The 12 Maddest Scientists In Film History9
By Steven Novak
The 12 Maddest Scientists In Film History
The wild-haired, wide-eyed mad scientist has long been a staple in the genres of science fiction and horror. Their ideas are often as big as their personalities, and their personalities are trumped only by their madness. These nutty professors have lofty goals that range from the blending of human and non-human DNA, to world domination, as is the case for Josef Mengele in KoldCast TV’s hit superhero/action/drama/scifi series, Heroes of the North. Although these mad scientists almost always mean well, it never ends well. That said, here are 12 of the maddest scientists in film history.
Heroes of the North, Episode 1: Canadian Shield
1. HERBERT WEST – RE-ANIMATOR
Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “Herbert West Re-Animator” and directed by Stuart Gordon, Re-Animator is the story of a dedicated medical student that becomes obsessed with the idea of reanimating dead tissue. Thanks to some wonderfully neon green goop, he actually succeeds. Before you know it, there are bloody corpses running around murdering everything in sight, and severed heads are hungrily licking their lips for female genitals. Played with scene-chewing insanity by Jeffery Combs, Herbert West is deliciously mad.
2. DR. EMMETT BROWN – BACK TO THE FUTURE
As the inventor of the world’s first time machine in the Back to the Future series, Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown was a “student of all sciences” but primarily a wacky inventor. Played with breathy, jittery craziness by Christopher Lloyd, he was also a wee bit flaky – a characteristic many of the best mad scientists often seem to share. In order to make his time machine a reality, Doc cheated a bunch of Libyan terrorists out of stolen plutonium, got shot for his troubles, and ended up letting a local high school kid become the first human being to travel back in time.
3. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN – FRANKENSTEIN
Also in the field of “tissue reanimation,” Victor Frankenstein is without a doubt the absolute most notorious mad scientist in literature and film. The character first appeared in the 1818 novel “Frankenstein” aka ”The Modern Prometheus” written by Mary Shelley. Since then, this mad doctor has popped up in a number of films over the years, including the 1931 Universal adaptation starring Colin Clive and the 1994 version with Kenneth Brannagh. For having just the right amount of crazy to construct a monster out of scavenged body parts, Victor Frankenstein is one of the greatest wacko scientists of all time. Too bad his invention killed little children.
4. HUBERT J. FARNSWORTH – FUTURAMA
In the vein of “Doc” Brown, Futurama’s Hubert J. Farnsworth is not only the proprietor of the Planet Express Delivery Service, but one of the future’s absolute greatest inventors and scientists to boot. Over the course of the series and a few feature-length films, he not only stopped global warming but put the kibosh on Richard Nixon’s “evil plans” as well. He also constructed the first dark matter engine, perfected a “Smell-O-Scope,” and even built the first robot capable of receiving a boat loan… which is undoubtedly his greatest achievement of all.
5. DR. MOREAU – THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
Based on the 1896 novel by prolific science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, the character of Dr. Moreau has appeared in no less than three films – none of which ever lived up to the promise of the original novel featuring such an incredibly twisted character. By putting human DNA into animals, it was Moreau’s intent to regress their animal instincts and somehow transform them into something he considered the divine human form. He did it all on an island in the middle of nowhere where he lived among his creations as a godlike figure. The character of Moreau is so bonkers I hardly know where to start.
6. THE GHOSTBUSTERS – GHOSTBUSTERS
In 1984’s Ivan Reitman-directed Ghostbusters, three misfit parapsychologists stumble onto a way to capture and contain the city’s sudden ghost infestation. They draw up a logo, rent commercial space, get themselves matching jumpsuits, and become the world’s first ghost busters. For having the guts to move into a field of science that no one else dared tackle, they get the girl, the love of the big apple and lots of cash for their efforts. In the movie, what character said, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.”?
7. SETH BRUNDLE – THE FLY
1986’s David Cronenberg-directed weirdo gross fest, The Fly, stars Jeff Goldblum as a brilliant, eccentric scientist that’s working on a set of “telepods” that would allow instantaneous teleportation of objects from one pod to another. It’s a brilliant idea, but an accident turns him into a half-man, half-fly, and he progresses from brilliant to mad.
8. DR. OTTO GUNTHER OCTAVIUS – SPIDERMAN 2
In Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2, Alfred Molina plays a brilliant scientist experimenting with a substance called Tritium which he plans to introduce to the world as a fusion-based energy source. At this point in the movie, he seems pretty normal – a little overly passionate, for sure – but mostly normal. When his experiment goes wrong though, and his spine is snapped, and a bunch of metal tentacles are grafted to his body, and his wife is murdered in the process, is when the whole “mad” part comes into play. Soon he has moved from trying to better the world to wanting to blow up the city.
9. PEYTON WESTLAKE – DARKMAN
In the same vein as Doc Ock, the character of Peyton Westlake in Sam Raimi’s 1990 film Darkman was once a scientist with the absolute of best intentions. He was a chemist working on developing a synthetic skin that would help burn victims cover up their deformities. Things were going pretty well until some mobsters burned off his own face and blasted him to oblivion. It’s not long before he’s running around in a dusty trench coat and living in an abandoned building where his crazy brain decides he’s better served using his invention as a means of vengeance.
10. DR. BUNSEN HONEYDEW – THE MUPPETS
More of an inventor than a scientist (despite the fact that there’s a “Dr.” attached to his name), Bunsen Honeydew has more than enough madness to enjoy the company of history’s mad scientists. His invention list over the years includes edible paper clips, a gorilla detector, a banana sharpener, a robot politician, and an electric nose-warmer. In response to the ancient quest of alchemy (the practice of turning metals into gold), he even created a device that changed gold into cottage cheese. Plus, he often uses his red-haired assistant Beaker as a test subject, which is not only mean, it’s likely to get him into a lot of trouble with puppet rights organizations!
11. DR. STRANGELOVE – DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
Very loosely based on Peter George’s Cold War thriller novel “Red Alert,” Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is not only one of the finest films ever made, it features one of the maddest scientists to ever grace the silver screen. Portrayed to the absolute hilt by Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove is a wheelchair-driving former Nazi and nuclear war expert with a hand that has a mind of its own. While explaining the doomsday device which he played a part in creating, he clarifies that it will not only destroy the world in the event of nuclear attack, it will also destroy the world if anyone tries to deactivate it.
12. C.A. ROTWANG – METROPOLIS
The character of Rotwang from Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 science-fiction film Metropolis is pretty much the standard against which all mad scientists since have been judged. Rotwang was an absolutely brilliant inventor in the field of robotics whose greatest achievement is a robot originally made as a replacement for his wife. After some mad reasoning, however, he uses the device to get revenge on the man his wife left him for and the son born of their union. To make him even crazier, he lost his hand while constructing his agent of vengeance and now he wears a robot hand in its place.
Heroes of the North, Episode 2: 8 Ball: Origins
Heroes of the North, Episode 3: The Canadian: Origins
Steven Novak is a writer, illustrator, graphic designer and admitted lifelong nerd with an embarrassingly large DVD collection. He is currently working and living in the Southern California desert. His most recent fantasy/action adventure novel, “Forts: Fathers and Sons,” is available everywhere books are sold.