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Top 10 Badass Movie Criminals

A list of 10 badass criminals in movies of the past 20 years. Who's your favorite badass?

Over time, movie history has known some really badass criminals, whether they were the protagonist or the antagonist. The following is a list of some prominent badass criminals, and to limit the options somewhat, I only included movies from the past 20 years

10. V in V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta (2005), featuring Hugo Weaving as V, Natalie Portman a.o. Directed by James McTeigue.


This guy has flair, he’s gracious and mysterious, he has a preference for the dramatic… Even though he’s a liberator of sorts, you could also consider him to be a criminal – technically, vigilantes are criminals. He’s perceived to be a criminal by the story’s government in any case. I’ve always greatly admired Hugo Weaving for his ability to convey the emotions of V through voice, while wearing the mask, and found the character very appealing and intriguing.

This scene still gives me goosebumps.

V’s mask, by the way, the Guy Fawkes mask, has become increasingly prominent over the past year as symbol of the Anonymous movement. Anonymous, too, are considered criminals by some, and as liberators by others. If nothing else, V has been an inspiration to many.

anonymous - V for Vendetta

9. Derek Vinyard in American History X

 American History X (1998), starring Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard, Edward Furlong, a.o. Directed by Tony Kaye.


This guy I will always remember. I was quite young when I first saw this movie and I was absolutely terrified of the movie’s main character Derek Vinyard. The extreme and radical violence, the dedication to Arian convictions and neo-nazism… Badass, but again not in a good way. The following scene, you have to admit, is convincing enough for this guy to be on this list:

I’m sad that Norton isn’t in more movies – he is an amazing actor. The cameo in Modern Family a few years ago, though hilarious, does not make up for it. I still have to see Moonrise Kingdom, by the way. Still, I need more Norton on my screen!

8.  The Butcher in Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York (2002), featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, Leonardi DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, a.o. Directed by Martin Scorsese.


Many of Scorsese’s bad guys have made these kinds of cool criminal lists on the net, but rarely do I see a mention of The Butcher. This dude is seriously badass – and not in a good way. He’s powerful, intimidating, dirty (literally and figuratively), insane, and just all-round scary.

It’s in the eyes, isn’t it? Daniel Day-Lewis is a great actor, which he again proved in this movie.

“I don’t give a tuppenny fuck about your moral conundrum, you meat-headed shit-sack.”


 7. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

American Psycho (2000), starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, Justin Theroux, a.o. Directed by Mary Harron.

patrick bateman

With this movie, the actor we nowadays all know as Batman became more well-known. In American Psycho, Bale played Patrick Bateman, a mentally unstable (to say the least) serial killer, who is obsessed with his exterior. Especially that obsession with his physique is what makes him so freaky, and the manic, performance-like way he goes about his murders is… Well, badass. And really, really freaky.

The way he’s discussing music here while building up to the murder, then the release of his energy during the actual act and then the relaxation right after it is fearsome and formidable.

6. The Joker in The Dark Knight & Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight (2008) with Heath Ledger as The Joker / The Dark Knight Rises (2012) with Tom Hardy as Bane. Both starring Christian Bale a.o. Directed by Christopher Nolan.


I seriously couldn’t choose between the two, so I just put them together on one place. It’s okay if you disagree with me :p. I think they’re both menacing criminals – intelligent, weird, creepy… Even if Bane’s (SPOILER – but who hasn’t seen this movie by now) death was seriously underwhelming… Tom Hardy did a great job as Bane by conveying his character mostly by voice and posture, and Heath Ledger as The Joker was just plain awesome. I think we can all agree on this. They are both incredibly badass.

We all secretly love that Bane is kicking Batman’s ass here. Just admit it.

5. Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day

Training Day (2001), featuring Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris, Ethan Hawk, a.o. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.


Technically, this dude is a cop. Technically, he fights crime. But practically, this cop is as badass a criminal as they come. Fierce, intimidating, grandiose, terribly corrupt and definitely not afraid of violence… Just a few words to describe this detective.

Denzel winning an Oscar for this movie was very much deserved.

4. Kakihara in Ichi the Killer

Koroshiya Ichi (2001), featuring Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara, Nao Ohmori, a.o. Directed by Takashi Miike.


You may not have heard of this movie. But if you ever want to see a Japanese Yakuza movie that will blow your mind, watch this one. The gore is over the top, and the violence is at best extremely extreme (word of caution: you may get sick). Tadanobu Asano plays Kakihara, a sadomasochistic, pain-loving yakuza member who has to find out where his boss disappeared to.

With his one-of-a-kind features (slashed cheeks held together with piercings, bleached hair, brightly colored striped outfit) and his weapon of choice (razor sharp chopsticks), he makes for a unique appearance, and an incredibly fearsome criminal at that. You do not want an encounter with this guy.

3. Don Logan in Sexy Beast

 Sexy Beast (2000), starring Ben Kingsly as Don Logan, Ray Winstone a.o. Directed by Jonathan Glazer.


I saw this movie only recently; after stumbling on it on TV, I knew I had to see the full movie. The movie itself turned out to be nothing particularly special, but one thing stood out: the performance of Ben Kingsley as gangster Don Logan. On IMDb, I read that the other actors admitted to occasionally feeling so stunned by Kingsley’s performance that they forgot their lines, but that it made the acting of fear less hard.

Well, Don Logan indeed is a fearsome creature. He’s not tall, but he has the biggest mouth ever and capable of intimidating anyone, I think. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good video of this, but this is the scene that most impressed me (and was the scene I saw on TV by accident)… Holy shit, this dude is badass and totally whack.

Yeah… See what I mean? So even while this movie isn’t really spectacular, it’s worth seeing it just for Kingsley’s performance. 

 2. Chigurh in No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men (2007), starring Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, Tommy Lee Jones a.o. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.


As Chigurh, to put it in his own words, Bardem played a force of nature, the embodiment of violence. And it’s true. He’s a formidable killer and his apparent apathy and… his haircut, make him all the more striking, and creepy. Not to mention the weapon he uses – which is a “captive bolt pistol”, which is actually used to kill cows for slaughter. The character’s original and definitely very badass.

1. Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994), featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, John TravoltaUma Thurman a.o. Directed by Quentin Tarantino.


This is a classic and has to be on everyone’s list, I think. This is the prototype of the badass criminal. He’s cool, he’s smooth, he’s stylish – he’s plain awesome. Darkly funny and an ice-cold killer, too.

The hamburger scene. The best.

With the tons of really badass movie criminals out there, I’m sure you’ll disagree with my list to some extent. Please share your favorite badass criminals in the comments!

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Manon is the founder and Editor in Chief of Film Inquiry.

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