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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 08/11/2006

Friday List: Movie Jerks We Love to Hate

By Liz Kelly

James Spader: I'm not a jerk, but I play one on TV -- and on the big screen. (ABC)

GQ recently published a list of Movie Jerks. Well, their title is a bit saltier, but this being The Washington Post Web site, we don't go in for slang. Ahem.

What constitutes a movie jerk? Think James Spader in "Pretty in Pink" or Craig Sheffer in "Some Kind of Wonderful" -- the smug, assured pretty boy who delights in crushing the dreams of friends and foes alike.

GQ's list, below, concentrates mainly on '80s movies:

1. Billy Zabka as Johnny Lawrence
"The Karate Kid", 1984

2. Bradley Cooper as Zachary "Sack" Lodge
"Wedding Crashers", 2005

3. James Daughton as Greg Marmalard
"National Lampoon's Animal House", 1978

4. Eriq La Salle as Darryl Jenks
"Coming to America", 1988

5. Robert Prescott as Cole Whittier
"Bachelor Party", 1984

6. Ted McGinley as Stan Gable
"Revenge of the Nerds", 1984

7. Matthew Glave as Glenn Guglia
"The Wedding Singer", 1998

8. Craig Sheffer as Hardy Jenns
"Some Kind of Wonderful", 1987

9. Craig Kilborn as Mark
"Old School", 2003

10. Billy Zabka as Chas
"Back to School", 1986

11. Michael Bowen as Tommy
"Valley Girl", 1983

12. James Spader as Steff
"Pretty in Pink", 1986

A great list, but lets add on to this roll call of creeps. I'd include Anthony Michael Hall as Winona Ryder's controlling boyfriend in "Edward Scissorhands" and one of the most diabolical movie jerks ever, Scott Glenn as Wes Hightower in 1980's "Urban Cowboy." (And if you doubt Glenn's "pretty boy" credentials, take a poll of your female friends. Or mine.)

Add your favorite movie jerks in the comments section. And thanks to erstwhile guest Celebritologist Michael Corones for suggesting this Friday List. If you have ideas for a Friday List, e-mail them to me at

By Liz Kelly  | August 11, 2006; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture  
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Whoever David Spade played in PCU - though not actually attractive, he certainly had all of the other qualities for the nemises.

what a great list!

Posted by: stinkerbelle | August 11, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Val Kilmer as Ice, "Top Gun" 1986

Posted by: Christiane | August 11, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh c'mon! How can you fail to list Bill Paxton's star turning performance as Chet in Weird Science?

"How would you like a nice greasy pork sandwich served at the bottom of a dirty ashtray?!"

I don't believe he is capable of ever topping that role.

Posted by: ersatzverite | August 11, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Pretty In Pink?...please. James Spader was much nastier as Rip the drug dealing, high school "friend" in the 1987 movie Less Than Zero where he forces Robert Downey Jr. to preform oral sex acts on men to pay off his drug debts. Yuck, makes me want to take a shower just to think of that scene.

Posted by: Flick Junkie | August 11, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Billy Zane does a great job of playing the mean, controlling, cowardly murderous finacee in 1997's Titanic. I force my wife to watch the movie often so she knows how lucky she is to have me.

Posted by: Flick Junkie | August 11, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

John Malkovich as Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons. And yes, I am serious. When you are polling your female friends about Scott Glenn, ask them about Malk too. They'll tell ya.

Posted by: Simone | August 11, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

James Spader in Less Than Zero

Posted by: P | August 11, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy Piven in Old School was the bigger jerk

Posted by: MD | August 11, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Gotta go with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas in the paean to the pretty boy, Wall Street.

Posted by: Becky | August 11, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Going a little outside the obvious (and all over the board):

Paul Freeman as Rene Belloq in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". C'mon, the guy was working with Nazis! And he gets his in the end beautifully!

Sab Shimano as Mr. Saito in "Gung Ho". "That's a some list, huh?"

Edward Herrmann as Grant Stayton III in "Overboard". "I'm so virile, I'm so rich"

Brett Cullen as Eddie Martel in "The Replacements". I wanted to shoot out his window too!

And maybe the best movie jerk of all time, Fred MacMurray as Lt. Keefer in "The Caine Mutiny". I mean, really, like who didn't want to throw a drink in his face at the end?

Posted by: JAM | August 11, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Jason Issacs as that mean British Soldier in "The Patriot"....I mean, come on, he burned down a church that was full of people, including Heath Ledgers girlfriend! Also, Jason is also pretty darn mean and Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies too.
Hey, the guy is not a prettyboy, but he plays the part of a jerk really well.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Ben Gazzara in "Road House." "Guess I'll just have to flip a coin..."

Posted by: mmy | August 11, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, McFly, you gotta include Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen in the "Back to the Future" series.

Posted by: KoolMoeB | August 11, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

William Zabka (Greg Tolan) also played a bully again in "Just One of the Guys."

