The Joker – The Dark Knight (2008)
The Manipulator: Tearing through Gotham City like a whirlwind of chaos, Heath Ledger’s take on the archetypal Bat-villain left an indelible imprint on cinema history.
But one of the things that makes his clown prince of crime so downright creepy is that he manipulates his followers, fellow Gotham-dwellers, and even his adversaries, into completing his most heinous acts for him.
Most Devious Act: It’d probably be when he tricks Batman into saving Harvey Dent, while the love of his life, Rachel Dawes, gets blown up in another building. Not only does it put Bats in the awkward position of regretting having saved a life, it also sends Dent, the city’s white knight, on a downward spiral…
Lancaster Dodd – The Master (2012)
The Manipulator: Lancaster Dodd, who’s most certainly not based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is a travelling author, who dubs himself, “a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man.”
Taking drifting WW2 veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) under his wing, Dodd seeks to further the reach of ‘The Cause’, his own unique philosophy that barely adheres to its own logic.
Most Devious Act: It’d probably be the widespread teachings that led sick people to believe they could be healed by foundless mumbo-jumbo. That, or his closing sing-song that at once clarifies and obscures his bizarre relationship with Quell.
Chad – In The Company Of Men (1997)
The Manipulator: Chad’s a mid-level office worker, and an alpha male who inducts sappier colleague Howard into one of his vile schemes. Undercutting Aaron Eckhart’s classic matinee idol looks, Chad’s a charming, disarming monster with a killer grin and lantern-jaw.
Most Devious Act: The plot revolves around Chad and Howard’s seduction of deaf co-worker, Christine. At Chad’s behest, the pair simultaneously date her before going in for a duel dumping.
The trouble is, Howard’s genuinely fallen for Christine, but Chad engineers the situation so that neither of the pair end up happy. And it’s Chad’s reasoning (or lack thereof) that really chills.
Bridget Gregory – The Last Seduction (1994)
The Manipulator: Bridget Gregory, occasionally known by her alter ego Wendy Kroy, is adept at using the men in her life to her own ends. As one of the most memorable femme fatales of the past 20 years, a career-best Linda Fiorentino schemes, cheats, murders, and, yep, manipulates for easy cash.
After stealing a bagful of cash from a her drug-dealing hubbie, she sets up shop in Chicago, where she lands a job at an insurance firm, and tries to set up a business that involves offing unfaithful men on behalf of their wives.
Most Devious Act: It’s pretty hard to call it, between the murders and scheming, but getting an accomplice/victim falsely arrested for rape ends the film on a suitably devious note.
Jon Doe – Se7en (1995)
The Manipulator: A serial killer dispatching victims in ironic twists on the ‘seven deadly sins’, Kevin Spacey’s Jon Doe would be admirable if he wasn’t so despicable.
Setting up an intricate plan that will come to involve seven eventual murders, Doe’s theatrical kills include compelling a gluttonous obese man to dine himself to death and starving a ‘sloth’ victim to the point of emaciation.
Most Devious Act: It’s when his murderous masterwork come full circle that the wickedness of the full plan unfolds. Apprehended by Detective Mills (Brad Pitt), Doe completes the cycle by revealing Mills’ wife’s head in a box (the envy murder), before being shot dead by the ‘wrathful’ cop, who’s unable to do anything other than fulfil the final death.
Kathryn Merteuil – Cruel Intentions (1999)
The Manipulator: The ultimate Queen Bee ‘rich b*tch’, the super-popular, super-wealthy Kathryn enjoys spending her time using people as her emotional playthings to further her own dangerous sexual agenda.
Most Devious Act: When Kathryn’s step-brother Sebastian sleeps with the object of his affections Annette, Kathryn’s jealousy overwhelms her, and she blackmails him into breaking up with Annette, catalysing a confrontation that will ultimately end in one of their deaths.
Dominick Cobb – Inception (2010)
The Manipulator: Dominick Cobb, unlike others on this list, doesn’t purely manipulate others out of a machiavellian narcissism. Rather, he’s a manipulator of people’s subconsciouses in exchange for well-paid corporate espionage – and is an expert at infiltrating the mind in order to uncover the target’s deepest secrets.
Most Devious Act: Breaking into the mind of energy conglomerate heir Robert Fischer and planting the deep-rooted idea that he should disintegrate his late father’s company.
Regina George – Mean Girls (2004)
The Manipulator: The quintessential Queen Bee of her high school, Regina George rules the school’s most exclusive clique, The Plastics, and retains control by bitchy, teen-ego-demolishing psychological and emotional manipulation.
Most Devious Act: Unleashing her gossip-filled, secret-spewing ‘Burn Book’ across the school to drive paranoia amongst students and teachers alike.
Gary Sitterson & Steve Hadley – The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
The Manipulators : Two senior technicians in control of an evil Big Brother-style controlled environment that allows them to shepherd a series of unsuspecting teens to their grizzly, gruesome deaths as part of a supernatural ritual.
Most Devious Act: Spiking hair products with a ‘dumbing down’ agent, pumping arousing pheromones into a controlled environment, and unleashing all manner of horrific beasties from trapdoors and secret compartments to bring about their victims’ demise.
Gordon Gekko – Wall Street (1987)
The Manipulator: A Wall Street bigwig and hugely successful stockbroker who makes his fortunes by massaging insider trading to his own money-grabbing ends.
Most Devious Act: His mentoring and subsequent corruption of young stockbroker Bud Fox, who he moulds in his own, sociopathic image. “Greed is good,” indeed.
If you’re in the mood for a manipulative movie mastermind, you could come along to an exclusive preview screening of cult thriller Compliance , hosted by Total Film .
Based on the real-life case(s) of the strip search prank call scam that took place in the States for more than a decade, the film’s a guaranteed conversation starter, as it all spins from the intriguing hook: ‘What would you do if an authority figure asked you to?’
That’s the question faced by Sandra (Ann Dowd), when her branch of a fast-food franchise receives a phone call from a voice claiming to be ‘Officer Daniels’. Instructed to reprimand young employee Becky (Dreama Walker), who’s apparently accused of stealing, Sandra finds her morals tested by the ever more extreme treatment she’s asked to dish out to Becky, based on scant evidence.
To say too much more would risk giving up too many of the film’s dark secrets, but the events that unfold are riveting, deeply disturbing and impossible to turn away from.
To be in with a chance of attending an exclusive screening in a swanky London location:
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