Making light of movie heavies

Karate_lWhen I was in sixth grade, there was this pituitary freak one year older than me who took a unique interest in my academic career. Between every class, he’d track me down and knock the pyramid of books out of my hands without breaking stride. Part Beavis, part Dudley Dursley, he’d then chortle on his way to Phonics class, leaving me to gather up my books and fantasize about schoolyard vengeance. Of course, I never worked up the nerve, so you can imagine how movies like Back to the Future and The Karate Kid, and even geek-versus-geek trash like Real Genius, resonated with me. Twentysome years later, I still get a charge watching George McFly KO Biff and Daniel LaRusso crane-kick Johnny.

So I couldn’t help but smile when the 1980’s most notorious teen bullies resurfaced on YouTube. Tom Wilson, who played Biff in all three Back to the Future films, makes light of his fleeting fame in his stand-up musical act, and Billy Zabka (pictured, in center) directed and stars in a Karate Kid-inspired music video appropriately titled "Sweep the Leg." Zabka has described it as Raising Arizona-meets-The Matrix, but he’s being modest. It’s craptastic. But part of me resents these two actors actually being decent guys with a good sense of humor in real life. It’s okay for me to revel in Johnny rotting away in a trailer park, but how dare Zabka try and hijack my schadenfreude? At least Robert Prescott, who played conniving Kent in Real Genius and WASP-y Cole in Bachelor Party, has the common decency to maintain his dastardly belligerence in the upcoming Michael Clayton. He plays a nasty security expert who stalks George Clooney’s reluctant hero. It’s just another thing George and I have in common.

Who is your favorite Hollywood bully, and do you have a hard time believing him or her in likable roles?

addCredit(“The Karate Kid: Everett Collection”)

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  • Silv

    Kurtwood Smith played quite the bully in “Robocop.” After watching “Clarence Boddicker” I had a hard time reconciling him with “Red Forman” on “That 70s Show.” At first. “Red” was a different sort of bully, familiar yet funny.

  • stephen

    I remember absolutely hating the bully from “A Christmas Story” and being so weirded out when he seemed really cool in interviews. It was wrong. Also Rachael McAdmas from “Mean Girls” isn’t supposed to be a sweet girl and friendly in real life. I want to think of her as a fugly slut.

  • Verity

    I don’t know if he can be considered a bully but Charlie Dillon, Matt Damon’s character in the movie “School Ties” was a complete ***hole. I remember despising him so much that several years later, when I saw previews for “Good Will Hunting,” all I could think was “That’s the jerk who tried to frame Brendan Frasier!” It honestly took me a while to get past this but I eventually came around and gosh darn it, Matt Damon is now one of my favorite actors.

  • Kristin

    Matt Dillion has been one of my favorite bullies since “My Bodyguard”. But since then, he has made himself “a sweet bully” Dallas Winston in “Outsiders” through “TISA Mary” and “Crash”
    I still love when Chris Makepeace socks him one though!!

  • Lainey

    Don’t know if he was considered a bully, but I always loved James Spader in mid-80’s movies.

  • Kristin

    I just watched the Sweep the Leg video.
    Best. Video. Ever.

  • tia

    Sweep the Leg was sweet… My new favorite video.
    As for bullies, I love Dick from Veronica Mars. A bully/sexist pervert that you love to hate.

  • Jennifer

    Nobody can top Billy Zapka!! James Spader in Pretty in Pink. He was not a bully but he was so awesome!

  • Stephanie Travitsky

    The thing is that Zabka was THE bully of the eighties. I think that it started with “The Karate Kid”. We also had “Just One of The Guys” with that amazing monlogue by Clay Rohner: “Let’s take a moment to find out a liitle bit about the man behind the mess,Greg, May I call you Greg?, Now tell us greg how you got into spilling food?, were a messy baby?, did you hate your strained peas?, Well you know how most psychologists tell us that guys get into bodybuilding to compensate for a lack of IQ, or a small weinie, which is it Greg? Well those of us in Greg’s gym class certainly know the the answer to that one!”, and “Back to School”: “I have a really bad cramp. I have been having cramps all day.” junior Mellon: “It must be menstral.” Zabka: “Shut Up Mellon!”
    Still the funniest bully is definetly Robert Prescott as Kent from “Real Genius”:
    Chris Knight: This? This is Kent. This is what happens to people when they become too sexually frustrated.
    Kent: I am NOT sexually frustrated!

  • PoliB

    Same actor, different role (thanks for the reminder, Silv :-). I despised Kurtwood Smith’s character, Mr. Perry, in Dead Poets Society, and couldn’t watch him in anything else for a long time after without wanting to punch him in the face. Many episodes of That 70’s Show have now cured me of that urge.

  • Pam

    James Spader and Kate Vernon in “Pretty in Pink.” They played their parts with gleeful abandon. Kate’s “You shouldn’t be allowed to invite just anybody” said with a perfect narrowing of the eyes was so bitchy, I just wanted to slap her (but was afraid of what she would do to me). And James Spader’s Steff was played so brilliantly, he was the ultimate “richey” – an a–hole snob. At the end when Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) says to Steff about what Andie (Molly Ringwald) thinks of him – “She thinks you’re s—. And deep down you know she’s right.” I just cheered.

  • Carrie

    I’m pretty sure Biff takes the cake. When I got turned on to Freaks & Geeks a few years ago, all my mind said of the coach was “It’s Biff!” To me, that’s all his character would ever be in the series.

  • Red

    Spader is the all time greatest bully…and Real genius is NOT trash!

  • EP sato

    Imho, the baddest movie bully ever has got to be Bolo Yeung. Remember him? He’s the really really built Chines actor with the pecks so large they look like boobs. He’s also got these raised eyebrows that make him look mean. Yeung’s in hundreds of martial arts movies and almost always plays the bad guy. Check out a few credits: He beat on Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, Jim Kelly in Tatoo Connection, Jackie Chan in Drunken Master and Jean Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport. Yeung also sends Donald Gibb to the hospital in that movie (a fellow bully from first “Revenge of the Nerds”).
    My guess is that in real life Bolo visits his sick grandmother in the hospital, spends a few hours reading to kids and dedicates the rest of his free time to good causes. But dude could behave like mother friggin teresa and they’d still cast him as the bad guy with those looks…

  • Dave

    Ben Affleck’s character in Dazed and Confused, O’Bannion, is a great movie bully. He’s an obnoxious a**hole who thinks he’s the coolest guy in school, when, in fact, everyone hates him. The kids he picks on getting back at him, while everyone else looks on and laughs, is the perfect comeuppance for any schoolyard bully.

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