John Malkovich: His 10 Best Movie Bad Guys Ranked

From Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom to Pascale Sauvage.

John Malkovich
John Malkovich Who's the best bad guy? Image Summit Entertainment

No one plays a Hollywood bad guy quite like John Malkovich.

Over a career lasting nearly 40 years, the actor has built a reputation for playing most terrifying villains in the movie business, and after a quick look at his filmography, it’s easy to see why.

From Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom to Pascale Sauvage, he’s portrayed some of the best villains in movie history. In celebration of the man’s great work, loaded ranks ranks John Malkovich’s top ten bad guy roles below:


Burn After Reading

The first entry in the list comes in the form of The Coen Brother’s dark comedy Burn After Reading, which sees Malkovich plays former CIA analyst Osbourne Cox. He kills Richard Jenkins AND Brad Pitt, and anyone that can spend the majority of a movie wearing a bathrobe and still look frightening they must be doing something right.


Ripley’s Game

Patricia Highsmith’s literary bad guy Tom Ripley has cropped up in a few movies – notably in Matt Damon’s excellent 1999 thriller The Talented Mr Ripley – and Malkovich played him in 2002’s Ripley’s Game. He was more certainly more menacing than Damon’s incarnation of the character, and played the manipulative conman to perfection.


Heart Of Darkness

Colonel Kurtz might be a role more commonly associated with Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now than John Malkovich, but the actor did play Kurz in 90s TV series Heart Of Dearkness alongside Tim Roth. Although Apocalypse Now is a truly great movie, Brando’s performance isn’t actually as strong as the rest of the film, and Malkovich arguably delivers the more accomplished of the two performances.


Jonah Hex

The film might have been a bit of a mess, but Malkovich’s performance in Jonah Hex was definitely the best thing about it. He put in a solid turn as main bad guy Quentin Turnbull alongside Josh Brolin and a pre-fame Michael Fassbender in this fundamentally flawed comic book adaptation.


Johnny English

Another bit of Malkovich over-acting, Johnny English saw him play Frenchman Pascale Sauvage, who spent the whole movie trying to turn the entire UK into a prison, or something equally stupid. He didn’t return for the sequel, which turned out to be a wise decision on his part.


Dangerous Liaisons

Malkovich branched out for 1988’s scandalous period drama Dangerous Liaisons, and put in a fine performance as bad boy turned good Vicomte de Valmont. The performance has stood the test of time well, and he’s never looked better than he did in that wig.


Being John Malkovich

It might be slightly unfair to include Being John Malkovich in the list – after all, we’d be a bit annoyed if someone found a passage into our minds too – but Malkovich spends a lot of this movie being, well… a bit of a dick to be honest.

He’s got people messing around with his head, but somehow we don’t feel sorry for him at any point. Ultimately, even when he’s playing himself, Malkovich still manages to come across as a villain.



“Pay that man his money!” Malkovich plays eccentric Russian gangster Teddy KBG alongside a fresh-faced Matt Damon, and manages to be petrifying throughout – despite that ridiculous accent. Malkovich really has fun with the role, and it’s a better movie as a result.


In The Line Of Fire

In The Line Of Fire sees the actor deliver one of his finest performances as crazed hitman Mitch Leary, who’s hell bent on assassinating the president. Mackovich’s character is so scary, he even reduced Dillon McDermot to tears at one point, before ruthlessly killing him. This is Malkovich at his best.


Con Air

No list of Malkovich bad guys would be complete without Con Air’s Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom… A whole load of Hollywood A-listers appeared in the 1997 classic, but it was Malkovich who stole the show as the terrifying, bunny-tormenting psychopath. Cyrus is one of Hollywood’s most memorable bad guys, and deserves to be at number one.

What a shame then that Malkovich refuses to talk about Con Air. Not sure he will be working with Michael Bay again any time soon…

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