Recently I was slapped in the face by the Internet being stupid, which is something I rarely comment on because I know it won’t help. BUT when Sam Rockwell’s winning streak is being criticised, with arguments that he plays an unlikable character Dixon, who represents everything that is wrong with our society (a racist and homophobic cop) and that’s why Rockwell doesn’t deserve to win, I take offence and fight back. That is also the reason why I sat down this morning and decided that I was going to defend his portrayal of Dixon by pointing out numerous other great performances of bad characters. Here are some of my favourite immoral characters from television and film.
HANNIBAL LECTER in The Silence of Lambs/Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins/Mads Mikkelsen
I’m combining the film trilogy and the series here, because I feel like both have created a character who is widely liked. Sure, we definitely do not like serial killers, who also eat their victims, but Hopkins won his only Oscar for portraying this infamous killer, and the show itself is among the best shows list on IMDb. My fascination with serial killers has been mentioned here on my blog multiple times, so for me, despite his actions, Hannibal Lecter a very interesting character who is portrayed brilliantly not only by Hopkins but also by Mikkelsen.
WALTER WHITE in Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston
Another addition from television, a family man who decides, after he finds out he has inoperable lung cancer, to cook meth. By feeding into the drug world quality meth his criminal persona Heisenberg slowly starts to take over throughout the series. He does some questionable things and definitely bad things during the shows 5 season run, but without a doubt, Cranston’s performance and the show itself, is very highly praised. Including a Golden Globe for Cranston in 2014, which he very much deserved! Walter White is also the sort of immoral character who you end up rooting for, because he is being shown as an antihero, while, deep down, we all know he’s simply just a criminal.
Col. HANS LANDA in Inglorious Basterds, Christoph Waltz
Should I even explain the evil side of this character? I doubt anyone can forget the infamous Jew Hunter from one of Tarantino’s best movies. And obviously everyone finds it incredibly easy to dislike him, but at the same time, the performance of Waltz also makes Landa a thrilling character to witness on screen. It’s also not surprising this Austrian (German) actor won an Oscar for this role, because the character itself, hated by all, is still one of the best things in the entire movie.
FRANK GALLAGHER in Shameless, William H. Macy
Though I stopped watching Shalemess years ago, it’s still going strong and H. Macy is still getting nominated for this role. Hell, he has won 3 of the 4 SAG Awards he has been nominated for, so I’d say his being well praised for playing a drunk. There’s nobody who would praise his parenting, or his ability to provide for his family, so that is why I’m adding Frank to this list. For what it’s worth, I did like how little he cared about his sons sexual orientation, and from that perspective, Frank’s okay.
AILEEN WUORNOS in Monster, Charlize Theron
Patty Jenkins’ first movie was truly a dark one, and her protagonist couldn’t be further from Wonder Woman. Aileen Wuoronos was a prostitute, who killed six men, and was sentenced to death for her crimes. Clearly not the kind of person you would like to cross paths with but Theron does amazing work here, transforming herself not only physically but also mentally. The sheer line between sanity and insanity is toyed with, and it was indeed an Oscar worthy performance.
KLAUS MIKAELSON in The Vampire Diaries and Originals, Joseph Morgan
I know this is a completely different way of proving my point, since I’ve only mentioned award winning performances thus far, but I do want to give credit for an evil character turned protagonist. Klaus entered The Vampire Diaries as its villain, and he was literally killing everyone at sight, but that did not stop the fans and their fangirling. Later on, Klaus got his own show, The Originals, and I doubt he would have if Joseph Morgan’s portrayal of this very bad character hadn’t been so compelling and addictive, despite him ripping throats apart and all.
MARK ZUCKERBERG in The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg
For what it’s worth, I don’t really think Mark Zuckerberg is a bad person, it’s the combination of the script and Eisenberg’s almost emotionless performance that makes Zuckerberg so unlikable. He simply does bad things, he steals the idea from the twins, he shuts out his best friend from the company, and he acts like an asshole pretty much all the time. Yet, the performance itself is fascinating to watch, and there’s something in Eisenberg’s eyes that sort of raises the question, is he really an asshole or, like the movie itself proposes, he tries to be one.
PERRY WRIGHT in Big Little Lies, Alexander Skarsgård
Granted, I haven’t seen Big Little Lies, but I was pleasantly spoiled of the ending, so that is why I feel comfortable adding this here. Also, I find it utterly ironic that Sam’s win is being tainted, yet nobody seems to notice that Skarsgård’s performance in Big Little Lies falls into the exact same category – abusive husband. Yet, and I feel very confident saying this, Skarsgård’s performance is brilliant and it’s no surprise he is being awarder accordingly.
