring man, portrayed the horrific war criminal Amon Gӧth (or Goeth) in the heart-wrenching film Schindler’s List. Fiennes, who has also played Voldemort, received an Oscar nomination for his performance, but at what cost? Some still view him as this ghastly soldier, despite knowing he is not that man.

19. Doug Hutchison as Eugene Tooms

The x Files, Tooms Doug Hutchison
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

The episodes of X-Files with Eugene Tooms are some of my favorites, but I have to watch them with the lights on. He plays a weird mutant and can manipulate his body through vets, sewage drains, and other small spaces so he can escape after tearing out his victims’ livers. Hutchison’s performance is disgusting and creepy in all the right ways.

20. Kevin Bacon as Sean Nokes

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

I’ve seen Kevin Bacon in too many roles not to love him, but for those who were introduced to him via the movie Sleepers, he might not be so lovable. He plays Sean Nokes, an abusive and cold man who has no remorse for his actions. Something about his performance is so casually but deliberately cruel that it’s impossible to forget.

21. Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman

American Psycho
Image Credit: Lions Gate Films.

I genuinely believe Christian Bale is a psychopath because of how convincing and brilliant his performance was in American Psycho. The reality is that he’s just a phenomenal actor, but that doesn't change the fact that I’d be hesitant to find myself in a room alone with him.

22. Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Alan Rickman, aka Snape, plays the main antagonist in the classic Christmas film Die Hard. While Hans Gruber is not as awful as some of the other villains on this list, he is still a heinous character that strikes fear into viewers and leaves people with an uneasy feeling. Rickman was so good that some were never able to get over his role as Gruber.

23. Stanley Tucci as George Harvey

The Lovely Bones
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

I positively adore Stanley Tucci, so seeing him as the creepy assaulter and murderer in The Lovely Bones was difficult. For people who were introduced to him via this role, it’s probably hard to find him likable. I’m just thankful he is almost unrecognizable in the hair and wardrobe of this disturbing character.

24. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth

Blue Velvet Dennis Hopper
Image Credit: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Many people think of Dennis Hopper as a vile person because he portrays one so well. One of his most villainous roles is Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. However, I want to provide an honorable mention for his role as Howard Payne in the film Speed, where he is almost as terrifying and unhinged.

25. Gary Oldman as Stansfield

leon2 1
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Gary Oldman did a great job in Leon: The Professional, where he plays the ultimate villain. In a movie where no one is a good person, he plays such a great character that a few fans have problems watching him in other movies after this one.

Author: Veronica Booth

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Food, Entertainment, Movies, TV, Fashion, Lifestyle, Celebrity


Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.

If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.

She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.