In most movies, the main character is someone you want to root for — or someone you can sympathize with, at the very least. But every once in a while, a film will come along that features a not-so-nice protagonist who seems ripe for a comeuppance.
Here are 18 such characters. Some might be more fun than others to watch, but they’re all downright despicable.
- Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems – New to the Box and On Demand this week, this indie garnered lots of buzz (and critical praise) for Adam Sandler’s performance as Ratner, a high-end New York jeweler with a serious gambling addiction that culminates in a crazy situation involving a rare Ethiopian opal, an NBA championship ring, The Weeknd, a blinged-out Furby, and more. It was seriously hard for me to not throw my shoe at the screen multiple times because Ratner was just so dumb and took so many needless risks. But you’ll have to watch it to see if he ultimately gets what he deserves!
- Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler – Have you ever seen a movie that kind of makes you sick to your stomach, but you MUST keep watching it to see how it all ends? That’s Nightcrawler for you. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance cameraman in LA who goes to disturbing lengths to get to crime scenes before anyone else in order to sell exclusive footage to local news networks. Be forewarned: you might never be able to look at Gyllenhaal the same way again!
- Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese’s highest-grossing film and Best Picture nominee tells the true story of a corrupt stockbroker (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who made millions by ripping people off in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Belfort treated everyone horribly, seriously abused drugs, endangered others (including his own family) and in general was just a narcissistic maniac. This movie set a Guinness Book world record for the most instances of swearing in a film, and you’ll likely find yourself spewing some less-than-savory words at the screen while watching Belfort’s antics.
4 – 11) The Hateful Eight in, um, The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 western stars Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Demián Bichir as eight strangers stuck together during a blizzard in 1877. And, well, this IS a Tarantino movie, so things get violent, quickly. But the thing is, all of the characters are just so miserable, you’ll be cheering for them to turn on each other.
12 – 15) The four leads in Closer – In this adaptation of an award-winning play, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen play some spectacularly selfish, screwed-up people whose personal and love lives intersect. I saw this one when it came out in 2004 and it makes me mad to this day.
16) Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network – It seems kind of quaint now — a decade after David Fincher’s biodrama premiered — to look back and relive Facebook’s origins. With Jesse Eisenberg transforming into the site’s founder, we learn Zuckerberg’s initial motivation for the site, and how he seemed to have screwed over one of his best friends and other Harvard students on his quest for funding (and world domination). Now the question is, when are we getting a sequel?
17) Anne Wilkes in Misery – Don’t mess with her favorite character! Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her role as the deranged fan Wilkes in this Stephen King adaptation, with James Caan playing a famous novelist Wilkes holds hostage.
18) Alex in A Clockwork Orange – This dystopian freakout of a movie from director Stanley Kubrick remains one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. In it, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) leads a gang of “droogs” (young disillusioned British men) who are into “ultra-violence” … and prove it by unleashing terror on almost everyone who crosses their path. I wish I could unsee so many scenes from this movie!
Which character on this list is the all-time worst? And who did I miss?