JASON DIXON in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Sam Rockwell
Finally I’ve arrived where it all started, Sam Rockwell’s performance as Jason Dixon – controversial character that is causing the Internet to say stupid things. The only difference between Jason Dixon and most of the other immoral characters in this list is the fact that Dixon’s character arc puts him towards redemption. And clearly, that doesn’t sit well with some, because bad people apparently can’t change? Which is why Sam Rockwell’s performance is exceptional in Three Billboards, he convinces some to believe in redemption, while angers the others for the very same reason. And to clarify, Rockwell is not awarded for playing a racist homophobic cop, he is being awarded because despite of those traits, he still manages to be charismatic and likeable for some. And yes, I allow you to hate him as well, you may even dislike Dixon with all your heart, but please, have the decency to see past the character (which is ironic, since clearly Rockwell embodies Dixon so well that some people have a hard time separating the actor from his role), and recognise the skill and ability of a terrific, one of a kind actor.
So there you have it, a list of immoral characters, who we all like, most of whom have been portrayed by awarded actors, and my answer to those stupid comments being made about Rockwell’s wins. He deserves those awards, and not because the awards have been a long way coming, but because his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is brilliant. The more I think about it, the more time passes, the more I realise how complicated Jason Dixon actually is. And if the movie allowed us more time with him, showed us more of his character’s growth, I bet everyone will eventually learn to like him. Besides, if we truly wish for change and we wish for progress, then wouldn’t we rather see immoral characters growing and evolving towards better men in movies, rather than criticising them and saying that the choice to award the actor portraying them is wrong? Just a thought.
This list is obviously not complete, so let me know what immoral character’s performance would you like to praise down in the comments!0
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Wow the moment I started reading your intro to this post I knew it was going to be a good one. I was not disappointed. So many great characters on this list. I also believe that just because they played a horrible character doesn’t mean they shouldn’t win an award for it. I feel like playing these people is very difficult. It takes a lot of hard work to perfect these characters. It shows how much talent an actor has.
Thank you so much! And thank you for saying that, I have seen comments online saying the exact opposite and I think it’s so narrow minded. So this was my response to that, listing all these horrible characters with great performances fueling them!
I got so upset when I saw people wanted his award. I feel people need to understand actors and the people they portray are two separate things. The guy he played isn’t getting the award, the actor who put a lot of hard work to portray this horrible person is getting the award. There is a huge difference.
I don’t understand why people are so pissed about Sam Rockwell winning all the awards…if anything, it’s kind of time considering he’s the most dependable actor around atm. I think this is just caught up in the fact that there’s not a lot of love out there for Three Billboards (myself included, I just don’t understand how it keeps winning stuff when it isn’t that great) and Sam’s character seems like the obvious point to complain about (when really it is the script that is the ENTIRE problem).
I love me some immoral characters though. You gotta see Big Little Lies! Tbh I was kinda surprised that Skarsgård did a full sweep of the awards coz his character is so horrible, but I’m glad he did – he was bloody amazing!
Anyway I’m quietly enjoying your Sam Rockwell marathon…I need to watch more of his stuff :))))
Me neither! I didn’t end up loving Three Billboards but with all this hate towards Rockwell, I will defend it, and I sort of like it more when time passes. But to not praise Rockwell for his work and hide behind excuses that he is portraying a racist, is just idiotic.
I have been meaning to watch Big Little Lies so long now but I keep putting it off.
Good on you for this post! I’m not online enough to have witnessed the backlash but what utter nonsense.
I know, it’s this kind of thing that I would rather avoid. It makes me mad, and I know I can’t change anything so it’s futile to be mad.
Immoral characters are the most interesting as I will cite Gabriel Byrne’s role as Tom Reagan in Miller’s Crossing by the Coen Brothers as an example of a great immoral character.
Dixon is an interesting character as he’s someone that is prejudiced and is an idiot but there is also so much more to him as he becomes aware of the case he takes part in and has to push so much aside to try and do the right thing.
Oh, I haven’t seen that one, but that sounds like a good example!
I feel like his growth was slow and gradual, but some don’t feel it was enough yet I feel like if it had been faster, it wouldn’t have felt as natural. I feel like Dixon could improve as a person after the events in the film, and it’s that hope that makes me like his character more.
I cannot tell you how much I love the fact that Klaus Mikaelson is on this list! But obviously all the amazing award winning actors and actresses that were also mentioned totally deserved to be on this list! Great post!!
