The 8 Ball 03.13.12: The Top 8 Movie Asylum Inmates
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 03.13.2012
From Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs and Dr. Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins to Randall McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Halloween's Michael Myers and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down his top 8 asylum inmates from the movies!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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This past week, it was revealed that for American Horror Story's second season, there was a new character being casted for. This character, named Gia, is said to have a pivotal role in the second season and is described as "think Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted." That got me to thinking about the great crazies in cinematic history. Hollywood loves an asylum, either as a place to throw sane people who are believed to be crazy or just as a place for crazy people to really get their crazy on. More often its the former, as movie protagonists are just a little bit different and tossed into the asylum where the real nutjobs are because society doesn't know what to do with them. Whatever the circumstances, it means that movie history has been blessed with a colorful cast of inmates, both crazy and misunderstoof. This week I thought it would be a good moment to take a look at those characters and specifically the top of the crop.
Caveat: The focus here for me was characters who spend a signficant portion of their film in an asylum. While Sarah Connor starts off in an asylum in Terminator 2, she gets out very quickly and she isn't identified primarily as an asylum inmate. The character below on the other hand are.
One other caveat: THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS FOR FILMS INSIDE. I think this goes fairly without saying for any list and none of the films are new releases or anything, but in this case a twist is revealed in one of the films. Thus, consider yourself warned.
Just Missing The Cut
Elisabeth (Don't Say A Word)
Don Juan (Don Juan De Marco)
Kristen Parker (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)
#8: Renfield (Dracula)
Starting off our list is one of the original looneys of cinema. Poor Mr. Renfield was just trying to do his job, a job that sent him from his solicitor's office in England all the way to Transylvania. He won't be coming back in one piece, at least mentally. While in the original novel Renfield is just Dracula's insane servant, he is given this expanded background in most of the films. Dwight Frye's performance as the solicitor-turned-man servant set down the baseline for the character and was so well-done that all other portrayals are instantly compared to it, with few of them standing up to the quality of the original. Frye's Renfield is manic and clearly crazy as hell, but there's something sympathetic in him. Part of it has to do with Renfield's pathetic state but Frye gave him a humanity that was rarely seen in supporting antagonists at the time. When you're considering the iconic asylum patients of film history it's impossible not to consider this one.
#7: Dr. Jonathan Crane (Batman Begins)
Okay, so this one might be considered a bit of a cheat. After all, Dr. Crane isn't an inmate in Arkham Asylum; he runs the damned thing. Still, I think that he counts as he's a clearly-insane villain who is based out of the asylum. Cillian Murphy is pitch-perfect in his role here as the whackjob who has managed to con the world into thinking that not only is he sane, but he should be treating the criminally insane. All the while he's dosing his patients with fear-inducing chemicals and then putting on his creepy mask so that he can terrify them. And his mad plan, to drive all of Gotham insane via vaporized toxins, just adds icing onto the cake. Murphy's supporting role was so well-loved that with each sequel there has been massive speculation that he would become the main villain and instead got cameos (at least, he's said to have a cameo in Dark Knight Rises and was spotted on set, though it's not confirmed). Even if he isn't an inmate by the strictest definition, he's certainly the inmate running the asylum and deserves his spot.
#6: Edward "Teddy" Daniels (Shutter Island)
Here's your spoiler that I mentioned above. For much of Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio's Teddy Daniels is a U.S. Marshal investigating the disappearance of a woman from Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He and his partner Chuck find themselves in a hostile environment as they attempt to learn the truth behind the sinister island-set asylum; in addition to the less-than-cooperative staff and management, Teddy has patients slipping him notes and the two are trapped on the island by a vicious storm. With his clothes ruined and a set of inmate clothes given to him, Teddy pushes further than is probably wise to learn the truth. And when the truth comes it is that he is an inmate himself. Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller was one of my favorite films of 2010 and a big part of what makes it work is DiCaprio's work in the main role. He gives us subtle clues as to what's going on but never reveals his hand, so that we can go back and watch it a second time to appreciate the additional layer of the story. DiCaprio's work here was overshadowed by his role in Inception the same year but I honestly consider this the better performance. It's a great look into the mind of a psychotic man and blurs the line wonderfully between his delusions and reality.
