As is evidenced by the steady stream of nutjobs on reality television, America loves to watch crazy people on the screen. Hell, I’m fixed to my twitter feed daily, waiting for Charlie Sheen to use lots of exclamation marks and remind me he has Tiger Blood and a pair of winning Goddesses.
Whenever an actor can channel that most animalistic of emotions which resides in the batshit crazy region of our brains (that’s the actual scientific name for it, don’t bother looking it up), and they let it out, it makes for some of the most compelling and memorable moments in film history.
Here I’d like to honor some of the most manic and absolutely bonkers performances in cinema, along with the (at times NSFW due to language), video evidence. (And if I missed any feel free to add your personal favorites in the comments section.)
Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a walking Brook’s Brother catalog with a sadistic streak. Not just content with being a schizophrenic sociopath with hallucinations of feeding stray kittens to an ATM (at gunpoint of course), Bateman also cuts a path across New York’s financial district, dismembering call girls and investment bankers alike.
John Goodman as Walter Sobchak – The Big Lebowski
Far removed from being the loveable patriarch on Roseanne, John Goodman plays Walter Sobchak in the slacker classic The Big Lebowski. Sobchak pulls a pistol out in order to dispute an infraction during a bowling league game, threatens to dismember a preteen, and acts generally shell-shocked all the time. Goodman’s character does often show a gentler more vulnerable side (usually from remorse after he screws up), but just don’t ask him to roll on Shabbos.
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance – The Shining
Jack Nicholson’s performance as cabin fever-stricken Jack Torrance in 1980’s The Shining is one of the signature performances of his illustrious career. Nicholson’s Cheshire grin peering through an ax opening in a door is a horror icon. Torrance’s unblinking leer and fits of insanity became the benchmark for other actors trying to pull off ‘crazy’.
Tom Hardy as Charlie Bronson – Bronson
British biopics don’t just have to be about stuttering blue-bloods. Take for example the film Bronson, about “The most violent prisoner in Britain” Charlie Bronson, a man with a propensity for buttering himself and taking hostages whilst in the nude. Tom Hardy plays the titular role bringing the violent fervor of a caged animal, while also guiding the story along in crazed vignettes. Hardy’s ability to play a hulking body-builder should bode well for his role as Bane in the next Batman film.
Al Pacino as John Milton – Devil’s Advocate
So how do you get life out of a film containing Keanu Reeves, without leather or bullet time? Why you let Scarface play the Devil and allow him to shout and be as smug as he wants. Al Pacino plays sleazy lawyer John Milton who also happens to be Lucifer plotting to bring about the Anti-Christ. As the story moves along, Milton lets loose with shouting fits, delusional tirades and sly tricks on innocent bystanders. Sadly, Pacino has been phoning it in as of late and seems to be stuck playing a hybrid of Milton/Scarface/ and Lieutenant Slade from Scent of a Woman.
Gary Oldman as Stansfield – The Professional
Gary Oldman is the Magic Johnson of creepy movie villains. From Oswald to Dracula, to whatever the hell he was in The Fifth Element, he brings a constant level of intensity that just chews up scenery. In The Professional Oldman plays Norman Stansfield, a corrupt DEA agent who enjoys discussing the variances in Classical music, before putting a bullet in a witness’ head. Stansfield, conducting to no one as he systematically mows down an entire family, is one of the most disturbing scenes ever captured in a mainstream film.
Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview –There Will Be Blood
Maniacal businessmen in movies are a dime a dozen, but I’m fairly certain Gordon Gecko never caved a rivals skull in with a bowling pin (I don’t know I didn’t see the director’s cut). Daniel Day Lewis plays mineral prospector turned wealthy oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, a man driven by wealth who alienates or outright murders all those who stands in his way. Lewis turned Plainview into a sociopath with a charming streak ala William ‘Bill the Butcher’ Cutting from Gangs of New York.
Nicholas Cage – Life Time Achievement Award
If Gary Oldman is the Magic Johnson of cinematic crazy, then Nicholas Cage is the Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Muhammad Ali of losing one’s shit on camera. Picking a most manic Nic Cage performance is like trying to figure out which sunrise is the most breathtaking? Which child’s smile is the most innocent? Instead, I’m going to stop writing and allow the lovely montage at the bottom do all the work for me.