While most bad boys may prefer to use brutal violence or intimidation to make their way through the world, there are those few others who instead use their wiles, devilish good looks, and inherent mental issues. He is the homme fatale. Clever, seductive, mysterious, and deadly. Sadly though, and unlike his counterpart the femme fatale, he is generally not as recognized or regarded in cinema, despite the character archetype existing in just as many films.
So join me, fiends, as I take you down a beginner’s short list of those shadowy, sinister hunks who live to haunt us.
Ethan Hawke as Martin Asher/James Costa/Matt Soulsby from Taking Lives
Though the film is generally passed off as a dud, it did include a fine example of a classic homme fatale. Martin Asher is a serial killer who murders other men so that he can, for as long as he needs, “become” and live as them. But even more disturbing was that when a criminal profiler, played by Angelina Jolie, came sniffing around, he very much enjoyed making her fall in love with him and ruining her with his psychotic obsession.
Matt Damon as Tom Ripley in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Tom Ripley is probably one of the most well known homme fatales – both in film and literature. Almost as talented a (fictional) psychopath as Hannibal Lecter, and definitely just as dapper and cultured, Ripley is a force to be reckoned with. He may seem timid and reasonable and endearing upon first glance, but within Ripley is a cunning sociopath who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.
Ryan Gosling as Robert Durst in All Good Things
A chilling performance by Gosling is made all the more frightening when you realize the character is based on a real man! Robert Durst was a wealthy businessman who eventually became the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, the death of a friend he may have known some of his secrets, and the murder of his neighbor years later when he attempted to relocate incognito. He is definitely one of the strangest and most mysterious men in criminal history, fiction and non combined.
Ewan McGregor as The Eye in Eye of the Beholder
This sleeper film has a very small cult following that I’m proud to be a part of. It’s plot follows The Eye, a secret intelligence agent who begins to follow and then fall in love with a female serial killer (Eris) he happens upon. As he begins to track her, his obsession grows and he slowly begins losing his grip on reality. Eventually, he – in his own way – becomes just as dangerous as Eris and goes to great lengths to protect their imagined relationship. It’s your classic ‘homme fatale‘ meets ‘femme fatale‘ rom-com! Just with less romance and comedy.
As I mentioned, this is just a short list. A rundown of the more notable examples in film. But the roster is much longer! Just recently the indie hit Stoker chronicled a young girl’s encounter with a homme fatale within her own family, and 2003’s Young Adam saw Ewan McGregor (Eye of the Beholder) once again stepping into the shoes of a seductive sociopath. Even the infamous Hannibal Lecter was giving the homme fatale treatment when his younger years were depicted in Hannibal Rising, though that was more of a revenge driven flop fans refuse to acknowledge.
So if you’re still craving for even more dark-hearted men, make sure to check out my upcoming companion posts to L’Homme Fatales, which will include those malicious men who work in pairs (Rope, Funny Games, Swoon, Killing by Numbers), as well as the more modern and action-orientated men of mystery (No One Lives, The Guest).