You don’t want to be caught taking a shower at the Bates Motel. While movies always focus on the heroes, the true scene-stealers are the villains. Characters such as Norman Bates, Pennywise, and Buffalo Bill all make their mark on their horror movies and haunt audiences for the rest of their lives. Heroes are easy to come by, but creepy villains are truly one in a million. Sometimes it’s the way they dress, the sight of their lair, or the way they interact with other characters, but creepy characters can get under your skin...and some of the characters on this list wear other people’s skin as their own. Some of them don’t even kill anyone, but their murderous implications give you goosebumps. These are the characters that continue to keep you awake at night while you lay in bed. Created by some seriously twisted individuals, these characters will continue to live on and strike fear into anyone who comes across them.
Pulp Fiction: Duane Whitaker as Maynard
One of the most underrated villains in Pulp Fiction is Maynard. The character is played by the Texan actor and playwright Duane Whitaker, who later wrote the sequel to Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn. In “The Gold Watch,” Maynard is a pawnshop owner who captures Butch and Marsellus at gunpoint and ties them up in a half-basement area. When he has them in place, he is joined by his brother Zed, who ends up taking Marsellus into another room and rapes him while Maynard watches. Maynard and Zed have been described by critics as "two sadistic honkies straight out of Deliverance.” While the whole film is one of the more violent films ever produced, many critics were fond of it. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as "so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it—the noses of those zombie writers who take 'screenwriting' classes that teach them the formulas for 'hit films.’” However, Maynard stands out as one of the worst villains in the movie.
IT: Tim Curry as Pennywise
Conjured in the mind of Stephen King and brought to life by Tim Curry in the 1990 film It, Pennywise bears the traits any proper clown should have: crazy hair, big red nose, and over-sized shoes. Contrary to popular belief, Pennywise is not a clown. In fact, It is a being that was created before the universe and takes the form of a clown in order to attract It’s victims—children. In the film, It zeros in on a group of friends who call themselves the Losers Club and tries to pick them off one by one. On the streets, It takes the form of Pennywise but turns into a gigantic pregnant spider when It is in the sewers. After a series of horrific events take place and It goes into hibernation for a few decades, It returns and the now grown remaining members of the Loser’s Club most take It down. Tim Curry was praised for his role as Pennywise because critics claimed he captured the novel’s interpretation of the character. Pennywise is truly terror personified.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Robert Helpmann as the Child Catcher
Sure, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a children’s movie, but that doesn’t mean there were some terrifying characters in it. The film is about siblings who meet a beautiful woman who falls in love with their father. They have a flying car, but not all is perfect for this family. Baron Bomburst has some evil in store for the Potts' family car. However, the children find themselves in danger when they run into the Child Catcher. He is employed by Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst to snatch and imprison children on the streets of Vulgaria. From the dodgy skipping to the jingly cape, the Child Catcher is very creepy, even for adults today. Overall, the film was tenth most popular at the US box office in 1969. The New York Times’ Renata Adler called the screenplay "remarkably good" and the film's "preoccupation with sweets and machinery seems ideal for children.” However, the image of the Child Catcher will continue to stay with audiences for years to come.
Children of the Corn: John Franklin as Isaac
Who knew teen preachers could be so deadly. In 1984’s Children of the Corn, Isaac spread the worship of his deity, "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," to all the older children of the fictional town of Gatlin. When he had all of them under his command, he ordered them to kill all the adults in Gatlin, leaving only his teen worshipers. Everyone over 18 years old is sacrificed in the cornfield for "He Who Walks Behind the Rows." It turns out that this diety is actually a demon god who ends up using Isaac’s body in order to do his bidding. When a couple gets stuck in Gatlin, they uncover the truth and try to save the children from Isaac’s wrath. While this film doesn’t follow Stephen King’s short story of the same name, Isaac’s violent nature was able to transfer over and scare audiences everywhere.
Kids: Justin Pierce as Casper
“Jesus Christ, what happened?” Kids is one of those movies that you wish you could un-watch. Essentially, it is reminiscent of Requiem For A Dream with the hip anti-drug agenda. The film is about a group of kids ranging from 13-years-old to 18-years-old who are all sexually active. It touches on serious subjects such as HIV and consent. The film generated a massive controversy upon its release in 1995, and caused much public debate over its artistic merit, even receiving an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. One of the most controversial characters is Casper. He is on a variety of different drugs in the movie and even rapes a girl who is unconscious. Film critic Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film a "wake-up call to the modern world" about the nature of present-day youth in urban life. Casper and the film have gone on to influence generations. In August 2010, rapper Mac Miller released the mixtape K.I.D.S whose cover art, title, and some musical themes pay homage to the film.
