Who plays the best Evil Roman Emperor?

I’ve always been partial to Jay Robinson as Caligula in The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators. He had a really creepy look, and I heard somewhere that he got so much into his character that he suffered mental problems afterwards.

On the other hand, John Hurt was (of course) fantastic as Caligula in I, Claudius. Not as over the top as Jay Robinson, and probably more believable.

And of course, there’s Joc-um-(mumbledy mumble) Phoenix, who portrayed a fairly three-dimensional Commodus in Gladiator.

Any others that rank with this trio?

BTW, has there ever been TV or movie portrayal of Elagabalus? I’d pay money to see that one!

I’d go with John Hurt, both because of the script for I’ Claudius and for his performance. The movie Caligula, with Malcolm MacDowell, was a wasted opportunity. I wasn’t that fond of The Robe. I don’t know about any other Caligulas, except for a few knock-ff cheapies that were made or re-released in the wake of the Guccione film.

There have been quite a few Neros, but none of them memorable, and most pretty bad. Peter Lorre played Nero in the awful film The Story of Mankind, and that had to be close to his nadir.
I don’t know about any movie or TV adaptations of Elagabalus, but there’s a comic-book bio in The Big Book of Weirdos from Parsdox Press.

I have to give the award for best evil roman emperor to Malcolm Mcdowel in Caligula.

I’d have to say Joaquim Phoenix as Commodus in Gladiator followed closely by Peter Ustinov as the uber-whiney Nero in Quo Vadis.

I thought the guy who played Caesar in various episodes of Xena did a pretty good job of playing a Roman emperor. Of course, he’d make a perfect Romulan, too…

(Ducks thrown popcorn from everyone else on this thread…)