Six Films With Insane Protagonists

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 13, 2011

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The Dream Team (1989): True insanity is upsetting, which is why most mainstream films try to make it look, you know, fun. At the height of his powers, Michael Keaton led a posse of mental patients through the streets of New York, although thankfully for everyone involved they were only movie-insane. Keaton essentially does Jack Nicholson from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest —i.e., temperamental but not really nuts—while Christopher Lloyd is simply anal-retentive, Peter Boyle is a religious nudist and Stephen Furst is just cutely odd.

Clean, Shaven (1994): Good thing no one on the “Dream Team” was like the lead in Lodge Kerrigan’s drama, which tries to put the audience in the mind of a schizophrenic (Peter Greene). Hallucinations, paranoia and anxiety are all conveyed cinematically, creating a relentless subjective nightmare.

Conspiracy Theory (1997): Mel Gibson reached deep within himself and learned to commit fully to a conspiracy nut character who is actually, genuinely, insane. Not charmingly nuts. Full-on, babbling, excessively paranoid insane.

The Minus Man (1999): Like Clean, Shaven, Minus Man tries to portray the world as serial killer Owen Wilson (!!) sees it. We quickly gather that he’s not well. Not only does he see nothing wrong with his crimes, but the violent narrative ellipses, off-screen happenings and sporadic “visits” from two detectives (Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert) denote a character so damaged that he’s sure he’s sane.

A Beautiful Mind (2001): The life of mathematician and Game Theorist John Nash is treated like a twist movie: To convey his schizophrenia, the filmmakers spend the first half treating his delusions as fact, before pulling the rug on us (and him). It’s a questionable gimmick, but it was ballsy enough to score its screenplay an Oscar, meaning the guy who wrote Batman and Robin is an Oscar-winner.

Super (2010): In which short-order cook Rainn Wilson becomes a makeshift superhero after experiencing a vision in which he’s raped by tentacles. Take everything he does from there on with a grain of salt, including his habit of hitting not only rapists and drug dealers in the head with a wrench, but also people who cut in line at movies.

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