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With TV’s Breaking Bad coming back for its new batch of final episodes, I recalled that Bryan Cranston was once a silly family man on Malcolm in the Middle. Hard to believe, right? But then he became a family man turned evil meth king, and was rewarded handsomely with Emmy gold. The same thing can happen on the big screen.

It’s true, many talented actors have won Oscars for playing the “good guy,” (the likes of Jodie Foster, Ben Kingsley and Gregory Peck are only a few who come to mind) but many have had to “break bad” in order to get critical acclaim and stardom. And let’s be honest—sometimes playing the villain is just more fun.

Here are ten incredible actors who went bad to win an Oscar.

 

 

10. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

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Many people, myself included, let out a collective, “HUH?” when it was announced that Heath Ledger had been cast as the maniacal Joker in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins sequel. The Aussie born heartthrob, who early in his career was known for romantic comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You and dramas like A Knight’s Tale, had gone on to great critical acclaim as a conflicted gay sheep herder in the 2005 indie hit Brokeback Mountain.

If there was any role more opposite than a gay cowboy, the Joker was certainly it. The joke ended up being on us; his performance turned out to be a nasty little treat indeed and appropriately received rave reviews.

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A new iconic comic book movie villain was born. No one nominated against Heath Ledger that year for Best Supporting Actor even stood a chance.

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This article was first posted on July 19, 2013