Disney villains have a particular set of qualities that set them apart from many animated characters. Maybe it’s how iconic they have become or the fact that their songs are easily the best ones in the soundtrack. Nonetheless, the Disney villains can sometimes surpass the charm of the main character.
Sadly, as the Disney movies keep evolving, we see a lot more of the stories centralizing in personal issues –sisters’ relationship, mother and daughter dilemmas- and the quintessential ‘bad guys’ have kind of been left behind. There is no real villain in Finding Nemo except for the barracuda in the beginning. Frozen’s bad guy was such a last minute desperate attempt at a twist, I don’t think you can really count it. Maleficent is not really evil apparently, just misunderstood, and while sometimes there is a character that presents danger, like Mordu in Brave, it doesn’t bring substance to the main issue of the story.
It is no surprise they are trying to mix it up, but the traditional duality of good versus evil has led to some of the best villains. From sassy, to funny to just plain evil, these are my favorite Disney villains of all time:
10 - Jafar
The more I watch Aladdin as an adult, the more I appreciate the character of Jafar. As a kid, he was just the old guy creeping up on Jasmine. Now his dark personality and dry humor combined with Iago’s loud nature have become one of my favorite combinations.
Jafar’s evil plan is very common in the Disney universe: to gain all the power and become the Sultan of this story. What enhances his pursuit are the exotic elements like the Cave of Wonders and his sorcery. Also, did I mention he turns into a big ass snake? And the most powerful genie of all?
And that voice! Have you heard that voice?
9 - Shere Khan
Talk about shiver inducing voices…
The fearsome villain in The Jungle Book is one cool cat. While not the most recurring character in the story (Shere Khan only begins to show up halfway through the movie), his presence is always felt through the fear of others and the urgent need to get Mowgli out of the jungle.
It is that quiet, self composed character that makes him so menacing. No one doubts Shere Khan’s power, but that controlled demeanor only enhances the danger when he finally finds the boy.
8 - Gaston
I never liked Gaston. I hated his ponytail. I hated his arrogance and his self importance, which is probably what makes him a good villain. The hunk of this provincial town fixated on winning over Belle, or more like forcing her to marry him. Some wooing. But even landing face first in a mud puddle didn't deter his manipulative plans to keep her and his status in town.
If there is any redeeming feature for Gaston it is the bar scene with an ode to himself. Because no one spits like Gaston, or has as much hair as Gaston, and all the other ultra male qualities men love to boast about.
7 - Maleficent
I know we have established that Maleficent is now not really evil in the new film starring Angelina Jolie, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that for the past 50 something years she was a resentful… let’s say witch… who put a deadly curse on a newborn because ‘she wasn’t invited to a party.’ Jeez, dramatic much?
Sleeping Beauty is riddled with dark imagery which helps Maleficent’s ominous façade. She is another case of mostly-soft-spoken-until-shit-goes-down type of villain but boy, does she pick her moments. Aside from the memorable curse scene, my favorite is when she turns into a dragon. Granted, it doesn’t last long (Spoiler Alert?) but it’s still quite the moment.
6 - Cruella De Vil
Not only does she have one of the catchiest songs dedicated to her, I can say Miss De Vil –somehow I doubt she ever married-- is probably the most evil of them all. Why you may ask? I don’t recall anyone else wanting to skin puppies, the most adorable creatures of the planet, (one hundred and one of them I might add), for the sake of looking good.
She might need more than puppies for that.
5 - Chernobog
Technically not a bad guy in the traditional sense, but if this guy didn’t give you the creeps as a child, you were the friend I looked for but never found that could have told me ‘Stop being a wuss!’ and my phobia for all things scary would have dissolved then and there. But let’s not get sidetracked. Where was I…
Oh yeah, it’s a freaking demon! In a Disney movie! A demon that raises the dead and makes other demons dance and when he is bored of them, he picks them up and delights in burning them in the fire. Fantasia would have ended on a very gruesome note if it weren’t saved by angelical bells followed by Beethoven’s Ave Maria.
But as far as gruesome and dark goes… based on the murder of Bambi’s mother, the death of so many character’s parents, evil puppy skinning lady and oh so many other subliminal messages… I think we all know Disney does what it wants.
4 - Frollo
Hidden under a somber Disney movie by comparison is one of the cruelest villains. Maybe it’s because of that unrepentant hateful nature that Frollo makes for a compelling bad guy. There is no likable quality about him. He is not funny, not even by accident; he is far too serious and is basically working on the extermination of a whole group of people, the gypsies.
The only weakness Frollo seems to have is his infatuation with Esmeralda which conflicts with his goal to completely obliterate her people. But even with this burning passion, Frollo just sinks down lower into the evil hole. She is either to be his or she will be burned. Ah, romance.
3 - Scar
It’s not surprising another feline made it to the list. They’re sleek. They’re agile. They are unanimously cool. But Scar’s evilness comes not from his strength but his manipulative skills. Backed by vicious hyenas and the insatiable need to kill Mufasa, Scar is terrifying yet charming. 'Be Prepared' is easily one of the best Disney songs and a thrilling call ‘to the coup of the century.’ And it’s Jeremy Irons’ voice. I believe there is nothing else to be said.
2 - Ursula
There are many female villains in Disney movies, mostly jealous stepmothers, but Ursula is by far my favorite. No one is sassier than Ursula with her raspy voice and great advice 'Don't underestimate the importance of body language' followed by some serious hip movements.
As the octopus sorceress who wants to overpower King Triton by removing the princess from the picture, Ursula is a great contrast in the otherwise bubbly under the sea world. Also, yet another villain with a great song, 'Poor Unfortunate Souls.'
1 - Hades
Hades is the best villain of all the Disney films. That is not my opinion. That is an official statement. If you can't agree with me then you are obliged to say he is on the top five list. Okay, top three. I can't keep negotiating.
Easily the funniest villain, Hades, voiced by James Woods, is a great balance of evil and charm. It is the kind of humor that never gets old, full of modern day references, puns and sarcasm.
Considering how terrifying looking Hades is -possibly the ugliest of all villains- he is incredibly likable alongside Pain and Panic his assistants. Even as his evil plan takes hold, or even when it all falls apart, the comedy in Hercules is snappy and witty and a good 80% of that comes just from this character.