They make us laugh. They make us cry. They make us cower in our seats. They give cinema’s heroes and heroines something to fight for. Hollywood villains are often some of the most unforgettable characters on screen. So, they’ve understandably come to be some of the most beloved of all time. That’s especially true of the villains that have come out of Disney’s animated studios. From their very first foray into full-length filmmaking to the most popular Pixar franchises of all time, they’ve given us some truly despicable bad guys and girls — and more than a few that we truly love to hate.
Everyone has their favorite Disney villain, and their reason for holding their favorite baddie in such high esteem. We have ours, too. Curious to see if your number one pick made our list? Take a look at Screen Rant’s take on the 20 Best Disney Villains Ranked.
20. Randall Boggs – Monsters Inc.
There’s sneaky, and then there’s Randall Boggs. One of the main antagonists in Monsters Inc., he’s a chameleon-like creature with a serious case of jealousy when it comes to those who outperform him. Sure, it had to be hard to live in Sully’s shadow and watch him dominate the rankings on the Scare Floor. That was no reason to create a device that could actually harm children, though. That’s really low.
Some villains are driven to evil after a single, life-changing event, but Randall Boggs’ turn toward maniacal was years in the making. We learned in Monsters University that Randall always had a villainous streak — and that his jealousy of Sully and his friends had been in the works since their fraternity days. That doesn’t excuse his lack of scruples, but it does make him one of the more fascinating villains that Disney and Pixar have ever concocted.
19. Hans – Frozen
He schmoozed his way into Arrendalle and swept Anna off her feet with minimal effort. He swore to protect his fiance’s beloved home while she went off in search of her sister Elsa. Sure, once Kristian entered the picture, Hans didn’t seem like that great of a match for her — but many of us spent the vast majority of Frozen assuming that he was a decent guy, all things considered. That’s what made his late-in-the-game treachery feel especially villainous.
Hans craved the power and dignity that came with ruling a kingdom of his very own, and he was ultimately willing to do anything to achieve his goals. That includes trying to murder Elsa with his sword and leaving a nearly-dead Anna to freeze to death — and mocking her for daring to believe he really loved her. Not cool. On a scale of one to extremely douchey, Hans’ power trip scores pretty high, and proved that if you fall instantly in love with someone who seems too good to be true, he probably is.
18. The Headless Horseman – Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Some Disney villains get extended screentime — even their own separate films — to showcase their evil ways. The Headless Horseman, who appeared in a segment of Disney’s 1949 animated special, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, was only on screen for a few moments, and he still managed to scare the crap out of us. The demonic rider and his red-eyed stallion only appear in the closing moments of the segment, when Ichabod is running for his life. After being told by countless characters that the horseman was to be feared, his frightening stature and the fiery pumpkin he uses as both a replacement for his head and a murder weapon definitely lived up to the hype.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow‘s antagonist was a decidedly dark villain, even for a Halloween special. The fact that he still holds up as one of the scariest characters Disney’s ever brought to life is a testament to the fact that sometimes, when it comes to creating a memorable villains, less can definitely be more.
17. Yzma – Emperor’s New Groove
The Emperor’s New Groove never quite got the attention it deserved, because in retrospect, it’s one of the most light-hearted and purely entertaining animated flicks that Disney’s ever given us. That was, in large part, thanks to its main villain, Yzma. In fact, her fabulous sense of style and eccentric personality far overshadow her actual villainy.
Her main goal — to overthrow Kuzco and become Empress — is pretty standard as far as evil plans are concerned. Since she really only wanted to turn her former advisee into an animal instead of, say, killing him the way many other Disney villains do, she definitely didn’t pose the same serious threat to our protagonist. Her inability to take care of the details surrounding her plot made her nearly impossible to take seriously. That’s what’s so fun about her, though. From her impossibly long lashes to her flair for the dramatic, Yzma may not have always had her ducks in a row, but she was still brilliant, brilliant, briiiiiiiilliant nonetheless.
