5. Robert De Niro -- ‘Cape Fear’
After watching Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver,” Stanley Kubrick passed on him to play ax-wielding inkeeper Jack Torrance in “The Shining,” deeming the actor “not psychotic enough for the role.” I’m sure Kubrick had second thoughts after seeing De Niro’s spin on Pentecostal serial rapist Max Cady in Scorsese’s remake of the 1962 thriller, “Cape Fear.” After 14 years in prison and with fiery scripture covering every inch of his sinewy frame, the newly-literate Cady embarks upon a steadfast, calculated revenge on his former defense attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), who withheld evidence that could have gotten him a reduced sentence. De Niro shines with his sorghum-thick southern accent and a plump, black stogie, accentuating the barely concealed sadism bubbling beneath the surface. If you thought the opening trunk scene in “Goodfellas” was brutal, just wait until you see Cady’s face-chewing assault on Bowden’s secret lover, played by Illeana Douglas.