The Cruelest Disney Villains, Ranked

Just because Disney is family friendly doesn't mean there's not some messed up stuff in their movies. In fact, some of those villains border on being inappropriate for kids, from their willful disregard of human life to their gleeful sadism. We took a look through Disney's impressive catalog of villains and selected the absolute cruelest of the bunch, then raked them below. Get ready to tread the line between PG and PG-13, because here comes the cruelest Disney villains, ranked!

10. Gaston

Beauty Beast Dirty Joke Gaston Hair Wink

Gaston is an incredibly vain character, we’ll give you that. But it’s actually that selfishness that puts him on the bottom of this list. Yes, Gaston is a jerk in most everything he does, but it’s not like he’s a sadist. As long as he is getting his way, he’s not even that bad. The problems arise when he doesn’t get what he wants, sending him into an erratic, even violent state. Gaston is a boar, no mistake. But he’s pretty far down on the list of “most cruel.”

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9. Captain Hook

Captain Hook in Disney's Peter Pan

Just like Gaston, Captain Hook’s cruelty only comes out when he himself is offended. Sure, he wants to kill Peter Pan, but to be fair, the guy cut off his hand. It’s not like Peter’s an angel in this case. Now, we did think that Hook should go over Gaston, because we do see a sort of sinister glee in Hook as he’s plotting the downfall of Pan and the Lost Boys. Still, Hook’s cruelty isn’t half as developed as most people on this list. Heck, he even gives Wendy and the gang a chance to join him against Peter. They just decide to go with the eternal 12-year-old with a sexy fairy and penchant for dismembering people.

Which leads us to wonder, who really is the villain of this movie?

8. Madame Medusa

Alright, now we’re getting to the really cruel characters from Disney’s dark side. There is a malevolent glee in the actions of Madam Medusa. In The Rescuers, she doesn’t just kidnap a kid, but actually puts her in danger to retrieve some jewels. That’s pretty messed up. However, we kept her down at the lower end of this list because, even though she seems to enjoy her actions, her evil deeds only apply to one person. Most of the other people on this list are cruel to masses of people, even civilizations. Still, we encourage our readers to not kidnap kids and force them to retrieve jewelry.

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7. Cruella de Vil

Kelly Marcel Penning Disney Live-Action Cruella

We couldn’t very well make a list of Disney’s cruelest without including the woman with “cruel” in her name. Cruella de Vil is a particularly heartless Disney villain, and not just because she’s selfish. Cruella actually gets some joy out of the idea of murdering puppies. Look, we’re all for a menacing villain, and we know it’s just a little bit more fun to be bad sometimes. But murdering puppies?? There’s a special place in Hell for anyone who would do that. Sure, she technically doesn’t want to kill people, so we put her closer to the bottom of this list, but jeez. There’s a line, man.

6. Ursula

Ursula in The Little Mermaid

Ursula might enjoy being bad more than anyone else on this list. She’s like a classic soap opera villain, delighting in creating chaos for people’s personal lives. Maybe it’s just because of her awesome solo song, but Ursula really seems to like the evil she does, gleefully going over the steps to her plans and thrilling at new opportunities to achieve them. Ursula is a showman about her deeds, flaunting them like a tap dancer flaunts a special routine. We’ve got to admit, she’s probably the most fun villain to watch on this list.

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5. Jafar

Jafar in Disney's Aladdin

There’s a reason Jafar turns into a grinning snake at the end of Aladdin. He is just so vile, so pleased with his atrocities, that it only makes sense he’d take the form of nature’s slipperiest trickster. However, Jafar’s cruelty is rooted in arrogance, which diminishes it a bit. Yes, he takes pleasure in trapping Princess Jasmine in a rapidly filling sand clock, but he’s half as pleased with the fact that he made a giant sand clock as he is with his capture. Still, Jafar’s arrogance takes on an especially cruel quality. He hurts people for fun, not just because they’ve wronged him. And that’s messed up, no matter how cool his Jeanie form looks (which is pretty cool).

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4. Evil Queen

Disney Snow White Evil Queen Heart Box

We had a tough time deciding if Jafar or the Evil Queen should be higher on this list because they’re peas of the same rotten pod. The Evil Queen also delights in her craft, making her especially cruel to anyone she considers inferior — which is probably everyone. We put her above Jafar because she is just scarier, to be honest. Even in her “beautiful” form, the Evil Queen looks straight out of a Medieval horror tale. For her skill, her pride, and her decent Elizabeth Bathory impression, we think she will always get into the top five on a list like this.

3. Shan Yu

Shan Yu’s inspiration clearly came from the fierce Khans of old. Like those bloody conquerors, he takes delight in not just winning battles, but humiliating enemies. Shan Yu is something worse than the other power-hungry creeps Disney devises over the years. Victory, to him, means the total decimation of a culture, and usually, the people that live in it. For this particularly inhuman method of leadership, we think he deserves a pretty high spot on this list.

Not to mention a good old firework to the chest.

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2. John Ratcliffe

Governor Ratcliffe in the Disney movie Pochahontas

You know why people dress up as Cruella and Jafar, but never Governor John Ratcliffe? No, it’s not because that shade of magenta is particularly hard to pull off. It’s because Ratcliffe is a villain you can’t even have fun with. He is a murdering racist; the kind of villain that hits a little too close to real history for comfort. Not only is Ratcliffe biased and hateful, but he’s convinced that what he’s doing is correct. One of the worst things a villain can be, as we’ve seen so many times throughout real history, is convinced of his own righteousness. And speaking of misplaced self-righteousness...

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1. Claude Frollo

Frollo in Disney's adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Where do we even begin with Claude Frollo? As Paris’s “Minister of Justice,” Frollo has committed so many despicable, biased crimes that it’s hard to see him anywhere but first on this list. He murders loads of Romani people then only reluctantly adopts one because he’s afraid of going to Hell.

(Spoiler: He probably still does.)

But even after adopting this person and raising him as his own, Frollo is still only too happy to lock him away from the world and even attempt to murder him when he gets in his way. Frollo’s got the beliefs of Ratcliffe, the tactics of Shan Yu, and a heartlessness that even the Evil Queen would find disturbing. And for that, we think he deserves the number one spot.

Who do you think is the cruelest villain Disney's ever produced? Did we forget to put any on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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