This weekend marks the opening of the controversial and topical documentary Bully by Lee Hirsch, exploring the world of bullying which has affected more than 13 million American kids. Take a look at our picks for the top ten film bullies of all time.
Middle school was the worst. As if it weren’t enough that I was short, skinny, wore glasses (formerly an eye patch) and came from a small hick town to a more affluent (for the region) neighborhood, I was also apt to fall apart whenever pushed. For middle school bullies, I was the prison equivalent of a child rapist. I am now glad to see that bullying has become a more prevalent social issue, though my happiness is outweighed by the cost the victims paid to make it so.
As one who knows bullies, here is my list of the most memorable bullies on film. Let’s give them some diishonor!
10. Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson) in 3 O’clock High (1987) – For me this was the first documentary about bullying, it was scary to think about the inevitability of facing your bully, and Buddy reminded me of my nemesis. Tyson went on to scare some more children just three years later (he was 26 year old high-schooler, no wonder he scared the bejesus out of me) as the antagonist in Kindergarten Cop with Arnold.
9. Artie West (Vic Morrow) in Blackboard Jungle (1955) – This film featured early rock n’ roll hits by Bill Haley and the Comets like ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ During some screenings violence and vandalism would break out amongst the teenagers, leading a few people to ironically call this the beginning of a new era in teen rebellion. One of those chicken/egg things as to who caused it.
8. Bobby Kent (Nick Stahl) in Bully (2001) – Nick Stahl plays a manipulative sociopath in Kids director Larry Clark’s adaptation of the novel, which is based on true events. Excellent cast includes Brad Renfro, Michael Pitt, Rachel Minor, and Leo Fitzpatrick.
7. Nelson Muntz (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) in The Simpsons Movie (2007) – I know I am getting away on a technicality here, in fact I cannot even remember if Nelson is even in the movie. But how could I not include him even given this flimsy excuse? I win. HA-HAH.
6. Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) in Stand By Me (1986) – Before he was known as right-wing pro-torture nut job Jack Bauer he tried to take away the credit for finding a dead body from a group of kids who spent a day and a half hiking there while his lazy ass drove it in like twenty minutes or something.
5. Scut Farkas (Zach Ward) and his sidekick Grover Dill (Yano Anaya) in A Christmas Story (1983) – Winners of the best names for bullies ever: ‘Scut Farkas staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So help me God! Yellow Eyes!’ Grover would later terrorize John Cusack for his two dollars in Better Off Dead.
4. Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) in Back to the Future I, II, and III (1985, 1989, 1990) – Apparently bullies have been around since at least 1885, and will still be here for at least another three more years, if you follow. That is unless we get a DeLorean, plutonium, learn to skate, and listen to Huey Lewis and the News to create an alternate bully-free (while we’re wishing, reality-TV free) future.
3. Fred ‘the Ogre’ Palowakski (Donald Gibb) in Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – The only other bully on my top ten with his own catch phrase. I have to admit I was very disappointed that he joined the tri-lambs at the end of the second film. Back then I did not believe in redemption for bullies. Is it bad that I would rather see them get their comeuppances rather than them learning from their mistakes and becoming better people?
2. Chet (Bill Paxton) in Weird Science (1985) – Chet easily outduels Robert Downey Jr.’s meager bully skills with his bully bully skills. He’s by far the best part of this film and I think it is one of the finest comedic performances that are not gushed over nearly enough. Even on a completely sober recent re-watch Chet still stands as one of the best worst tormentors of neo-maxi zoom dweebies ever.
1. William Zabka as Johnny in The Karate Kid (1984), Greg in Just One of the Guys(1985), and Chas in Back to School (1986) – Looking back over this list, and the time period in which most of these films were made, you can assume that getting typecast as a bully wasn’t one of the worst gigs to have. When your character is blond, with that sneer, rich, blonde, a jock, and xenophobic Aryan blond you have the six tools for being a totally 80’s douche bag bully. He managed it in three straight pictures.
Watch here to see what Mr. Zabka (and some other familiar faces) have been up to lately. So, what did I miss this time? See if you can find my proverbial Waldo and leave a comment! Don’t be shy; prior experiences have toughened me up, thanks to my bullies!!!