Behind the Mask: See the Actors Who Played Iconic Horror Movie Villains

Ever wondered who played the menacing figures of Michael Myers, Leatherface and Jason Voorhees? See the actors who portrayed some of the most memorable movie villains

<p>Fotos International/Getty, United Artists/Getty, New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection</p> Michael Myers, Chucky and Jason Voorhees

Fotos International/Getty, United Artists/Getty, New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

Michael Myers, Chucky and Jason Voorhees

Horror movies are nothing without their mythical and frightening villains. From Jason Voorhees terrorizing all visitors of Camp Crystal Lake to Michael Myers persistently haunting the inhabitants of Haddonfield, Illinois, horror movies have relied on the silence and mystique of their main antagonists for decades.

But who are the actors who make these figures so frighteningly iconic? Meet Nick Castle, Brad Dourif, Derek Mears and more actors who've played some of the most iconic movie villains.

Nick Castle as Michael Meyers

<p>Fotos International/Getty, Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection</p> Nick Castle as Mike Myers

Fotos International/Getty, Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

Nick Castle as Mike Myers

Though different actors have taken on the role of Michael Myers throughout Halloween's tenure, Nick Castle, now 76, was the original — and the last — actor to play the villain.

Castle first appeared as the menacing Myers when the franchise launched in 1978. As different versions and spinoffs of the film followed, the actor stepped away but later came back when the series launched its final trilogy. He played the creepy figure in Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills (2021) and Halloween Ends (2022).

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

<p>Alamy, London Entertainment / Alamy</p> Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

Alamy, London Entertainment / Alamy

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger

Robert Englund has been the subject of many nightmares since 1984. Unlike Castle, Englund — who originally played Freddy Krueger in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise — was the only actor to take on the role, until Jackie Earle Haley took over in 2010's remake of the original.

According to Variety, fans decried the reboot without Englund as a "series low, and another chapter was never made." And even though playing Krueger is a large part of his legacy, Englund told the publication he won't be reprising the role again.

"I’m too old and thick to play Freddy now,” the 76-year-old joked. “I just can’t do fight scenes for more than one take anymore, I’ve got a bad neck and bad back and arthritis in my right wrist. So I have to hang it up, but I would love to cameo.”

He does, however, believe Kevin Bacon would be a great replacement, and told the outlet, "I know he respects the genre, and he’s such a fine physical actor. I think that in the silences and in the way Kevin moves — it would be interesting.”

Brad Dourif as Chucky

<p>United Artists/Getty, Ilya S. Savenok/Getty </p> Brad Dourif as Chucky

United Artists/Getty, Ilya S. Savenok/Getty

Brad Dourif as Chucky

Another O.G., Brad Dourif has voiced Chucky since the Child's Play franchise launched in 1988. Not only has Dourif given voice to the possessed doll in the movies, but he's held the role in Chucky the TV series as well.

Dourif seems to have truly found his calling within the horror genre. The 73-year-old actor appeared as Sheriff Lee Brackett in Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009), played The Gemini Killer inThe Exorcist and he also played serial killer Adam Rain on an episode of Criminal Minds.

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise

<p>New Line Cinema/Entertainment Pictures, DPA picture alliance / Alamy </p> Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise

New Line Cinema/Entertainment Pictures, DPA picture alliance / Alamy

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise

Though his brother Alexander has a penchant for playing bad boys on TV, Bill Skarsgård took things to the next level when he stepped into the role of the petrifying, sewer-dwelling, killer clown Pennywise in It (2017) and It Chapter Two (2019).

Not only did Bill don Pennywise's big clown shoes, but he also told Conan O'Brien that the killer clown's signature creepy expression was a bit he'd banked since childhood.

"My older brother Gustaf, who's an actor as well, had this ability to point his lip in a very strange way," the 33-year-old explained. "For some reason — I don't know how — I understood that I could do it as well," he continued before demonstrating the freaky face to the camera. "So I came up with this character named Jürgen and I would pull my T-shirt over my head to [isolate my face] ... and I would chase my little brother and scare him."

