The 11 Sleaziest Cinematic Pedophiles

By  · Published on May 3rd, 2010

I realize that no one understands the definition of irony anymore, but a small child in a Freddy Krueger Halloween costume comes close to it. Wes Craven initially planned to make the knive-fingered fiend a child molester, but California was experiencing its own mass panic over the issue when a slew of false sex abuse claims rocked the state in the early 80s. Not wanting to seem exploitative, Craven changed Fred Krueger into a child killer. Because that’s slightly less horrific.

Luckily, most seem to gloss over the monster’s sordid past when their kid wants one of those really cool Freddy gloves (despite them not saying “Hulk Smash!” when you bang them together).

It’s a taboo topic, but Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius decided to brave the films that brave the unclear world of the pathology and emerge unscathed with the best portrayals of pedophiles in film.

11. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

The Pedophile: Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen)

The Victim: Rynn (Jodie Foster)

The Charges: Why is it Foster was more sexualized as a child actress than she’s ever been as an adult? Here she plays an odd little girl with a secret… and the secret is that she’s not fond of perverts. Hallet never reaches first base with her, but it’s strongly inferred he’s played with young girls before. The movie plays it a bit hypocritical though in that it wants us to know he’s a bad guy while at the same time giving us peeks at Rynn’s naked body (courtesy of Foster’s older sister). Is the message that we’re all pedophiles? Or all children of Martin Sheen? And where the hell has Emilio Estevez been anyway? — Rob Hunter

10. Birth (2004)

The Pedophile: Anna (Nicole Kidman)

The Victim: Sean (Cameron Bright)

The Charges: That’s right you sexist bastards, women can be perverts too. (And not always the good kind). Kidman plays a woman who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated into a ten-year old boy. To be fair, she never actually molests the kid. But she does take a bath with him, and by anyone’s account (aside from probably the boy himself) that’s just not appropriate. Also, she’s confirmed as a sexual deviant when the only sex we see her having is with her fiance in the missionary position. Sicko. — Rob Hunter

9. Sleepers (1996)

The Pedophiles: The Guards at Wilkinson Home for Boys (Kevin Bacon, Jeffrey Donovan, Lennie Loftin, Terry Kinney)

The Victims: The Boys at Wikinson Home for Boys (Joseph Perrino, Jonathan Tucker, Brad Renfro, Geoffrey Wigdor)

The Charges: There is little worse than the abuse of power. There’s something calculating about a man who leers at the little girl down the lane, but there’s something altogether more monstrous about a group of men who savagely beat and rape young boys simply because they can. Especially when one of them goes on to become an Invisible Man and another ends up getting burned by the CIA. — Cole Abaius

8. The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Pedophile: The Jesus (John Turturro)

The Victims: 8-year olds

The Charges: We don’t know the exact details of his crimes, but it’s clear that he’s been convicted and has to go door-to-door every time he changes his zip code. What we also don’t know is why anyone would think a man who wears all purple, licks his bowling ball and threatens to shove a firearm up another man’s anus has any sexual proclivities. — Cole Abaius

7. Donnie Darko (2001)

The Pedophile: Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze)

The Victims: Unnamed

The Charges: When he said “Nobody puts my baby in the corner,” he meant of course unless they’re underage, spread-eagled, and facing away from him. That’s not true. And Swayze’s Cunningham never actually molests anyone in the movie, but he does have a huge, hidden stash of kiddie porn which makes him an amateur pedophile at least. Like the best episodes of Scooby Doo: SVU, he would have gotten away with it too if weren’t for a giant talking rabbit named Frank. — Rob Hunter

6. Hard Candy (2005)

The Pedophile: Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson)

The Potential Victim: Hayley Stark (Ellen Page)

The Charges: Kohlver has been flirting heavily over the interwebs with a girl who is 14-years old. He represents a major fear for parents of our advanced times, but he unfortunately runs into a young woman who plans on doing more with the ice in the house than put it in their screwdrivers. You probably would too after scoping out his taste in photography. — Cole Abaius

5. Happiness (1998)

The Pedophile: Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker)

The Victim: Johnny Grasso (Evan Silverberg)

The Charges: Todd Solondz’s ironic look at the ups and downs (mostly downs) of three sisters and their families features probably the most heartbreaking scene with a pedophile you’ll ever have the icky pleasure of seeing. Maplewood drugs and “makes love” to his pre-teen son’s best friend, but the heartache arrives when the confused boy asks if his father would ever make love to him… and the emotionally demolished man says “No… I’d jerk off instead.” Trust me, you’ll need some Kleenex for this one. — Rob Hunter

4. The Woodsman (2004)

The Pedophile: Walter (Kevin Bacon)

The Victim: Unnamed

The Charges: You’d think a game of Six Degrees of Diddled Bacon would be more fun than this, but this is one depressing flick. Bacon is absolutely fantastic though as a man released from prison after serving twelve years for molesting some young girls. He gets a job, starts a (somewhat) normal relationship with an adult woman, and seems to be rehabilitated. Until he stops to chat with a young girl in the park. Until his co-workers find out he’s a “short eyes” and begin to torment him. Until he spots a man trying to woo young boys into his car. Until the cops begin to harass him. Bleak stuff, but brilliantly performed. — Rob Hunter

3. Little Children (2006)

The Pedophile: Ronnie J. McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley)

The Victim: Unnamed

The Charges: Can a pedophile ever truly be rehabilitated? (No.) That’s the question on the periphery of this flick (and at the forefront of The Woodsman), and Haley’s character answers it with a resounding act of self-mutilation. It’s not difficult to see Haley’s performance here as an audition tape for the new Nightmare on Elm St (although I can’t imagine Freddy doing anything creepier than the scene where McGorvey furiously masturbates while his date looks on in horror). — Rob Hunter

2. Lolita (1962)

The Pedophile: Prof. Humbert Humbert (James Mason)

The Victim: Lolita (Sue Lyons)

The Charges: While not technically pedophilia because it doesn’t involve a pre-pubescent child (it’s more like hebephilia), Prof. Humbert Humbert’s fascination and copulation with the young Lolita is still definitely illegal. As a bonus, he’s also a murderer. James Mason plays the character superbly – an air of superiority coating every scathingly charming remark. With his ability to make you like a character who marries a woman (Shelley Winters) so he can get closer sexually to her teenage daughter (Sue Lyons), it’s no wonder Mason won the BAFTA that year. Humbert is sly, insulting, and wants to diddle your little girl, but he’s somehow also fascinating to watch. — Cole Abaius

1. Salo

The Pedophiles: The Duke, The Bishop, The Magistrate, The President (Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto P. Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti)

The Victims: Nine young men and nine young women

The Charges: The acts of depravity unleashed upon these young people for 120 despicable days destroys anything that anyone else on this list has done. Of course any such act is loathsome, but the sheer amount and range of torture put to these young boys and girls (including sex, fecal matter eating, scalping, branding, and eye gouging) is enough to have this film banned in certain countries. Not all explorations of pedophilia or power are deep, personal journeys. Some are fundamentally exploitative films that you wouldn’t want to see twice. — Cole Abaius

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.