The 7 Greatest Undercover Badasses in Movie History

Thursday, January 31 by
Snitch 

Back-stabbing revenge, gut-wrenching suspense and putting a bullet in a trusted confidant: all in a day’s work for an undercover badass. From Serpico to Donnie Brasco, the hallmarks of the covert hero require deep emotional commitment, a versatile wardrobe and the ability to blend in with questionable fortitude. That ability will come in handy for Dwayne Johnson’s character in the upcoming action-thriller Snitch. In the film, Johnson plays a father who is forced to infiltrate a drug cartel in order to clear the name of his wrongly convicted son. And as with the other undercover badasses on this list, one wrong move could cost him his life.

In celebration of the release of Summit Entertainment’s crime thriller Snitch, opening in theaters February 22nd, we’re proud to bring you seven of the greatest undercover badasses in movie history.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed

By the time the American remake of Infernal Affairs rolled around, DiCaprio was already widely-celebrated for his skills; but it wasn’t until audiences saw him doing push-ups between prison bunks that he carved out his first proper badass. Given the circumstances, it could have been easy for any actor to overplay the role of William Costigan, but DiCaprio brings a level of grace and sadness to level off the character’s grit and ferocity. Even more badass: DiCaprio actively declined campaigning for any awards for Best Supporting Actor that year as to avoid stepping on the toes of his co-stars.

Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco

Getting in “too deep” is a common theme in many undercover films. After all, putting yourself at risk is what going undercover is all about. But what happens when you form a legitimate friendship with the men you’re supposed to be infiltrating. Things quickly get complicated for Donnie Brasco when he realizes that doing his job will most likely result in his friend’s death.

Toshiro Mifune, The Bad Sleep Well

Mifune’s performance as Koichi Nishi is a rarity in that it doesn’t employ the slam-bang tactics of many of his cohorts seen on this list. His stoic nerd slowly unveils the vengeance of a son scorned by one of the most powerful corporations in Japan through tactics of seduction, espionage and psychological torture. Mifune played numerous lively punkers in his lifetime, particularly in the realm of samurai lore, but this character seethes in his rage, striking only after his prey is at the brink of madness. Case in point: Nishi corners one of his targets on the window ledge from which his father died, calming the man down by offering whiskey that he later reveals is “poisoned”. The mark collapses, driven insane by the ordeal. Nasty!

Keanu Reeves, Point Break

This is simple story about a former Ohio State quarterback named Johnny Utah. For an F-!B-!I!-Agent!, Johnny maintains the most suspicious bromance with Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi this side of “Brokeback Mountain”. He allows his bleach-blonde nemesis to escape an aqueduct face-off, jump out of an airplane and eventually surf himself to death. At various points in the film, Bodhi’s potency in performing extreme sports counteracts the hobbling ethics of Reeves’ lawman. Johnny, like, totally buries his heart at wounded knee.

Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

Have you ever seen Kevin Spacey try to act like a badass? It doesn’t work. But Spacey as a schlepp? That’s Oscar gold. The writing/directing on “Suspects” lay formidable groundwork for Spacey to perform as the keystone for an impeccably oddball cast. His bumbling Verbal Kint acts as a tender foil to a constant stream of roughneck freakouts. With little more than his wits, this badass knows that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Chazz Palmenteri that he didn’t exist.

Chevy Chase, Fletch

Light years ahead of the Twitter-quip generation, Chase is at the peak of his powers, dishing out maximum smarm before turding up his career with JTT movies. What makes this role fairly badass is that it is one of the last of a dying breed: that of the snoopy, investigative newspaper reporter. What makes it particularly badass is that Chase has a ball conjuring up characters with names like Dr. Rosenpenis, Dr. Babar and Mr. Poon. The actor has gone on record as saying this was his favorite role, given that director Michael Ritchie often took multiple takes and allowed Chase to riff with whatever came off the top of his dome.

Nicolas Cage, Face/Off

“Castor Troy” is a pretty distinct – if not altogether awful – name. Despite this and other cringe-worthy moments that face-swipe to show affection, Nic Cage keeps John Woo’s ‘97 hit from teetering into cornball territory. Cage’s Castor Troy is the kind of guy who can talk an undercover agent into sucking his tongue. He poses as a priest so he can plant a dirty bomb and goose choir members. He switches sunglasses for no reason. And he delivers a more badass John Travolta impersonation than Dana Carvey.