Talkback: Who is the Most Unintentionally Scary Character in Movie History?

Happy Halloween, you incorrigible ghouls! Since we've already covered the legitimately scary side of film, let's spend Halloween thinking about those movie characters that don't mean to be scary, but very much are. I get the chills thinking about my picks. What's yours?

A few runners-up before I hand the crowd to my Unintentionally Scariest Character Ever: Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka (who is supposed to be a little scary), Faye Dunaway's Diana Christensen in Network, Cloris Leachman's fast-unraveling, hard-bitten Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show, Corey Feldman's slyly maniacal Teddy Duchamp in Stand By Me, and the freakishly chipper and soulless Peter Pan in Peter Pan. And now, our winner:


It's Mary Tyler Moore as the chilly, self-absorbed, determinedly unloving mother in Ordinary People. First things first, dears: While Raging Bull rules, it is not a travesty that Ordinary People won Best Picture. Still my choice for the greatest family drama of all time, and we all know I find Robert Redford humorlessly sexless. Now: Mary Tyler Moore's character makes life difficult for her traumatized son (Timothy Hutton), and it's not until the end of the movie that she's isolated as a toxic member of their grieving household. Her staunch resentment is, to me, alarming and real. It doesn't hurt that Mary Tyler Moore seems to tap into this character with ease; it's pretty scary to think of Mary Richards as a disturbed, dead-eyed happy face. Chills! I swear, chills!

What's your choice?


  • JoD says:

    Well, as for "unintentional scary" - there got to be only one answer, and it's a double one: The Olsen-twins in ANY role, even singly, as kids, maybe even as babies, but especially in their new "roles" of business-woman. Chills? YOU got chills? HAHAHAHA! You should experience mine when I see those Olsens stand way too close to each other staring the living hell out of me with those dead eyes, even if they mean to be friendly. Second runner up - guess who? Their equally scary sis Elizabeth. Only watching the trailer for "Martha Marcy yadayada" gives me the creep. Not gonna watch that movie. Will switch off TV and zap on in any event those scare crows (I am a woman, just you know) should show. Brr.

  • G says:

    Quentin Tarantino in anything.

  • Dick Whitman says:

    While Nicolas Cage is a candidate in many of his roles, I would nominate his performance in "City of Angels." I could have sworn he was supposed to play an angel, yet he never blinked and wore a trenchcoat.
    To keep the Meg Ryan theme going, how about Tom Hanks and his stalkery vibe in the last section of "You've Got Mail"?
    Steven Seagal in every role.

  • The WInchester says:

    Lindsey Lohan's dual roles in I Know Who Killed Me should be plenty scary to any aspiring actress momentarily thinking that she should just bump a line to fit in and get a part.

  • Johnboy says:

    Schwarzennegger in True Lies.

  • ZebedeeDooDah says:

    I was legitimately scared by The Jerk when I was a kid, especially Martin's weird deep voice. Took me about 15 years to watch it again, still a little bit creeped out by it.
    BTW, I love Steve Martin, that wasn't an attempt at a pot-shot (although I guess this part of the comment is, aimed at some of my fellow internet denizens).

  • W Ryder says:

    I could imagine Paul from 'Election' grinning from ear to ear while approaching me with an ax.

  • Zygot says:

    Prince in Purple Rain or Burt Reynolds in anything not Deliverance.

  • j'accuse! says:

    Much as I appreciate your Payne reference, grins and axes belong only to Patrick Bateman.
    By the way, got the latest Huey Lewis and the News album...wanna come over to my place and give it a listen later?

  • stolidog says:

    Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2.
    Meg Ryan in The Women....ahhhhhhhh!!!!

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Jim Carrey in "The Mask"> Hilariously Terrifying or Terrifyingly Hilarious? Either way, the Willy Wonka of the 90s.

  • Noah James says:

    The trolls in Earnest Scared Stupid. I was a little kid, and those things scared the shit out of me. Since they could duplicate anyone's voice, when my mom called me from upstairs to come for lunch, I made her appear at the top of the stairs first. I wasn't about to fall for any troll games!

  • G says:

    Cher's dad in "Clueless."