Top 10 Actors Who Can Play Good and Bad Guys

Script written by Richard Bush. You never know when you can trust them… Some actors have a face that you can just immediately trust; some have a face that you immediately question. But some seem trustworthy and just as easily dishonest. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 actors who can play both good and bad guys. These are the actors who are just as well known and loved for pulling off protagonist roles as they are for antagonist roles. Special thanks to our users bonoo94, Danny George, Rob Welch and CJ Taylor for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Richard Bush.

Top 10 Actors Who Can Play Good and Bad Guys


You never know when you can trust them… Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 actors who can play both good and bad guys.

These are the actors who are just as well known and loved for pulling off protagonist roles as they are for antagonist roles.

#10: John Travolta

This guy may have played the cocky and cool Danny Zuko in “Grease” and a smooth-talking angel in “Michael,” but he’s also played an impressive portfolio of scoundrels. Although many of his bad guy performances weren’t huge box-office successes, Travolta stole the show in films like “Swordfish” and “The Punisher.” His ability to merge a nice-guy image with a bad-guy attitude makes him great to watch. Just check out “Pulp Fiction” if you need more proof.

#9: Charlize Theron

This sexy and sensitive lady always plays characters that are brilliantly layered, regardless of what end of the protagonist spectrum they’re on. Her performances as Mary Ann Lomax in “The Devil’s Advocate” and as unstable real-life vigilante prostitute Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” show us how she can successfully give each of her characters, good or evil, humanity. That ability to accurately characterize means she’s just as entertaining playing an ogre as she is an angel.

#8: Samuel L. Jackson

In every role he plays, whether he’s benevolent or malevolent, Jackson delivers a stern and outspoken aura that is instantly recognizable. This presence is usually accompanied by a series of spine-chilling monologues or some outbursts of pure, well, Jackson-ness. The passion he shows in each of his characters is so believable that we love him whatever disguise he is wearing, whether it’s a Jheri-curl in “Pulp Fiction,” glasses in “Die Hard,” or a wheelchair in “Unbreakable.”

#7: Liam Neeson

From determined father in “Taken,” to the lightsaber-wielding Qui-Gon Jinn; from the king of the gods in “Clash of the Titans” to Ra’s al Ghul in “Batman Begins,” Neeson’s mute charm always intrigues. Not only does his nonchalant manner allow him to pull off down-and-out antagonists and protagonists; it also allows him to play both at once. Take his portrayal of Oskar Schindler for example: love or hate him, Neeson gives him a sense of perplexing compassion.

#6: Meryl Streep

Streep is brilliant at playing every role thrown her way with an easily identifiable and sometimes relatable feel, whether she’s playing a youth-weary lover in “Death Becomes Her,” the lovably musical, dungaree-wearing Donna from “Mamma Mia!” or the vicious antagonist in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Besides her playful turns as villains and her heroic turns as the good-guy, she’s also one helluva good actor – just watch “Sophie’s Choice” and you’ll see what we mean.

#5: Gary Oldman

The word versatile doesn’t cut it: Oldman is the prime example of an actor who goes from one extreme to another. Although he’s played paternal characters like Batman’s friend on the force James Gordon and Harry Potter’s godfather Sirius Black, his darker portfolio is also intriguing. Oldman’s flexibility has allowed him to play several iconic crazies, in films like “Leon: The Professional,” “True Romance,” and of course the blood-sucking “Dracula.” He can even play a cheesy villain…

#4: Christian Bale

Some may remember him as the little kid from “Empire of the Sun,” others from his croaky-voiced days as Batman. As well as showing great dedication to his roles by losing masses of weight for films like “The Machinist,” Bale can also portray complex characters, making you question your view of their likeability right up until the very end. Take schizophrenic axe-wielding Patrick Bateman, for example: charming and intelligent by day, “American Psycho” by night.

#3: Heath Ledger

We may only remember one movie where he was a villain, but it made its mark in the canon of cinema. Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in “The Dark Knight” showed the world that this handsome chap was dedicated to his art. Trading in his pearly whites for a Chelsea smile, Ledger applied his whimsical style to this comic book psychopath, ultimately making us love all of his evil ways as much as his noble ones.

#2: Denzel Washington

The unique thing about Zel is that no matter what character he’s playing, he always brings his own dose of pizzazz to it, whether it’s “Malcolm X,” Alonzo Harris or “American Gangster” Frank Lucas. His ability to gel serious and touching acting with versatile anger means he can slide into any role with ease. He’s also a genius at translating these emotions into monologues.

Before we find out which two-faced actor took our top spot, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Edward Norton
- Christoph Waltz
- Nicolas Cage
- Elijah Wood

#1: Ian McKellen

When it comes to playing villains like Magneto or heroes like Gandalf the White, an English accent certainly helps. With grass roots in Shakespearean theatre roles, McKellen has got characterization of each extreme down to a tee – and as we all know, with Shakespeare, anyone can be the villain. Whether he’s delivering a soliloquy in “Richard III” or wooing us with his wisdom in “ The Lord of the Rings,” McKellen is a joy.

Do you agree with our list? What goody two shoes do you think plays the best bad guy? For more mind boggling top tens published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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