#5: Michael Myers (Halloween)
For those who haven't seen me mention it elsewhere, the original Halloween ranks as one of my two or three favorite horror films of all-time. While the Michael Myers in that film really doesn't qualify for this list because he escapes from the asylum pretty quickly, the Michael from Rob Zombie's remake certainly does, as he spends easily half the film inside Smith's Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Loomis. Zombie's film took the story and delved further into the mind of Michael, creating a very different look on the iconic slasher villain that was damned good in its own right. Both Daeg Faerch and Tyler Mane do a great job portraying the homicidal maniac. Faerch's portrayal gives us an infinitely creepy and unnerving view of a young boy touched by evil while Mane's physicality is incredibly intimidating and you believe he's capable of the inhuman feats of strength he displays. Zombie's sequel is certainly flawed and even the remake of the first film has a few issues, but one can't deny that Michael became the most interesting part of this story under Zombie's hand and that made for a more interesting story, if not necessarily a better one.
#4: Jeffrey Goines (12 Monkeys)
It's kind of funny to think about these days, but there was a time when Brad Pitt was considered to be a lightweight movie star who ranked somewhere down with Keanu Reeves in terms of acting gravitas. 1995 was the year that changed all of that. First came his role as David Mills in Seven that won him critical kudos, followed by his work as Jeffrey Goines in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. Pitt's performance earned him his first Academy Award nomination and rightfully so; as the madcap fanatical animal rights activist Jeffrey, Pitt showed a side that no one had seen before. When you're a pretty-boy movie star, it would be easy to float by and taking on a role where you are dirtied up and have to play someone who is just flat-out crazy is quite the risk. Pitt took the challenge on and created what is easily the most memorable part of a great film. Goines is considered to be the big threat in the film for most of it with his Army of the Twelve Monkeys but the truth of the matter is that he's just a whackjob who wants to let all the animals out of the zoo to tie up traffic. In this case, the crazy guy is the more benelovant character in the film and its the supposedly-sane scientists in charge who bring about the world's end. And as scary as that is, it's probably pretty true; we have more to worry about from the respectible guys in suits than the dude in the straight jacket.
#3: Randle McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
For many a year, Jack Nicholson's Oscar-winning performance as Randle in this film was considered to be the definitive mental patient. And in some ways, he probably still is. Randle is hardly a sympathetic character at first; he's doing time for statuatory rape and only gets into the asylum because he's trying to serve out his sentence in the easiest, non-hard labor-oriented place possible. When he runs afoul of Nurse Ratched and finds out that he could be committed for the rest of his life, Randle learns the enormity of his situation. In a long and storied career, Randle McMurphy is Nicholson's finest performance. He runs the gamut of emotions and as we see him running down a path that only has one possible finale, he keeps us enthralled and cheering for him throughout. It's one of those performances that stand above and beyond in a very rare echelon and you have to respect Nicholson's work. Not including him on this list would be even crazier than most of the characters on this list.
#2: Lisa Rowe (Girl, Interrupted)
Sure, this character is the one who partially inspired me to choose this category, but she wouldn't get on the list based on that alone. Angelina Jolie's Lisa, which won her an Academy Award in her breakout role, is a force to be reckoned with. Watching her in the asylum, where she seems completely at home and rules on a level that even the nurses tend to bow to her whims, you can't help but be enthralled. She's the coolest person in this whacko school and she steals every scene she's in (which is most of them). And yet even while you kind of want to have a friend like that, there are cracks on the surface that let us know that there's probably a downside to being her friend. Namely, the fact that she's really a volitile psychopath who can turn on you in an instant. When she loses it on Susanna at the climax of the film, we realize that the reason she's so comfortable in the asylum is because that's exactly where she belongs. It's her home and while there may be hope for some people, there isn't any for her.
#1: Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
C'mon, there really wasn't much of a choice here. Anthony Hopkin's portrayal of Dr. Lector, the brilliant and violently criminal doctor/cannibal, is by far the greatest portrayal of a sociopath ever committed to film. Hannibal Lector carries some of those same qualities that Lisa Rowe above does, but only the craziest of crazies would ever want to get too close to him. Sure, there was a time (seen in Red Dragon) where he was capable of passing himself off as a well-adjusted member of high society. And he finds that after his escape late in the film, too. However, when the mask is ripped away we see a brilliant, evil man who is completely batshit crazy. He's charismatic and carries the veneer of propriety when it suits him, but it's just a costume that is easily ripped away when he is done with it so he can wear your face and eat your liver. He's espcially dangerous because of how well he knows what makes people tick; it isn't hard for him to pull just the right strings to place them well within the danger zone to him. Lector is easily #1 on this list.
