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14 Actors You Forgot Played Henchmen And Side Villains In Action Movies

Updated December 9, 2020 1.9k votes 279 voters 61.6k views14 items

List RulesVote up the action movie performances you totally forgot about.

In Hollywood, there are many stars who played henchmen early on in their careers. These roles are great for actors looking to get a foot in the door, as they get some screen time and, more often than not, proximity to the already established star portraying the bad guy. On the other hand, henchmen are rarely well-written. They're typically onscreen to get in the way of, and often eliminated by, the hero. That said, once in a while, an actor gets lucky and is able to do a little more than just be window dressing.

Actors who played minor villains include some of the biggest names in cinema. Oscar winners Sam Rockwell and Benicio del Toro are two examples, as are comedians Jack Black and Dave Chappelle. Part of the fun of seeing their performances now is putting on an old favorite and being shocked to see them skirting around the periphery of a movie you'd forgotten - or didn't realize - they were in. In each of the following cases, you can see something these brought to the table.

Which of these actors who played henchmen, thugs, or side villains is the most forgotten? Your votes will decide.

  • Sam Rockwell's third appearance in a movie was short, but it was in a gigantic hit. He played "Head Thug" in 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His character grabs things out of April O'Neil's TV station truck, peddles cigarettes, and eventually provides information to a police officer. It was a self-described "big break." The actor told The Hollywood Reporter, "I was 19 years old. I was working in restaurants, trying to put some food on the table. And they called me in and asked if I could audition for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

    Two years later, just as the modern independent film scene was about to explode, Rockwell got a role in Alexander Rockwell's In the Soup, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. That important exposure led to increasingly bigger parts in dramas (The Green Mile), comedies (Galaxy Quest), and science-fiction (Moon). Those performances and others helped him establish a reputation as one of the most reliable actors around. In 2018, Rockwell won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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  • Benicio del Toro - 'License to Kill'
    Photo: MGM

    Benicio del Toro really came to the public's attention with a scene-stealing role in 1995's The Usual Suspects. Before that breakout performance, he faced off against none other than James Bond (as played by Timothy Dalton). License to Kill, released in 1989, was del Toro's second film, following the Pee-Wee Herman comedy Big Top Pee-Wee.

    He wasn't the "Bond villain" in this installment. That would be Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez, the guy who maims Bond friend/colleague Felix Leiter and slays his wife. Instead, del Toro is Dario, Sanchez's right-hand man. He meets a gruesome end when 007 pulls him into a gigantic shredder. 

    After The Usual Suspects, the actor became highly in-demand. Among his most notable post-Bond credits are Sicario, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, for which he won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor.

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  • The Bourne Supremacy is the second film in the Jason Bourne franchise. In this installment, a Russian oligarch named Gretkov sends out a hitman to eliminate Bourne (Matt Damon). That person, Kirill, is played by actor Karl Urban. Without a doubt, he's a formidable foe for Bourne, as he plants an explosive device with his target's fingerprints on it in an effort to frame him. Later, Kirill gives chase in a car and takes out Bourne's lover, Marie. 

    The role came at a crucial time in Urban's career. The Bourne Supremacy was released in 2004, right in the middle of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Urban played Eomer in those films which, coming in short succession with Bourne, put the actor on the map in a big way. Another high-profile role - as Bones McCoy in the Star Trek reboot - followed, as did the lead in the comic book-based movie Dredd.

    Urban's success continued with the hit Amazon superhero series The Boys, in which he plays Billy Butcher.

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  • Die Hard 2 finds Bruce Willis's cop John McClane attempting to foil a terrorist who has taken control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. He's played by William Stuart (William Sadler), a former military colonel with an ax to grind. Stuart has a team of henchmen helping to carry out his nefarious plan. John Leguizamo plays one of them, Burke. Perhaps needless to say, McClane thwarts their plans.

    At the time of Die Hard 2's release, Leguizamo was a stand-up comedian who'd landed a small part in Brian De Palma's Casualties of War, as well as a few episodes of Miami Vice. In 1993, he got what was supposed to be his breakthrough role, as the famous video game plumber Luigi in the movie adaptation of Super Mario Bros. That one turned out to be a colossal flop. 

    More successful big-screen efforts followed, giving Leguizamo the chance to show his range. Carlito's Way, Romeo + Juliet, Summer of Sam, and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar established that he could do comedy and drama equally well. He continues to work regularly in a variety of genres.

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