Other notables
Bart Conner (Bart Taylor) - Rad
Mark Arnold (Mick McAllister) - Teen Wolf
Jackey Vinson (Lucas) - The Wizard
Keifer Sutherland (Ace Merrill) - Stand by me
Peter Facinelli (Mike Dexter) - Can't Hardly Wait
Sarah Michelle Gellar (Kathryn Merteuil) - Cruel Intentions
Richard Crenna (Al Pellet) - Summer Rental
Thomas Wilson (Biff Tannen) - Back to the Future
Jim Youngs (Chuck Cranston) - Footloose

Posted by: Jon | August 11, 2006 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Paul Reiser in "Aliens". And where are the women jerks? What about Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction". Or Rebecca De Morney in "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle".

Posted by: Ike | August 11, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

How about Kiefer Sutherland in "Lost Boys?"

Posted by: miss belle | August 11, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Kiefer Sutherland "Lost Boys"
Alec Baldwin "Married to the Mob"
Peter O'Toole "The Lion in Winter"
Every character "The Lion in Winter"
Andy Garcia "Ocean's 11 and 12"

Posted by: michmurch | August 11, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I think you need to differentiate between "jerk" and "villan"... jerks aren't necessarily evil, they're just... well, jerks!

Posted by: bored | August 11, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

gotta second the mention of David Spade, esp. for his Capital One commercials. and I'm surprised that I haven't seen Owen Wilson's name on the list. Does no one else find him as obnoxious as I do?

Posted by: ralph | August 11, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

How about Paul Gleason as the teacher, Mr. Vernon, in "The Breakfast Club"? Major jerk!

Posted by: ytg | August 11, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Hart Bochner in "Die Hard," hands down.

Posted by: RP McMurphy | August 11, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

So Flick Junkie forces his wife to watch Titanic often to remind her how lucky she is to have him? How is that lucky?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Matt Mulhern ("Teddy Beckersted") - One Crazy Summer

Posted by: cube | August 11, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Boiler Room had quite a few "pretty" jerks

Posted by: md | August 11, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

How about a list of famous movie bi-otches to go with the list of jerks? Seems to me that this list might be even longer than the jerks list.

Posted by: mwindc | August 11, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Jason Isaacs may not be "pretty", but take a poll - he's definitely sexy.

(I was supposedly the Heath Ledger demographic when The Patriot came out. I barely noticed him, what with the hotness that was Isaacs as Tavington.)

Posted by: MB | August 11, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Steven Boyd as the Roman tribune Messalla in Ben Hur - only the 2nd best movie ever made, right behind Patton.

Messalla tries to convince his dearest childhood friend, Judah Ben Hur, to rat out his Roman-opposing neighbors. When Judah won't cooperate, Messalla has Judah, his mother, and his sister falsely imprisoned on trumped up treason charges, just so he can make a name for himself with the emperor.

Through a quirk of fate, Judah Ben Hur is freed from the slave galley's and becomes the adopted son of a very high Roman official. Judah returns home with his new power and new Roman name, Quintas Arias the Younger, to confront Messalla about the fate of his mother and sister, who have been in the Roman dungeons for three years. "Arias the Younger" sends a magnificent ivory-handled knife ahead to Messalla as a gift of introduction. And when Messalla sees that the giver is actually Judah Ben Hur, he replies, "Your gift is most appropriate Young Arias. Do you suggest I use it on myself?"

Messalla gets his in the end by being trampled to death at the end of the finest 11 minutes of film ever shot in American cinema - the chariot race. But he holds off death just long enough to confront Judah, who thinks his revenge is complete, so he can tell Judah that his mother and sister are still alive and living amongst the unclean in the Valley of the Lepers.

Messalla gasps his last breath and Judah cries out in desparation at the realization that he has won nothing.

Judah Ben Hur's adoptive father, Quintas Arias the Elder, is also the source of one of the greatest movie quotes of all times, one that should be pasted on the wall of every office and cubicle in America: "We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well,and live!"

Posted by: gbchriste | August 11, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Though not a "main" character jerk, how on Earth no one has mentioned William Traylor as Ted Underhill in Fletch is beyond me.

Posted by: John | August 11, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if he was a jerk as much as a pompous, clueless boss, but what about LUMBERG from "Office Space???"

Posted by: Michael Bolton | August 11, 2006 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The late John Casale as Fredo in The Godfather

Posted by: Nick Rivers | August 11, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute - how can Billy Zabka as Johnny Lawrence top this list?!?!

Lest we forget that after Daniel-san knocked Johnny's socks off with his money crane kick, Johnny proceeded to grab the trophy out of the tournament official's hands so he could award it to him personally. He even added a sincere "You're alright" when he handed over the trophy.

Sure, he was a jerk - but was he the biggest on this list? I think not.

