7. Max Cady
Played By: Robert De Niro
Movie: Cape Fear (1991)
Max Cady is the reason we fly over the fly-over states. A Pentecostal yokel, he walks free from prison after serving 14 years for a brutal rape, his ripped body covered in scary Biblical vengeance ink, his mind hell-bent on punishing his defense attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), who withheld evidence about the victim’s promiscuity that could have gotten him a reduced sentence or even an acquittal.
Cady was illiterate when sent up the river, but he proves himself a slick and devious adversary, always one step ahead and just out of legal reach. Threats and the uncomfortable seduction of Bowden’s unhappy wife and teenage daughter escalate to the rape and face-chewing assault of the lawyer’s onetime jumpoff, a double homicide, and the most disturbing house-boat trip you could ever take on a creepy-ass body of water called Cape Fear.
Thanks, but we’ll stick to New York and Los Angeles. —JM