Current Series/Season:Series 4 (2008) Episodes Watched: 503 Last Serial Completed:Partners in Crime - The Doctor finds himself on Earth investigating Adipose Industries, whose new weight loss product seems to work miracles. But Miss Foster, head of Adipose, has a more nefarious intent behind her product. As the Doctor zeroes in on Miss Foster's secret he finds himself working once again with Donna Noble, the Runaway Bride who has been searching for him for two years now. Surviving Episodes Remaining: 121
Blade would be my number 1
If Deacon Frost turns everyone in the world into a vampire then how the fuck are vampires going to survive without food???
This wasn't a "plot hole" to me so much as very poor foresight by Deacon. As I listed in that week's caveat, flawed character logic didn't count as a plot hole for the purposes of the list. That being said, it's one that my friends and I have always talked about in terms of silliness with the movie.
The T-Rex in Jurassic park was a she.
It should be noted that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are female. Amateur.
Life finds a way, my friends. Life finds a way.
I maybe wrong, but to try and explain...in batman it explains that they have a cure for the virus that also makes you immune after you take it. Which means all you have to do is take the vaccine and you will be okay.
I don't understand, is the plot hole "why is the plan to have everyone turn insane?" or "why did no one feel the effects", if its the first one then it's easy. if it's the second, then you have yourself a plot hole friend.
Ra's wanted the city to tear itself apart in fear, he didn't want to take over the city or hold it ransom, he just wanted absolute chaos to speed up the death of the city, so it could rebuild itself to a less corrupt utopia like phoenix rising out of the ashes.
as to why people hadn't felt the effects before, you got me.
How's that a plot hole for Batman Begins? Ra's wants to destroy Gotham. Crane is helping. Where's the plothole here? Driving a ton of people nuts or potentially killing them still destroys the city.
The point about Batman is not the Vaporizing of the people or the reason behind it. The point he was making was RA had dumped the poison into the water this was already done. Batman stopped the machine from activating it but it is still in the water supply. So if this is the case then boiling the water or rather doing anything that would cause the water to steam up ala taking a shower and such would in effect activate the poison, thus causing what RA wanted. at least that's what i got from it.
On the Batman thing, Batman DID say when he was trying to stop him and right after he did it he poisoned the water supply (think it was to the Commish), safe to assume a notice went out not to use it and it was filtered out or cleaned up or something.
Anyway one would assume that all this happened off camera, I mean if we show everything some of these movies would be 3-4 hours long.
Also he's batman for goodness sake, don't you think he's got this one? He stopped the dam train from activating it, pretty sure he can figure out and deal with some poison in the water.
From Oh My!:
You are missing the point. The point is that they had been putting the compound in the water supply for quite some time. If it was in the water supply, and it had to absorbed by breathing in the vapor...then how come it hadn't happened ALREADY, to the many people taking showers, drinking tea, steam coming from sewers, etc. It's not about AFTER Ra's finally uses the device. It's all the time leading up to that.
It's exactly what Oh My! and #0650 said. The problem is that the logic didn't make sense in that if they already dumped the toxin in and it was activated in steam form, how did people not start going insane already?
From From Guest#9881:
Very good read. Did the quality or popularity of the film factor into your ranking? I ask because three of those are films I love and would rank among my all-time favorites. Which depresses me a bit when I think of them, though it won't lessen my affection for any of them.
The quality/popularity had no bearing, it was simply my personal favorite film movie holes. I enjoy a lot of those films as well, and the plot holes don't even hurt that love. As I said, every movie has them.
There was no one else in the room when Kane said 'Rosebud'. Legend has it that when someone raised this point to Welles he replied 'Don't you ever mention this to anybody!'
There is some debate about this and whether someone was actually in the room due to the camera angles; because of that I didn't include it.
My advice over stuff like this? Quit dissecting the fucking movies and enjoy them. If you're not going to enjoy them, then don't watch them or talk about them. Easy as that. Hell, here you are pointing out discrepancies in movies, and you don't point out the airplane in Troy? I saw it the first time I watched it, but I didn't care. It was a good movie, end of story. I don't sit there and point out the flaws in movies, I either like them or I don't like them. Period.
I think you're missing the point; I wasn't saying these are bad films and I enjoy them even with the plot holes in (well, except Transformers 2 andSpider-Man 3). Also, it was "plot holes," not discrepancies. Big difference.
Man, that must have been a pain narrowing down, as well as remembering what plot holes to include in this list. My brain hurts just thinking about they small few you listed lol.
It did take me longer than I thought it would; there were a lot of possibilities, to be sure!