You know, the list felt so serious so I thought I’d add a little guilty pleasure to the list as well! It felt like the right thing to do, considering I was in love with Klaus despite his awfulness. :’D
It’s definitely the same for me. My friends say I have a thing for psychos in fiction, but Klaus just grew on me so much despite everything he has done. I hope the Originals gets a fitting end.
I haven’t watched The Originals passed the first season, I was so bothered by that chick who plays the werewolf, Pheobe Tonkin or something.
I hear you. The thing with the Originals is that it is very inconsistent. They have great season finales in my opinion but the middle of the season is always terribly drawn out to the point where it just gets annoying. I did not like the fact that Hayley (yep, Phoebe Tonkin was right) and Elijah got so close and the way she acted in general, but that family still always somehow got me to come back. I heard rumours of Caroline making an appearance in the series finale, so I just hope her and Klaus get together. Because I just always wanted him to hold his promise to be her last love.
Oh yeah, Caroline and Klaus not happening was also the reason I felt betrayed by The Originals a little. I couldn’t imagine him functioning without her.
That was the main reason I really disliked Cami. They made her out to be this carbon copy of Caroline and then expected me to root for her the same way. Spoiler alert: She died and I felt sorry for Klaus but was relieved at the same time. I just always wanted Caroline that move to The Originals as well, but it never happened and then TVD ended and there was this glimmer of hope. And the captial H Hope is going to Caroline’s school now, so I just hope everything ties together. I think I would be forever bitter if they don’t end up together.
Oh well so much that I don’t know but so there’s still hope that they will be an item? If so, yes, sign me up, I would watch The Originals from start to end just for that.
I’ll let you know if they do 😉
Immoral characters are some of the best. I reckon they must be fun to play too. What an excellent post you e done here.
Thank you so much! I do think it’s more enjoyable to be immoral, and have fun with it.
Oh yes, having fun is paramount. I think that’s why anti-heroes are so fascinating.
Oooo I love me some Hans Landa. I feel a little weird admitting that, but he’s so damn complex aside from also being charming and charismatic. Just that persona alone, the mask he wears to hide his sadism is equally as terrifying and compelling as what lies beneath it. Definitely a lot of favorites here. I still need to see Three Billboards!
I think that Landa is a perfect example how context changes the perception of a character. If he had been on the other side of the war, he’d be the hero, and everyone would love him, all his sadistic tendencies included. I’m curious to hear what you think about Jason Dixon once you see Three Billboards.
I can’t with the Rockwell controversy anymore, people are getting stupider by the day.
Awesome picks as always! Clearly I love immoral characters as you feature some of my all-time favourites 😅 Skarsgard was freaking amazing in Big Little Lies, you need to see it. He really deserves all the awards. I have SO MANY I love, but here we go, just a few:
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Robert Mitchum in The Night of The Hunter
and the best of all the psychos,
Christian Bale in American Psycho !
Right? It’s annoying. Oh man, I don’t like to mention Ledger as you might know but that’s a good one! I’m thinking of all kinds of posts for my blog this year since posting 5 times a week is a challenge, so I might do an Immoral Characters vol 2 soon! 😀
I still haven’t seen American Psycho (don’t hit me), I read the book though!
Immoral characters are my favourite to be honest. They are always the most interesting and compelling. Movies and shows wouldn’t be the same without them.
I haven’t seen Shameless, The Vampire Diaries and Monster, but I loved all the other performances. Mikkelsen’s Hannibal and Walter White are some of my favourite fiction characters are well.
See, immoral characters are loved by many, so I don’t know what this awful controversy around Rockwell is even a thing. I hope it doesn’t start up again before the Oscars!
Awesome post! The backlash against Sam has been ridiculous. Art and culture will become so bland, one-note, and safe if we try to censor unlikeable characters and don’t let actors pay characters who – are HEY – complicated and have deep flaws. I understand people don’t want to see the same stereotypes awarded again and again, but this surge of ‘critics punishing’ actors for the roles they play is crazy. I think we should be more upset that there are real ignorant people in powers of position causing real damage instead of actors who deliver complex performances for fictional, unlikeable characters. :/
Hey, the stuff said about Sam is so stupid considering the shit Gary Oldman is pulled and nobody’s talking about THAT! Like, he is safely on his way to win that Oscar, and yet, there are some shady stuff in his past revolving around his ex-wives.. which he has like a bundle of. And here is Sam, decent man, no drama, acting his ass off in all kinds of projects, being nice to everyone, getting shit. Fucking hate this.
But yes, thank you for the comment! I got a bit frustrated again but this topic is really sensitive for me. 😀