Villainous is not a word you necessarily associate with Jim Carrey, yet he is next seen on our screens playing one of the video game world’s biggest baddies: Dr. Robotnik in Sonic The Hedgehog. It might be something of a surprise for Carrey’s long-time fans to see him being not so nice – however it's far from the first time the actor has wandered over to the dark side.
Here are some of our favourite villainous performances from the Clown Prince of Hollywood.
1. Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Batman Forever, 1995)
Here’s a role that perfectly combined Carrey's madcap antics and his villainous side. In director Joel Schumacher's first visit to Gotham, Carrey played the role of The Riddler as a twisted reflection of Val Kilmer's Batman. Edward Nygma was broken by the rejection of his idol Bruce Wayne, and sought to overshadow him as a businessman. His alter ego, The Riddler, wanted to create the chaos that Batman tried to stop.
It's a lively performance alongside Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, chemistry made all the more remarkable given that Jones confessed to "hating" Carrey prior to the onset of filming.
2. The Grinch (How The Grinch Stole Christmas, 2000)
How do you take a timeless classic and make it your own? You get Jim Carrey! Expanding the world established by author Dr. Seuss, this is a comedy masterclass from Carrey who brings impressions, slapstick and a lot of heart (even if it is two sizes too small).
In another role that demanded both comedy and menace, the actor reportedly smiled through the pain as he was quite uncomfortable in thick layers of latex makeup. In fact, he needed coaching from the CIA in order to deal with the claustrophobic effect of being buried under yak fur. Now that’s dedication to one's art.
3. Hank (Me Myself and Irene, 2000)
Here’s a typically R-rated affair from The Farrelly Brothers, with whom Carrey previously worked on global hit Dumb and Dumber. Here, he plays a meek policeman Charlie, whose repressed anger emerges in the form of a second personality, Hank.
Not necessarily a villain of Thanos proportions, Hank is undoubtedly the antagonist of this story. Rude, violent, and with a voice strangely reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, he causes havoc in Charlie’s life. This is especially true when he goes on the run from both the FBI and the mob with framed suspect Irene (Oscar-winner Renee Zellweger).
4. Count Olaf (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004)
The 2000s saw a glut of movies based on children’s books, looking to replicate the success of the Harry Potter juggernaut. A Series of Unfortunate Events sadly never made it beyond the first installment, but critics praised Carrey as Count Olaf, a stage actor who assumes various guises to try and trick the Baudelaire children out of their fortune.
Fitting right into the peculiar world of the movie, Carrey’s performance is full of family-friendly comedy, but also a dark streak that separated this work from his usual roles.
5. Walter Sparrow (The Number 23, 2007)
Bit of a spoilery entry here – don’t say you weren’t warned! Carrey’s Walter is the protagonist of the film, a man who becomes obsessed with a book that focuses on patterns in the world relating to the number 23, and a story which he believes may be a confession to murder.
Walter discovers similarities between his own life and the book’s story – because he was in fact the author, who wrote the book to purge his guilt and then suffered amnesia. So, perhaps not a vicious bad guy, but certainly the villain of his own story.
6. Steven Russell (I Love You Phillip Morris, 2009)
One of Carrey's most overlooked and underrated performances, Steven Russell is not a cackling bad guy who wishes to wreak havoc on the hero. He is a charming, affable fellow who just happens to be a career criminal.
Carrey offers a portrayal of a real-life figure that is full of shades of grey, and we’re thrown into the point of view of someone who can't help doing wrong. By the end, however, even the hardest heart can't help but will him to succeed.
7. Steve Gray (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, 2013)
“I take people’s nightmares, and turn them into dream-realities.” So boasts Carrey’s fiendish villain Steve Gray, a parody of dark 2000s magicians such as Kris Angel and David Blaine. Carrey turns things down to a low simmer as the edgy threat to traditional magic man Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and provides a hilarious villain for our hero to rally against.
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James Luxford is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow him on Twitter.