Mr. Thomas, the reason why Gotham's citizens were not vaporized, was due to the fact that the microwave emitter did not work the way you think it does. Remember when the Wayne Enterprises assistant to Mr. Earl told Mr. Earl that someone stole the microwave emitter at sea? Well, in that scene, he describes how the emitter works. He said that it uses focused microwaves. In other words, the microwaves can be targeted, opposed to it being a blanket exposure. That's why Ra's Al Ghul put the emitter on the train. You see the train traveled over the water mains which led to Wayne Tower, which is the central hub of the mains. So whenever you see Ra's and anyone else surrounding the microwave emitter and not dying, the reason is because it focuses the microwaves on a selected target.
Okay, point on that. Glad I didn't rely on that as the plot hole then!
Maybe the compound breaks down if exposed to high temperatures for a long period (i.e. boiling a kettle, a gas boiler), but is potent if released instantaneously by a highly sophisticated microwave emitter with unknown capabilities.
well im assuming it would take more steam than you get from a hot shower or making tea.
See, if we do what Wikipedia likes to call "original research," almost any plot hole can be covered. But based within what the film tells us and the general properties of science, neither of those fly. If you're taking a hot shower, you're fairly inundated with steam for at least a matter of several minutes. (I'll give you the tea argument to be fair.) I can't see how that would not be enough gas to give you some sort of effect. And Spedge's explanation is very plausible but never hinted at in the film, so we're making up answers for the filmmakers.
From Justin Weinblatt:
I'm pretty sure that Cypher was supposed to be a candidate for the one. Why else would Morpheus wake him up and offer him one of the pills?
Everyone who was pulled out of the Matrix had chosen a pill beforehand. That was to symbolize their commitment to understanding the truth and going down the rabbit hole.
Harry Potter is your #1. How old are you kid?
I find Harry Potter to be very overrated
my thoughts exactly.
theres so much missing from this list its gross..
I believe we've covered it before, but I'm thirty-five. And while I should point out that the key here wasn't "Best Films Featuring a Chosen One," but Best Chosen One characters. I like other films better than Harry Potter, but Harry was the best built-up Chosen One.
Damn, Luke Skywalker gets dissed again. I mean, not even a mention in Vader's paragraph? One of the main things that bug me about the prequels is how Lucas attempts to marginalize the character and by the looks of this list he was successful. Damn
I agree. I mean, would Vader have even fulfilled the prophecy if not for Luke's efforts to turn him back to the Light side? Luke was Anakin's son, meaning that he was simultaneously the only person who could get to Vader emotionally and the only person who could become a powerful enough Jedi to challenge him physically. If not for Luke's actions (which includes surviving Episode IV), Vader would have had no reason whatsoever to kill the Emperor. Maybe Luke is not a 'Chosen One' per se (though in many ways he is), but he definitely should have been mentioned in Anakin's paragraph.
Not a great showing for the Sithari himself -- Anakin Skywalker, who some have noted fits KotOR's after-the-fact prophecy better than the expected Revanchist him(/her)self. (The one who would destroy the Sith, and in the process free them. The destruction being 'of the last Sith following the code' and the freeing being 'from the Rule of Two' that was established by Darth Bane.)
Agree wholeheartedly. I mean, they hid and protected him, and provided limited training at an older age in hopes that he would defeat the TWO most powerful people in the galaxy, and he succeeds! To top it off, Obi-Wan and Yoda die, leaving him alone (after he trains himself). Hell, Anakin wasn't even a Jedi.
Also, Luke was the one that both Palpatine and Vader wanted to put a stranglehold on the galaxy. Luke was also the one they feared the most and that was BEFORE he realized his true power.
Besides, Anakin is actually one of the weaker characters I can remember. He never thought for himself and was easily manipulated. First, of course, by Palpatine. Then Luke, after telling Vader as much just prior to the throne room battle, succeeded in reversing DECADES of control in a matter of hours without falling prey to Palpatine himself. Good lord Lucas makes me sick...
A lot of Luke supporters here. Don't get me wrong, I like Luke but there are only so many Chosen Ones per prophecy and Anakin has been confirmed to have been "The Chosen One" in that regard. Nothing against the younger Skywalker, he just doesn't fit the criteria.
Luke wasn't exactly chosen...circumstances just presented themselves. Anakin is whom the prophecy foresaw.
Wait, wasn't the prophecy just something about a prodigy who would bring balance to the Force? How do we know that wasn't Luke? ;)
Nope. Lucas has confirmed that Anakin was the Chosen One. Luke was the person who helped save the Chosen One, but he wasn't the Chosen One himself.
