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12 Greatest Malcolm McDowell Film Roles

Screen legend Malcolm McDowell has well over 200 film and TV credits to his name, and at age 70, he shows no signs of slowing down. Here we've compiled a list of 12 essential Malcolm McDowell film roles in chronological order, spanning his 45-year career (and counting), showcasing the kind of scene-stealing gravitas that he's most famous for.

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1. Mick Travis

McDowell played the same character in three loosely related films directed by Lindsay Anderson: If... (1968), O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982), the first of which introduced the world to McDowell's youthful rebelliousness and led to him being cast in A Clockwork Orange. The second Mick Travis film features a screenplay based on McDowell's own experience as a coffee salesman before he broke into film.

2. Alex DeLarge

When McDowell was chosen by Stanley Kubrick to play the lead role of Alex in A Clockwork Orange (1971), it was destined to become his career-defining role. Entertainment Weekly recently ranked this as one of the 4 greatest screen villains of all time, although fans may argue that Alex is more of an antihero than a villain. Either way, it's pretty memorable. If you only ever see one Malcolm McDowell film, make it this one.

3. Caligula

Even more controversial than any of his previous films, Caligula (1979) is an "erotic biographical drama" that stars McDowell as a debaucherous Roman Emperor who beds his sister and weds a renowned prostitute. Despite being mostly panned by critics (Roger Ebert called it the most repulsive film he'd ever seen), there's no denying that McDowell turned in another phenomenal performance as an evil, paranoid young ruler drunk on power and privilege.

4. H.G. Wells

Time After Time (1979) puts 1890's-era author H.G. Wells and notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper in a time machine that brings them to modern day San Francisco. Surprisingly, McDowell doesn't play the Ripper, but rather the soft-spoken and heroic author. Besides being the film that best shows the softer side of McDowell, Time After Time was a significant project for him personally, as he fell in love with (and later married) co-star Mary Steenburgen.

5. Paul Gallier

In one of the creepy roles that helped define McDowell as a horror genre icon, Cat People (1982) is a very loose remake of the 1942 classic of the same name. The premise (people who turn into leopards when they have sex, and then must kill to turn human again) may seem ridiculous, but the film is actually pretty sexy and scary, thanks to its moody New Orleans atmosphere and dead-serious performances. Plus, it has a theme song by David Bowie.

6. The Caller

There are only two characters in The Caller (1987), credited simply as The Girl, a woman home alone in a cabin in the woods, and The Caller, a stranger who knocks at her door, claiming that his car broke down and he needs to use her phone (a trick McDowell also pulled in A Clockwork Orange). She lets him in, but all is not as it seems, and a twisty battle of wits ensues. If you get a chance to see this underrated mind-bender of a film (it's hard to find), good luck guessing how it ends.

7. Tolian Soran

Star Trek: Generations (1994), the 7th Star Trek film, serves as the bridge between the cast of The Original Series and that of The Next Generation. McDowell plays an evil scientist whose actions lead to [spoiler alert] the death of Captain Kirk when a bridge collapses. (A metaphor, perhaps?) Being one of the few notable roles for McDowell from the 1990's, this film also serves as a bridge from the younger, scrappier roles of McDowell's youth to the older, wiser McDowell of his 21st-century resurgence.

8. Gangster 55

Gangster No. 1 (2000) is a violent British gangster film that spans over 30 years and features Malcolm McDowell and Paul Bettany playing the same character at different ages. If you can get past the fact that they look nothing alike, (and the 8" height difference) it's a pretty impressive crime drama. Malcolm appears at the beginning and the end of the film, bookending a flashback narrative, and his portrait of a vicious British crime boss is the type of murderous fun he's best known for.

9. Alberto Antonelli

The Company (2003) is a Robert Altman film that follows the day-to-day life of a Chicago dance troupe, and McDowell plays the group's stern, charismatic leader. Like most Altman films, plot is secondary to observation and improv-based dialogue. Cast somewhat against type, McDowell is superb as the company's passionate Artistic Director, both admired and feared by his dancers. Whatever you do, don't sit in his chair.

10. Andrej Romanovic Evilenko

Never heard of Evilenko (2004)? Most people haven't. But when McDowell received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012, he personally selected this film (along with A Clockwork Orange, If.. and O Lucky Man!) to be screened at the American Cinematheque in conjunction with the ceremony. Why? Probably because his insane, tortured portrait of a Russian serial killer, which is based on a true story, is easily among his best work.

11. Dr. Loomis

Halloween fans may have been divided over Rob Zombie's 2007 reboot, but there was no doubt that McDowell was the perfect choice of the role of Dr. Loomis. Having never seen a Halloween film before being cast, McDowell opted to keep it that way so that he wouldn't be influenced by the original Loomis, Donald Pleasence. Sure enough, McDowell's take was completely original, and in the 2009 sequel, he again took the character to new places.

12. The Employer

The plot of The Employer (2013) is similar to other trapped-room thrillers, but what sets this one apart is McDowell's terrific performance in the title role. As the head of a powerful, mysterious corporation, McDowell deftly manipulates five job candidates in a deadly cat-and-mouse game (a comment on the cut-throat nature of today's job market). His delight at the power he has over them is chilling, especially during the film's intense, climatic standoff.

Honorable Mentions

McDowell has had memorable appearances in hit films such as The Artist, Easy A and The Book of Eli, as well as several cult favorites, including Class of 1999, Tank Girl and The Barber. In recent years, he's also appeared on TV shows such as Entourage, Heroes, The Mentalist and Franklin & Bash. If you only know him from his work on the small screen, be sure to check out some of his movies and discover why Malcolm McDowell is considered by many to be one of the greatest living actors.

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