Going all the way back to characters like George Méliès’ Man in the Moon and F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, cinema has always been fascinated by the grotesque. There’s something about seeing a disgusting character on screen that fills us with repulsion, yet makes it hard to look away at the same time. Gross characters can embody evil in physical, tangible ways, or they can force us to sympathize with creatures far different from us.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most disgusting movie characters from recent memory. From evil clowns to blind witches, these are the characters that make us shield our eyes whenever they’re on the screen.
For the purposes of this list, we tried to avoid characters where the entire point of the film is that they’re disgusting (Sorry, Jeff Goldblum in The Fly). Rather, we were interested in fringe characters that arguably didn’t need to be designed in such a disgusting way, but still added a new, skin-crawling delight to the films they appear in.
Here are The 13 Most Disgusting Movie Characters Of All Time.
Dripping with cheese, pulsing and writhing in pepperoni, Pizza the Hutt nauseates from the first second he appears on screen in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs. The character, a parody of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars films, appears in a video call, demanding money from the two protagonists, Barf and Lone Starr. What he says becomes irrelevant, however, as we become entranced by his stomach-upsetting visage.
Mel Brooks has never been one to shy away from gross-out humor, but Pizza the Hutt may be the time he went too far. Talk to anyone who loved Spaceballs as a kid, and you’ll find someone who had marinara nightmares for weeks after laying eyes on this abomination.
Though unmasked Spawn isn’t exactly easy on the eyes, he looks like Tom Cruise compared to the atrocity that is John Leguizamo’s Clown. Seemingly designed for the sole purpose of giving children nightmares, the overweight circus freak disgusts and repulses us in nearly every frame of the movie. Clown is a character that delights in being disgusting, farting into his pants and then tearing off his underwear. This guy’s a real charmer.
The filmmakers actually did a phenomenal job adapting the Clown character from the Spawn comics, where he’s equally horrific. And John Leguizamo seems to have fun chewing his way through the scenery with his rotting, razor sharp teeth. Clown is so disgusting, it’s actually somehow an improvement when he finally transforms into the hulking, demonic Violator for the film’s climactic battle.
Is it possible to be disgusting and still somehow delightful at the same time? The Vogons from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy make us want to say yes. Granted they are one of the most unpleasant creatures in the galaxy, interested in bureaucratic mundanity and mind-shatteringly bad poetry, but somehow these aliens, even with their moist, puke green skin and hulking, egg-shaped bodies, are inexplicably charming.
This is probably due to the fantastic creature design on display in the film. The use of practical effects give the Vogons a tangible quality that is both retro and delightful. Making excellent use of costuming, puppeteering, and animatronics, the Vogons are one of the most memorable and disgusting things from the 2005 film.
Ridley Scott’s Alien is a film full of brilliant little details. From the leaky, rusting ship to HR Giger's wonderfully gross design of the alien itself, Scott peppers the film with minor details that flesh out the world in believable ways. One inspired detail is the fact that when the ship’s cyborg, Ash (Ian Holm), is destroyed, he spews forth not blood, not wires, but milk. Soon he’s headless, caked in drying milk and spitting out mouthfuls of warm dairy every time he speaks.
It nauseates Ripley as much as it nauseates us as the audience. The scene only becomes more disgusting when you think about how actor Ian Holm must have felt, being drenched in milk under the hot studio lights, performing take after take of him spitting out mouthfuls of the white stuff. We don’t envy whoever had to clean his wardrobe that day.
One of the most frightening scenes in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense occurs when Cole (Haley Joel Osment) finds himself in a tent with a young ghost (Mischa Barton) who can’t keep her stomach down. Whenever the ghost appears on screen, we’re afraid to look for too long, because who knows when she’ll unexpectedly hurl again.
The wonderful thing about this character is that M. Night Shyamalan is able to guide the audience’s sympathies along with Cole’s. Like him, we are first terrified and repulsed by the ghost. But, as we learn more about her tragic history, we come to sympathize for her, and root for her to find closure. Like Cole, we have to learn to see past the grossness.
Oh, Milo. Anyone who has seen the 2013 horror comedy Bad Milo can instantly conjure up a mental image of this little demon. Tiny and pudgy with razor sharp teeth, Milo lives in Ken Marino’s intestines, and, when Ken’s stress levels get too high, Milo propels out of Ken through his butt and slaughters Ken’s enemies. It’s a weird film.
The creature design of Milo is wonderfully old-school. Using practical effects, the filmmakers really make us believe this little demon could be running amok. The creature only gets more bizarre and disgusting as it forms a bond with Ken, and they become close. Ken may like the little monster, but we don’t particularly want to look at him for very long.
Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, or, The Three Fates in Disney’s Hercules, are a special brand of gross. The women, who are based off ancient greek legends known as the Moirai, are probably understood better as witches by the children watching the movie. With their gnarled skin and slimy hair, the women share one eyeball between the three of them, meaning they constantly have to pluck it out and pop it into their own sockets.
For a child watching the film, this is enough to make us want to fast forward till when Philoctetes comes back on. And if the unhygienic act of sharing a community eyeball isn’t enough to repulse us, we’re further turned off by the ladies’ sadistic pleasure in taking human lives by snipping a person’s life string. This is one case where beauty isn’t on the inside or outside.
You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t immediately recall the character of Dante from the dreadful 2003 film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But hopefully the image above brought back waves of repugnance as you remembered his abhorrent scene in the film. As a refresher, late in the movie, Dante (Max Ryan) chooses to ingest a large amount of Dr. Jekyll’s transformative elixir, and becomes a beefy, vein-popping, awful CGI abomination.
While Mr. Hyde himself (Jason Flemyng) isn’t exactly a looker, he’s nothing compared to the abhorrent Dante. Gruesomely disproportioned, with ribs protruding from his chest, Dante is literally hard to look at. Add to that the incredibly dated CGI effects, and we have a character so awful he should be scrubbed from cinema’s history.
Possibly one of the most iconic creature designs of the past twenty years, The Pale Man stands tall in everyone’s nightmares. Introduced sitting stock still at a dinner table, the entire Pale Man sequence is a masterclass in how to build suspense. First, like the young protagonist Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), we discover the disgusting sight of two eyeballs on a plate in front of the skinny, pink, eyeless creature. As Ofelia explores the room, the temptation of tasting a portion of the Pale Man’s marvelous feast becomes too great. She pops a grape in her mouth, and the Pale Man gasps to life.
As the monster staggers around his home, chasing Ofelia, he uses the eyeballs in the center of his palms to guide him. After biting the heads off of two of her fairies, Ofelia barely manages to escape before The Pale Man grabs her with his long, slender claws. Ofelia makes it safely back to her bedroom, but not before a new horror icon is seared into our cultural consciousness.
Silva (Javier Bardem) is the only character to make it onto this list solely because of one scene. If you’ve seen Skyfall, you already know what scene we’re talking about. After being taken into custody, Silva is granted a chance to speak with Bond and his former employer, M. He uses the opportunity to disgustingly demonstrate the effects that a cyanide capsule can have on a person.
To our horror, Silva removes the dental implant keeping his facial structure intact. The skin around his eyes and cheeks collapse inward, making a saggy, cock-eyed monster. The repulsion is intensified as M leaves the cackling villain, his hideous visage illuminated under the harsh light. Silva only reveals his true form once, but once is enough.
There’s no shortage of disgusting characters in Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, but surely, Oogie Boogie takes the cake. The villain is literally a writhing mass of spiders, insects, and snakes, sewn up into a crude, burlap sack. If that’s not enough, the insects sometimes escape from his gaping mouth and black eye sockets.
After kidnapping Santa Claus, Oogie Boogie sings a song celebrating his own villainy, and we’re treated to nightmarish visions of his true form. Tim Burton and Henry Selick have always been interested in spooking little kids, and with Oogie Boogie, they knocked it out of the park.
Sometimes the marriage of creature design and creature effects is so in sync, the result becomes imprinted on the cultural consciousness forever. Such is the case with the character of Edgar from Men in Black. The filmmakers asked the question, what would a giant cockroach wearing a suit of human skin look and sound like? The answer, it turns out, is just as repulsive as you might expect.
Brought to life in all of his awful glory by Vincent D’Onofrio, the alien disgusts us in every scene he’s in. D’Onofrio plays him in a halted, gurgling way, just like a bug who’s not used to his new suit. Whether he’s asking for sugar water or punishing someone for hurting his insect brethren, Edgar took vomit-inducing creature effects to an entirely new level.
In the history of gross cinematic characters, one villain stands tall above all the others. Ironic, since he can’t be over four feet.
Yes, Danny DeVito’s Penguin from Tim Burton’s sequel, Batman Returns, is unquestionably the grossest supervillain to grace the silver screen. Burton reimagined The Penguin from his previous incarnations as a suave, tuxedo-wearing gentleman in the comics and 1960s TV show. Burton brought the character into his grimy, Gothic version of Gotham, and presented him as a hideous, subterraneum monster, unfit for mankind.
Whether slurping down raw fish guts in his soiled onesie or bloodily chomping people’s noses off their faces, The Penguin has earned the top spot in the pantheon of disgusting film characters. No other character has ever been quite as repugnant and unpleasant as DeVito’s hook-nosed, black eyed demon. Watching the film today, it’s hard to look at him, but even harder to look away.
What other disgusting movie characters should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!