(Note: I am deeply, deepl sorry for this post, and nowadays very ashamed of it. I have become to realize how stigmatizing it is, even if I did not mean it. I would delete it, but decided to just have this note. I am sorry, and I have just recently began to understand my privilege as a able-bodied person with who does not struggle with mental health. I realize I was being insensitive and I apologize).
Like with the previous post, I will list some of the most memorable crazies shown in films, but this time they are male. The men are all insane, but some innocent minded, others vicious and some cruelly mad. Some have political power while others are “normal” citizens. As a head note, I would like to warn that some of my writing will contain spoilers for the movies featured.
Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, is the main antagonist in the horror film “The Shining” (1980). Jack and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) are the parents of the psychic little boy Danny, who can read minds and learns things about the past and the future through an imaginary friend. Danny keeps his abilities a secret, fearing his parents would react badly if they knew about his gift. One fateful winter day, Jack gets a job to take care of an infamous, isolated hotel. He moves there with his family. Jack plans on writing a play while keeping the hotel in great shape. Unfortunately, the Hotel is not a normal house; it is filled with evil spirits who are able to convince Jack to tap into his more dark and violent side.
Jack Torrance is a man who lets his obsessive ambitions and anger get the best of him. He is not too keen on being a father, leaving his wife to take care of Danny. He’s great love is not his family, but the hotel. He lingers on small incidents that have happened long time ago, not being able to let go of the past and is convinced that his wife has not forgiven him for things he has done. He talks to the ghosts in the hotel as if they were old friends, even if they clearly aren’t. The ghosts too easily manipulate Jack into trying to kill his family. The scariest part is that they don’t have to try very hard. Nicholson is brilliant as the out-of-control mad man; he is frightening and scary while also just a tiny bit funny. The character makes a few funny lines, but never lets the viewer forget the great danger he is to his family. Jack Torrance loves the hotel more than he loves his family. Nicholson completely gives into the role, giving an eerie portrayal of a man who engulfs himself in a new passion (the hotel) and lets it consume him to the point of complete insanity.
“The Shining” is a classic horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick, who masterfully deals with the issues of domestic violence, obsession, secrets and the troubles of feeling different from others. Visually brilliant and emotionally engaging, “The Shining” is a horror masterpiece that is hard to forget.
Alfred Hitchcock made movie history with “Psycho” (1960) by not only fooling the audience by killing off the films “main character” in the beginning of the film, but by also making the antagonist and tragic man into a character who you can’t help but feel sorry for, even if he does horrible things. The tragic villain, who surprisingly becomes the films main lead is Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins. Norman Bates has a strange and disturbing relationship with his mother. His mother is overly protecting and a dominant person. Bates had no friends while growing up, and hasn’t found some later on either. When asked about friends, Bates just smiles and states: “Well, a boys best friends is his mother!”.
When a woman is murdered at the hotel Bates owns, he is convinced that his mother is the murderer. He tries to get rid of the body and kills the detective in charge of the murder investigation. Obviously Bates is deeply in love with his mother while he fears and hates her as well. The twist ending is one of the most discussed in the history of cinema, for it unfolds the truth of how psychotic and tragically insane Norman Bates is. Despite of Bates craziness and his dangerous personality, the audience can’t help but to pity him. Bates´ relationship with his mother has damaged him beyond prepare, making him suffer as well as he makes others suffer.
Joaquin Phoenix’s role as the evil Roman Emperor Commodus in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000) must be one of best bad guys ever seen in modern day film. Commodus is the insecure son of the emperor Marcus Arelius. Marcus chooses Maximus (Russell Crowe), a noble general to become the next Emperor, however only for a short time, hoping Maximus will be able to return the political power to the Roman state. Maximus wants nothing more but to go home to his family and is not interested in Marcus plans. Commodus hears about his father’s plans and becomes extremely jealous. He confronts his father on this matter, weeping over his experiences of being unloved and not respected by him. Marcus tries to explain that even if he doesn’t see Commodus as a born leader, he still loves him. But Commodus blinded by his bitterness kills his father. Once Emperor, he sends troops to butcher Maximus´ family, hoping that Maximus will die as well. Maximus survives and even if he is enslaved and forced to compete in mortal combats as a gladiator, he starts plotting his revenge against Commodus.
Phoenix´ performance is by far the most amazing and convincing one. Commodus as a villain and madman does every despicable thing imaginable: he kills, betrays and tries to force his sister to become his lover. Commodus feels unloved by everyone, dwelling in his misery. He’s obsessive lust and hostility towards his sister and his inability to sympathize with anyone hint that Commodus´ behavior is indeed partly caused by mental instability. Commodus´ insanity is portrayed in a subtle, undertone way, which is a clever and fresh way to portray a mentally ill person. Commodus is a character you pity and despise. A horrible man with a complex psyche, a delightful mad antagonist.
“Gladiator” is an epic film with intelligent dialogue, spectacular fight scenes, great visuals and memorable characters. The film isn’t always historically accurate; Gladiators for instance very rarely were forced to fight to the death. Some of the fascinating characters had too little of screen time. Like Lucilla (Connie Nielson), Commodus´ sister. Besides those minor flaws, “Gladiator” is a real solid and touching movie that I recommend.
Terry Gillian’s “12 Monkeys” (1995) is a brilliant, heartbreaking science fiction film. The story takes place in a future world devastated by disease. In hopes of changing the past, a convict (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population. There he meets Jeffrey Goines who is probably the funniest character I mention in this post. Jeffrey Goines is the son of a wealthy man, but due to his mental problems he is locked in an asylum. He is hyper active and slightly paranoid, always rambling and talking nonsense that no one can quite understand. He also is compulsive, randomly yelling at people. Jeffrey is portrayed by Brad Pitt, who does an unusually fantastic job for him. Frankly, I have not believed in Pitts abilities as an actor. But in “12 Monkeys” he really convinces me with his performance that he’s a total nut ball. Unlike the previous men I’ve mentioned Jeffrey only seems to be evil. They are hints that Jeffrey may wipe out the entire humanity, but at the end he is only passionate about “freeing” animals. Which he also does, but by releasing animals from the Zoo without harming any humans. This twist is interesting, since it makes us view Jeffrey as a naïve, strange young man instead of a deadly mass murderer. Jeffrey is completely crazy, but in a very innocent way.
The last madman I will present is General Jack D. Ripper, played by Sterling Hayden, from Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” (1964). This satire film takes place during the cold war time. General Ripper orders an atomic bomb to be dropped in Russia, which will cause a nuclear war if the mission won’t be stopped. While Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) tries to get the right code to stop the order of bombing, the world leaders keep discussing on how to handle this stressful situation.
General Ripper is paranoid, delusional and dangerous. He babbles about the Russians putting poison into the American waters and reveals that he discovered this problem while making love. Eventually he kills himself, thinking that he will be captured and forced to confess “what he knows”. Mandrake, the sane one, tries his best to communicate with the general who has lost it all. If Ripper was just a common man, his insanity could have caused a lot less damage. But since he is a General and a very powerful one too, he threatens the entire world. The name is a references to the famous serial killer, but this Ripper is guilty of the destruction of the whole world. He never realizes the consequences of his actions; he is sure that the Russians were going to destroy Americans by poisoning their “precious body fluids”. Ripper is perhaps one of the craziest men presented in the history of screenplay writing.
“Dr. Strangelove” is in my opinion the funniest and one of of the greatest movies throughout time. It has timeless social commentary, great gags, and a great cast. Everything in this movie works perfectly, especially the directing and writing. A must see film!
So here are my picks of insane men cinema has to offer. What do you think? Any madmen I forgot to mention?