top five movie assholes
I’ve always felt that action movies can be measured by the villain. Die Hard rode the performance of Alan Rickman as cynical terrorist Hans Grueber. Batman was fueled by the maniacal Joker, and the crushing tension in Silence of the Lambs was fed by the evil presence of Hannibal Lector.
That’s great for action movies. But what about comedies?
I think a similar principle is at work for comedies. Instead of villains though, a great comedy requires a great asshole—not a true villain—but a person who is so instantly dislikable, that we don’t mind when they are tormented the rest of the movie.
So, without further ado, Badmouth introduces: The Top Five Movie Assholes.
5. William Atherton
“Everything was fine, until dickless here cut off the power grid!”
“Is that true?”
“Yes, Your Honor, this man has no dick.”
Whether he is playing a dickless EPA inspector in Ghostbusters, a dickhead arms-dealer/college professor in Real Genius or a dickwad news reporter in Die Hard, William Atherton is the dick we can’t do without. There are few joys in the world equal to watching him get torn down by Bill Murray in Ghostbusters or punched in the face by Bonnie Bedelia at the end of Die Hard.
4. Paul Gleason
“Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”
In a rare show of solidarity, students and teachers have agreed on one topic: They both hate school administrators.
Paul Gleason is probably why it’s still considered OK to loath the hardworking administrators of America. His portrayal of Principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club. Set new a new standard for how unlikable a high-school administrator could be. He followed that tour de force performance with a supporting asshole role in the Bruce Willis action picture Die Hard.
Reasons to hate him: Office Space
“Hello Peter. What’s happening? Um, I’m gonna need you go ahead and come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around nine, that would be great. Oh, oh, I forgot. I’m gonna also need you to come in Sunday too. We, uh, lost some people this week and we need to sorta catch up. Thanks.”
In today’s lightened age we’ve moved past the old stereotype of the boss as dictator: brow-beating, autocratic and loud. But that does not mean that the boss is no longer the enemy. Gary Cole’s smarmy, arrogant Satan-spawned upper-manager Bill Lumbergh redefined the hated boss for the new generation. Oily, non-confrontational and completely oblivious, Cole created the template that all future hated bosses will be based on.
Reasons to hate him: Private Parts
“Yes, you know about this? I was in the program director’s office…his name is Pig-Vomit. Yes, ’cause he looks like a pig and makes you want to vomit. Pig-Vomit! Anyways, Pig-Vomit says to me, this is not WNBC. It’s WNNNNBC! WNNNNNBC! And I was not saying the call letters right. It’s a big problem.”
Paul Giamatti is currently wowing critics with his performance as world-class crank Harvey Pekar in American Splendor, but he put himself on the map with his performance as world-class asshole Kenny “Pig Vomit” Rushton in Howard Stern’s Private Parts. In turns, slimy, condescending, arrogant, sycophantic and mean; Giamatti produced a character so dislikable, Stern actually looked good in comparison. That’s impressive.
Reasons to hate him: Caddyshack
“I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.”
Primarily known for hiw work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Ted Knight staked out a place in cinematic history when he created the most memorable movie asshole of all time: Judge Smails in Caddyshack. Knight’s perfomance was so over the top, that he regularly stole scenes from costars Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray. Knight’s unending supplies of arrogance, condensation and impotent rage propelled the vague fragments of a plot along, and provided all the major characters with a worthy nemisis.
So hats off to the late, great Ted Knight – the asshole to end all assholes.
Think I missed a fantastic asshole? Leave a comment below.