16. Mother Gothel – Tangled
Look, most of us would love to have the beauty and energy of our youthful prime return — but in general, we just invest in a solid night cream and never consider kidnapping innocent, magical-haired princesses to fulfill those wishes. In Disney’s 2010 movie, Tangled, Mother Gothel did just that, though. Then she had the audacity to pretend she was Rapunzel’s mother, and she gaslighted the heck out of the young girl whenever she questioned the fact that she was being held in a tall, inescapable tower in the middle of nowhere.
Many Disney villains try to get their way through manipulation, but Mother Gothel’s methods were especially abusive. She was willing to murder both Rapunzel and the mighty Flynn, and for what? A wrinkle free complexion. Despite all this, Gothel was actually pretty charming, so in an incredibly dark and twisted way, it’s easy to see why Rapunzel would have fallen for her ruse for so long.
15. Lady Tremaine – Cinderella
Child slavery is never okay, but don’t tell that to Lady Tremaine. The wannabe royal at the center of the 1950 version of Cinderella set the standard for all future awful parents in Disney movies. From forcing the titular heroine to perform grueling, thankless housework to mocking her desire for a night out at the ball, Tremaine wasn’t just unfair — she was downright cruel. When you add in the fact that she basically kidnapped Cinderella in an attempt to hide her away from Prince Charming, just so that she could have a chance to trick him into marrying one of her daughters, there’s no denying that she’s one of the most horrible characters to grace our movie screens.
No, she never threatened Cinderella’s life, but trying to take away her every chance at happiness is in many ways just as bad. Luckily, Cinderella escaped her stepmother’s grasp — but it still seems unjust that the witchy woman never really had to live with the consequences of her actions.
14. Governor Ratcliffe – Pochahontas
Many of the best Disney villains are memorable because of their magical prowess or otherworldly evil. Pochahontas‘ Governor Ratcliffe is unforgettable for a completely different reason — but that doesn’t make him any less potent a bad guy.
His diabolical tendencies aren’t just scarily realistic, aside from the fact that he’s a cartoon. They’re a sad but important reflection of what people like Governor Ratcliffe are still capable of doing today. He’s racist. He’s violent. He thinks anything he sees and wants is his for the taking. What’s worse, especially in the eyes of the film’s Native American princess, he has zero respect for nature and doesn’t see the effect that his greed has on the world around him. In sum, Governor Ratcliffe epitomizes a lot of what many of us dislike about colonialism — namely an incredibly unearned sense of entitlement over the people and land he tried to conquer.
13. Lots’-o-Huggin’ Bear – Toy Story 3
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine that a pink, cuddly teddy bear could be all that menacing. That’s really what makes Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear all the more awesome of a villain. When Woody and his pals first arrived at Sunnyside Day Care in Toy Story 3, Lotso appeared to be a friend and ally. That was, of course, until they learned that he was actually a manipulative, evil overlord who treated his fellow toys like prisoners. He also had no qualms about putting others in danger just to get them out of his way.
In the end, Lotso got what was coming to him, but not before he managed to almost kill Woody, Buzz, and Jessie. In typical Pixar fashion, there was a reason for Lotso’s sinister side — after being cast off by his former owner, he became bitter and decided that if he couldn’t be happy, then no one could. That’s still not an excuse for being that big of a jerk.
12. Queen of Hearts – Alice in Wonderland
There’s irrational, and then there’s the Queen of Hearts. This Alice in Wonderland villain definitely wasn’t a model of royal grace under pressure. She was, more or less, a completely unhinged adult in the midst of a perpetual temper tantrum. From threatening anyone and everyone she encountered with decapitation to forcing her subjects to play a nearly impossible game of croquet, she made pretty much everyone in Wonderland completely miserable — most especially her servant, the incredibly stressed out White Rabbit.
Though she’s more of a supporting player in Alice in Wonderland, and she never poses a significant threat to the adventurous protagonist, the Queen of Hearts is still completely unforgettable. From her red-faced battle cry of “Off with their heads!” to her insistence that her rose garden be painted red, she constantly rode a thin line between being highly entertaining and downright terrifying — mostly because her behavior is so wildly unpredictable.
11. Jafar – Aladdin
Like so many other villains on this list, Jafar’s main goal in life is to become as powerful as humanly possible. He’s willing to use anyone and everyone he can to achieve these lofty heights, too — from poor street urchins to naive sultans. Aladdin‘s evil antagonist certainly looked the part, with his arched eyebrows and snake-headed staff. It was his actions, and mastery of both manipulation and magic that truly makes him stand out amongst his fellow baddies, though.
