If there's one thing Hollywood has always been good at, it's creating excellent villains. Sure, there are countless movies with crummy bad guys, but a true villain… that's something special. It's especially insidious when a villain is hiding in plain sight, and more than enough movies have ventured into that territory. Few do it well, but there are several that set the industry standard for last-minute reveals of a character's truly villainous nature.
This list examines the films that did it right - the movies that dangled an otherwise benign character in front of the audience's eyes, only to pull the rug out from under them at the last minute. Each of the films on this list features such a villain, and most are exceptional movies, to say the least. Take a look down below at the movies where the villain was hiding in plain sight, and be sure to upvote any that surprised you.
SPOILER WARNING! The entries listed below reveal plot details that will absolutely spoil the film if you haven't seen it, so be warned!
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Few actors have as impressive a movie debut as Edward Norton. His first feature film, Primal Fear, has him playing Aaron Stampler, a young man accused of murder. He's found drenched in Archbishop Richard Rushman's blood, but he claims he blacked out and "lost time." It soon becomes apparent that Aaron is a deeply disturbed man with multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder, and his alter-ego, Roy, is the true killer.
Roy doesn't speak with a stutter, as Aaron does, and he's overtly aggressive and dangerous. Aaron's attorney manages to convince the court that Stampler is innocent due to his mental health, and he's acquitted of the murder charge. In the final scene, Aaron admits to his attorney that there never was an Aaron. He is and always has been Roy, and the whole DID thing was an act. The real villain was always there, the entire time, tricking the audience into believing Aaron was an innocent young man.
- 23 VOTESPhoto: Paramount PIctures
There are many great villains in cinema history, and Norman Bates is one of the best. In Psycho, the bad guy appears to be Marion Crane, a woman who steals a large sum of cash from her employer before going on the run. She stops at the Bates Motel, where she meets mild-mannered Norman Bates, the hotel's manager. There are clues that Norman isn't all he appears, but the audience's suspicions are turned elsewhere when Marion is stabbed to death in the shower.
For nearly the entire film, it's clear that Norman's mother is the killer, but that's just Alfred Hitchcock messing with the audience's minds. In reality, Norman killed his mother a decade earlier and took on her personality as one of his own. He dressed in her clothing and mimicked her voice. His "mother" persona is entirely antithetical to the charming young man who first greets Marion in the first act, and the big reveal of his true nature is chilling, even 60+ years later.
- 33 VOTES
'Get Out' - Rose ArmitagePhoto: Universal Pictures
Get Out is a fantastic horror film from the demented yet brilliant mind of Jordan Peele. When the film opens, Rose Armitage appears to be a lovely young woman attending college alongside Chris Washington. The two begin to date, and after five months, she brings him home to meet the family. She introduces Chris to her mother, father, and younger brother, Jimmy. It's soon revealed that the Armitage family is a member of the Order of the Coagula.
The cult and its members kidnap African Americans and bring them to their homes, where they are hypnotized and subjected to brain transplant surgery. This kills the victim and allows the members of the family to live forever, transferring their minds from one body to the next. While each family member is presented as evil through the course of the film, Rose is easily the most insidious, as she entraps, or wrangles, her victims by forming false relationships with them… and she's very good at it.
- Photo: Gramercy Pictures
The Usual Suspects is a story told in the form of a flashback, as recounted by Roger "Verbal" Kint to US Customs Agent David Kujan. Kint is a con artist with cerebral palsy, and he's only telling the tale because he worked out a deal for immunity concerning the events depicted throughout the movie. Kint and Agent Kujan have a back-and-forth over the truly villainous yet unidentifiable Keyser Söze all the way up to the end of the film, which sees Kint leave his office.
As this happens, Kujan begins to piece together the various elements of Kint's story as he looks around his office. It dawns on him that Kint made up much of the tale using pieces of information gleaned from a coffee mug and various objects in the room. As it dawns on Agent Kujan, the camera flashes to Kint, who no longer walks with a limp. He deftly lights a cigarette before getting into a car, revealing that he was Keyser Söze all along.