Top List Thursday – The Nicest Bad Guys

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Good guys make great villains – so goes the saying in the entertainment industry. So it would be better to meet these actors between takes…

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  • Tom Hiddleston

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His breakthrough onto the A-list came as a result of Loki, the super-villain that Tom Hiddleston plays so well. Granted, it is a bit of a debate these days if Loki is really still a true bad guy and not an anti-hero. But that the audience can never really trust Loki has a lot to do with Hiddleston’s mettle. The actor, though, couldn’t be more of an opposite. He is always involved in charity work, particularly for UNICEF, and has on more than one occasion shown himself to be a complete gentleman.

  • Beth Grant

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If you need a zealot, a religious nutjob, a total rule Nazi or just someone who can ooze self-righteousness like a truck rolling over custard cartons, Beth Grant is your actor. She was the lady who freaked out on the Speed bus, the annoying pageant official in Little Miss Sunshine and the Patrick Swayze-obsessed busybody in Donnie Darko. Grant’s cachet has a lot to do with how the rest of the industry loves her – Grant is close friends with people like Harvey Weinstein and Sandra Bullock, and rarely utters a bad word about anyone.

  • Ronny Cox

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Director Paul Verhoeven remarks that the nicest people often play the best villains – and he said this specifically about Ronnie Cox. A good villain is tricky, especially if you have a strong hero against you. But Cox stared down both Peter Weller and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Robocop and Total Recall. Yet when not paying the bills, Cox is a fountain of jokes, songs and improvised madness.

  • Ralph Fiennes

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It is likely that nobody on even this list matches Ralph Fiennes’ rogues gallery. He played the evil god Hades, the evil SS-Lieutenant Amon Goeth, the twisted serial killer Francis Dolarhyde and most recently Harry Waters, the foul-mouth gangster from In Bruges. And, of course, Harry Potter’s nemesis Voldemort. The actor has a talent for taking two-dimensional baddies and giving them real gravitas – a talent not really found with performers who hide from their own moral shortcomings. And despite having a reputation for being intense on set, Fiennes remains widely loved by his peers and fans.

  • Bolo Yeung

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It’s a no brainer why Bolo Yeung almost never gets cast as a good guy. He was the anchor in the martial arts classic Bloodsport and also squared off against Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon. Later he would reprise another top bad guy role in Double Impact. In fact, you can probably count all his good guy roles on one hand. Yet anyone who talks about Yeung says you couldn’t meet a nicer guy. Yeung’s down-to-earth charisma made him a close friend of both Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme – he even brought his young son to the Bloodsport set, spending time together between shoots.

  • Jack Gleeson

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As Joffrey Baratheon he is the most hated character on TV. Irish actor Jack Gleeson played the young Game Of Thrones king with such malice that author George R.R. Martin sent him a personal letter to congratulate the actor, who Martin also said is a really, really nice guy. Gleeson is always happy to hang with fans, who he says are nothing but nice to him in return and rumours of Joffrey-related violence are just that.

  • Bernard Lee

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Though not strictly a villain, Bernard Lee was often the ying to James Bond’s charming yang, playing the enigmatic head of MI6, ‘M’. He was so good at this that it took someone of the caliber of Judi Dench to pick up the battleaxe and wield it deftly over ego-driven super-agents. Nobody quite put you in your place like M did. And yet he was the life of the party on sets. One producer of Dr. No called Lee a true raconteur who loved to sing, drink and gamble. If there was a piano nearby, you’d be sure the find the actor there, playing rowdy showtunes.

  • Dennis Hopper

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Dennis Hopper once told of how he came home and his young son asked why Hopper always played the bad guy in movies. Hopper replied that it paid for the shoes he buys his son. Then he’s okay with going barefoot, the kid retorted. It’s a lighthearted jab that for a good chunk of his career the late Hopper was a go-to villain. He cemented both Blue Velvet, Waterworld and Speed with his crooks, and remains the only reason to watch the Mario Bros film. But upon his death in 2010, there was no end to outpouring of how great a person he was. Hopper would apparently give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and never declined an opportunity to talk to someone new.

  • Alan Rickman

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He made his debut as John McClane’s German nemesis in Die Hard, put Robin Hood in his place in Prince Of Thieves, played the unfortunate opponent to the lethal savante Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and, of course, was Harry Potter’s longest-lasting thorn as Professor Snape. In true form, Rickman has a strong reputation as being a charmer with a salt-of-the-earth streak. His co-stars always talk about his penchant for jokes and Rickman is so nice to his fans that there are websites dedicated to stories about interactions with him.

  • Giancarlo Esposito

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His breakthrough was as the malevolent Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring, the most dangerous character Walter White encounters in the epic thriller Breaking Bad. In the real world Giancarlo Esposito is almost painfully nice. He not only knew everyone on the set, but always brought stuff like donuts to the shoots, often with his two young daughters in tow. Initially his role was to be much smaller, but the crew just wanted him around more.

Last Updated: April 24, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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