Movie Villains Who Were Arrested For Real-Life Crimes

Sometimes it's hard to forget, but actors are not the roles they play in movies. Those people up on the screen are fictional characters (or maybe somewhat based on real people) portrayed by those whose job it is to make the characters look, sound, and act like actual human beings. So, an actor must be pretty great at their profession if the general public confuses them with one of their most popular or award-winning roles. 

But sometimes, actors actually do have something in common with their characters. After all, they're tasked with pulling from their own experiences and psyches to craft a believable portrayal, and, once in a while, performers don't have to dig all that deep. A number of well-known movie villains have been played by actors who did some pretty bad stuff off screen, as well. While the real-life incidents usually aren't as severe or egregious as what those actors pretend to do in the movies, it's still shocking when some some pretty wretched things go on while off the clock. 

Let's dig into a group of actors who famously played fictional bad guys and were infamously (or, at least allegedly) busted for committing real-life crimes.

Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War

Ever since he became a teen star with his role as Brand in the 1985 adventure flick, The Goonies, Josh Brolin has been kicking around Hollywood. In early adulthood, he moved into TV on shows like The Young Riders, before forging a huge comeback in critically-acclaimed fare like American Gangster, No Country for Old Men, and Milk

For the latter, Brolin received his first Academy Award nomination for portraying Dan White, the real-life city supervisor who murdered fellow supervisor, Harvey Milk, and Mayor George Moscone. Just a few years later, Brolin slid into one of the biggest super-villain roles of all time, providing the basis for the genocidal monster Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe while appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy and three Avengers films.

But let's back up to Dec. 20, 2004, when Los Angeles police responded to a call at the West Los Angeles home Brolin shared with his second wife, Diane Lane. Lane called the cops after he allegedly struck her, per People. The Marvel star was arrested and charged with spousal battery, then posted his $20,000 bail. However, the couple's spokesperson, Kelly Bush, told the New York Daily News (via People) it was all "a misunderstanding," noting that Lane didn't even want Brolin to be arrested. "But in cases involving the possibility of any physical contact," Bush added, "the police have to arrest first, ask questions later." While no more such alleged incidents occurred, Brolin and Lane divorced in 2013.

David McCall from Fear

Mark Wahlberg is one of Hollywood's biggest stars, headlining comedies like Ted and action movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, and earning Academy Award nominations for The Fighter and The Departed. It's an unlikely trajectory for Wahlberg, who first showed up on the pop culture radar in the early '90s as rapper "Marky Mark." But Wahlberg proved he had some acting chops with one of his first movie roles: scorned boyfriend-turned-violent stalker David McCall in the 1996 thriller, Fear.

But before his before-he-was-a-movie-star days, Wahlberg lived a much different life. As a young teenager, he once told Vanity Fair, he fell in with a crowd of older guys and developed "a pretty serious cocaine problem." The future actor was also involved in some racially-motivated acts of violence. In June 1986 (via The Smoking Gun), a 15-year-old Wahlberg and some friends yelled racist slurs at three African American children while they followed them home on their bikes and threw rocks. Wahlberg and company did the same thing to the same victims a day later. Wahlberg received a suspended sentence for those crimes. 

Then, one day in 1988, Wahlberg assaulted two different Vietnamese men: the first he attacked with a large piece of wood, the second he punched in the eye. The future Instant Family star was charged with attempted murder. After he pleaded guilty to felony assault, he served 45 days behind bars. Wahlberg publicly expressed remorse when he sought a pardon for this charge in 2014.

Ace Merrill from Stand By Me

Stretching back to some of his first roles in the 1980s — vampire David in The Lost Boys and bully teen Ace Merrill in Stand By Me — Kiefer Sutherland has thrived and enchanted audiences when he plays men who are complicated antiheroes at best, and straight-up extremely bad people at worst. Sure, he amassed seven Emmy Award nominations for portraying terrorist-thwarting government agent Jack Bauer on 24, but Sutherland's an intense actor who can tap into his characters' darkness.

