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Top 10 Actors Who Always Play Jerks
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Top 10 Actors Who Always Play Jerks

Top 10 Actors Who Always Play Jerks

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
These actors make our blood boil...when they're on screen. For this list, we'll be looking at the actors who are usually typecast in movies as nasty, rude, and otherwise unpleasant people. Our countdown includes Billy Zane, John C. McGinley, James Spader, and more!

Top 10 Actors Who Always Play Jerks


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Always Play Jerks.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the actors who are usually typecast in movies as nasty, rude, and otherwise unpleasant people

Who do you think is best at playing jerks? Let us know in the comments

#10: Clancy Brown

You might recognize Clancy Brown’s name as the voice of Mr. Krabs, but the greedy crustacean is by no means the most morally corrupt character Brown has played. Brown’s towering physique and imposing nature have made characters like The Kurgan in “Highlander” and guard Byron Hadley in “The Shawshank Redemption” all the scarier. He also has the distinct honor of being part of both the Marvel and DC Universes, voicing villains such as Mr. Sinister, Bane, and, most famously, Lex Luthor. Brown has been cast in the upcoming “John Wick: Chapter 4.” We have a slight hunch that he’s going to play a bad guy.

#9: Billy Zane

We didn’t need much reason to root against Cal Hockley in “Titanic,” but Billy Zane provided the perfect amount of upper-class ugliness to Rose’s fiancée. And it seems Zane was made to play unlikeable characters. His film debut was “Back to the Future,” where he played the aptly-named “Match,” one of Biff Tannen’s henchmen. He then was chilling as a villain in the thriller “Dead Calm.” There are also lesser-known movies where Zane is decidedly unbearable, like “Survival Island,” also known as “Three,” and “The Believer.” Zane doesn't seem to mind playing antagonistic characters. He said playing these parts is "a lot of fun and very lucrative." However, he hopes movies shy away from anti-heroes and more toward positive role models. To that, we say, "good luck."

#8: Gary Cole

Did you experience traumatic flashbacks to every bad boss you’ve ever had when watching “Office Space?” If so, thank the acting talents of Gary Cole for helping to create Bill Lumbergh, who seems like an exaggeration only if you’ve never experienced the joys of working in an office. Other great Cole roles include irresponsible father Reese Bobby in “Talladega Nights” and drug lord Ted Jones in “Pineapple Express.” He seems to know these characters well enough to make them utterly repugnant, but with just enough charisma to keep us watching. Here’s one memo we all got: Gary Cole is great at playing jerks.

#7: Kurt Fuller

You might know Kurt Fuller best as oddball but amusing coroner Woody on "Psych." However, many of Fuller’s characters are more mean than weird. Fuller's tall stature and stern demeanor are put to great use in films like "Ghostbusters II" and “Midnight in Paris.” He also had a great role as the less-than-angelic angel Zachariah on “Supernatural.” You’ll notice that Fuller is frequently cast in comedies, but he never seems like he’s trying to make you laugh. He takes the role seriously, even if everything around him is ridiculous. His characters might not always be lovable, but we love his commitment.

#6: Christopher McDonald

Adam Sandler’s protagonist in “Happy Gilmore” isn’t the most likable. But we’re still rooting for him against the stuck-up and vindictive Shooter McGavin, played by Christopher McDonald. In films like this and others, like “Requiem for a Dream,” McDonald nails the smarminess that often gets mistaken for charisma. He also got our blood boiling as Geena Davis’ unappreciative husband in “Thelma & Louise,” and proved himself to be a great voice actor as crazed government agent Kent Mansley in “The Iron Giant.” Many actors are praised for the intensity they display in dramatic roles. But Christopher McDonald reminds us that comic actors can also bring the passion.

#5: John C. McGinley

Did you ever look up to someone who seemed to simultaneously love and loathe you? Then, you can probably relate to the relationship between J.D. and Dr. Cox on “Scrubs.” As Dr. Cox, John C. McGinley cracked us up with his hilarious insults but also presented some heart underneath his prickly exterior. And McGinley has played other characters who are lacking in the empathy department. These include business consultant Bob Slydell in “Office Space,” FBI Director Ben Harp in “Point Break” and police union president Frank O’Sullivan on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” In real life, McGinley is an active advocate for Down syndrome awareness. It must take a real kind guy to play characters as nasty as this.

#4: William Zabka

Few big-screen bullies got to us quite like “The Karate Kid’s” Johnny Lawrence, a nasty brute whose comeuppance we’re instantly waiting for. And William Zabka must’ve had something brewing inside him, because “The Karate Kid” was his film debut. From there came the typecasting, with Zabka also playing jerks in 80s comedies “Just One of the Guys,” and “Back to School.” He was so good in this kind of role that strangers would reportedly heckle him in public. And although Zabka has taken on projects that show his depth, he’s returned to the “Karate Kid” well, reprising his role as Johnny in TV series “Cobra Kai.” But his performance never feels like a retread of his previous work.

#3: Ben Foster

There are jerks, and then there are the characters Ben Foster often plays, who have plenty of sins to confess. Some of Foster’s most notable roles include kidnapper Mars in “Hostage,” gunslinger Charlie Prince in “3:10 to Yuma”, and bank robber Tanner Howard in “Hell or High Water.” But these characters aren’t just compelling because they’re immoral. Foster has so much energy and magnetism that he steals just about every scene he’s in. We’d hate to encounter most of these characters in real life. But we love seeing how Foster taps into the chaos of his hotheaded portrayals.

#2: Michael Ironside

Some of Michael Ironside’s performances convey stern leadership, while others convey complete psychopathy. You might not recognize his name, but you know his face from roles like Lt. Rasczak in “Starship Troopers,” henchman Richter in “Total Recall,” and telepath Darryl in “Scanners.” Ironside is so effective at playing intimidating characters that when he enters a scene, our first reaction is to tense up. He can unsettle us more with a single grimace than most actors can with a furious breakdown. Of course, when Ironside gets unhinged, he’s still engrossing. Need an actor who will instantly increase your movie’s tension levels? Get Michael Ironside on your side.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Jason Schwartzman
Schwartzman Is Great at Playing Characters Dripping with Arrogance

Dan Hedaya
Films Like “Blood Simple” Display Hedaya’s Mesmerizing Tenseness

William Atherton
Who Didn’t Hate Walter Peck in “Ghostbusters?”

Dabney Coleman
Despite the Friendly Mustache, Coleman Has Played Some Truly Nasty Characters

Paul Gleason
Few Fictional Administrators Are as Unlikable as Assistant Principal Vernon

#1: James Spader

John Hughes’ high school movies had their share of jerks, but none quite so memorably despicable as the arrogant Steff in “Pretty in Pink,” played by James Spader. With his feathered hair and conceited demeanor, Steff is exactly who we imagine when we think of wealth depriving a person of empathy. While Spader, the son of two teachers, wasn’t part of the one percent growing up, this character still feels disturbingly authentic. Spader has also flexed his arrogance in roles like controlling boss E. Edward Grey in “Secretary,” Sabre CEO Robert California in “The Office,” and criminal-turned-FBI informant Red Reddington on “The Blacklist.” In each of these roles, Spader lends a chilling yet familiar aura, one that simultaneously repels and attracts us.
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