Psycho: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
He will do anything for his mother. When Marion Crane steals money from her boss and tries to run away in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, she makes the unfortunate mistake of staying at the Bates Motel. There she meets Norman Bates, a young man who keeps the hotel running while he tends to his shut-in mother. Little does Marion know that Norman is not exactly who he claims to be. Ever since his mother died, Norman dresses as her and commits murders whenever “she” is threatened by someone. Norman is based on the murderer Ed Gein, who killed women and broke into several graves in order to steal the skin of dead women and wear it himself. Norman Bates is ranked as the second greatest villain on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 film heroes and villains. His line, "A boy's best friend is his mother," also ranks as number 56 on the institute's list of the 100 greatest movie quotes.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane: Martin Sheen as Frank Hallet
You’ve never seen Martin Sheen like this before. Frank Hallet is a character from the 1976 film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, which is based on a 1974 book of the same name by Laird Koenig. His character makes advances on a 13-year-old girl, suggesting that he is a pedophile. He continues to stop by little Rynn’s home or meet her outside in public when he actively avoids him. When he finds out about Rynn’s secrets he tries to blackmail her into sexual favors. The film itself received five Saturn Award nominations in 1978 and ended up winning two—by the American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. While the dark matters in the film have stuck with audiences over time, Sheen’s portrayal of Hallet lurking in the shadows continues to make people shudder.
Silence of the Lambs: Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill
"It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” Known as Buffalo Bill for the style in which he kills his victims, Jame Gumb is a serial killer in Silence of the Lambs who murders overweight women and skins them so he can make a "woman suit" for himself. He approaches a woman, pretending to be injured, and asks for help before knocking her out. After the surprise attack, he kidnaps her and takes her to his house. There he leaves her in a well in his basement where he starves her until her skin is loose enough to easily remove. Gumb was based off multiple serial killers including Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper, Gary Ridgway, and Jerry Brudos. The film adaptation of Silence of the Lambs was criticized by some gay rights groups for its portrayal of the psychopathic Gumb as bisexual and transgender. To this day, Gumb is one of the most haunting villains of all time because of what he does to his victims.
Con Air: Steve Buscemi as Garland Greene
His killings made the Manson Family look like the Partridge Family. Garland Greene is a serial killer in Con-Air who has murdered over 30 people along the East Coast. Greene is brought to Carson City for a prison transfer aboard the plane the Jailbird, but he escapes. One of the most chilling scenes is when he joins a little girl playing near a pool. The audience is on edge the entire scene because Greene is such a loose cannon and would harm her any chance he could get. In one of his murders, he wore a little girl’s head as a hat. Ultimately, he is unlike all the other prisoners in the film because he explains the difference between killing for necessity, and killing for pleasure. He also his fellow convicts as "a bunch of idiots,” suggesting he wants nothing to do with them. The character is made even creepier because Steve Buscemi portrays him in the film.
Blue Velvet: Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth
Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth is a psychopathic gangster, drug dealer and pimp all rolled into one. He kidnaps a singer’s husband and son and holds them hostage in order to get her to satisfy his sadomasochistic sexual urges. When he is with her, Frank exhibits a kind of split personality: "Daddy," a sadist who beats and demeans her, and "Baby," a child who rapes her while begging her to gag him with a piece of blue velvet cloth. His line, "Don't you fucking look at me!" was voted by Premiere Magazine as one of the "100 Greatest Quotes in Cinema.” In a 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, director David Lynch was asked "Who is a more dangerous gentleman, Frank Booth or Marcellus Santos [Wild at Heart]?" Lynch replied, " I'd rather hang with Frank Booth. I'd rather chill with him, and wait for a booty call, than with Marcellus."
Cape Fear: Robert De Niro as Max Cady
One of the easiest ways to really scare someone is to point out all of their vulnerabilities. Max Cady does that and never stops. Convicted and sentenced with no help from his lawyer, Sam Bowden, Cady goes out of his way to strike at every vulnerable point in his former lawyer’s life. What makes it even creepier is that Cady is something of a fanatical Christian, and he seems to think that this is all to help Bowden examine his sins. So, not only is he completely ruining another man’s life, but there is no reasoning or bargaining with him. After all, he’s just doing what’s best for everyone.