Sutherland is also something of an open book, honest and forthright about his personal flaws. "One of the things I love to do is go out with my friends and tell stories and have a bunch of drinks," the actor told People in 2016. "Having said that, I can also look back on my life and tell you very squarely that the only bad things that have ever happened to me in my life have been because I like to go to bars and have drinks with my friends." 

He's not exaggerating — Sutherland has been arrested for alcohol-related incidents on several occasions. In the winter of 2007-2008, he served around seven weeks in jail on a drunk driving charge. That happened to be his fourth one since 1987, and he was busted while already on probation for a 2004 drunk driving offense.

Jason Dean from Heathers

One of the most popular teen idols of the late 1980s and early 1990s, brooding actor Christian Slater found one of his signature roles as Jason Dean in Heathers, the 1988 black comedy in which he helps murder the most odious members of his high school's popular clique. Away from the cameras, Slater also engaged in illegal acts — nothing as awful as killing teenagers, but alarming nonetheless. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Slater earned drunk driving charge No. 2 in December 1989. He allegedly fled from police, and the chase ended when Slater hit two telephone poles. When he got out of the car, he reportedly kicked a police officer. Because he pleaded no contest to charges of drunken driving and evading arrest, prosecutors dropped the battery of a police officer and resisting arrest counts, and Slater earned a 10-day jail sentence. Then, in 1994, Slater was arrested at New York's JFK Airport, when he reportedly tried to bring a gun onto a plane. (He avoided prison time in favor of community service.) 

Three years later, Los Angeles partygoers summoned police, per the Los Angeles Times, to subdue Slater. According to the Independent, Slater reportedly got into a fight with a man when the guy tried to stop Slater from hitting his girlfriend. Slater also allegedly went after one of those police officers, and after admitting he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time, he was sentenced to three months in prison.

Patrick Bateman from American Psycho

Certainly one of the most celebrated actors of the 21st century, Christian Bale is a chameleonic performer who disappears into his roles. He takes his work very seriously, and will gain or lose large amounts of weight for movies, as he did for Vice and The Machinist, respectively (via Vanity Fair). For his performance as amoral '80s Wall Street sociopath (and possible serial killer) Patrick Bateman in the 2000 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, Bale went another direction and got supremely fit, as the character required. But you can't argue with results — Bale has four Academy Award nominations and one win to his name.

But the actor is also apparently a pretty intense guy in real life. Bale's profane rant delivered at director of photography Shane Hurlbut on the set of Terminator Salvation — for which Bale publicly apologized — went viral in 2009. And the previous year, mere hours after he attended the London premiere of his biggest movie ever, The Dark Knight, Bale was arrested for allegedly assaulting two women: his mother and sister. On the evening of July 20, 2008, according to The Independent, Bale reportedly "lashed out" at his relatives. After four hours of questioning the following day, Bale was released on bail. The Guardian reports that all charges were later dropped due to a lack of sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

Mystery Man from Lost Highway

In the '90s, it was all the rage for hip directors to cast semi-forgotten 1970s stars in pivotal roles. Quentin Tarantino revived John Travolta's career with Pulp Fiction, while David Lynch brought in Robert Blake, best known for his work on the police show Baretta, to play the creepy and aptly named Mystery Man in Lost Highway. That part was closer in spirit to Blake's role of real-life murderer Perry Smith in the 1967 film In Cold Blood, which in turn tragically foreshadowed the events of Blake's life in the early 2000s.

According to CNN, on the evening of May 4, 2001, Blake and his wife of six months, Bonnie Lee Bakley, had just dined at an Italian restaurant in Studio City, Calif. Bakley waited in the car when Blake went back in to retrieve the gun he'd left behind, and when he returned, discovered Bakley dead from a gunshot wound to the head. A lengthy trial ensued, during which Blake's defense painted Bakley as a con artist and pornographer who had made a lot of enemies. In March 2005, Blake was fully acquitted. However, Bakley's family brought a civil case against Blake, arguing that he was responsible for her death. Per NBC News, a jury found the actor liable in the death of his late wife. A court ordered the actor (who had spent most of his fortune on his criminal defense team) to pay $30 million to Bakley's children.

Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

In 1980s teen movies, and especially ones written by John Hughes, the villain is usually the notion of an impending adulthood of mediocrity. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jeffrey Jones ably represents and personifies that concept as Ed Rooney — a middle-aged, cheap suit-wearing high school principal, who makes it his mission (because it's his job) to catch the smug, perpetually truant student Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), while enduring numerous humiliations and defeats along the way.

Ed Rooney doggedly and a little creepily pursued the minor throughout the 1986 classic film, while in real life, Jones allegedly tread on similar ground, albeit in a far more alarming way. According to Entertainment Weekly, Jones was arrested in 2002 on a felony count of coercing a person younger than 18 to appear in a film of a titillating nature, along with a misdemeanor count of possession of such materials. The bust followed a long investigation (and seizure of materials from Jones' home) and an accusation by the teenage boy reportedly victimized by the crime. Jones ultimately pleaded no contest, and while he didn't serve any jail time, was ordered to appear on a registry of sex offenders. After failing to update his personal information annually in 2010, Jones earned a sentence of 250 hours of community service and three years probation, per BBC News.

John Doe from Seven

Kevin Spacey broke out in the 1990s, tending to play normal-seeming guys who kept their dark (or evil) impulses at bay. Spacey won his first Academy Award for his performance as an unlikely criminal mastermind in The Usual Suspects, and another for American Beauty, in which he portrayed a middle-aged man who attempts to seduce a teenager. His other biggest roles are also of a villainous nature: an exceedingly creepy serial killer in Se7en, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, and murdering politician Frank Underwood on House of Cards.

His status as an A-lister, however, ended when the #MeToo movement hit in 2017. By that November, 15 men had come forward to claim that Spacey had committed various acts of sexual impropriety. (And more than a dozen additional men accused Space of inappropriate acts during his tenure as the artistic director of London's Old Vic theatre.) Among the accusations: Spacey forced himself on Anthony Rapp when the actor was 14, he alleged to BuzzFeed; a bartender in England claimed Spacey exposed himself to him in 2010; and Harry Dreyfuss (son of Richard Dreyfuss) alleged Spacey groped him during a play rehearsal. 

While the criminal charges were relatively minimal (he faced an indecent assault count for an incident involving a teen in Mass., for example), Spacey has avoided jail ... and is seemingly no longer welcome in Hollywood, considering he was subsequently removed from the final cut of the film All the Money in the World and fired from House of Cards.

Random Task from Austin Powers

The Austin Powers films are easily the most famous spy spoofs of all time, hilariously sending up the well-worn tropes of the James Bond franchise. For example, there's the cartoonish, cat-stroking super-villain in Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) and henchman Random Task, an intimidating strongman of East Asian descent who is clearly a parody of the 007-thwarting Oddjob. Played with silent intensity by actor and mixed martial artist Joe Son, Random Task's most notable bit occurs when he whips a shoe at Austin Powers, injuring and annoying the spy. ("Who throws a shoe, honestly?")

Off-screen, however, Son was convicted of committing far worse things than hurling footwear. According to Time, Son had a vandalism charge on his record in 2008, and was arrested for violating the terms of his probation. That's when authorities linked his DNA to an unsolved crime from 1990. With another man, Son reportedly forced a woman into a car at gunpoint, and then raped her. Per The Daily Beast, Son faced upwards of 275 years to life for a total of 17 felony offenses, but he was ultimately only convicted of one charge of torture. That earned Son a life sentence upon conviction in 2011. Then, just a month into his eternal prison term, Son's cellmate was found dead, and he was accused of murder. According to, Son was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, which added another 27 years to his life sentence.