Essays · Movies

The 14 Most Destructive Mad Scientists In Modern Cinema

By  · Published on August 15th, 2013

by David Christopher Bell

Crazy science is so embedded in movie-making that it’s been with us since the very conception of film with such classics as Frankenstein and Dr. Caligari.

While the best stuff was almost exclusively from the time of black and white – the 1980s and beyond have seen their formidable share of folks with PhDs in crazy.

See for yourself…a lot of mad doctorates have been handed out recently.

14. Doctor Finklestein in The Nightmare Before Christmas

In the living world, Finklestein could very well be the most insane doctor of them all – however in a town focused on Halloween, the only strange thing about the guy is his unwillingness to sing along like all the other demonic song and dance folk inhabiting his neighborhood. Who knew that the stuff of our nightmares could carry a tune so well?

13. The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands

Maybe it’s the tone, but a mad scientist always seems considerably less mad when placed in a Tim Burton film. In the case of the Inventor, he doesn’t actually seem that crazy at all. In fact, he’s actually quite pleasant aside from a) building a robot and b) giving that robot scissors for hands. Also, who builds a robot and finishes the hands last?

12. Dr. Howard Mierzwiak in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

At first glance, Howard doesn’t seem too crazy. Sure – his main expertise is erasing memories, but never against the will of the subject. And heck, he could be working for the CIA but chooses to help people instead.

The only problem arises when he goes ahead and bangs one of his employees and gets caught by his wife – and instead of separating himself from this clearly toxic situation he simply erases the girl’s memory of it and moves on. If he was going to be so unethical about it, he might as well have gone the whole nine yards and wiped his wife’s memory while he was at it.

11. Will Rodman in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Maybe Will Rodman is more stupid than insane. When your goal is to end Alzheimer’s and you instead accidentally enslave the human race under rule of intelligent apes, that’s a pretty big derailment from your desired result.

The mad part comes when he brings his work home with him – experimenting on his own father and taking care of a secret ultra-intelligent ape, later failing to mention this to the ape prison and inadvertently causing the ape revolution.

While we’re at it though, literally everyone in this movie sucks at their job – from the ape-expert girlfriend who for five years can’t tell that the ape she is hanging out with is super smart, to the ape-prison warden who doesn’t find it weird when he sees all the apes congregating abnormally.

10. Nikola Tesla in The Prestige

The real Tesla was a bit of a mad scientist himself – so it’s not a huge stretch to imagine him being commissioned to make giant over-the-top lightening-powered cloning machines and then simply handing it over without a thought to the fact that he could solve world hunger and make millions. Also there should be a rule that if David Bowie plays a doctor or scientist, that doctor or scientist is automatically mad by default.

9. Henry Wu in Jurassic Park

There must have been a morning where Henry Wu woke up, looked in the mirror, and realized that he was making giant monsters for a living. It doesn’t matter how sane he seems in the film – he’s a mad scientist. He’s not only cloning dinosaurs, but also the giant and carnivorous dinosaurs no one wants to be around. The asshole dinosaurs – these are the ones that Henry Wu proudly makes.

8. Peter Weyland in the Alien Franchise

To be fair, he’s more like a manager of mad scientists than one himself. Weyland outsources his insanity to others – like Burke trying to get a chestburster into Ripley in Aliens or David infecting his fellow scientists with that black shit in Prometheus just to see what happens. He also appears to exist in every goddamned era – which leads me to believe that Weyland isn’t a person, but some kind of wizard.

Or better yet, Weyland is the devil – the aliens actually being demons. So there – I just explained every continuity problem in the series. You’re welcome.

7. Tolian Soran in Star Trek Generations

Supposedly Malcolm McDowell actually received death threats for this role – proving that while rape and murder in a movie is deplorable, killing Captain Kirk is assassination-worthy.

Soran fits a pretty classic mad scientist model – the quest for his own personal gain at the cost of millions of lives. But hey, how else can you get into the Nexus? You can’t use ships, apparently – except for when he uses a ship at the beginning… but whatever.

6. Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man

Being invisible is the ultimate un-thought-out mad scientist plan. So you become invisible, then what? What’s the big success? Go rob a bank? Sure, then how are you going to spend the money without freaking everyone out, Mr. Ghost Person?

Obviously this is modeled after a much more classic invisible mad scientist – so while that’s points off for originality, he certainly doesn’t wait a second to get right into the despicable actions the moment no one can see his naked ass. So at least this was a man clearly dreaming of becoming a crazy scientist from the start.

5. Every Villain in Spider-Man 12

Good God is the scientific community royally fucked in the Spider-Man universe. If they’re not experimenting on themselves in the cover of night, they are building giant mechanical razor claw arms to help build black holes in New York lofts. Heck, even the scientists in Spider-Man 3 suck as they see no reason to double check when a grown man falls into their weird spinning sand pit, turning him into a giant monster with the power of CGI.

4. Dr. Josef Heiter in The Human Centipede

I’m guessing the application of sewing people anus-to-mouth and seeing how much recycled shit they can swallow is to scientifically determine how many Human Centipede movies the director can make. Not that I hate the concept or anything, but it’s hard to imagine needing more than one of these things lying around.

Still – while you can totally ignore the film, you really can’t ignore how incredibly mad scientisty the act is.

3. Dr. Emmett Brown in Back To The Future

It’s easy to forget how batshit crazy Dr. Brown really is – but he really fits the bill. The 24-hour scientific business, the inhuman reaction to alcohol, the fact that when the entire movie is said and done he goes ahead and builds a second and even more conspicuous time machine. For an Einstein fan, you’d think he’d remember that time-honored definition of insanity being the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Maybe he really should be committed.

2. The Ghostbusters

Seriously now – these guys have every aspect of mad science down to a tee: messing with the supernatural, shock treatment experiments, the animation of inanimate objects, firing bolts of lighting in the air, and acknowledging the existence/totally spitting in the face of God.

Think about it – at no point do these guys even so much as question the morality of incarcerating the supernatural or the possibility of overstepping their place in the universe despite multiple threats of biblical annihilation. Did they ever stop to think that the reason for the increase in ghosts has nothing to do with the millennium and more to do with the four snarky New Yorkers firing nuclear weapons at the afterlife? Oh yeah, let’s no forget the unlicensed nuclear accelerators they carry all over Manhattan. Holy Hell.

1. Herbert West in Re-Animator

Re-Animating the dead is just so classic mad scientist, and Herbert is able to create such a hilarious mess by doing so. He even has his own creepy dark laboratory – albeit a makeshift one.

It’s not just that his creations come back undoubtedly and uselessly disturbed, but that by the time he reanimates his second corpse it’s painfully clear that there’s no practical application for his liquid glow stick reagent. And yet – almost compulsively so – he can’t stop bringing people back from the dead to see what happens. Even his final breath is to preserve his ridiculous work – a true mad scientist move.

I know, for a fact, that I left off some names here – so feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

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