Identifiably Jewish movie/TV villains?

In a cultural debate some years ago, a Black activist decrying Jewish control of movie studios pointed out all the scary, evil Black bad guys in popular cinema, but couldn’t recall any who were Jewish. (I wish I could remember the names and dates, but alas…)

Blacks do come off disproportionately badly in their film and TV depictions, but I can think of a couple of Jewish heavies. Law & Order in particular is very even-handed in showing bad guys from all across society’s spectrum. Here are some Jewish heavies off the top of my head:

TIMECOP–Ron Silver
BUGSY–most of the gangters in the film
MO’ BETTER BLUES–the club owner

Any others? Honest, I’m not using this as fodder for any kind of racist or antisemetic agenda.

Colonel Klink!


Ron Silver was Jewish in Time Cop?

The Rabbis in Pi.

I’d put a big asterisk next to Shylock; While “Merchant of Venice” turns up on PBS now and then, there hasn’t been a big-screen version of it since 1922 (except for a production in Maori, and I get the feeling that Shylock’s name and religion may not have made it through the translation intact).

Ditto for OLIVER TWIST’s Fagin. Post-Holocaust adaptations backpedal away from his Jewishness, understandably.

Actually, Silver’s name there was McComb, so I guess he comes off the list.

i’m not clear if the question is of a person playing the role of a jewish heavy or a jew playing the role of the heavy. can you enlighten me?

John Turturro’s character in Miller’s Crossing.

Peter Lorre & the gangsters who want to kill him in M.


I’d say a character who is identifiably Jewish, or a counterexample to the claim that “There are no Jewish bad guys in movies.”

A Jewish actor whose heritage doesn’t impact the character in any way (for example, Abe Vigoda in THE GODFATHER) would not count. A gentile actor playing, say, Meyer Lansky might. I would exclude Robert DeNiro in CASINO, though, since despite him telling us repeatedly that he’s Jewish, DeNiro plays him exactly the same as he would an Italian character in a similar role.

Hesh from the Sopranos (And also the Chasidic Jews from an old episode, the ones who owned a hotel).

The lawyer from The Wire (the bad one).

Reuben from Ocean’s Eleven (and Sol, maybe?).

Er, the Ferenghi in Deep Space Nine?

George Raft.

<< I would exclude Robert DeNiro in CASINO, though, since despite him telling us repeatedly that he’s Jewish, DeNiro plays him exactly the same as he would an Italian character in a similar role. >>

See, that’s the problem in a nutshell. The OP was considering the number of black villains, and arguing that there are way fewer Jewish villains. But any black actor protraying a villain would count as a “black villain”, regardless of whether the character’s race was of any importance whatsover to the film. While a character played by a Jewish actor is not necessarily a Jewish character, and a Jewish character (in the DeNiro) case isn’t counted either.

Furthermore, there are any number of characters whom you wouldn’t know their religion.

So, no wonder there are so few “Jewish villains,” when you’re not counting either Jewish actors or Jewish characters!

I’d guess that the High Priests and Judas in GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD might possibly count, although not sure if they would under this counting system. Edward G Robinson in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

And finally, I’d like to say that the OP’s friend is offering a mildly disguised version of “Jews control the media” and a piss-poor rationale at that. In fact, it’s Methodists who control the media – you almost NEVER see a villain who’s a Methodist. Or perhaps it’s the Unitarians – I mean, we’ve named some Jewish villains, but can you name even ONE Unitarian villian? So, that’s who controls the media!

I was going to suggest Last Temptation of Christ, for similar reasons.

I seem to remember some controversy surrounding the character of The Penguin, in Batman Returns. Some people thought he and his parents were supposed to be Jewish.

There must be someone in the vast Pantheon of James Bond villains who fits the OP.

James Woods’ character (Max Bercovicz) in Once Upon a Time in America is Jewish.

RE The Penguin-

How is Cobblepot supposed to be a Jewish name?!? L

RE Biblical movie villians-

the most evil ones are the Annas & Caiaphas in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Just to clarify: It wasn’t a friend of mine, so much as some Lionel Jeffries-type I was reading about in a newspaper article.

Would Watto from Episode I count?

Can’t believe THE GODFATHER has come up without Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth being mentioned.

[url=“”]Lepke starred Tony Curtis (i.e., Bernie Schwartz) portraying Louis Buchalter (a distant relation of mine, BTW).

Jerry Lewis (i.e., Joseph Levich) played the villain Eli Sternberg in the TV Show Wiseguy. The show also portrayed other mob leaders as being Jewish.