Devil's Rejects: Bill Moseley as Otis B. Driftwood
Everyone is a little creeped out by being stuck in the middle of nowhere deep in red state territory with no one to save them. Otis B. Driftwood is the embodiment of that fear: a depraved, violent psychopath who can do pretty much whatever he wants because no one is around for miles to stop him. We’re talking about a cannibalistic, necrophilia with a torture fetish. Oh, and he thinks he’s an artist, so we can throw in the disturbing use of creative taxidermy onto that list as he wanders around on screen wearing other people’s skin and presenting half man-half fish sculptures made out of real parts.
8MM: Peter Stormare as Dino Velvet
What’s worse than a horrible monster? A horrible monster making tons of money doing what he loves and getting paid for it. Dino Velvet is the director of brutal hard core pornography who is more than willing to follow his passions and produce a snuff film for a boatload of money. So let’s just let that sink in. Not only is this guy willing to direct people to do horrible, sexually violent acts, but he has enough money and connections that he doesn’t have to worry about getting caught, even though he’s literally filming it and producing evidence of the terrifying things he’s doing.
Human Centipede 2: Laurence R. Harvey as Martin Lomax
Whenever you watch a horror movie, especially one with no supernatural elements, you always have to wonder if anyone is sick enough to try stuff like this in real life. In Human Centipede 2, Martin Lomax is the meta answer to that needling question in the back of your mind. He’s a stubby, unattractive seemingly ordinary man you might run into on the street. Maybe he gives you a creepy vibe, but you ignore him and go about your life. He’s also a man obsessed with the first Human Centipede movie. A combination of horrifying background and obsessive fascination combine to produce a movie about a maniac who decides to make fiction into reality.
A Serbian Movie: Sergej Trifunović as Vukmir
Dino Velvet is bad, but at least he’s trapped in a first world country with a working law enforcement system making things theoretically more difficult to do what he does. Vukmir is worse because he exists in a world without those attempted restrictions. He’s free to be as much of a monster as he wants, meaning not just murder but pedophilia, sadism, drug use, coercion, and whatever else he can think of. What’s truly terrifying is that Vukmir is doing this for money, which means somewhere, someone is buying what this man has to sell, and buying enough of it to keep him in business.
Dune: Kevin Mcmillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Baron Harkonnen is the pinnacle of debauched nobility. The man is literally obese enough that he needs an anti gravity belt to get around. His appetites, both sexual and culinary, are insatiable. All of that would be enough to make us side eye him a little, but we could probably just pass over it as the human equivalent of Hedonismbot if he weren’t pure evil, willing to kill for amusement as well as his own gain. Because Baron Harkonnen is a cruel, plotting politically savvy sociopath. His indulgences only serve to highlight just how much worse it could be if he actually achieves the power that he so craves.
Batman Returns: Danny Devito as the Penguin
The Penguin has always been something of a disappointment as a Batman villain. I mean, he’s a tiny, malformed man with a gun in his umbrella. Of course, that’s until you see him in human form, and you realize that a tiny, malformed man wandering around the sewers ranting about being an animal is actually the kind of thing you see in urban legends. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Bruce Wayne, a millionaire who dresses up like a freak to terrify people. The Penguin is a malformed, freakish looking man who dresses like a millionaire to interact with the public.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Michael Rooker as Henry
Henry is creepy because he’s so incredibly mundane. He looks like an average man, someone you’d see on the street. From the outside, you’d find no indication that he’s a serial killer drifting from place to place murdering as he goes. There’s no bargaining with Henry either. At least you might survive an encounter with Hannibal Lector if you’re polite, but Henry is more than willing to kill friends or even people who help him just so long as he can keep on drifting. You see, Henry has no rules, preferring to kill at random to avoid the police being able to connect the dots. The fewer people who know him, the better.
Misery: Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes
Wilkes is the embodiment of the worst aspects of fandom, obsessed with the creator of their choice, deeply protective of fictional characters to the exclusion of the real world, and possessed of a insurmountable, fanatical belief that she knows better than an author. Her desire to possess what she loves knows no bounds, making her willing to kidnap and brutalize in order to protect fictional characters. The worst part is, she’s together enough that she can present a decent front to the outside world, completely obscuring her violent, disturbing willingness to break a man’s legs to keep him writing the story she wants.
No Country for Old Men: Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men
Anton Chigurh just looks creepy. Looking at him, you’d expect something wrong, but then you realize you’ve just come face to face with The Terminator with a bowl cut. He’s a socially awkward mess who displays no sense of joy in his work, but mechanically follows through with his assigned task like a human robot. You would think that such an experienced hit man would be well paid. With that kind of money, you’d expect nice clothes or at least a better haircut. But no. He just doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything, least of all the people he’s been tasked with killing.