When it comes to the scariest villains in film history, the terror rarely ends when the credits roll. Truly terrifying characters can follow viewers into their nightmares, and they can also haunt the actors who played them. Being one of the best villain actors in movie history can be a mixed blessing since, on one hand, you'll be remembered forever in the hallowed halls of the cinema greats, and on the other, you may find yourself exclusively playing villains in future roles.
When a talented actor digs into the best villain roles, it can be hard for audiences to separate the fear they feel for the character from the actor. And sometimes, the actor themselves is just a bit creepy. No matter what the reason, as long as there are scary movies, there will be actors who inspire fear even when they're just being their regular old selves.
- Photo: The Silence of the Lambs / Orion Pictures
Hannibal Lecter is one of the most instantly memorable villains to ever terrify audiences from the silver screen. The role was a commercial and critical success, winning Anthony Hopkins an Oscar for his performance. Hopkins won the award for good reason, too. Thanks to Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal is as terrifying as he is charismatic, leaving audiences with a character that's hard to shake. If you recognize Anthony Hopkins in a different role, your body is bound to feel a tinge of fear lingering from Hannibal. But what if you recognized him in the theater?
Some fans had this very experience happen to them. When The Silence of the Lambs first hit theaters, Anthony Hopkins attended a screening incognito with a friend. When the power went out mid-film, Anthony Hopkins removed his hat and sunglasses to the sheer terror of the audience members around him.5711Terrifying?
- Photo: IT / Warner Bros. Pictures
Bill Skarsgard's portrayal of Pennywise is utterly terrifying. His take on the dancing clown is so terrifying, in fact, that while on set, he caused young extras to actually break down into tears. While Skarsgard seems like a generally nice and charming gentleman, it's impossible for us to watch interviews with him and not see Pennywise's sinister face through Bill's eyes and wide grin.
Bill Skarsgard's portrayal was so horrific that he scares himself. The actor told Entertainment Weekly that he regularly has nightmares about the clown.4521Terrifying?
- Photo: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Warner Bros. Pictures
Lord Voldemort is such a horrific figure in the world of Harry Potter that even his name is forbidden to be spoken. Based on his depiction the films, you know he has the ability to strike fear into the hearts of the viewers, as well. If you grew up watching the Harry Potter series, there's a good chance that Voldemort (and with him Ralph Fiennes, the actor who brought him to life) is the first scary villain you ever saw. For kids too young for horror movies, a glimpse of Voldemort's eerie, snake-like face is enough to linger when the lights go out at night.
Ralph Fiennes seems to delight in his role as the villain, or at least he did while explaining how he has scared real-life children while appearing on The Graham Norton Show. According to his story, he made the script supervisor's son burst into tears just by walking by in costume on the Harry Potter set.3515Terrifying?
- Photo: Psycho / Paramount Pictures
Many of horror's most iconic villain performances get help from masks, heavy makeup, or even prosthetics to create a terrifying character. Anthony Perkins had none of those luxuries as Norman Bates (for most of the movie at least). When Norman terrifies audiences, all they see is Anthony Perkins's face staring at them.
What modern-day audiences may not know about Anthony Perkins is that he began his career as something of a teen heartthrob and he was cast against type when he was put into the role of the psychotic Norman Bates. In a post-Psycho world, Anthony Perkins saw himself playing more and more manic and dark characters, eventually just throwing in the towel and returning to the character in later sequels.3111Terrifying?