The Great Recession hasn’t come without a wave of public shamings of bonus-hungry CEOs. Hollywood knows people love to hate on an evil corporate executive, and studios are wise to divert the torch-burning, pitchfork-wielding masses from the banker’s headquarters and into the movie theater. Last week, we saw the sequel to Oliver Stone’s classic Wall Street , with Michael Douglas reprising his role as the über-greedy, French cuff-wearing Gordon Gekko. And tomorrow the highly anticipated Social Network comes out, focusing on a slightly younger, ultra-successful entrepreneur: Mark Zuckerberg. In their honor, we thought we’d take a look at cinema’s most evil businessmen. Be sure to tell us who we left out in the comments.
Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1984, among others)
Scrooge is the villain of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, a penny-pinching merchant who, through supernatural intervention, learns the true meaning of Christmas. The most obvious victim of his ways is his overworked, underpaid employee, Bob Cratchit and his large family. George C. Scott (pictured) took on the role in the 1984 film adaptation.
Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
This “warped, frustrated old man” has our vote for most evil of them all. Our hero George Bailey (James Stewart) strives to keep the old Building and Loan open despite Mr. Potter’s (Lionel Barrymore) efforts to take it over, along with the rest of Bedford Falls. When Potter finds the $8,000 that Uncle Billy lost, he keeps it a secret while he watches George beg for a loan. Spiraling to suicidal thoughts, George is luckily saved by his guardian angel Clarence.
Noah Cross in Chinatown (1974)
Noah Cross (John Huston) attempts to profit from his ties with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and Jakes Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is the private investigator on his tail in Roman Polanski’s classic film noir. The movie’s plot is just too complicated to recap succinctly, but suffice to say that Cross is ready to do almost anything for power and money.
Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972)
It’d be wrong to make a list about power in movies without saying something about Francis Ford Coppola’s definitive mafia series. Technically Corleone (played by Marlon Brando), the Godfather, is the protagonist in the films, or at least the team we’re rooting for. Despite the plot’s foggy morality, Corleone without a doubt orders some cold-blooded vigilante justice in the name of preserving his family and his business without a hint of remorse.
Carter Burke in Aliens (1986)
There are plenty of films where the greedy businessman sacrifices safety for technological research, usually for the military. In Ridley Scott’s Aliens, the sequel to 1979’s Alien, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) plays the corporate lawyer who, as Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weever) discovers, sent her ship to investigate the abandoned vessel that contained the aliens in the original film, hoping to use their technology for biological weapons. In this sequel. he attempts to smuggle alien embryos back to Earth, all in the name of cash.
Joseph Pulitzer in Newsies (1992)
Newsies is a Disney musical about newspaper delivery boys, based on the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. When Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) raises the price of his paper, the New York World, by one-tenth of a cent, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly (Christian Bale) leads a strike.
Avery Tolar in The Firm (1993)
Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) accepts an offer to work at the prestigious “Firm” after graduating Harvard Law, taking on Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) as a mentor. Wooed by club memberships and money, Mitch and his wife Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn) seem to have hit the big time, but something’s not quite right…
Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) serves as the evil villain in this James Bond flick. Carver is set on starting a war between the U.K. and China in order to sell more newspapers. If that’s not cruel enough (and for the Bond series, it isn’t), he also has a thing for elaborate torture tools and techniques (get it?).
Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000)
In American Psycho (an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name), Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street yuppie with a penchant for killing. While he is certainly an evil businessman, Bateman has an added obsession with appearance, as seen in the opening sequence in which Bateman narrates his very involved morning beautification regimen.
Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Plainview is a prospector in 1902 California. After discovering oil and starting a small drilling company, he adopts the son of a worker who is killed and names him H.W. Plainview’s heartlessness manifests itself in many ways during the movie, both through his ruthlessness toward the town and local church he comes to drill in, and in the treatment of his son later on in the story.