Top 10 Over The Top Horror Movie Villain Performances

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Top 10 Over The Top Horror Movie Villain Performances

VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb WRITTEN BY: William Regot
We're not saying these were bad performances. They're just...different. For this list, we'll be looking at performances in horror movies where actors really hammed it up as the bad guy. Our countdown includes “Scream”, "The Shining", “Army of Darkness”, and more!
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Top 10 Over The Top Horror Movie Villain Performances


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Over the Top Horror Movie Villain Performances.

For this list, we’ll be looking at performances in horror movies where actors really hammed it up as the bad guy. We’re not saying these were bad performances. They’re just different. Also, please note that there will be spoilers.

Which of these performances did you find to be a little much? Let us know in the comments.


#10: Matthew Lillard as Stu Macher

“Scream” (1996)
Throughout the movie, Matthew Lillard plays Stu as a total goofball. He’s always cracking jokes and pulling silly faces. During the final act, however, when Stu is revealed to be one of the killers, Matthew Lillard really lets loose with the character, amping up the quirks. Lillard’s performance at the climax was a nice contrast to Skeet Ulrich, who played the other killer, Billy, and was more sinister with his role. To liven up his performance, Lillard reportedly ad-libbed some of his dialogue—including his response to being accidentally struck with the phone.

#9: Brad Dourif as Chucky

“Child’s Play” franchise (1988-)
If you’re providing the voice of a killer doll in a horror movie, you can either be subtle and creepy, or you can play it big. With Chucky, Oscar nominated actor Brad Dourif went with the latter option. All of Chucky’s reactions are larger than life, whether he’s laughing maniacally, screaming in terror, or intimidating someone into following his pint-sized orders. From the first scene in the original “Child’s Play” where we see him voice the doll, Dourif never fails to make an impression. And as the series gradually became a more self-aware comedy, Dourif naturally made Chucky even more over the top.

#8: Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun

“Leprechaun” franchise (1993-)
Let’s be honest. When it comes to playing a killer leprechaun, the concept is so ridiculous that Warwick Davis had no choice but to play the role as extremely over-the-top. The character was a departure for Davis, who was known for movies such as “Return of the Jedi” and “Willow”, but it gave him a chance to show a new sinister side. Davis, ever the committed performer, strikes an interesting balance, delivering just enough genuine menace, while also being whimsically silly. Davis’s portrayal of the Leprechaun was so memorable and absurd that the sequels in the series sent the character to Las Vegas, the inner city, and even outer space!

#7: Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman

“American Psycho” (2000)
Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel, this film centers on Patrick Bateman, a disturbed Wall Street investment banker who explores all manner of sick and twisted desires. According to director Mary Harron, Chritstian Bale actually took inspiration for his performance as Bateman from an interview that Tom Cruise gave on “David Letterman”. More specifically, he was inspired by the friendliness and intense energy that Cruise displayed. Bale’s performance was all-around odd, but utterly captivating. And he certainly nailed the intensity! Bateman was aggressively snobby when he was around his friends, and completely unhinged when engaging in violent acts. Who can forget the infamous“Huey Lewis” scene?

#6: Bruce Campbell as Evil Ash

“Army of Darkness” (1992)
Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” series has never shied away from absurdity. The villains, in particular, are downright maniacal. In the third entry, however, the filmmaker upped the ante by giving Ash himself, Bruce Campbell, a chance to play one of the baddies. Campbell played an evil version of his iconic character, and the malevolent doppelganger was every bit as silly as the original Ash, with the added bonus of a sinister twist. After introducing himself, Evil Ash pesters the other Ash with childish taunts. Watching Bruce Campbell interact with himself and engage in violent slapstick was one of the highlights of the movie—if not the entire series.

#5: Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart

“Theatre of Blood” (1973)
With a whole career’s worth of over the top performances to his name, Vincent Price more than earned his reputation for being campy. His roles in horror movies like “House on Haunted Hill” and “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” were both strong contenders for a spot on our list. But Edward Lionheart has them all beat. In this 1973 film, Price plays a bad actor who dishes out gruesome punishments to theater critics he felt had unfairly smeared him with unflattering reviews. A Shakespearean trained actor who takes himself too seriously and puts on ridiculous costumes? This is the role that Price was born to play!

#4: Nicolas Cage as Peter Loew

“Vampire’s Kiss” (1989)
It’s hard to think of an actor more famous for being over the top than Nicholas Cage. In this horror comedy, Cage plays a New York literary agent who believes he’s becoming a vampire and begins to suffer a mental breakdown. Each and every scene is an opportunity for Cage to one-up himself and showcase just how weird he can get. From the enthusiastic way he recites the alphabet to actually eating a live cockroach on camera—it’s a LOT. This is also the film that gave us that iconic Nicolas Cage meme. You know the one… it’s that great “You Don’t Say?” meme. “Vampire’s Kiss” is truly the gift that keeps on giving.


#3: Tim Curry as Pennywise

“It” (1990)
While Bill Skarsgard (X-Ref) certainly put his own spin on the character of Pennywise, Tim Curry still has him beat when it comes to being over-the-top. Curry leaned into the clownish aspects of Pennywise, making jokes and yukking it up while he tormented the children of Derry. And when the Losers Club grew up and returned as adults, he kept the jokes coming! Bringing bravado to every scene in which he appears, Curry really lived up to his role as an interdimensional being and “Eater of Worlds.” Curry’s Pennywise was a memorable example of how over the top acting doesn’t necessarily ruin a horror film. It can actually elevate it.

#2: Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

“Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise (1984-)
Robert Englund was able to distinguish Freddy from other horror villains of the era by making him a trash talker with a flair for the dramatic. In the original film, we got to see a little bit of this side of Freddy as he taunted his victims. But he was saving the best material for later. As the series progressed, Freddy’s penchant for being over the top became more and more amplified. By “Freddy’s Dead,” Freddy had become a full on Looney Tune, with shameless gags such as playing with the power glove and impersonating the Wicked Witch of the West.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Bette Davis as Jane “Baby Jane” Hudson, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)
Bette Davis Was Delightfully Disturbing As the Titular Washed Up Child Star.

Betsy Palmer as Mrs. Voorhees, “Friday the 13th” (1980)
Betsy Palmer Looked Particularly Deranged When She Broke Out in Jason’s Voice.

Eric Freeman as Ricky, “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” (1987)
Eric Freeman’s Performance Uplifted What Would Have Otherwise Been a Forgettable Film

Christopher Lee as Dracula, “Dracula” (1958)
Lee Brought an Intimidating Presence to the Iconic Role.

#1: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence

“The Shining” (1980)
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of an over the top performance in a horror movie? More often than not, it’s Jack Nicholson going all out as a psycho axe murderer. Under the direction of Stanley Kubrick, Nicholson gave an unhinged performance which perfectly captured one man’s descent into madness. Whether he was just staring blankly or snapping at Shelley Duvall’s Wendy, he never lets up with the intensity. Perhaps the greatest contribution Nicholson gave to his performance was improvising the line “Here’s Johnny!” after tearing down the door. Absurd, shocking and oh so quotable—it’s the whole package!
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