With a long string of laugh-out-loud hits on his resume, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar, and Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey is probably the last guy who comes to mind when you think of big, bad movie villains. That, of course, has changed over the years, as the Hollywood funny man has branched out and flexed his acting chops, eventually veering more towards dramatic roles. More often than not, however, he has always leaned in favor of oddball protagonists. But as Sonic the Hedgehog recently reminded us, Carrey has played some of the best villains in recent years, especially when it comes to ill-willed cretins in family-friendly fare like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
However, while many of these evildoer roles make use of his incredible comedic talents, there are times when he has played misunderstood, flawed protagonists who are battling some serious inner demons, making themselves the villain of their very own story. Other times, he's thrown us black-comedy curveballs like The Cable Guy, where he plays a disturbed character who has quite a few screws loose. Still other times, he's played the straight-up cartoonish antihero you love to hate. With the maniacal Dr. Robotnik returning to wreak global havoc in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, we thought it would be a good time to look back on some of Carrey’s rogues’ gallery of scoundrels.
- Photo: Columbia Pictures12,854 VOTES
What The Cable Guy did for cable guys around the world is what Single White Female did for roommates - it made you question who you welcome into your home and get close to. Here, Carrey plays Ernie “Chip” Douglas - or at least that’s what he says his name is, but we eventually learn it’s a pseudonym. You see, Chip is a stalker who gets chummy with his cable customers and befriends them by offering free premium channels. When Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) accepts cable-related perks from Chip, he soon finds that being one of Chip’s “preferred customers” comes with a price - an obsessive, intrusive friendship. However, when that bond is severed, all hell breaks loose and the deranged mind games begin.
When The Cable Guy was released in 1996, many didn't realize it was a black comedy. At the time, it was something totally out of left field for Hollywood's biggest funny man, who had just delivered a streak of gut-busting hits including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber, which is probably why it ultimately flopped. But Carrey is in full-on creep mode here, and it's such a delightful revelation to see.
- Photo: Universal Pictures22,570 VOTES
The Grinch From 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'
Say what you will about how bland the finished film is and all the stories about how Carrey was absolutely miserable during the prosthetic application process - despite his well-documented discomfort, the actor gave his all and channeled that negative energy into his performance, totally embodying the titular green meany of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
He’s actually the best thing about the entire film, which was surprisingly a massive box-office success, even though both critics and audiences seemed to dislike it (on Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 49% rating with critics and a not-much-higher 56% with audiences). Even when he’s buried under mounds of green yak hair, Carrey’s radiant physical comedy skills shine through as he flawlessly contorts his body to replicate poses straight out of Dr. Seuss’s book, delivering some of the Grinch’s most animated expressions, such as his wide Cheshire Cat grin. Carrey didn’t just play the Grinch - he was the Grinch.
- Photo: New Line Cinema32,238 VOTES
In this action-comedy based on the comic strip of the same name, Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a timid bank clerk who finds a mysterious mask depicting Loki, the Norse god of mischief. When he puts it on, he transforms into the maniacal alter ego known as the Mask. Okay, so while the green-faced goon may not be the antagonist of the film, he isn’t exactly a knight in shining armor, either. He’s more of an unhinged agent of chaos, bringing out the worst in Ipkiss. He’s like that evil inner voice who causes him to rob banks and rampage across the city all to satisfy his personal needs and vendettas. Even though there are some perks to being the Mask, such as becoming an antihero who takes down the real scum of the city, Ipkiss ultimately gains a newfound confidence, ditches the trouble-making mask, gets the girl, and chooses to be himself.
Despite its box-office success, The Mask never spawned a Carrey-led franchise (the less said about Son of the Mask, the better), but it does boast an arsenal of some of Carrey’s most memorable one-liners (“Ssssmokin’!”) and it did score him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a comedy or musical.
- Photo: New Line Cinema41,942 VOTES
Without a doubt, The Number 23 is one of Carrey’s most universally panned movies, earning a dismal 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here, he plays Walter Sparrow, an animal control officer who becomes obsessed with a book titled The Number 23 by author Topsy Kretts. (Get it? "Top secrets" - insert eye roll here.) As he dives deeper into the book, he notices similarities between himself and the main character. Twist alert: It turns out that he actually wrote the book. He was once a murderer, purging his sins by writing the ultimate confession, but then he had a bout of amnesia and became Walter Sparrow. So, the protagonist is revealed to be the villain of his very own story.
At the time, it was great to see Carrey tackle dark thriller territory - too bad it ended up being such a creative misfire.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures51,896 VOTES
Count Olaf From 'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events'
Perhaps one of Carrey’s sleaziest villains is the nefarious Count Olaf from 2004’s Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, a conniving old coot who is willing to take extreme measures to get what he wants - even murder children. In the film, he’s the only living relative of the Baudelaire children and becomes their legal guardian after their parents perish in a mysterious fire - you can probably guess who started the fire. Not long after the children are in his custody, he puts them to work, treating them as servants, and cooks up a sneaky scheme to trick his own niece into marrying him during a play. The sharp-witted Bauledaire children learn this is all a ruse to cover up the fact that the marriage would be legally binding, giving him access to their family fortune.
Count Olaf is a seriously twisted, rotten human being, and Carrey chews up every scene as he plays the old wretch to perfection, shapeshifting into the character straight from the book series. With A Series of Unfortunate Events, Carrey once again proves he’s one of the best actors to play villains in kid movies.
- Photo: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 / Paramount Pictures
If there’s one mustache-twirling madman who echoes the stock villains of the silent era on Carrey’s resume, it's Doctor Ivo Robotnik from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. While Carrey's physical appearance in the first film is a bit of a departure from his rotund counterpart from the video games, many critics hailed the actor's performance as a return to form. It's a performance so good, even fellow funny man Adam Sandler called Carrey directly from the movie theater, as the film was playing, to tell him how great he was.
Those who nitpicked Carrey for not looking exactly like the evil Eggman from the games were silenced when the post-credits scene kicked in. Stranded on a mushroom planet and slowly going mad, a revenge-thirsty Robotnik appears with his signature bald head and mammoth-sized mustache. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Robotnik returns to wreak havoc in Green Hills and Carrey is once again mugging it up in every scene, giving us more of the amped-up and unhinged megalomaniac we know and love.