Posted by: comb | August 11, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Daniel Cosgrove as Richard "Dick" Bagg in Van Wilder is my personal favorite.

Posted by: jterp | August 11, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Animal House, can't forget the late great John Vernon as Dean Wormer.

And what about Kevin Dillon as Melvin Moody in My Bodyguard!! Major omission.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | August 11, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

LOL Of course Melvin Moody was played by Matt Dillon, not Johnny Drama!

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | August 11, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Joe Pesci at Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas.

Posted by: SonofCarl | August 11, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Dabney Coleman from 9 to 5. His come-uppance was the whole point of the movie.

Posted by: Greg | August 11, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Aaron Dozier as Roy Stalin in 'Better Off Dead'

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Who could forget Danny Glover in The Color Purple???? As jerks go, he was WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY up there!! The dude separated his wife and HER SISTER because HER SISTER wouldn't sleep with him....and then wouldn't even let her have her own mail while he carried on with some other floozy right in the house....oh do not get me started!!!!!

Posted by: rachel | August 11, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

That dude who payed Heath Ledger to go out with Julia Stiles in 10 Things I hate About You

Posted by: Still | August 11, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse

... Roy Stalin in "Better off Dead."

Posted by: Whoever played... | August 11, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

James Spader got lots of practice. In "Baby Boom," a real jerk in a context a professional woman can relate to.
The following veer from jerkdom towards villainy, but that's what makes them so memorable:
--Billy Zane in "Dead Calm."
--James Caan in "Flesh and Bone"--an underrated movie.
--Colin Firth in "Valmont"--far, far prettier than Malkovich in "Dangerous Liaisons."
--Richard Crenna in "Body Heat"--or was William Hurt the true jerk, or just stupid?
--William Hurt is also both jerky and stupid in "Broadcast News."

Posted by: seatown | August 11, 2006 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Steve Martin in "The Jerk"! Of course!

Posted by: cva | August 11, 2006 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Robb Lowe in Wayne's World of course!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 12, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

What about Johnny Depp as Cpt. Jack Sparrow? And the guy who plays Norrington in the same movies?

Posted by: lilia | August 13, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe nobody has mentioned Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary.

Posted by: Caitlin | August 13, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Jack Nicholson as the Marine Colonel in A Few Good Men.

Posted by: KB silver Spring | August 14, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see others agree that James Spader's oily performance in "Less Than Zero" is one of the sickest jerks, and certainly Spader's jerkiest role (and he's had a lot, if I recall)

Posted by: marybindc | August 14, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Tom Wilson (Biff) in the Back to the Future series. I know I'm not the first one to say it, but that was the most obvious omission to me. And there should definitely be a companion list of ladies

Posted by: erin | August 14, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

James Spader was also a jerk in "Sex, Lies and Videotape"

Posted by: michmurch | August 14, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Brad Whitford (Eric Gordon) in Billy Madison
Chris McDonald (Shooter McGavin) in Happy Gilmour

Posted by: Jon | August 14, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the comment on Footloose, Jim Youngs was good at playing a jerk in that one. He was also good in that Silk Stalkings episode that I saw once.

Posted by: amity | August 16, 2006 8:39 PM | Report abuse

As the writer of the article in question (thanks for the link!), I would like to emphasize that a movie jerk is not the same as a movie villain, and that the guidelines set forth in the intro to the article are as follows: he must be rich (very, very important), must be the romantic rival to the main character (although Spader in "Pretty in Pink" is a bit of a problem there), must be a relatively young pretty boy (no Richard Crennas, Bradley Whitfords or Chris MacDonalds!), and must be perfectly ridiculous (hence the preference for jerks from comedies). The list originally was to include twenty characters, and a few of the jerks mentioned in the comments section here were cut, such as Roy Stalin in "Better Off Dead" (No. 13), "Back to the Future"'s Biff, and Rob Lowe in "Wayne's World." It was a very fun list to put together as you might imagine, and it allowed me to speak with top jerk Billy Zabka, who is actually a very nice man. Anyway, it's nice to see such a heated debate, and I hope everyone will check out the full article in the magazine.

Posted by: John Sellers | August 17, 2006 1:29 AM | Report abuse

James Spader wasn't really the jerk in SLAV, it was the husband played by James Gallagher. He was true slime.

And what about creepy, icky Joaquin Phoenix as the incestuous, self-serving S&M sicko Commodus in Gladiator?

Then again, Paul Gleason as Clarence Beeks in Trading Places? "Back off! Or I'll rip out your eyes and piss on your brain." Classic!

Posted by: spaboo | August 17, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I meant Peter Gallagher.

Posted by: spaboo | August 17, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

As for female jerks, the "mean" girl in Michelle and Romy's HS Reunion who laughs at and makes fun of Romy's claim at inventing Post-its. Rachel McAdams as the perfect jerk in "Mean Girls".

Posted by: Pgilmo | August 29, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

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