A fate worse than death in Hollywood, other than costarring in a Carrot Top movie, is being typecast. Smart actors and actresses seek out roles that’ll shake up their image and impress the public and their peers. Before Monster, Charlize Theron was just another pretty blonde; Jamie Foxx successfully abandoned his comedic chops in Ray. But unfortunately, not all thespians are able to undergo such a believable transformation. Despite their tremendous acting talent, some actors and actresses have a hint of creepiness that comes through in every character they play, intentionally or not. Maybe it’s their previous roles; maybe it’s that crazy glint in their eyes. Either way, it’s a presence that can’t be denied.
1. Steve Buscemi
He’s one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood, with hundreds of movie and TV roles under his belt. But he’s also one of the creepiest, and that’s part of what makes him so compelling. Even as the sweetly simple Donnie in The Big Lebowski or as the heartbreakingly pathetic Seymour in Ghost World, Buscemi still gives viewers the sense that something unsettling lurks beneath his surface.
2. Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey’s played many different characters, but all of them convey varying degrees of the same eerie calmness that made him so unnerving in movies like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The Usual Suspects. His voice alone is enough to haunt you for life, and if you don’t believe that, you’ve obviously never seen Se7en or Moon.
3. Kathy Bates
The first time I saw Kathy Bates was at the impressionable age of six, when she took a sledgehammer to James Caan’s feet. I’ve seen her play plenty of enjoyable characters since then (Fried Green Tomatoes’ Evelyn Couch, Six Feet Under’s Bettina), but even when she’s at her sassiest and sweetest, I still expect her to fly into a crazy rage at any minute.
4. Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe could be smiling brightly and still look completely sinister. It doesn’t help that he often takes on edgy and/or villainous roles. (He starred in a movie called Antichrist, if that’s any proof.) Some find Dafoe Christopher Walken–like, which speaks for itself as a testament to his creepiness.
5. Christopher Walken
Walken has made a career of being an eccentric character who seems both charming and capable of cold-blooded murder—on the screen and in real life. His choreographed dance in Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” video was far more nerve-rattling than anything Trent Reznor or Rob Zombie could ever hope to produce.
6. Crispin Glover
From the time he menacingly says, “Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her!” in Back to the Future, you get the feeling George McFly could be more dangerous than his otherwise-meek persona suggests. Such is the magic of Crispin Glover onscreen: he takes boring social misfits and transforms them into complex, fascinating weirdos.
7. Robert De Niro
We all know that De Niro’s turns in Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, and Goodfellas were alarming and terrifying. In fact, almost all of his movies include disturbing (and disturbingly good) performances. They’re what he does best, even in comedies like Meet the Parents.
8. Anjelica Huston
Huston’s long, dark locks and piercing eyes give her a look that’s somewhere between a witch’s and an enchantress’s. That mysterious, almost foreboding quality works perfectly for her roles in films like The Addams Family, The Royal Tenenbaums, and, of course, The Witches.
9. Elijah Wood
He was the picture of precociousness as a kid, but his roles as an adult are quite the opposite. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he freaks out coworkers by tricking a patient into falling in love with him, and stealing her panties in the process. Also Sin City—need I say more?
10. Anthony Hopkins
Hopkins will remain synonymous with Dr. Hannibal Lecter for the rest of his life, and probably long after that. He took cannibalism to an even creepier level with that character, and that’s no small feat. Though he’s starred in dozens of movies since then, America will always remember him as the man-eating psychopath who tried to corrupt Jodie Foster.
Obviously, this list is far from complete, for there are many other actors and actresses out there creeping out the public on a regular basis: John Malkovich, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Gary Oldman, to name just a few. But far from turning us off, their performances are magnetic and spellbinding—the special, sinister touches they add to each role are what prevent them from becoming cookie-cutter boring or typecast, and what keep audiences tuning in to these actors’ movies time and again, even if we cringe and squirm the whole time.