Without these Disney villains, it’s safe to say that some of our favorite movies would have been quite boring. They add a degree of excitement and thrill, which keeps us coming back for more! We have met a Pandora’s Box of characters throughout the years that Disney has been making movies. Excluding animated features released by Pixar and other studios owned by the company, we have been treated to fifty-three movies — and there are always a handful of villains in each one. Among them are a number of stand-outs, such as those we all collectively loved to hate. From deadly Disney female villains to classic baddies, here is our top 15 list of Disney villains.
Shan Yu – Mulan, 1998
While he was excluded from the 2020 live-action remake of Mulan, Shan Yu gets a spot on our list because of how terrifying he was even in animated form. As one of the top male Disney villains, he was the bloodthirsty leader of the Hun barbarians and he was absolutely ruthless in the battlefield. As if his formidable size wasn’t intimidating enough, his brutality is unmatched. His goal? Wipe out every village as he makes his way to the Imperial City—killing men, women, and even children without remorse. He represents certain dark chapters in our history, and perhaps this is why he is considered to be one of the most loathsome Disney villains.
Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmatians, 1996
Cruella de Vil has one of the most popular Disney villain costumes people choose for Halloween, but you certainly wouldn’t want to meet her in real life. She’s unabashedly evil, for one. She goes to great lengths in order to create a fur coat made out of Dalmatian puppies! While she is comparably weaker in terms of strength, her persistence and money make up for it. Glenn Close’s portrayal in the 90s live-action film added a touch of madness to one of the most famous female Disney villains. It was campy, but no less terrifying. We’re sure we weren’t the only ones who felt satisfaction after she got caught! Did you know she inspired a whole Disney designer collection? If the upcoming Cruella film, which stars Emma Stone as the villain, proves anything, it’s that she is one of the most enduring evil characters on Disney.
Shere Khan – The Jungle Book, 1967
While most of us have a great dislike for Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, others might defend his merciless nature as a consequence of trauma. Some suggest that his family had been killed by hunters, though there isn’t any conclusive evidence of it. He kills to instill fear, while also being afraid of fire and guns. Despite being murderous, however, he does have a rather elegant side to him. Not only was he given such a mesmerizing voice, courtesy of George Sanders in 1967 and Idris Elba in 2016, the character is also guided by etiquette. This makes him one of the most unique and best Disney villains. Serial killers and good manners don’t always fit in the same sentence, but Shere Khan is among the exceptions. He also had one of the most dramatic Disney villain deaths.
Scar – The Lion King, 1994
Little introduction is needed when it comes to Scar. He is one of the greatest villains of all time. His jealousy and hatred led to one of the most painful scenes in movie history. Admit it, you still get emotional whenever the movies get to that moment. The betrayal was so underhanded that you can’t help but feel personally attacked. While it’s easy to dismiss him as one of the worst Disney villains ever, we cannot look past the sheer genius he possessed in order to pull off the murder—unforgivable as it was. He had one of the most satisfying Disney villain defeats. The sharp-tongued character is both brilliant and inherently evil at the same time, but The Lion King wouldn’t be the same without him.
Governor Ratcliffe – Pocahontas, 1995
Who had nightmares about this guy back when they were younger? Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas is greedy, murderous, and racist. He is one of the most realistic male Disney characters. Just take the fact that he was hell-bent on killing the Powhatans and stealing their gold. All he saw was himself becoming richer and he had no regard for those who will suffer as a consequence. Does it sound familiar? Even when told that the Powhatans had none of the treasure he sought—they considered non-material things as the most valuable—Ratcliffe still persisted. While the real-life historical figure that the character was based upon wasn’t nearly as vile, he did suffer a violent end.
Mother Gothel – Tangled, 2016
Disney films are rife with terrible stepmothers and Mother Gothel is certainly high up on that list — even among the worst Disney villains. First off, she steals babies, which is a major no-no by itself. There’s also the fact that she led Rapunzel to believe that she was her real mother, thereby “trapping” the poor girl with a false sense of family and love. She is self-serving and is not beyond doing the worst in order to get what she wants. Outside of violence, it’s this lack of sympathy that makes a character truly frightening. Mother Gothel has none, especially after she tried to keep Rapunzel from finding her happiness. She’s one of the newer Disney witches our list, but her spot is well-deserved.
The Coachman – Pinocchio, 1940
Here’s another nightmare fuel for you. The coachman from Pinocchio collects runaway boys and talks them into joining him in Pleasure Island. He doesn’t get a significant amount of screen time compared to other Disney villains, but it is enough to make you absolutely despise him—or it. There were hints that he may not be completely human, after all! What makes him so vile is the fact that all the children who stay on Pleasure Island eventually turn into donkeys. When they do, they are captured and chained up to be later sold in slavery. He is cruel and sadistic, dishing out pain for the fun of it. Needless to say, he is among the truly evil cartoon characters.
Judge Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996
Veering into darker territory, we have the incredibly corrupt and creepy Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This man wanted to cleanse the world of sin. He saw it everywhere, except in himself. Unlike others on our list, he is not after mere power or riches. He already has those things. Instead, what makes him terrifying is his obsession and instability. He is attracted to Esmeralda, but not in the same way Quasimodo is. It is lust that draws him to her—a temptation that he actually wants to be purged of! Frollo is among the most dynamic Disney villains to ever be shown on film. Plus, when it comes to Disney villains songs, “Hellfire” is among the most unnerving.
