There are spoilers in here. Get over it.
Most top-ten lists leave out the female characters (of which there are plenty), child characters, and characters that are more quietly menacing than flamboyant. Most sociopaths don’t want to be noticed (with the lone outlier of narcissists) and prefer to be taken for unassuming victims of circumstance. There are some of course, who commit desperate and crazed acts, but they’re less the majority than you might think.
One of my favorite movie sociopaths is Grimsrud from Fargo, a quiet, surly man who simply goes about his business without grief or much shouting. He’s been hired to work, and so he does the work. He can’t be called off; he wants his pay, and that is all he has an interest in (besides pancakes).
Of course, he’s the obvious monster in the film- but a more subtle sociopathic character in the same film is Lundegard– the man who sets the entire scheme in motion. He is willing to pay dearly to have ruthless and violent men kidnap his wife- so that he can gain control over his own finances. Money also means more to him than any care he has for his wife or family, and his portrayal of a wolf in sheep’s (awkward) clothing is absolutely perfect.
The thing about sociopaths is that they try to blend in. Like a predator stalking prey, they don’t want to be noticed, and they go to great lengths to keep the eye of criticism away from their acts.
I’ve read about the distinction some draw between a “psychopath” and a sociopath, but the reality is that this is the same pattern of behavior. Psychopaths are simply not as good at blending in, whether because they have other co-existing mental conditions, or because they go too far to avoid being caught and exposed. For a narcissist, invisibility is the ultimate fear- but for a true sociopath, exposure is the nightmare they run from.
A good example of a person who doesn’t blend in well, probably because of other conditions or issues, would be the character of the Joker, from the goddamn Batman movies. He is damaged by a violent upbringing, and also very disorganized in his thinking- psychotic as well as psychopathic. Delusional. This leads him to exposure and opposition. His character also has some narcissist tendencies, although the chaotic rage with which he approaches others exposes him and prevents him from satisfying his urges in that direction.
It’s a lack of empathy and remorse, not horrible acts, that make the sociopath.
In the Grifters, Lily is a remorseless sociopath, but until she is pushed does not commit violence. Her violence is an attempt to escape, to get away from the consequences of her actions- both in her past, and in her present (she kills her unwanted son, who is now an adult, for his money.) While you could blame her past rough life for her behavior, the coldness of her demeanor, and the fact that she only sees her son three times in the course of ten years (as explained early in the film) speaks volumes about her attachment to others beyond what they can do for her.
Maybe if I get time, another insomniac night, I’ll write up another list, or another sort of character.
I could find hundreds of sociopathic characters to talk about, actually. And no- Patrick Bateman doesn’t make the list. If this were about literary characters he might- but the movie waters him down into an imaginary sociopath; actually, of all the characters in the movie, he is the lone nonsociopath, the one who recognizes others by their face, and not their clothing and job title.