Villains come in all shapes and sizes, but not all villains were created equal. Some villains are so good (or is it bad?) at what they do that they bring with them a visceral reaction — the viewer feels a pang of horror or a general sense of unease at their very presence. For the purposes of this list, “creepy” is defined by how a character’s actions and motivations build in such a way that they become synonymous with their disturbing behavior. While not all of these characters are antagonists, the great majority are; they don’t just do uncomfortable or violent things — they enjoy it. This depraved sense of pleasure from deplorable actions is exactly what makes each of these characters so creepy.
There are a number of creepy characters that have had their stories unfold on television; the characters of this list, however, are all presently on shows that are on, or will be returning to, television. Hannibal Lector, for instance, is not on this list, because Hannibal (2013) is not currently on air – even if Mads Mikkelsen is ready and willing to take the iconic role back on.
Here then are the 13 Creepiest Characters on Television.
13. Ramsay Bolton (Game of Thrones)
While Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) held the title for most depraved and despicable character in Game of Thrones (2011) for a number of years, the verified sociopath Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) has easily dethroned the inbred (and dead) boy-king. While fans might be rooting for Jon Snow or Tyrion Lannister, Ramsay Bolton was recently voted the worst person on television by 145,000 people on a bracket-style poll on The Atlantic, beating Hannibal Lecter. Yes, apparently Ramsay Bolton is worse than a serial killer cannibal.
Ramsay’s reputation, however, proceeds him. He enjoys torturing people, and his sadism knows no bounds. In one controversial scene that sparked criticism of the HBO show, he raped Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). More recently, he murdered his own father, and had his stepmother and newborn half-brother torn to ribbons by hounds. He may have been legitimized by his father a while back, but he’s still a bastard in our eyes.
12. Negan (The Walking Dead)
The Walking Dead (2010) has had its fair share of creeps — from the flesh-eating Gareth (Andrew J. West) and the sexually violent police officers at Grady Memorial Hospital to the deeply disturbed Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and the sadistic Governor (David Morrissey). But, as is the nature of The Walking Dead, characters are constantly dying and new characters — with newly strange and violent tendencies — are introduced.
The highly-anticipated Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) only appeared in the most recent season finale, but his twisted and depraved actions were alluded to and rippled through the season leading up to his appearance. Even in his limited screen time, Negan decides to play a brutal and deadly game inspired by a nursery rhyme — he has definitely used his spiked baseball bat “Lucille” to kill someone in Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) party, though the audience is left to wait to find out who was randomly chosen for this bloody punishment. The fact that Negan was open to using chance to decide who he murdered shows that he ultimately puts very little weight on taking a life, even the life of Carl, a child. And by incorporating the nursery rhyme, he makes the murder into a gleeful game. Negan is sure to continue to terrorize and torture when he returns in the upcoming season.
11. Jared (Silicon Valley)
Jared (Zach Woods) from Silicon Valley (2014) is perhaps not the first person you would imagine being on a list of the creepiest anything — pictured on the far left, Jared seems like a normal man, albeit one with a large foam finger. However, while the show portrays Jared as a socially awkward punching bag (but ultimately good guy), some of his behavior is as mysterious as it is disturbing.
Specifically, Jared talks in his sleep…in German, a language that he claims he doesn’t know. It’s made even more creepy by the fact that he laughs maniacally to himself or shouts out. When fans have translated phrases and fragments of what Jared says, it includes talking about people who are dead, cutting people’s throats, and keeping women in cages. Yikes.
10. Cal (The Path)
The creepiest thing about Cal (Hugh Dancy) is that he truly believes in his cause. As the de facto leader of Meyerism, a cult that describes itself as a “movement,” Cal is driven, ambitious, and uncompromising. It is clear that he is a man with a plan, and that he has the skill set and charisma to attract and control followers. In just the first six episodes of The Path (2016), the first season of which is currently airing on Hulu, Cal has illustrated that he is a master manipulator and storyteller — in part because he seems to believe the story that he is telling. As Eddie (Aaron Paul) continues to doubt Meyerism and probe for answers, Cal is sure to become a central — and dangerous — antagonist.
While Cal tries to keep a facade of control and power — saying to Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) that he never lets people see him eat because it shows weakness — he struggles with his own personal demons. He has outbursts of blinding rage (including when he beats a man unconscious), he struggles with substance abuse problems that are deeply linked to his abusive mother, and he has a confusing and uncomfortable masturbatory relationship with Mary Cox (Emma Greenwell), a new convert to Meyerism.
