Dolores Umbridge is a vindictive and power-hungry witch who first pops up in the Harry Potter tales in Order of the Phoenix. She then went on to appear in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and various other spinoff stories, including the West End hit Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She’s arguably the most hated character J.K. Rowling ever created… and for good reason.
Unlike Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, who represent a darker and more fantastical evil that very few members of the audience have ever experienced (as while xenophobia is real, resurrection rituals and giant snake attacks are hardly the norm), Umbridge’s distinct brand of cruelty is far more realistic and relatable. Honestly, who hasn’t ever had to deal with an authority figure who enjoyed their power a bit too much?
Although she claims to be a defender of law and order, there are plenty of occasions where Umbridge goes beyond the realms of ‘usual evil’ and acts in ways that are both unjustifiable and downright stupid, as this list of the most WTF things she’s ever done proves. Take a look at her rap sheet to see which crimes are ranked the worst of the worst!
15. Upstaging Voldemort By Giving Harry A Bigger, Uglier Scar
One of Harry Potter’s most significant physical characteristics is the lightning scar on his forehead, the mark singling him out as the person destined to finish off Lord Voldemort. However, that’s not the most impressive scar he’s been given by an enemy. In Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge forces Harry to carve the words “I must not tell lies” into his hand using a quill of her own invention (which replaces blood with ink, cutting the words into his skin) and scarring him for life.
Not only is disfiguring Harry hella nasty, it’s also pretty foolish. Umbridge provides Harry with the perfect comeback when she’s captured by the centaurs and begs him to lie and says she “mean[s] no harm.” Plus, in the book version of Half-Blood Prince, Harry is able to show new Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, physical justification for why he won’t cooperate (a moment which sadly never made it into the movies). Her reckless decision to mutilate Harry backfires not only on her, but the entire Ministry!
14. Dressing Like A Powder Puff and Surrounding Herself With Kittens
Most evil characters in the Harry Potter series fully commit to the part — donning all-black robes, scary masks, and in Voldemort’s case, taking on the appearance of a pale and noseless nightmare — but Dolores Umbridge is a whole different kind of villain. Specifically, the kind that likes to surround herself with all things cute and fluffy. Which is straight-up weird.
Umbridge appears in the movies almost exclusively in pink (usually in that cardigan we’ve all come to know and hate) and speaks in a sweet, girlish voice completely at odds with her sour personality. Oddly, she also seems to have a thing for kittens: her office is full of Frolicsome Feline plates, and her Patronus takes the form of a Persian cat. It takes a special kind of person to be surrounded by all that rose-tinted cuteness and still emanate evil from every fibre of her being. After all, Snape’s evil street cred was single-handedly destroyed in Prisoner of Azkaban by a big red handbag and stuffed vulture hat!
13. Actively Suppressing Evidence That Lord Voldemort Has Returned
As a representative of the Ministry, Umbridge is supposed to act in the best interests of the wizarding population, protecting them from harm and alerting them to any serious and imminent threats. However, she pretty much does the complete opposite: she actively suppresses all evidence that Lord Voldemort is back by punishing Harry every time he speaks out, helping to discredit Dumbledore and strip him of his accolades (including his Order of Merlin First Class and position on the Wizengamot), banning the other Hogwarts teachers from discussing dangers outside the school, and threatening to expel anyone caught reading Harry’s interview in The Quibbler.
Even when all signs point to the Dark Lord’s resurgence (like the mass breakouts from Azkaban and desertion of the Dementors), she refuses to recognize the truth, and she tries her best to keep everyone else in the dark, too. Her efforts, along with those of Cornelius Fudge, ensure that the single greatest criminal in wizarding history is left to run amok without Ministry interference. Nice one, Dolores! *slow clap*
12. Using Harry’s Future Career As A Bargaining Chip
When Harry expresses his desire to become an Auror in Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge reacts scornfully and tells him he’ll never be welcome at the Ministry because of his criminal past (although the real criminal in that scenario was Umbridge — more on that later). The Ministry soon changes their tune though, once Voldemort’s out in the open: Scrimgeour comes begging to Harry in Half-Blood Prince, offering a future career as an Auror in exchange for his help convincing the wizarding world that he’s got everything under control… and guess whose bright idea that was?
That’s right. The one and only Dolores Umbridge. Because who else would be moronic enough to think Harry would be prepared to trust the Ministry again so soon after everything she put him through?! Luckily for the Ministry, Harry doesn’t hold a grudge for too long: J.K. Rowling has since stated that Harry does indeed join the Auror Department along with Ron, eventually becoming the department’s head. Lesson learned: you should never take career advice from teachers you hate!
11. Setting Up The Inquisitorial Squad To Extend Her Authoritarian Powers
Let’s face it, anyone willing to give a jumped-up little brat like Draco Malfoy even more power and privilege must be out of their mind. Yet that’s exactly what Umbridge does when she sets up the Inquisitorial Squad in Order of the Phoenix. She lets Malfoy and his Slytherin cronies rule the school with no regard for rules or common decency, completely undermining the Prefect system in the process, and all so she can use them to further her own brutal authoritarian regime.
