Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange is one of the most distinguishable dystopian films of all time. Part of why it has made such a cultural impact for various generations is because of its antihero Alexander DeLarge, played brilliantly by Malcolm McDowell in what can be his most iconic role to date. The whole plot revolves around this unconventional character, who is the leader of a youth gang that committed a series of heinous acts that included robbery, sexual assault, and even murder. But despite his vile nature, Alex DeLarge continues to be a pop culture icon until today.
Today, ExploreTalent is digging into how much Alex DeLarge has changed the face of movie history, and why he deserves to be named the 12th Greatest Villain of All Time by the American Film Institute.
Why Alex DeLarge Is a Hollywood Icon
Alex DeLarge is vile and complex yet charming in his own ways
Alex won’t be leader of a street gang if he doesn’t give out any reason for his goons to follow him in the first place. His charm and wit manage to lure in both men and women to do what he wants. Alex also makes it a point that he continues to entertain despite doing ruthless acts. One example in particular is when he breaks into a home in the first half of the movie. The scene shows DeLarge terrorizing the poor couple but somehow manages to have some delusional fun by busting out the tune “Singin’ in the Rain.”
It is disturbing, yes, but it paints a grim picture on how manipulative Alex DeLarge can be by taking the audience’s attention away from the fact that he is in the middle of performing a terrifying act and amusing them with his singing instead.
As the film progresses, Alex ultimately finds himself in the hands of the authorities. Even when faced with what can only seem like his defeat, he continues to work his charm as a guinea pig for a science experiment. It ultimately works to his advantage, and Alex is given a free pass out of jail.
The Alex DeLarge Costume is iconic
Designer Milena Canonero took inspiration from the near future for the costumes of A Clockwork Orange. For Alex and his goons, they were fitted with a design that copies that of a cricket player, which coincidentally was McDowell’s favorite sport. The result was a white shirt and protective cup that is worn over pants.
The Alex DeLarge and his followers’ costume have been replicated over the years. Together with that iconic eye makeup, it’s become a staple in Halloween parties everywhere. So far, rock bands have even incorporated references to the movie while dressing as the notorious street gang.
The movie itself has the biggest influence in pop culture everywhere
In Heath Ledger‘s diary, which was recovered following his death, the actor actually attached a photo of Alex Delarge in one of the pages. Turns out Ledger took inspiration from the character for his role as Joker in The Dark Knight. He even manages to incorporate the “Kubrick” stare that Alex does throughout the film. Aside from Ledger’s obvious nod to Alex DeLarge, the character from Anthony Burgess‘s novel has been continuously referenced to in numerous forms of media.
It may be true that Alex is the last person anybody should admire in real life, but people have to admit, he is one of the most well-thought-of characters in both literature and film. His toxic personality is clouded by the wit and charm he confidently emits. So the likes of Hannibal Lector, Norman Bates, and even Loki can all thank Alex DeLarge for starting the trend of likable villains we know today.