9. The Reverend (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
While Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015) is an upbeat comedy, it does not avoid dark topics, and its central premise is perhaps the darkest topic of all. Kimmy’s (Ellie Kemper) cluelessness about New York City and adult life are due to the fact that she was kidnapped and kept in an underground bunker by a man known as The Reverend (Jon Hamm) for a good portion of her life. Most of the humor around The Reverend makes fun of his charismatic but nonsensical ideas, his surprisingly charming appearance in court (He is played by the same man who’s known best as Don Draper, after all.), and his strange hobbies, from (poorly) doing karate to wanting to be on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, which make him seem disarmingly goofy.
Instead of showing the torment that he put Kimmy and the three other women whom he held against their wills, the show largely implies or alludes to this behavior — but it does make clear that he did kidnap four women, and kept them for years in an underground bunker where he emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused them.
8. Henrik & Bonnie Johanssen (Orphan Black)
Orphan Black (2013) is a science fiction show that explores the complications that a not-too-far-off world has to deal with when faced with human clones. Henrik Johanssen (Peter Outerbridge) is the leader of a cult known as the New World Prolethean Brotherhood, who believes that technology can and should be used in order to procreate. Henrik, although he is already married to Bonnie (Kristin Booth), drugs Helena (Tatiana Maslany), a clone, and marries her in a religious ceremony and then harvests Helena’s eggs. Henrik plants fertilized these eggs (fertilized in vitro by himself) into women, including his own daughter, Gracie (Zoe de Grand’Maison).
After Gracie helps Helena to escape, her parents lock her up and sew her lips shut. Helena has her revenge, burning down the compound with Henrik inside, but Bonnie is still alive and able to continue the New World mission.
7. Herbert (Family Guy)
John Herbert (Kevin Sanders, Mike Henry) is the elderly neighbor of the Griffin family in Quahog, Rhode Island. He is a pedophile who is in love with Chris Griffin (Seth Green), Peter (Sean MacFarlane) and Lois’ (Alex Borstein) eldest son. Herbert makes rather suggestive comments repeatedly, but no one (other than the Griffin’s other son, Stewie) ever notices that Herbert is hitting on the two young boys. Even though this is obviously played for laughs, there is always an uncomfortable reality in this humor; there are real sexual predators who carefully avoid detection and manipulate both children and their unknowing guardians.
While Herbert is a minor character in Family Guy (1999), he has gotten a lot of attention, both praise and criticism. Generally, he is seen as a favorite character, and he has made multiple appearances in the spin-off series, The Cleveland Show (2009).
6. Black Jack Randall (Outlander)
Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies) is a redcoat officer in 18th century Scotland who uses torture, manipulation, and brutality in order to instill fear into the hearts of his underlings and enemies. He takes sadistic delight in breaking down a person, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In the first season of Starz’s Outlander (2014), he tortures and rapes Jamie (Sam Heughan) the husband of the time-traveling protagonist, Claire (Caitriona Balfe). The show is unflinching as it recounts Jamie’s imprisonment, torture, and multiple assaults by Black Jack Randall in a series of intense flashbacks. The emotional toll that this violence takes on Jamie and his relationship with Claire is, and continues to be, explored by the series. To make everything even more disturbing, Black Jack is an early relative of Claire’s first husband, Frank (also played by Menzies), and bears an uncanny resemblance to him.
5. Tyrell Wellick (Mr. Robot)
Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) could be the typical high-powered businessman antagonist (“the Man”) who is fighting against the anarchistic Robin Hood hacker, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek). But Mr. Robot (2015) makes it clear that Wellick’s true nature — and his true danger — actually lies in his twisted desires and strategies. For Wellick, power, pleasure, and pain all blend together. When his day job frustrates him, Wellick has his driver take him under local bridges to beat up homeless men. Wellick and his wife, Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen), engage in rough BDSM, and Wellick manipulates and even has sex with one of his rival’s male assistants in order to bug his phone.
After being passed up for promotion, Wellick decides to get revenge by trying to seduce the wife of his new boss, Sharon (Michele Hicks). He follows Sharon into a bathroom as she sits on the toilet and refuses to leave. Sharon oscillates between leading Wellick on and shutting him down. Eventually, while they are secluded, she makes him angry, and in a fit of rage, Wellick murders her.
The second season of Mr. Robot just announced its release date for July 9th along with some new promotional material, so get ready for some more creepiness from Wellick in the very near future.