Queen Grimhilde – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937
No Disney Princess is safe when someone like Queen Grimhilde is around. Among all Disney villains, she is the blueprint for every wicked stepmother and also the worst of the lot. Being made to scrub floors and dress in rags is nothing compared to someone who wants your heart—in a box. The Wicked Queen did all these evil deeds out of vanity. She wanted to be the fairest of them all and pretty much reinvented the idea of what a Disney villains mirror is. Out of desperation, she set the royal huntsman to do the dirty job of killing her only rival. The live-action film — starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth — gave us a more powerful version of Snow White, but Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the Disney evil queen was straight out of the Brothers Grimm original.
Gaston – Beauty and the Beast, 1991
Despite the fact that he doesn’t get as much screen time as the others on our list, Gaston is among the most unforgettable male Disney characters. Sure, Gaston was annoying, but during the first half of the film, you don’t really feel much hatred for him. It is when he begins his pursuit of the Beast that we got to see another, more evil, side to him. In comparison, the greasy skirt-chaser was more tolerable compared to the manipulative character he really was. He had an opportunity to be a lovable himbo, but chose to be one of the Disney villains instead. The live-action film cast Luke Evans in the role and for a guy so difficult to hate, his portrayal of Gaston will really make your blood boil. From the way he walks to how he talks—he nailed every detail.
Prince Hans of The Summer Isles – Frozen, 2013
Since we’re on the topic of deceiving looks, another much loathed villain is Prince Hans from the film Frozen. We were all initially led to believe that he was a knight in shining armor, right out of a Disney storybook collection. However, he was just manipulating everyone all along. While born of royal blood, his late birth meant that he was not destined to inherit the kingdom. Instead, he set his eyes on Anna in order to change his father. Prince Hans might appear to be a goofball, but he is among the darkest Disney villains on this list. Not only is he manipulative, he is also murderous and can adapt to suit his intended target. Thus, Prince Hans ranks high on the villain tier list.
Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty, 1959
Aurora is one of the most enduring Disney princesses, but you cannot mention her name without bringing Maleficent into the conversation too. In the live action film, it was not the usual Disney heroes vs. villains plotline. Angelina Jolie’s beautiful portrayal of the evil fairy made us all empathize with her character and, ultimately, turned her into a beloved anti-heroine. However, the 1959 version ranks high among Disney villains because of how powerful and terrifying she was. She is just as elegant as Jolie, but had so few redeeming qualities that she deserves a spot on this list. Imagine being so deranged and obsessed with vengeance that you commit yourself to a decade of scheming just because they forgot to invite her to Aurora’s christening. Mind you, that’s the same baby she cursed would one day die. Among many female Disney villains, Maleficent takes pettiness to a horrifying level!
Captain Hook – Peter Pan, 1953
Captain Hook’s sole purpose is to hunt down Peter Pan, which follows a traditional Disney villains revenge storyline. He is portrayed rather comically in the animation. Hook is fearful and his own clumsiness always gets the best of him. His temper flare ups only serve to amuse Peter and the Lost Boys—much to Hook’s frustration.
Over the years, there have been many live-action interpretations of the famed captain. Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman went toe to toe — as Peter Pan and Hook, respectively — in the 1991 film. Jason Isaacs created a darker version of one of the best Disney villains for his turn in 2003. Most recently, Garret Hedlund got his chance to portray the one-handed villain in the 2015 film, Pan, which also starred Rooney Mara and Hugh Jackman.
Ursula – The Little Mermaid, 1989
Her character’s design isn’t the only thing intimidating about one of the most memorable Disney witches. Her deceitful ways are coupled with a magical power that made her quite formidable to deal with. One of the most memorable scenes in the film was when she stole Ariel’s voice and proceeded to trick Prince Eric into choosing her. We’re sure many of you were frustrated by how easily she had managed to do it—but worry not, because she did get her just desserts in the end. Ursula is charismatic and despite her evil nature, she is one of the more entertaining Disney villains to watch. She’s also among the popular Disney world characters that people often take photos with!
Hades – Hercules, 1997
He may rank low on the villain tier list, but Hades proves that bitterness will never be a good look for anyone—even if you’re a god. This male Disney villain does have some reason to be spiteful of his brothers and sisters; Hades just goes a little over the top at times. While they live luxuriously on Mount Olympus, he is left to deal with the increasingly gloomy underworld.
Voiced by the talented James Woods, Hercules’ version of the character is a snarky, rather clumsy, hothead. His goal is to free the Titans as an act of revenge against the gods of Mount Olympus. Wood’s voice acting makes him one of the funniest villains on this list, while still maintaining a menacing aura that will remind you that he’s ultimately the bad guy. Additionally, if you’re looking for villain costumes, his toga is easy to copy! Just don’t set your hair on fire, okay?
Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that even some of these Disney villains have won a small spot in our hearts. They teach us some very good life lessons, too.
Without a doubt, Disney has always created some of the most complex bad guys in cinema. These characters have layers and stories of their own, which endears them to us even when they do a lot of questionable and unforgivable things.
So, which Disney villain are you and have you ever thought about any similarities you might share with them?