As an advisor to Agrabah’s leader, he managed to weasel his way into the upper echelons of power and used magic to convince his boss that he was a willing suitor for his daughter, Jasmine. He put lives on the line and his own soul in jeopardy without a second thought, and all for the chance at ultimate power. In the end, his political opportunism and supersized ego were his downfall, but he still proved a wholly worthy menace in the meantime.
10. Shere Khan – The Jungle Book
Calm, calculating and cool — there’s a reason that Shere Khan amassed such a powerful position amongst his peers. The tiger possessed an inimitable blend of charm and chilling anger. The mere mention of his name struck fear in other animals. His bloodlust for doing away with Mowgli drove most of the plot of the 1967 version of The Jungle Book. As a result, even though he’s not as dominant a villain in terms of screen time, he remains one of the creepiest and most disturbing antagonists in the Disney canon. He’s willing to stalk his prey across the entire jungle, and all because of a long-held grudge against man. Did we mention that Mowgli is just a child?
This year’s live-action remake definitely upped the ante on Shere Khan’s creep factor, thanks to a stellar performance from Idris Elba — but his animated incarnation was undeniably creepy in its own right.
9. Hades – Hercules
Let’s be real — Hercules is not the best Disney animated movie, not by a long shot. It still has some perks, the best of which is its main villain, Hades. At face value, he’s pretty terrifying, with his ugly mug, fiery facade and love of skull accessories. Despite his less-than-friendly appearance, Disney managed to transform the God of the Underworld into one of its most sass-tastic, sarcastic and endlessly entertaining antagonists. Unlike some of the other more comical villains on this list, Hades is actually pretty good at being bad, thanks to his high intelligence, powerful magical abilities and brilliant schemes. Plus, the god knew how to pick his henchmen — namely the raucous imp dup Pain and Panic.
8. Captain Hook – Peter Pan
Over the years, Captain Hook has seen many incarnations on film, from the enjoyably over-the-top Hook to the magnificently awful Pan. None have been quite as iconic, though, than the one brought to life Disney’s 1957 classic, Peter Pan. The one-armed pirate basically existed solely to seek revenge on Pan for feeding his arm to a crocodile back in the day — which, you know, is kind of valid.
Unfortunately, he was so hell-bent on getting rid of the eternal child that he sort-of sucked at doing just about anything else. Hook was as dangerous as he was eccentric, and came close to killing our hero and his friends, the Darling children, when he had them walk the plank. His interactions with Smee, childish antics and skittishness around anything that sounded like a timepiece made him one of Disney’s first and best comical villains to boot and added levity to a character that could have otherwise been positively terrifying.
7. Cruella De Vil – 101 Dalmations
With a name like Cruella De Vil, you know she has to be bad. The villain from 101 Dalmations is so extreme in her despicable behavior that it’s almost impossible to believe her story was ever brought to screen. Elitist, glamorous and sociopathic, she puts vanity first — even if it means she has to murder to get the look she’s after. Cruella was so unscrupulous, so greedy and so awful, she actually skinned puppies just so she can have a nice fur coat. When she kidnapped the litter at the center of Disney’s 1956 animated film, she didn’t know that she would have a fight on her hands. Instead of cutting her losses, she went into full-villain mode and unleashed one of the most terrifying examples of road rage in cinematic history.
6. Gaston – Beauty and the Beast
He’s misogyny personified — a brutish, brawny man with an overinflated sense of self and little regard for anyone he deems weaker than him. Though his dim-witted attempts to woo Belle were undeniably entertaining, Gaston ultimately ended up being one of Disney’s more sinister villains thanks to his childish and stubborn belief that he was entitled to anything and anyone he wanted.
Maybe it’s because his reaction to being told “no” is to stalk Beauty and the Beast‘s heroine and try to kill the animal she fell in love with. Maybe it was because he used his charm and good looks to convince an entire town to go after the Beast as an angry mob. Gaston never showed an ounce of regard for anyone other than himself, but made those around him believe he was a benevolent gentleman. No matter the reason, there’s something extra-gross about his manipulative and villainous ways.
