Thumb-breaking gangsters to sadistic androids: 10 of the best hired goons

·3 min read

Mario the Monster Man
The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946)

The UK dictionary traces “henchman” to the Old English “hengest” (meaning stallion), and the first celluloid incarnation of that term could be this mute ranch-hand played by Rondo Hatton, a journalist who suffered from acromegaly. Hatton’s imposing performance would later inspire the Lothar character in Disney’s The Rocketeer (1991).

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Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pearson
The Wire (2002)

A proper heavy should have minimal backstory. When we see drug enforcer Snoop browsing nail guns in season four of The Wire, we know enough about her already. Whether she is kneecapping witnesses or being branded “terrifying” by horror writer Stephen King, Snoop is a fresh-faced psychopath who you definitely shouldn’t ask for ID.

Gogo Yubari
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Hell hath no fury like a woman armed with a Chinese meteor hammer. Innocent-looking Gogo is surely the wildest sixth-former to ever grace the screen: the boys from If … (1968) would run shivering to their dorms if they saw what she can do to an unwanted suitor’s testicles. Proof that not all bodyguards need to fill a doorway to be intimidating.

Batman (1966)

Ah, the golden age of henching, when the streets were rife with costumed master-criminals ready to hire you. Of the many thugs that Batman and Robin biffed and kapowed, it was Penguin’s underling Octopus – with his bald head and dodgy tentacle moves – who most closely fitted the henchman staple of unquestioning loyalty to your leader.

The Life and Death of King John (2019)

Shakespeare: it’s all tights and prancing, right? Wrong: the RSC’s bloody account of the 13th-century sovereign features Angiers hardman Hubert (played by Tom McCall), given orders to terminate heir to throne Arthur. His conniving is proof that jewellery isn’t a sign of class (unless you’re bouncer-turned-actor Mr T).

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

At 2.18m (7ft 2in), Richard Kiel’s metal-toothed killer could throw Roger Moore around like a boomerang. Terrifying in his first appearance, he turned slapstick for 1979’s Moonraker, and broke the golden rule: always obey your boss’s instruction to throw the good guy out of a space station.

Norman Tebbit
Spitting Image (1984)

In its 80s heyday, the ruthless Spitting Image depicted the Conservative secretary of state for trade and industry as a goon in a bomber jacket. If you dared disobey Maggie, he’d stuff your hand into a mincer. You wouldn’t want a nutcase like this patting down the punters. Thank goodness today’s cabinet is 100% made up of altruists.

Sir Guy of Gisborne
The Legend of Robin Hood (1975)

Right-hand man to the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham and a romantic rival to Robin Hood, this arrow-flinging cad is definitely the sort of bloke who’d drop his master’s name to jump the queue. Given his penchant for leathers, you just know he’s smarmy enough to insist that his Kanye West Yeezys count as formal footwear.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

This replicant heavy can rip open vault doors, and her implanted emotions emerge as pure sadism – particularly when she’s coordinating missile strikes while receiving a manicure. How best to deal with her? Fight surveillance with surveillance. Switch on your bodycam and tell her everything she says is being filmed and recorded.

Gangster No 1 (1995)

In Louis Mellis and David Scinto’s 60s-set play, which originally starred Peter Bowles, crime boss Freddie Mays thinks a young thumb-breaker will watch his back. He does, but not before knifing it in this bloodcurdling tale of repressed desires. A good example of why it’s no good thinking MMA lessons will fix the quiet kid who likes to torture spiders.

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