Five Film Favorites: Crazy Protagonists

Klaus Kinski in the title role of Werner Herzog's film, "Aguirre, the Wrath of God."

For this week’s list of five favorite films, the common denominator is craziness. In each of the movies on the list below, the main character is as nutty as a fruitcake. In each that character’s madness is what drives the story.

To narrow the field, I’ve limited it to movies that are essentially about a person who appears to be getting steadily more detached from the supposedly sane reality around them. Since it’s tricky to find anything like a sane world in the midst of war, movies that are set in that particular brand of bloody madness have not been included this time.

Below are my five favorite films with crazy protagonists, which are presented in alphabetical order:

“Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972): Directed by Werner Herzog; Cast: Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo, Del Negro

“Network” (1976): Directed by Sidney Lumet; Cast: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden

“Repulsion” (1965): Directed By Roman Polanski; Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser

“Taxi Driver” (1976): Directed by Martin Scorsese; Cast: Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle

“Wise Blood” (1979): Directed by John Huston; Cast: Brad Dourif, Harry Dean Stanton, John Huston

Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes in John Huston's "Wise Blood," based on the novel by Flannery O'Conner. Photograph: Kobal

— F. T. Rea

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4 Responses to Five Film Favorites: Crazy Protagonists

  1. Kathy Jones says:

    The first that sprung to mind was Taxi Driver. Then a more benevolent kind of crazy: Ellwood P. Dowd in Harvey.

  2. Albert Green says:

    Is the preacher from “The Night of the Hunter” a protagonist? He’s so dominates the screen he might as well be…

  3. Mark Elliott says:

    I’m going to fudge the protagonist requirement a bit. My five favorite movie crazies who get crazier as the story goes on:
    1. James Cole from “Twelve Monkeys” (or is he?)
    2. Rotwang from “Metropolis”
    and the Identity Crisis Trio:
    3. Fred Madison / Pete Dayton from “Lost Highway”
    4. Alex Duvall / the other Harry Joy from “Bliss”
    5. Harry Angel / Johnny Favorite from “Angel Heart”

  4. Steve says:

    Gary Oldham as Stansfield in The Professional (1994, Directed by Luc Besson, starring Jean Reno).

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