4. Doug Stamper (House of Cards)
In House of Cards (2013), Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is President Frank Underwood’s chief of staff, and his blind devotion to Frank means that he is willing to do anything for the Underwoods, including murder. Doug’s destructive behavior, however, has endangered the Underwoods’ agenda(s) before, and continues to create loose ends.
Doug is a recovering alcoholic, who has, at times over the course of the series, fallen off the wagon. He becomes obsessed with Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), a prostitute who was with Peter Russo when he got a DUI. Initially, Doug forces Rachel to relocate to a secluded place and gives her a new alias. He is controlling over her behavior, likens her to both his daughter and his mother (in strange fetishized ways, like forcing her to read out loud to him like he is a child), and becomes jealous when she begins a relationship with a woman named Lisa. When Doug tries to relocate Rachel again forcefully, she flees into the woods and beats him unconscious with a rock. Doug eventually tracks down Rachel even though she has fled across the country, stalking her, kidnapping her, and — even though he hesitates momentarily — killing her and burying her body in a shallow grave.
In the most recent season, President Underwood is shot and needs a liver transplant in order to survive. Doug forces the President’s name to be moved up on the list of people eligible for a transplant, unintentionally killing the man who was next on the list in order to give the president the next available liver. Doug then begins to obsess over this dead man’s wife, donating to a fund in her husband’s name, repeatedly listening to her phone messages saying thank you to him, and even taking her on dates.
While President Underwood is unaware of the extent of Doug’s erratic and bizarre behavior, it seems as if the show is moving toward a point where Stamper’s assets may not outweigh his liability — and Frank may need to put him down.
3. Paul Spector (The Fall)
There are a number of shows that give the audience a look into the depraved minds of murdering sociopaths. Some shows, like Criminal Minds (2005), introduce a new psychologically disturbed killer each week, and other crime procedurals incorporate episodic or seasonal arcs that focus on similarly devious antagonists. Some British crime shows give these characters larger roles, such as the cold-killer but sometime ally Alice (Ruth Wilson in Luther) or the eternally nasty Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton in Happy Valley).
The Fall (2006), however, elevates Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) to a main character. Spector is a serial killer who stalks women, learning intimate details about their lives, before strangling them. He is a charming and high-functioning sociopath who has managed to keep his murderous sexual hobby a secret while constructing a perfectly normal career (as a bereavement counselor of all things) and family. The viewers get to see Spector’s perspective as he dodges the police, led by Detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) and outsmarts the authorities in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
2. Norman Bates & Norma Bates (Bates Motel)
Anyone who has seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) knows how Bates Motel (2013) is going to end. But that doesn’t stop the A&E series from shocking its audience with the twists and turns of the twisted minds of Norma Bates and her son, Norman.
The mother and son pair have a highly unhealthy, borderline-incestuous relationship, often sharing a bed. They have also become entangled in an increasing number of murders as Norman’s psychotic alternate personality (who claims to be Norma Bates) has become more and more prominent. Norma’s hands aren’t exactly clean either, of course. In addition to covering up some of Norman’s crimes, she also murdered Keith Summers after he raped her. The show, currently in its fourth season, has focused on Norma’s increasing fear over Norman’s growing instability, which viewers know will only worsen as time marches on.
1. Kilgrave (Jessica Jones)
Kilgrave (David Tennant) was a supervillain who made a lot of headlines after debuting as the main antagonist in Jessica Jones (2015). Kilgrave has the spectacular power of mind control — if he tells someone to do something, they are compelled to do it, even if it is a life-threatening or deadly order. Kilgrave used this power to fully take away the free will of the eponymous Jessica Jones, keeping her as a plaything for his own amusement and sexual gratification.
But Kilgrave does not need to use his powers in order to get people to follow his orders. He brands himself as a victim, and lies and manipulates other people even when he does not have the option to control them. When he does use his superpowers, however, he leaves a trail of self-mutilated bodies in his wake — he forces one man to put his arm into a blender — without a shred of remorse.
Jessica Jones is set to return for a second season, and while the first season’s finale seemed to put an end to Kilgrave’s machinations, the Marvel universe has an uncanny way of bringing people back from the dead. Even if Kilgrave is safely in the ground, there is no doubt that his presence will continue to influence Jessica Jones’s behavior in the seasons to come. As we saw in this past season, he will always have a hold on her, even if he can’t explicitly control her anymore.
Who is the creepiest of them all? Did we miss any twisted minds that are currently on television? Tell us in the comments!