Although this move is strategically designed to suppress rebellion activity and get the school under Umbridge’s control, it backfires spectacularly by spurring troublemakers-in-chief Fred and George Weasley onto ever greater heights, as they find new ways to annoy and undermine her… swamps, fireworks, you name it, and they thought of it first! Her Inquisitorial Squad don’t fare too well, either: at least half of them end up getting jinxed, beat up, or in one particularly notable case, being thrown into a broken Vanishing Cabinet and getting stuck between places.
10. Turning Trelawney’s Dismissal Into A Complete Spectacle
Apart from Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown, few people at Hogwarts have any love for the Divination teacher, Sybil Trelawney. She’s a pretty terrible teacher, given that she makes things up as she goes along, and those incessant prophecies of death, destruction, and suffering haven’t really helped matters either. However, when Dolores Umbridge tries to publicly humiliate her by sacking her in front of everyone in Order of the Phoenix, she instantly becomes a sympathetic character, meaning Umbridge becomes the villain of the piece once again.
This moment is the ultimate own goal, not because of her decision to sack Trelawney (seriously, who wouldn’t?), but because of how she chooses to do it. If Umbridge did the deed quietly, Dumbledore wouldn’t have been able to undermine her authority in front of the entire school. She might even have been able to prevent him from employing the centaur Firenze without her consent or knowledge. Instead, she chooses the meanest approach possible, fails to get what she wants, and ends up looking like a fool.
9. Trying To Take On Minerva McGonagall
Nobody messes with Minerva McGonagall. She’s fierce as hellfire, knows more spells than most wizards could learn in a lifetime, and even in her Patronus form, she’s practically overflowing with sass. That’s why Umbridge’s decision to try to intimidate and belittle her in Order of the Phoenix is at best highly misguided, and at worst, a flat-out death wish.
McGonagall deals out some pretty legendary burns in her interactions with Umbridge — that time she insinuated that Lockhart was a more competent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, for instance, deserves some kind of monument built in its honour. Okay, so admittedly, Umbridge does manage to get the better of McGonagall temporarily, but she needs a gang of Ministry cronies behind her to do it, and even then, McGonagall is back from St. Mungo’s by the end of the year and fighting fit again. Umbridge on the other hand is defeated, disgraced, and recovering from her encounter with a herd of angry centaurs. Final Score: McGonagall 1, Umbridge 0.
8. Giving Filch Permission To Torture Children For Bad Behavior
It’s no secret that Filch loves punishment and thinks Dumbledore and the other teachers are way too soft when dealing with badly behaved students. That’s why Umbridge’s appointment as Headmistress is a dream come true for the bitter old Squib — she, like him, thinks a heavier hand is needed to bring the students into line. And unfortunately, as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, Umbridge has enough power to make their shared dream a reality.
Educational Decree #29 perhaps gives the starkest glimpse into the sorts of punishments Umbridge and Filch think are appropriate to use on school-age children: being whipped and chained up are, for instance, considered a fair and appropriate reaction to the dropping of Stink Pellets or throwing of Fanged Frisbees. Just let that sink in for a moment. Can you imagine attending a school where the caretaker could torture an 11-year-old for playing with a frisbee?! Yeah, Umbridge decided to sign-off on that. She’s not above giving a student a good slapping either… all that power must have driven her mad!
7. Persecuting ‘Half-Breeds’ Like Centaurs, Giants, And Werewolves
There are plenty of good reasons to hate Dolores Umbridge, but her assumption of wizards’ racial superiority and subsequent persecution of other magical races is probably the issue that resonates most deeply with the Harry Potter audience. Even the youngest fans can see these individuals deserve basic human rights, even if they’re not technically ‘human,’ which demonstrates the obvious injustice of Umbridge’s actions.
Umbridge refers to anyone she deems less than pure as “filthy half-breeds,” demonstrating fear and ignorance in the face of difference and hybridity. She also makes life difficult for Rubeus Hagrid, a gentle half-giant she assumes is uneducated and violent because of his genetic makeup. Further details supplied in the books include her drafting anti-werewolf legislation, making it impossible for werewolves like Lupin to get a job, and suggesting merpeople should be rounded up and tagged. This is Umbridge at her worst: punishing people who don’t deserve it, just because she can. However, hatred is contagious, as she discovers when faced with a herd of enraged centaurs… karmic justice at its finest!
6. Driving Dumbledore Away When Everyone’s In Mortal Danger
Everyone in the wizarding world knows that Albus Dumbledore is the only wizard Lord Voldemort ever feared. He’s already proven his worth by eliminating the previous contender for the title of Evilest Wizard Ever — Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard appearing in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — and he’s consistently been one step ahead of the Ministry when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
By driving Dumbledore away from Hogwarts, Umbridge not only places herself in mortal peril (because, really, is she capable of taking on Lord Voldemort or his Death Eaters if they show up unannounced?), but also endangers the lives of everyone else within the school’s boundaries. She places her need to get one up on Dumbledore above the safety of the entire young wizarding population. Bear in mind that these kids are the future of wizardkind, and so the very survival of magic in the UK depends on them. But, hey, none of that matters if you’ve got a grudge to bear, right Dolores?
