Similar to film, television horror depends on a few key formulas. Not only do you need to have high stakes and stunning visuals to keep an audience interested, but you need a menacing villain to hold it together. It also gives you something to be scared of or be angry about for weeks to come.
With this list we will focus on the 10 best villains from television horror. Let me clarify that although there are some great television villains, like Gus from Breaking Bad, you won't see them on this list because they don't fit within the genre. Seeing how horror television is still a small field, you will also see multiple villains from the same show.
10. Maryann Forrester - True Blood
HBO's True Blood was stacked full of villains throughout seven seasons, but few shined through as lasting villains throughout the series. Season two arguably introduced some of the best characters of the entire series with one being the ancient deity, or Maenad, named Maryann Forrester. Maryann's confident and mysterious nature was attractive at first but you soon get a grasp on her intentions and she's definitely not something you want to confront.
9. Norma Bates - Bates Motel
It's still up for debate whether Norma is a true villain in Bates Motel or if she is really just trying to help her son, Norman. At this point I would consider Norma more of a villain than anything else. Her distaste for others' well being at the expense of Norman is quite awful. Not to mention we've already seen what she is capable of doing to another human being.
8. Tate Langdon - American Horror Story: Murder House
Season 1 of American Horror Story was a hit with audiences and looking back on the season as a whole, a majority of the positive feedback was due to the amazing villain Tate Langdon. Tate channeled the energy of the house full of spirits in a calm way and it wasn't until later that we realized exactly how charming and attractive pure evil can be.
7. Hannibal Lecter - Hannibal
The televised version of the classic horror icon, Hannibal Lecter finds new life on the small screen and he's just as disturbing as the film version of the character. Mads Mikkelsen channels the character in a different way than Anthony Hopkins did, but the basic elements are there and it's enough to make you reopen that love-hate relationship with Hannibal.
6. Arthur Mitchell - Dexter
This multi-decade serial killer was fully unearthed in season 4 of Dexter. Killing in threes, the Trinity Killer wreaked havoc until he was found out and has a rather extensive list of victims killed in random ways. With a tenure of over 30 years, you can imagine his kill list grew to a terrifying number.
5. Bloody Face - American Horror Story: Asylum
The main antagonist of season 2 of American Horror Story, Bloody Face is a villain with a dual life. Someone who can walk around as a respected, professional man one second and return home to torture and be a killer is definitely one of the scariest things. The true identity of Bloody Face as well as his intentions was one of the biggest shocks of Asylum as well as who carried on Bloody Face's legacy after his demise.
4. The Governor - The Walking Dead
Iconic within the universe of The Walking Dead, The Governor was a character many fans were curious about when the show premiered. When would we see him? Would he be as brutal as he was in the comics? Well, the answer to the latter is yes, and much more so. The Governor brought Rick and the group into Woodbury peacefully, but his reaction as soon as he was challenged forever changed the group and the fate of the show. He is easily one of the most brutal and ruthless villains in television history.
3. Pennywise - It
Usually on most lists for top horror icons, I decided to save Pennywise for the television list seeing as It originally aired on TV. From the mind of Stephen King, a demented clown living in the sewers of a small town who murders young children crept into our nightmares with this 1990 miniseries. It definitely solidified many viewers' fear of clowns, sewers, and showers. Either that or it created fears that most of us haven't quite gotten over.
2. Russell Edgington - True Blood
Russell is not only the best villain of True Blood's tenure, but he is easily one of the most dangerous and terrifying vampires the show introduced us to. Not only is he completely relentless towards humankind and fellow vampires, this 3,000 year old vampire King of Mississippi wreaked havoc from season three through season five killing numerous characters who stood in his path.
1. Twisty the Clown - American Horror Story: Freak Show
Although Twisty the Clown's story wound up being more heartbreaking than terrifying, that doesn't mean Twisty didn't feature in some horrible scenes. This knife wielding clown crashed onto the scene of Jupiter, FL in the wake of Elsa Mars' freak show arrival and quickly created a trail of blood throughout the small town. Similar to Pennywise, this character channeled our fear of clowns and there were a lot of people who skipped out on Freak Show simply because the villain was a murderous clown.