By | January 12, 2014 9 Comments

And the most accurate psychopath in cinema award goes to …

Anton Chigurh

Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in ‘No Country For Old Men’

A paper recently published in the  Journal of Forensic Sciences investigates the relationship between cinema and psychopathy to describe and analyze the portrayal of fictional psychopathic characters in popular films over cinematic history.

Rather than assessing their commercial success or “esthetic efficiency” and appeal, authors Samuel J. Leistedt, M.D., Ph.D.; and Paul Linkowski, M.D., Ph.D. assess the degree to which the fictional characters portrayal was realistic from the clinical and psychopathological viewpoint of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and mental health professionals.

Four hundred films made between 1915 and 2010 were studied and yielded 126 psychopathic characters 105 male and 21 female.

Among recent films, the study finds among the most interesting and realistic psychopathic characters is Anton Chigurh in the 2007 Coen brothers’ film, No Country for Old Men. Two more that topped the list were Henry Lee Lucas from Henry-Portrait of a Serial Killer (1991) and George Harvey in The Lovely Bones (2009). In terms of a ”˜successful psychopath,’ Gordon Gekko from Wall Street (1987) wins.

The 71st annual Golden Globes are today. What characters from this year’s Golden Globe nominees do YOU think would make the “most psychopathic” winners list of 2014?

The most accurate psychopaths in cinema, from

Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction? in Journal of Forensic Sciences. (This is a locked study but can be viewed for a fee.)



Posted in: Scientific research

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We took a look at the actual study. Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho” was listed as a classic primary psychopath, which surprised me, because I thought he was more of a cartoon character.

Norman Bates from “Psycho” was described as a “pseudopsychopath” who also had psychosis. That sounds about right.

“Gaslight” wasn’t on the list. That surprised me, because the to me the Gregory Anton character is a classic.

Among the women, only three characters were listed as classic primary psychopaths, although others were secondary psychopaths. They were:

Baby Firefly in “The Devil’s Rejects”
Mona Demarkov in “Romeo is Bleeding”
Sadie in “The Last House on the Left”

I don’t know any of those movies. Has anyone seen them?


Hands-down, Edward Norton in Primal Fear.

Spoiler Alert! Norton plays a spath so convincingly that when he reveals himself it is downright chilling. Brilliant and believable.


There are two little known films that IMO have the best psychopaths. One is a film from the 80’s called House of Games – the character played by Joe Montegna is probably the most diabolical psychopath I’ve ever seen in a film. He plays the role to a T.

Another one is The Usual Suspects with Kevin Spacey. Of course anything with Kevin Spacey is gonna be good.

Finally, if you have the stomach for it, The Human Centipede – First Sequence – is a cheesy cult horror film. Had this been a mainstream movie, the evil doctor – a little known German actor – would have easily won the academy award. He acted his part so seriously and believably. It was amazing.

I recommend all three of these films. But the third one is not for the feint-hearted. You have to be a hardcore cheesy horror fan to like this one.


Did they not mention Nicole Kidman in “Malice”? Dr. Hare even served as a consultant to Kidman for that movie. Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons?


Just in the last few weeks on television, I watched a few of the older movies and experienced that sort of “ahh.. moment of clarity” about what I used to live with for many years.

The movies were “Gaslight”, “Guilty as Sin”, “Fracture”, “Malice”,
and “Double Jeopardy”. I had seen them all years and years ago, but they made sense to me as I watched them recently. I saw all the traits and behaviors of the psychopath displayed in these movies and sadly through my past with ex-husband. “Deceived” with Goldie Hawn is another that comes to mind.


When I saw the movie “Sleeping With the Enemy” I first realized the pathological condition of the man I had married and divorced. Fortunately, he targeted someone else instead of pursuing me like in the movie. Instead, he had serial wives and waited to pursue me through my adult children after multiple divorces.


“Wait until Dark”, with Audrey Hepburn, was my first movie nightmare. That movie has stayed with my psyche for decades. It played to the stereotype psychopath as criminals, murderers,and thugs.


“Enough” starring Jennifer Lopez. I watched the movie for the first time while stilled married to my spath. I remember sitting with tears running down my face and a sick feeling in my stomach because it hit home so deeply. I actually watched it over and over in disbelief of how similar my situation was. It had me so curious, it launched my internet search to try and make sense of what was happening. I had each of my girls watch it just so they would know the warning signs and that it was not okay for someone who was supposed to love you to treat you that way. I also wanted them to understand that you can’t love someone who is a sociopath enough to make them come to their senses, see the error of their ways and make things right. They are not capable.


Because I so rarely see my mthr’s ‘type’ described anywhere (except by some posters on here – go figure), I started to see if I could find good examples in movies.

Nothing comes exactly right, but the closest I’ve seen to her is a combination of:
1) Kevin Bacon in “The River Wild”, and
2) Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Kevin’s character shows how she was on the outside (to strangers). That smooth, slow smile of knowing he had a good victim – that no-one seems to recognize, but is so obvious to me now.

The Nurse Ratched character was how she was at home. It’s pretty accurate too. For a few years my mthr worked in a psychiatric hospital. And the character’s portrayal of cool, collected, sheer domination & subjugation of her charges – through to having someone lobotomized just because he dared to cross her – was spot on. And hers is the only facial expression that comes close: that look of wanting to literally bite someone, being held just slightly in check but letting the target know it could be let loose at any time.

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