A horror performer’s job is never easy, and it’s all the more challenging when the horror comes not from machetes or haunting specters, but from human elements. Anthony Hopkins is one of the finest horror actors in Hollywood, and most of his horror-oriented roles have been anchored not by supernatural elements but by the terrors of the human psyche.
He did play significant roles in films like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Rite, which are about paranormal/mythical entities. But, some of his most immaculate performances have come from psychological or gothic horror outings which demand a more nuanced and layered approach and needed the two-time Oscar-winning actor to improvise quite a bit and make the moments his own.
10 Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The Pub Meeting With Mina And Jonathan
Canonically, Dr. Van Helsing has always been depicted as quirky, erratic, and somewhat unpredictable, but Anthony Hopkins really made the role of the polymath his own by improvising simple shifts in mood and personality. Van Helsing meets Mina and Jonathan under grim circumstances, and, despite knowing exactly how dangerous and powerful Dracula is, he focuses on his dinner and casually talks about Dracula’s history, much to the horror of the married couple.
But, therein lies his brilliance; he was testing Jonathan, in a way, to see how he really feels about Dracula and to see if the vampire had brainwashed him, as he did to Lucy, and once satisfied he broke down their next move.
9 The Wolfman: The Parlor Sequence Between Lawrence And His Father
The biggest showdown between Lawrence and his father John Talbot happened during the parlor sequence when Lawrence sneaks into the manor at night to confront his father. There’s quite a lot of moody visual symbolism in the entire sequence, and the way it has been handled plays a big role in its design—the manor goes up in flames just as Lawrence learns the entire truth about his history, a symbolic bonfire of sorts.
Anthony Hopkins plays John Talbot in Wolfman, whose fierce verbal and eventual assault on his own son makes this scene so gripping, especially as both father and son transform during the heated altercation. “You’re the heir to my kingdom Lawrence, you’ve always been the heir to my kingdom,” Talbot tells his son, which makes Lawrence confront his inescapable destiny.
8 Magic: The ‘5 Minutes’ Scene
In the 1978 psychological horror film Magic, Hopkins plays a ventriloquist comic named Corky who has a sassy puppet sidekick Fats. Of course, Corky voices Fats’ lines as part of his act in a changed modulation. But, Corky’s manager Greene stumbles upon Corky and Fats having an argument, that suggests Corky suffers from a kind of disorder and often lets the foul-mouthed puppet take control of his own consciousness.
Greene urges Corky to see someone for his mental health, but, when he insists he is fine, Greene asks him to make Fats shut up for five minutes. At the two-and-a-half-minute mark, Corky loses control and starts speaking fast in Fats’ voice. The scene is exceptionally taut, and the drama is incredibly sophisticated since the audience is aware of Corky’s reality, which makes the nine-minute sequence so unpredictable
7 The Rite: The Exorcism Scene
The final exorcism scene in the 2011 supernatural horror is set up quite differently than most exorcism sequences. In The Rite, Anthony Hopkins plays Father Lucas, a Jesuit priest possessed by a powerful unknown demon.
In this case, the exorcism is performed by a young priest named Michael who is a cynic. The demon Baal, through Lucas, tries to coax Michael into submission and make him believe in his powers. Hopkins plays the devil with a lot of restraint, not giving in to a melodramatic approach, but instead building up the momentum with his body language. There’s quite a lot of back and forth, so Hopkin’s sense of timing is put to good use.
The 6 ½ minute dinner sequence at Krendler’s lake house where Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal cuts open Krendler’s brain and feeds him his own prefrontal cortex is one of the most spine-chilling scenes in modern horror. Hopkins, who plays Hannibal, the ruthless slaughterer, plays his part rather subtly in this one.
Instead of obsessing over the job at hand or paying very close attention to it, he meanders about, talking to Clarice, conversing with Krendler about random things. The scene builds up so abruptly that, by the time Hannibal actually feeds Krendler, the horror gets some time to pan out as Hannibal is still mid-speech.
5 Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The Graveyard Scene
The scene where Van Helsing takes Arthur and Jack to the unɗᥱαɗ Lucy’s grave has an immaculate sense of horror. It’s physically terrifying to see the unɗᥱαɗ Lucy in creepy bridal garb holding her next prey, a crying human child. There’s also a sense of emotional momentum building up since Arthur doesn’t react well upon finding his ɗᥱαɗ fiance’s grave empty and holds a gun at Van Helsing’s (Hopkins) head.
Van Helsing essentially has to hold the scene together by breaking down within seconds what Lucy has become and convincing Arthur to ƙ𝔦ℓℓ her with a stake in her heart, so the scene is paced exceptionally.
4 The Silence Of The Lambs: The Airport Scene
Hannibal’s tendency to provoke anger and disgust was one of his strengths, he could draw out any reaction from anyone. When he meets Senator Martin, who is anxious about her kidnapped daughter, Hannibal senses her emotional vulnerability. The straightjacket and the metal muzzle mask almost dehumanize him, and Anthony Hopkins’ performance brings out Hannibal’s keen sense of perception.
He knows he is perceived as a monster and simply plays along to convince everyone that he is indeed as dangerous as they think. The lines in this scene where Hannibal talks about Martin breastfeeding her daughter are particularly jarring, and Hopkins conveys the horror without any movement or physical intimidation.
3 Hannibal: The Kitchen Scene
The element of tension in the scene is palpable because, though viewers saw a showdown, the climax has been building up for some time. Clarice and Hannibal’s history is complicated and layered; when he kisses Clarice, she uses it as an opportunity to handcuff him.
When he senses it, he picks up a butcher’s knife and threatens to cut her arm off. The tone of the scene is really violent, and it keeps the viewers on the edge, especially since Hannibal is the only one doing the talking. Since Hannibal never gives away what he’s thinking, it makes the horror in the Hannibal Lecter films more organic.
2 Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Van Helsing Vs Dracula’s Brides
This scene unravels really quickly, so there was not much anticipation, but it totally worked for Hopkins’ style, as he flourishes in fast transitions. A possessed Mina tries to seduce and eventually attack Van Helsing, so he has to manage his shock and protect Mina from the trance she has slipped into almost simultaneously.
The scene turns from moody and seductive to climactic and turbulent in under two minutes, and Hopkins’ Van Helsing manages to rein in the action terrifically well.
1 The Silence Of The Lambs: Hannibal’s Introduction
Hannibal’s introduction was possibly the most unpredictable scene in the movie; it was jarring to see the notorious cannibal standing in an upright and alert position to greet Clarice, a newbie who was visibly jittery.
Hannibal’s consequent observations about Clarice’s skin cream and perfume and allusions to her body were designed to be creepy and intimidating, as Hannibal’s interest in human anatomy wasn’t normal by any standards. Hopkins let his face and his eyes do most of the job, and the exaggerated close-up shots certainly helped.