From Fuck Lucas!:
"Hell, Anakin wasn't even a Jedi."
That's true, and the whole point of the story is that Anakin becomes a Jedi after killing Palpatine. That's why he passes into the Force when he dies, because he was a Jedi at the time of his death, and he appears to Luke as he was when he died.
Oh wait, they changed it so that Anakin appears as his evil teenage self, just so brain-dead idiots who can't figure out who that old guy is don't have to think? Or is it so Lucas can beat off to his world-leading CGI tech, or so teenage girls can swoon over Hayden Christensen? Coz, you know, all those things are way more important than storytelling...
So can someone explain to me how a Sith passed into the Force?
That's not actually accurate. The Dark Side of the Force and the Light Side are not separate things, they're one united Force and in fact, many Sith have become ghosts the same way that Obi-Wan and Yoda did. Additionally, Anakin was made an "official" Jedi Knight between Episode II and Episode III. You're sort of confusing Dark Side and Light Side with Sith and Jedi, and that's not quite right because there were many Jedi who become Dark Side users without being Sith. The Sith were a society of Dark Side users, of which there were only two at one time by the point of the films. But that didn't mean that no one else could fall to the Dark Side. Anakin was redeemed and divested himself of all of his Dark Side corruption yes, and that's why he appeared in a pure state (either young or old, depending on your copy of the films), but it doesn't mean he wasn't a Jedi.
From Ryan Bias:
Needs more Ralph Wiggum. He was choo-choo-choosen.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Byers wins the comment thread for last week's column.
No Ash Williams? FAIL.
From Lord Keedik:
Sorry, Epic Fail without Ash!
This list needs Ash, and if you're going to put Buffy on here, you should put Angel on here, too.
I admit I thought of Ash initially when conceptualizing this, but when I started listing candidates he slipped my mind. As for Angel, he was in the honorable mention.
John Connor would like a word with you.
I noted specifically why Connor was excluded in last week's caveat, actually.
Wow. Really running out of list ideas around here.
Far from it. I have like forty backup topics in case I can't come up with a topic in a week, actually; I just always try to tie it into some current news article or a new movie release. Chosen Ones made sense.
What about Ben Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? He was chosen by the Prophets (or 'wormhole aliens', if you prefer) to be their emissary, and as per your criteria, it HAD to be him. The Prophets (who can see the past and the future) were responsible for Sisko's birth, just so he could eventually become the emissary. Sisko didn't want this role, and when someone else claimed to be the true emissary Sisko jumped at the chance to pass the role onto him. However, the Prophets rejected the new emissary and insisted that it had to be Sisko. Eventually, Sisko leveraged his status as emissary to get the Prophets to interfere in the Dominian War, which led to them preventing Dominian ships from passing through the wormhole. This action allowed the Federation-Klingon-Romulan Alliance to defeat the Dominian forces that had already passed through, but if not for Sisko they would have been drastically outnumbered and outgunned.
A reluctant hero, hand-picked by omnipotent beings for a role that would eventually save trillions of people from slavery and genocide... surely an honourable mention at least. ;)
Not a bad choice at all. I probably would have given him an honorable mention if he'd come to mind, I just don't think of Star Trek in the "mystical" variety as a rule so he slipped my mind.
Buffy > ALL
From Killian Salah:
Great list, though Buffy is #1 in my heart.
And FYI, Sam Winchester doesn't like the classic rock, that's all Dean.
Buffy > Harry Potter
I absolutely love Buffy more as a character and enjoy the series more, but Harry is the better-developed Chosen One considering the amount of time both had to be developed. Neither is a bad choice though!
OK, just to get myself called a pedant...
In Lord of the Rings, yes, Frodo is A chosen one (the book makes it clear that the ring chose Bilbo, actually, but by association that means it chose Frodo as well).
However, Aragorn was really the "chosen one". He was the king destined to repair the blade that was broken and unite the men of Middle Earth...
Aragorn probably should have gotten at least an honorable mention, true. Good call!
From The Great Capt. Smooth:
A fine list. Full of the geeky. Just the way I like it.
How about that Jesus fellow from The Passion of the Christ...?
Yeah, I get accused of trolling in this column enough without bringing the idea of Jesus as a fictional character into it. Besides, Passion of the Christ to me is just a well-made, well-intentioned bit of torture porn. There's less gratuitous violence in Hostel.
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.