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Al Pacino’s So Great at Playing Bad Guys, You May Have a Tough Time Picking a Favorite

Al Pacino‘s bad guys always have a little something extra — a complexity, a sexiness, a fatal flaw. Take Scarface‘s Tony Montana. Sure, he’s sinister but he’s also so insanely fun to watch. Or how about Michael Corleone, part mobster, part family man. So who is Pacino’s most appealing villain? Here’s a look at ten Pacino malefactors ranked in terms of likeability. Feel a different role ranks as number one? Vote in the poll at the end.

Pacino-125.jpg10. John Milton, The Devil’s Advocate
John Milton is the ultimate bad guy — and not just because he’s a high-powered attorney defending questionable clients. After luring Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) to come work for him and slowly but surely driving his loving wife (Charlize Theron) nuts, Milton is revealed to be not only evil but, in fact, the devil himself. Nothing ambiguous about the badness of this bad guy. He reigns in Hell. And yet, he’s still only number ten in this list. That’s how stiff the competition is here.

pacino-city-hall-125.jpg9. Mayor John Pappas, City Hall
Is there anything worse than a politician angling for the lead job at the White House? Someone in that position will say and do anything to get the job. But Mayor Pappas takes things a bit too far when he helps to cover up the wrongful death of an innocent child. Even impeached President Richard Nixon would think this politician is a jerk, making presidential wannabe Pappas distinctly unlikable — in spite of being played by the charismatic Pacino.Watergate? That’s nothing.

pacino-oceans-thirteen-125.jpg8. Willy Bank, Ocean’s Thirteen
In the second sequel to Ocean’s Eleven, Willy Bank, a ruthless, mega-wealthy businessman who betrays the lovable old con Reuben (Elliott Gould), is the rarest of Pacino bad guys — one whom you actually relish rooting against. When he squeezes Reuben out of the casino they were supposedly building together, Bank incurs the wrath of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and becomes the victim of an elaborate heist (that involves a stellar cast). And you want it to happen. This guy is just mean.

pacino-glengarry-glen-ross-125.jpg7. Ricky Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross
Ricky Roma is an unabashed manipulator, and an oily salesman who shows no fear or doubt about his own superiority. He’s slick, self-assured and very, very good at selling people on a feeling. (David Mamet’s dialogue for him is brilliant, frankly.) Whether or not the sale will benefit  — or devastate — the client is irrelevant. His only concern is his commission. There’s no bloodshed from this bad guy; but Roma’s just too big a jerk to love. He’s clearly taken the “Greed is good” ethic too far.

pacino-the-recruit-125.jpg6. Walter Burke, The Recruit
Burke, a CIA operative, doesn’t engender much in the way of sympathy, but he does have one thing: Charisma. Lots of it. Enough to convince you for most of the movie that he’s actually a good guy. So while he’s revealed as a bitter man and a traitor to his country, he has to be considered a least a little likable, since you may have been fooled by his charm, like his protégé (Colin Farrell), for the first half of the flick. The second half of the flick may be why he doesn’t rank higher on this list.

pacino-godfather.jpg5. Michael Corleone, The Godfather
One of the best bad guys in mob movie history is also one of the most conflicted — at least in the beginning. Michael never wanted to take part in the family business. To the contrary, he worked very hard to stay out of it. But eventually he comes to accept the role he was born into by taking on the title of Don with murderous gusto. Yes, that makes him a big screen mafia legend, but maybe not the most likeable guy in the world. Can you imagine how hard it would be to be married to him?

pacino-scarface-125.jpg4. Tony Montana,Scarface
Tony Montana is a Cuban refugee who gleefully smuggles, schemes and kills his way into the good life in Miami. An ultra-violent cocaine drug-cartel kingpin, Tony systematically eliminates anyone who gets in his way or pisses him off — including, eventually, his best friend. But his theatrical behavior, bordering on campiness, makes him one of Pacino’s most entertaining and appealing alter-egos. He’s also got the best one liner: “Say hello to my little friend.” That earned him the number four slot.

al-pacino-dick-tracy-125.jpg3. Big Boy Caprice, Dick Tracy
There’s nothing small about Big Boy, from his personality to his furry lapels to his bulbous schnoz — and the result is hilarious. One of Pacino’s most priceless onscreen moments is Caprice’s zealous rant at his henchman, accusing them of not taking pride in their work when they fail to kill Tracy (Warren Beatty). You’ve gotta love Big Boy’s fervor, but more so, you’ve gotta love Pacino for taking this role on. Pacino is arguably the most memorable thing about this cartoonish movie.

dog day afternoon.jpg2. Sonny Wortzik, Dog Day Afternoon
At first, Sonny Wortzik doesn’t seem he deserves a spot on a list of bad guys, but he’s a criminal, people! He holds up a bank and threatens to kill hostages. Although, considering the fact that the only thing Sonny accomplishes in the end is getting pizzas for the people inside the bank, he comes across as a pretty decent guy — or at least, the most sympathetic, trannie-loving, complicated, Attica-chanting, would-be bank robber in all of movie history. He’d be unbeatable except for…

carlitos-way-125.jpg1. Carlito ‘Charlie’ Brigante, Carlito’s Way
Carlito has every intention of leaving the criminal life behind him after he gets out of prison early. But events (and friends and family) conspire to lead him the underworld. All he wants to do is make some money and retire with his girl; instead he gets dragged into one violent encounter after another. Sure, he kills, but he doesn’t really want to. In the end he pays with his life — which in some circles makes him not just sympathetic, it makes him a saint.

Don’t miss one of Pacino’s most likeable bad guys, Tony Montana, in Scarface on Fr. Aug. 17 at 8pm.

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