5. Sending Dementors after Harry and Dudley in Little Whinging
Umbridge’s first appearance on-screen in Order of the Phoenix is at Harry’s disciplinary hearing, which the Ministry calls after Harry uses a Patronus charm to defend himself and his cousin Dudley from Dementors. Harry is treated like an attention-seeking fantasist when he tries to explain what happened, and comes worryingly close to being expelled, disarmed, and thrown in Azkaban before Dumbledore intervenes. It is later revealed in the books that Umbridge ordered the Dementors to attack Harry in the hopes of provoking him to perform magic, knowing that doing so would tarnish his image and get him into trouble.
It’s important to note at this point, though, that the Ministry only learns Harry can perform a Patronus charm — the only way of defending oneself against a Dementor — at the disciplinary hearing, which means Umbridge sent a bunch of evil, soul-sucking fiends after a 15-year-old boy who she thought had no possible way to fighting them off just to shut him up, an act that defies logic and humanity however you look at it.
4. Disowning Her Family And Pretending To Be Pure-Blood
No information is given about Umbridge’s life before she showed up in Order of the Phoenix in the main HP film and book franchises, but in an extended profile published exclusively on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling has revealed a lot more about the character… and gave us all a whole new reason to hate her.
Why? Well, although she pretends she’s a pure-blood and even boasts of being related to prominent wizarding families such as the Selwyns (who are among the ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’ believed to have maintained pure-blood lineages), it turns out that Umbridge is actually a half-blood witch with a rather unimpressive family: a wizard janitor father, a Muggle mother, and a Squib brother, all of whom she disowned to preserve her reputation.
Yes, you read that right — she disowned her entire family so that they wouldn’t make her look bad. Whenever she’s asked about her parentage, she claims that her deceased father was a distinguished member of the Wizengamot (rather than the man who used to mop the Ministry’s floors), and something horrible mysteriously happens to the person who asked.
3. Drugging Harry’s Tea With Veritaserum
Umbridge does some pretty despicable things during her time at Hogwarts, but her decision to drug a child in order to probe him for information in Order of the Phoenix has got to be among the worst acts ever committed in Harry Potter (y’know, apart from the obvious torture and murder and stuff). She goes one step further in the Order of the Phoenix movie and drugs multiple students to find out details about what Dumbledore’s Army are up to.
Okay, okay, so it’s not real Veritaserum — Snape sees to that — but that’s not the point, is it? She acts believing that she’s using a real drug, and dismisses the administration instructions she’s given (i.e. that three drops would be sufficient to have any person spilling their guts) by dumping an entire bottle into Harry’s cup of tea. It’s unclear what the physical side-effects of ingesting that much Veritaserum would be, but it’s hard to imagine anything good would come of it.
2. Vilifying Muggle-Borns and Locking Them Up In Azkaban For No Reason
It seemed like Umbridge had reached peak villainy in Order of the Phoenix, but she proves that you can’t keep a bad witch down in Deathly Hallows Part 1 by using her new position as Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission to sink to even greater depths of viciousness and immorality. Her most significant acts? Throwing anyone who couldn’t prove they have wizarding ancestry into prison based on a terrible lie — that they had ‘stolen’ their wands and their magic from other wizards — and ordering the capture and execution of any Muggle-borns who refuse to register with the Ministry.
J.K. Rowling has since revealed on Pottermore that after the fall of Lord Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge is put on trial for her enthusiastic co-operation with his regime and convicted of the torture, imprisonment, and deaths of several people (as some of the innocent Muggle-borns sentenced to Azkaban did not survive their ordeal). It’s good to know that she got what she deserved in the end, even if we didn’t get to see it on screen!
1. Becoming the Most Evil Headmistress Ever In The Cursed Child AU
Although Umbridge’s stint as Headmistress of Hogwarts was pretty dismal, that’s nothing compared to the reign of terror she unleashes on the school in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Be warned if you haven’t read or seen it yet, as there’s spoilers to come!)
In The Cursed Child, Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter decide to use the Time-Turner to travel back in time and save Cedric Diggory. However, they accidentally end up in an alternate timeline where Harry was killed, Albus doesn’t exist, and Dolores Umbridge is Headmistress of Hogwarts once again after Lord Voldemort’s victory during the Battle of Hogwarts. With Umbridge in charge, Hogwarts has become a terrifying place where the screams of Muggle-borns can be heard echoing from the dungeons and students fear for their safety every moment of their waking lives. In short, it’s a reality that lives up to Umbridge’s wildest, most sadistic fantasies. Thankfully, Albus and Scorpius manage to set the timeline right again, wiping evil Alternate Universe Umbridge out of existence once and for all.
Have we missed any of Umbridge’s most WTF moments? Let us know in the comments!
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