Some esteemed actors have built their careers on the foundation of playing exceptionally moral, honorable characters -- Jimmy Stewart, Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, and Morgan Freeman, to name a few of moviedom's finest examples of all that's good and heroic. Other actors, well, let's just say they were born to be bad... on screen, at least. Take 'Shutter Island' co-star Max von Sydow, who scares us more than any man enjoying his ninth decade on Earth has any right to.

It's not that actors like von Sydow, Gary Oldman, Jeremy Irons and Alan Rickman can't tackle righteous or sensitive characters; they're all magnificent masters of their craft. Von Sydow has even portrayed Jesus ('The Greatest Story Ever Told') and a man of the cloth in several films (most notably in 'The Exorcist'). But when they're evil, these actors are simply the best. We offer you Hollywood's 10 most eeeevil actors. Some esteemed actors have built their careers on the foundation of playing exceptionally moral, honorable characters -- Jimmy Stewart, Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman, to name a few of moviedom's finest examples of all that's good and heroic. Other actors, well, let's just say they were born to be bad... on screen, at least. Take 'Shutter Island' co-star Max von Sydow, who scares us more than any man enjoying his ninth decade on Earth has any right to.

It's not that actors like von Sydow, Gary Oldman, Jeremy Irons and Alan Rickman can't tackle righteous or sensitive characters; they're all magnificent masters of their craft. Von Sydow has even portrayed Jesus ('The Greatest Story Ever Told') and men of the cloth in several films (most notably in 'The Exorcist'). But when they're evil, these actors are simply the best. We offer you Hollywood's 10 most eeeevil actors.


10. Joe Pantoliano
Like that other Italian Joe (Pesci), Pantoliano may be small, but you don't want to see him angry. Whether he's a no-good stepdad in 'Percy Jackson,' a cold-hearted traitor in 'The Matrix,' a double-crossed mobster in 'Bound' or Tony Soprano's blood-thirsty subordinate in 'The Sopranos,' Pantoliano is king when it comes to sleazy jerks.




9.
Gary Oldman
Oldman is so good at being bad, even his "good" roles are a bit on the dark side, like Harry Potter's godfather Sirius Black or Gotham police captain Jim Gordon. His unabashedly-malevolent characters -- legendary vampire 'Dracula,' a wannabe presidential assassin in 'Air Force One,' vengeful Lecter victim in 'Hannibal' and his latest turn as a post-apocalyptic crime boss in 'The Book of Eli' -- create a fabulous filmography of bad-natured souls.



8.
Ian McShane
Although he's been an actor for nearly 50 years, McShane made a name for himself in the States in 2004 for playing the foul-mouthed, pioneering pimp Al Swearengen on HBO's 'Deadwood.' Anyone who has seen his Golden Globe-winning performance knows you just don't cross McShane. In films, McShane's best of the bad include a London kingpin in 'Sexy Beast,' a cruel hijacker in 'The Terrorists' and the animated villain Tai Lung in 'Kung Fu Panda.'



7.
Ray Winstone
Winstone is cut from the same cloth as his friend McShane; he's an expert at playing bad-ass men. As an Irish mob boss' henchman in 'The Departed,' a nasty deserter hunter in 'Cold Mountain,' an enigmatic agent in 'Edge of Darkness' and a fed-up gangster in 'Sexy Beast,' Winstone proves again and again that if you want brilliantly ominous, he's the man for the job.



6. Jason Isaacs
The steely-eyed Brit's standout performance as the sadistic Redcoat who kills Mel Gibson's sons in 'The Patriot' set the tone for his popularity as Voldemort's deliciously evil Death Eater -- with awesome hair -- Lucius Malfoy in the 'Harry Potter' series. On the small screen, Isaacs impressed critics as a hot-headed Providence mobster in Showtime's drama 'Brotherhood.'



5. Max von Sydow
The 80-year-old Oscar nominee has 107 film credits, but it's his turns as corrupt men of authority or even the personification of evil itself that send shivers. Ever since the screen vet became Bond filmmakers' first choice for the titular role of 'Dr. No' (eventually played by Joseph Wiseman), he's been delivering chills in films like 'Flash Gordon' (as the Emperor Ming the Merciless), 'Minority Report' and 'Rush Hour 3.'



4. Sean Bean
Bean squints, scowls and glares his way into villainous roles with such flair that the tiniest narrowing of his eyes can scare an audience. For proof, see him as an IRA terrorist in 'Patriot Games,' a double-crossing Bond villain in 'Goldeneye,' a violent wife-beater in 'Essex Boys' and a psychopathic hitchhiker in 'The Hitcher.' Even his Boromir in 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy was appropriately edgy and and dark. This is one tough Englishman.



3. Danny Huston
Huston's eyebrows alone are menacing, and he also possesses beady eyes, an intimidating height and an air of entitlement that makes him a wonderful upscale bad guy. There's his creepy profiteer in 'Edge of Darkness,' the greedy corporatist in 'The Constant Gardner,' the head vampire in '30 Days of Night,' the killer outlaw in 'The Proposition' and the hateful General Stryker in 'Wolverine.' Certainly his father, the late director John Huston, who was famously evil himself in 'Chinatown,' would've been proud.



2. Jeremy Irons
Like Huston, Irons has perfected the art of playing a finer class of villain. Look no further than his Oscar-winning part as blue-blooded wife-hater Claus von Bulow in 'Reversal of Fortune,' or his maniacal bomber in 'Die Hard With a Vengeance' or the rich and ruthless rancher in 'Appaloosa' for a few examples of Irons' infamous characters. Oh, and who can forget King Mufasa's jealous, fratricidal brother, Scar, in 'The Lion King.'



1. Alan Rickman
Maybe it's the deep and imposing voice, or because he's got a mean sneer, but Rickman is always game to play a nasty character. He has memorably depicted the slimy and seemingly-traitorous Severus Snape in the 'Harry Potter' films, the greedy and perverted Judge Turpin in 'Sweeney Todd' and terrorist Hans Gruber in the original 'Die Hard.' We love Rickman when he's good, but when he's bad, he's irresistible.

CATEGORIES Features