Michael Madsen in 'Species'

By strict dictionary definition, an assassin is "a murderer of an important person in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons." In common language, though, the word has been appropriated to mean all kinds of unprincipled killers, and the movies have followed suit. For example, The Losers, out wide this weekend, features a skilled marksman known as Cougar (Oscar Jaeneda), who can kill with precision from hundreds of feet away. Sounds like an assassin to me!

The lines between assassin, murderer, and killer become even blurrier in science fiction. If a creature is defending itself, or hungry for its next meal, is that murder? So I did my best to leave alien creatures off this list of the most murderous inventions ever seen on the screen by yours truly.

1. Michael Madsen, Species
Madsen brings a welcome, everyman quality to his character, called Preston Lennox. When Forest Whitaker uses his gift as an empath to discern Preston's true role in the operation, Preston replies: "No one ever asked me to find anything they didn't want dead." Killing is just another part of his job. He's not a single-minded assassin; he doesn't ignore the charms of a beautiful medical teammate (Marg Helgenberger), for example, and he exercises common sense along with his street smarts and his deadly way with firearms. His practical approach to assassinating the runaway laboratory creation Sil (Natasha Henstridge) is what makes him so dangerous and effective.

categories Sci-Fi