Traditionally, a movie bad guy rarely makes a re-appearance in Hollywood, often featuring in one film before being vanquished by the hero. However, as fans of 2014 Disney blockbuster Maleficent will know, the title character is no ordinary bad guy.
Angelina Jolie returns as the misunderstood Sleeping Beauty sorceress in this year’s sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. The film is the latest in a line of Hollywood movies that show things from the not-so-heroic perspective, but which are the best?
Scroll down beneath the poster to discover seven of our favourites…
1. Natural Born Killers (1994)
Oliver Stone’s satirical take on the media and wider society shows events from the perspective of two violent lovers (Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson), but the real question the film asks is whether external forces created these monsters.
Both a product of abusive childhood homes, the pair’s crimes become a feeding frenzy for the headline-thirsty media, personified by tabloid media hack Wayne Gale (a pre-Marvel Robert Downey Jr). It’s a hectic but clever look at how killers become infamous, and how much of a role we have to play in their ultimate legacies.
2. The Usual Suspects (1995)
A story told from the perspective of the villain… it’s just that we don’t know it! ‘Verbal’ Kint (Oscar winner Kevin Spacey) narrates the story of five criminals brought together by the mysterious kingpin Keyser Soze. Directed by Bryan Singer and scripted (to Oscar-winning effect) by Christopher McQuarrie, this thriller is a gripping examination of the criminal psyche, where no-one’s hands are clean and no-one can be trusted.
All five leads are despicable, treacherous and as likely to kill their colleagues as they are work with them. In the infamous final sequence, we see that the story Kint told was a fabrication, and that he may indeed be Keyser Soze – or is he? All we know is, he’s far from the manipulated innocent he professes to be.
3. American Psycho (2000)
Leonardo DiCaprio was the studio’s preferred choice for this adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ controversial novel. However, Christian Bale was the man to bring Patrick Bateman to life, morphing himself into the narcissistic investment banker who moonlights as a vicious serial killer.
Film-maker Mary Harron throws us headfirst into the brutish, machismo-driven financial world, showing how a murdering psychopath would fit right in unnoticed.
Indeed, the film’s climax shows that Bateman’s crimes have gone ignored, and in fact may be a figment of his imagination. This leads us to ask: is a bad guy really a bad guy if he only thought of doing wrong?
4. Megamind (2010)
Just as the Joker would have a lot of time on his hands without Batman, Megamind (Will Ferrell) finds himself without a purpose when he finally defeats his sworn enemy Metro Man (Brad Pitt).
A light-hearted, animated look at the superhero genre, Megamind is a smart and comedic take on the world of supervillainy that remains overlooked in movie history (possibly because of the fact that it came out the same year as Despicable Me, a film with a similar plot and added Minions).
Chiefly, it looked at the symbiotic nature of the superhero film, where the struggle of evil is as important as the struggle of the righteous.
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5. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
There’s a certain thrill of taking the viewpoint of a villain, and Martin Scorsese plays on that perfectly in his dramatisation of the life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). He’s the man who defrauded investors out of millions – and lived the most hedonistic life you could imagine.
Legendary director Scorsese draws us in to Belfort’s world, allow us to party with him on yachts and be in the trading room during his rallying speeches.
Just when we’re having a little too much fun, however, Scorsese reminds us that this is a man robbing people of their savings, a man who places wealth and power above his closest friends and family.
6. Maleficent (2014)
"Let us tell an old story anew, and we will see how well you know it," begins the narration of the first Maleficent. The film reframes the classic Sleeping Beauty story to transform one of Disney’s most iconic villains into the hero.
Maleficent does indeed place a curse upon Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), but the film shows her to be a woman betrayed by the man she loved (Sharlto Copley), who regrets her curse once she meets Aurora and forms a bond with her.
This more complex take on the 'good vs evil' narrative won over audiences, making this one of the most successful of Disney’s live action remakes.
7. Suicide Squad (2016)
"We’re bad guys, it’s what we do," Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) sneers at Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) in DC’s grungy superhero hit. The movie groups together several classic DC villains who are coerced into saving the world by a government agent (Viola Davis).
We get to see the motivations behind the squad: Harley’s infatuation with her ‘Puddin’’, the Joker (Jared Leto), and Deadshot’s (Will Smith) devotion to his daughter. However, we also see how much glee they get from misbehaving – indeed, Deadshot’s love of assassination prevents him from being the father he wants to be, and Harley will never have the squeaky clean suburban life she fantasises about in the film.
Next year, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn re-imagines Suicide Squad in his eagerly anticipated reboot.
James Luxford is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.