Acting is a tough gig. People may joke that waiting and memorizing lines is all there is to the profession, but a lot of hard work goes into establishing a career and keeping it afloat. Most actors toil away in obscurity, barely making ends meet or working jobs in order to pay the bills. Most celebrities cut their teeth in a similar manner for years before reaching the big time, and a lot of them still put just as much effort into roles as they did when they were starving artists.
Once someone does become famous, they tend to mostly snag heroic leading roles, elevating their status with each successful film. Audiences love a leader, and often associate an actor's characters with the person in real life.
This list will take a look at ten actors known for being heroes who shook things up and played a stunning villain. All of these roles prove these thespians aren't just looking to be the main character.
10 Jean-Claude Van Damme - The Expendables 2
Movies like Bloodsport and Kickboxer introduced the muscles from Brussels to western audiences. He also starred in the successful Universal Solider a few years later. The mid 90s and early aughts weren't as kind for his career, unfortunately.
His big comeback was in 2012's The Expendables 2, where he plays a deliciously hammy villain creatively named Jean Vilain. That same year, he stared in the surprisingly dark and compelling Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. These antagonist roles fit Jean-Claude like a glove.
9 Hugh Jackman - Chappie
Hugh Jackman was lucky to get the role of Wolverine in 2000. The actor previously cast had to back out at the last minute because of scheduling conflicts, leading the production to cast the then unknown Australian actor. Since then, he has become synonymous with the comic book hero.
Rarely does he play a villain, save for Neil Blomkamp's Chappie. His character is an engineer out to sabotage the titular robot and his creator because of jealousy. The movie was panned upon release and flopped, but it deserves attention, and Jackman's performance is spot on.
8 Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator
Arnold was already a millionaire and movie star in 1984 thanks to his business acumen, the documentary Pumping Iron, and Conan the Barbarian. His most iconic role is that of the T-800 in James Cameron's The Terminator. The robot is an android of few words, instead spending the movie methodically hunting the two main characters. The sequels would eventually make the actor a hero, but his performance in the original is truly unforgettable.
7 Michael B. Jordan - Black Panther
Fruitvale Station put both actor Michael B. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler on the map. Creed solidified their abilities in their respective fields, while Black Panther showed that their talents could reach a mass audience, turning a blockbuster into so much more than just a popcorn flick.
In all three collaborations, Michael plays radically different characters. It wasn't until Black Panther that he went all out villain. The great thing about Killmonger is that his ideas were just, but his plans and execution would have made him no better than the very system he was trying to defeat.
6 Kurt Russell - Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2
Kurt Russell played his share of anti-heroes back in the day - most notably Snake Plissken from Escape From New York - but Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a truly evil celestial being.
He may be Starlord's father, but he's also responsible for the worst thing that has ever happened to him.
5 Michael Keaton - Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming's title is apropos, considering it marked the character's first film in the MCU (but second appearance after Captain America: Civil War). In it, the friendly neighborhood hero goes up against the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. The actor is famous for playing Batman, so seeing him in as the sympathetic villain worked on several levels.
4 Samuel L. Jackson - Kingsmen
Samuel L. Jackson has had a long career playing all types of characters. Jules in Pulp Fiction may be a bad dude, but the audience still loves him. His most notable villainous character has to be Richmond Valentine from Kingsmen. In the past ten years he has become most well known for being Nick Fury, so this character is a refreshing display for audiences. Other notable villains include Stephen from Django Unchained and Mr. Glass from Unbreakable.
3 Liam Neeson - Batman Begins
The Liam Neeson action movie has almost become its own genre. Somebody does something wrong, and the more than sixty year old actor delivers punishment. His turn as Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins shows a completely different side to the actor.
He trains Batman, but the two have a falling out over ideologies about punishing criminals. Ra's believes in ending their lives, while Batman doesn't think anybody has the right to do so.
2 Chris Evans - The Iceman
In the middle of his iconic stint as Captain America, Chris Evans played a significant supporting role in The Iceman, opposite Michael Shannon. In it, he plays a hitman who teams up with the infamous killer to take out several contracts.
Chris looks almost unrecognizable in his long hair and beard, and pulls off a great performance that shows he's more than just Captain America.
1 Marlon Brando - Apocalypse Now
Marlon Brando is seen as one of the best actors of all time. His first big role was A Streetcar Named Desire, where he did play a villain who ultimately gets away with his evil deeds, though the movie changed this due to the Hays code in place at the time.
Following that, however, he was almost always the leading man, but his characters were always a little more complicated than the typical protagonist at the time. Colonel Kurtz from 1979's Apocalypse Now stands out as not only one of the actor's finest performances, but one of the best villains ever. He mostly speaks from the shadows and in enigmatic phrases, but every second of his time on screen is haunting.