Maybe it’s because I saw so many of these movies during my formative years, but no other decade matches the creepiness of the ‘90s for film characters for me. I’m not just talking about horror movie villains, though a few of those have definitely made the list. As a kid, I learned so much about human nature through the movies I watched; off-putting characters from comedies, dramas, and science fiction also contributed to my mental index of creep archetypes. Sometimes, I even found myself drawn to the weirdos, because every child feels like a total outcast sometimes. Whether they were violent, threatening, or just plain unpredictable, the 16 creepy ‘90s movie characters below made a lasting impression.
Some of the spookiest characters in this decade in film are from a genre that the ‘90s did the best, in my opinion: the ever-so-slightly trashy ‘90s suspense thriller. What are they? Mash up a horror movie with a particularly soapy episode of Scandal, and you’re just about there. These are the “provocative” scary movies that only came on at the sleepover after the parents went to bed. As a friend recently said to me, “Why don’t they make movies like that anymore?” Maybe because Rebecca De Mornay closed the book on maniacal nannies in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Who could do it better?
From horror to thrillers to dark, dark comedies, these ‘90s movie characters have been creeping audiences out for over 25 years.
1. Hannibal Lecter In Silence Of The Lambs
The most haunting thing about Hannibal is the juxtaposition of his manners and refinement with his passion for eating human flesh.
2. Billy In Scream
The original Scream put every sexy bad boy cliche into Sidney's boyfriend Billy and then made him a serial killer on top of it. A lot of parents were probably glad the movie threw a bucket of water on that teenage fantasy.
3. Cole Sear In The Sixth Sense
Innocent, yes. Creepy, also yes. Cole Sear is only a conduit for ghosts, but that alone gets him crossed off of Little Billy's 10th birthday party invitation list.
4. Annie Wilkes In Misery
There are passionate fans, then there are passionate fans, and then there's the homicidal and obsessed Annie Wilkes. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for playing an artist's worst nightmare in the adaptation of Stephen King's novel.
5. John Doe In Seven
Why is it that a serial killer with a nice sense of theme is worse than one without it?
6. Claude Frollo In The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
I was in high school by the time Hunchback came out, so old enough to be horrified that this film was being marketed to kids. Claude Frollo is a very grown-up villain, so tortured by Esmeralda's beauty that he asks God to burn the desire out of him. Disney, why?
7. Gaear Grimsrud In Fargo
Gaear is the strong, silent type...and the type to feed your body into a wood chipper if you start to annoy him.
8. Edward Scissorhands In Edward Scissorhands
Hear me out. Being creepy isn't always a bad thing. Edward enchants an entire town in this Tim Burton fairy tale, proving that differences are often what make us worth knowing.
9. Walter Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You
Has any movie dad ever been more obsessed with his daughters' sex lives? Take a seat, Mr. Stratford.
10. Philip Stuckey in Pretty Woman
Edward is a perfect gentleman to Hollywood Boulevard call girl Vivian; Philip treats her like trash. Money can't buy class after all.
11. Sean Walsh in Circle Of Friends
This is my favorite role ever for The Good Wife star Alan Cumming. As the sniveling protege of her aging father, Sean Walsh drools after Minnie Driver's Benny with no regard to her feelings. Namely, revulsion.
12. The Cable Guy in The Cable Guy
This movie was a test for Jim Carrey fans. Unlike the lovable weirdos he'd played up until then, The Cable Guy is as disturbing as he is funny.
13. Lester Burnham in American Beauty
A mid-life crisis has never looked so unappealing.
14. Darian Forester In The Crush
A pre-Clueless Alicia Silverstone plays a bored teenager who is crafty beyond her years and beyond infatuated with the poor schmuck next door.
15. David McCall In Fear
Another allegory about the dangers of dating, Fear and Mark Wahlberg's character David gave parents enough ammo to tighten the Friday night curfew for years. Remember the roller coaster scene?
16. Mrs. Mott In The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
New parents: always get references from your babysitters! "Mrs. Mott," otherwise known as Peyton Flanders, is so consumed with motherhood that she breastfeeds another woman's baby. And then tries to kill everyone.
I wouldn't want to run into many of these characters in a dark alley, but one thing's for sure: the creepiest roles are always the most memorable.