Roger L. Jackson as Ghostface

<p>Maximum Film/Alamy, Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy</p> Jeff Jackson as Ghostface

Maximum Film/Alamy, Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy

Jeff Jackson as Ghostface

Hold your pearls because this fun fact is a doozy: Roger L. Jackson, who voices the serial killer Ghostface in the Scream franchise, is also the same person who voices Mojo Jojo in the children's cartoon, The Powerpuff Girls.

Though the serial killer in each installment of Scream is always revealed to be a different person, the phone voice has remained consistent since Jackson, now 65, took on the job back in 1996.

Also on his impressive résumé of voice acting are credits in video games such as Star Trek, The Lion King: Simba's Mighty Adventure, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Furry and many others.

Derek Mears as Jason Voorhees

<p>New Line Cinema/Everett Collection, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic</p> Derek Mears as Jason Voorhees

New Line Cinema/Everett Collection, Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Derek Mears as Jason Voorhees

Ari Lehman, Warrington Gillette and Ken Kirzinger were some of the actors who played the menacing figure of Jason Voorhees before the machete was passed on to Derek Mears in the 2009 version of Friday the 13th.

And the role was perfectly fitting: a trained stunt actor, Mears, now 51, played the Classic Predator in 2010's Predator, a "thug" in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and the titular character in DC Universe's Swamp Thing, among other roles.

Mark Burnham as Leatherface

<p>Netflix/Everett Collection, Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM</p> Mark Burnham as Leatherface

Netflix/Everett Collection, Nicolas Briquet/ABACAPRESS.COM

Mark Burnham as Leatherface

Another character who has seen many inhabitants, Leatherface was popularized by Andrew Bryniarski in the early aughts when he played the brutal killer in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006).

Gunnar Hansen and Dan Yeager took turns playing him in 2013's Texas Chainsaw 3D before Mark Burnham took over in the modernized reboot in 2022.

Though he otherwise lays low these days, Burnham, 47, has Wrong Cops, Snowfall and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in his list of credits.

Jamie Clayton as Pinhead

<p>Hulu;Jon Kopaloff/Getty</p> Jamie Clayton as Pinhead

Hulu;Jon Kopaloff/Getty

Jamie Clayton as Pinhead

Jamie Clayton followed in the footsteps of Doug Bradley, Stephen Smith Collins and Paul T. Taylor when she took on the role of Pinhead in the Hellraiser franchise in 2022.

Though she revealed she wasn't exactly a method actor, Clayton admitted she had to maintain some sort of distance from her colleagues on set.

"I'm very used to walking on set and everybody being like, 'Hi!' and I'm like, 'Hi!' On this, now, I walk on set, and I'm really quiet, and I'm like, 'Don't you f---ing talk to me,' " the 45-year-old told Entertainment Weekly.

"And I would stay in character while we were filming, while they were setting up different shots, moving the cameras around, fixing the set, doing the things. I had to stay in it because it's a heavy place to go to, and so to go that deep, you can't just come back when they're resetting a shot and have a sip of Schweppes Bitter Lemon and then go back in. I had to just stay there."

Bonnie Morgan as Evil Samara

<p>Paramount Pictures /courtesy Everett Collection; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic</p> Bonnie Morgan as Samara

Paramount Pictures /courtesy Everett Collection; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Bonnie Morgan as Samara

Creeping out of the well and putting everyone on notice was Bonnie Morgan, who played Samara in 2017's Rings, the last offering from The Ring franchise. Still, that was hardly the first time Morgan dabbled in the horror-verse. Fans (and non-fans, really) of the franchise will also remember Morgan as the girl who delivered the terrifying spider crawl, as she chased Naomi Watts' character in 2005's The Ring Two.

And the bubbly contortionist, 42, might have set a trend with those one-of-a-kind movements.

"I’ve been told that I’m actually responsible for contortion zombies, contortion horror. Because you see it all over the place now, in The Exorcism of Emily Rose and things like that, and a lot of people said, 'You are responsible for that movement being in horror,' " she told "And I was like, 'I am, really? Cool!' I always thought it was The Exorcist, but I will totally take that credit."

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