Actors love to talk about playing the villain. It's a favourite topic that often comes up in interviews, particularly in certain episodes of Inside the Actor's Studio. The key, actors say, is to never play it as though your motives are impure, but lean into it fully and play the part as if convinced your actions are just. It's a wise piece of advice, and it's evident in some of the best villain roles in history.
Where those actor's tips become more complex is when you're not the lead, when you have to invent more of an M.O. for the character. This is true when you're cast as a second-fiddle henchman. When you're role is often little more than standing around and looking imposing, your mind tends to go places.
Many films have utilized the henchman or lackey role ingeniously, turning narrative contrivances on their head or using them as blunt instruments of masterminds. On other occasions, they're the hidden masterminds themselves.
The role of the henchman should never be underwritten or ignored, as they can always strengthen an action picture, particularly when there's an action beat missing. But here are some that just by casting alone made the part something a little more than just an obstacle for the hero to overcome.