We can’t wait to see what Luke Evans will bring to the role next March.
5. The Evil Queen – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
In the realm of really evil things that Disney characters have done, asking for the heart of a completely innocent child definitely ranks among the highest. Queen Grimhilde, known more commonly as the Evil Queen, was so threatened by the idea that someone could be prettier than her that she was willing to kill anyone that took her place. She was, in other words, completely insane.
She relied on a magic mirror to assuage her insecurity, and when she found out she had competition — and that it came from her harmless stepdaughter — she stalked Snow White, disguised herself as a hag and poisoned her. Just because she was prettier than her — like we said, crazy. It says a lot about her legacy that the Queen still stands up as a completely horrifying villain, even though it’s been almost 80 years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs hit theaters.
The fact that Charlize Theron has put in two memorable turns (in otherwise completely forgettable films) is only helping the Queens’ legacy.
4. Ursula – The Little Mermaid
When it comes to combining comedy and evildoing, there may be no other villain as deliciously devious than The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula. Her larger-than-life personality and keen talents at bewitching her prey made her a nearly unstoppable foe for Ariel, Eric and King Triton. She employed two of the scariest minions in Disney history, the evil-eyed eels Flotsam and Jetsam. What made Ursula particularly evil was that she went after her victims when they were at their most vulnerable, and never hesitated to steal from them the very qualities that made them unique.
Her garden of broken souls spoke volumes about her evil ways. The fact that used her brother’s children to make him suffer just shows how completely depraved she really was. To make matters worse, she’s still one of the most entertaining characters from Disney’s ’90s animated renaissance — one we absolutely love to hate, even when she’s at her worst.
3. Claude Frollo – Hunchback of Notre Dame
Despite a penchant for killing off our favorite characters’ parents, Disney’s animated movies usually don’t go that dark. There are exceptions of course — and one of the most notable was The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which has the honor of producing one of the scariest and most sinister Disney villains to date.
Claude Frollo was a religious man, and the fact that he explained away his dastardly deeds by claiming he had God’s permission makes them all the more evil. He’s a poster child for those who believe that power corrupts, because he never used his position of authority for good, but instead to get what he wanted. His twisted desire to decimate the gypsy population stemmed from his lust for Esmeralda and ultimately turned him into both a genocidal maniac and an attempted rapist. On top of that layer of utter inhumanity, his merciless cruelty toward Quasimodo further solidifies his place in Disney villain infamy.
2. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
Okay, your favorite villain has done some pretty evil stuff over the years — but are they also a dragon? Maleficent has all the makings of a truly classic villainess. She’s a brilliant sorceress, an unfeeling antagonist, and she holds a grudge like nobody’s business. Sure, the recent live-action Disney spinoff will tell you that she was just misunderstood, but that doesn’t change the fact that her portrayal in 1959’s Sleeping Beauty presents an evil by which all other evil-doers should be measured against.
From her horned head ware to her throaty, emotionless voice, her anger at being left off a party guest list was so long-lasting she devised a revenge plot that would take 16 years to come to fruition. In the end, she was so determined to hurt the King and Queen that wronged her that she went full monster and almost burned an entire kingdom to the ground. That’s dedication.
1. Scar – The Lion King
All of the other villains on this list were brilliantly bad, there’s no doubt. Some might be more likable or scarier than The Lion King‘s malevolent enemy. There’s no way around it, though: Scar is the best villain that Disney ever devised.
His evil ways took on a Shakespearean quality (appropriate, given the film’s source material), elevating him above those who came before him and after him — especially in terms of the utter destruction he wrought. His murder of Mufasa was an unquestionably traumatic moment in many a young kid’s life, and it was one of the most overtly violent actions a Disney villain ever took. Then he used his own brother’s death as a means to usurp Simba’s place as the new king and bring the inhabitants of Pride Rock to their knees. By the time Scar met his end, it felt like there was never an animated villain more deserving of death. Still, his villainous story arc is a large part of what makes The Lion King so impossible to forget.
Did we miss your favorite Disney villain? Disagree with our top picks? Let us know in the comments!
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