There is probably no other movie studio that has a better roster of villains than The House of Mouse. The roll call of Disney villains contains some of the most iconic figures in pulp culture history with many of the villains being more popular than the hero/heroine they oppose. Everyone has their favorites so today I’m sharing my favorite villains. Now looking at a villain I take in their appearance, effectiveness, and level of evil to decide where they fall in my rankings. So here we go.
The Horned King is the chief villain of The Black Cauldron, which is an often overlooked Disney film and really worth checking out if only for The Horned King because he is bloody terrifying. This horned skeletal creature with rotting flesh just maybe Disney’s only zombie villain. His intention is to become a “God among mortal men” and to achieve this he needs the titular Black Cauldron to raise an army of the dead so that he can wipe out all living things. Sadly he isn’t the most proactive of villains relying on creepy henchmen to do most of the stories heavy lifting.
Captain Hook from Peter Pan gets serious points just for being a pirate because pirates are cool. He’s a snappy dresser and knows his way around a sword fight (negative points for losing to Peter Pan who manages to parry Hook’s sword with but a knife). Aside from the pirate thing he gets villainous cred for seemingly having the sole goal in life of killing Peter Pan and any Lost Boy who get in his way. He even tries to murder Peter with a time bomb that he tricks Tinker Bell into delivering. A very pirate thing to do, that and his cool hook lands him in the nine spot.
Scar is the chief villain of The Lion King and though he is rather mangy and not much of a physical threat, he does conspire to murder his brother and become king of Pride Lands. He even tries to get poor little Simba killed by sicking his hyena flunkies to finish off what the stampede failed to do. Extra villain points for making poor Simba believe he was responsible for his father’s death. So Scar is guilty of regicide, fratricide and contract killing of the rightful heir. Upon taking the “Throne” he proceeds to run the Pride Lands into the ground. (Note: I’m not sure how poor leadership causes a drought but Scar somehow manages it.)
Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid is one of the best in the “Big and Brassy” category of villains. She’s rotten and knows it and wouldn’t have it any other way. She is a villain that truly loves her work. She tricks King Triton’s subjects by offering them their heart’s desire but with some nasty strings attached that lands them looking like wilted plants in a garden of sadness. It’s when she tries to go for the big brass ring herself that lands her in trouble and earns her a ships’ bowsprit through the belly. Still decent points for getting King Triton’s crown and trident, however briefly, and then turning herself into a giant tentacle sea goddess.
Shere Khan, the tiger from The Jungle Book, gets a bonus point for being the villain in the first Disney film that I saw in theatres (during one of its re-releases, I was only one year old when it originally debuted) and thus has earned a special place in my heat. That aside he is still a badass villain, like most good villains he is very goal orientated and in this case that’s killing a young boy by the name of Mowgli. Now Mowgli’s only crime is being a man and thus a future threat if he ever manages to make “Man’s red fire” or worse get a gun. What makes Shere Khan stand out though is his cool and casual manner, he never seems worried, victory is never in question, so when things do go south for him we, the audience, are almost as surprised as he is. The voice work by the brilliant English actor George Sanders certainly makes Shere Khan the coolest cat in the jungle.
Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians gets this spot because she is trying to make a fur coat out of puppies, seriously, PUPPIES! That alone earns her this spot on the list, she loves furs and thinks Dalmatian spots are just so awesome that killing a hundred or so puppies to get a great coat is justified. She also gets bonus points for looking just so freaking weird. She even has a great theme song, “Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil, If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will. To see her is to take a sudden chill. Cruella, Cruella De Vil.” Like many a villain, her poor choice in henchmen is her undoing. Well, that and being batshit crazy.
The Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first animated feature-length villain and she is a doozy. Mostly just known as The Wicked Queen she earns her spot for being insanely vain and for being the first wicked stepmother in the Disney canon. So jealous of Snow White’s approaching beauty that she dressed the little princess in rags and forced her to work as a scullery maid. When the wicked Queen’s magic mirror finally rats out Snow White for being fairer than the Queen she reacts rather poorly.
Now the Queen had several options on how to deal with a beauty rival, she later turns herself into a crone to trick Snow White so why not use that magic to turn Snow White into an old crone, but no, she goes right for the death penalty. She asks her faithful huntsman to take the young princess out into the forest, murder her and then bring back her heart as proof. That’s pretty damn cold. When the Queen finds out she has been tricked she decides to handle things personally and goes the poison apple route.
Sadly she ignores the “Love’s First Kiss” loophole in the “Sleeping Death” poison, believing that the dwarves will bury her alive. This, of course, doesn’t turn out to be the case and she ends up dead when God smacks her down.
The Coachman from Pinocchio wins his spot by being the most out and out evil villain in a movie that already has several villains in it. You have Honest John and his idiot sidekick Gideon, the puppet master Stromboli who threatens to chop our hero into kindling, and Monstro a whale that swallows ships whole, but it was The Coachman who always terrified me.
He lures stupid miss-behaving young boys to Pleasure Island where after a night of mischief they turn into donkeys that he then sells to the salt mines unless they can still talk; those are penned up for who knows what horrible fate he has in store for them. We’re not even sure if The Coachman is even human; his spooky-looking henchmen lead us to believe he just might not be.
Chernabog is Disney’s purest representation of evil. His Night on Bald Mountain sequence in Fantasia has always been my favorite; no slight to Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice but Chernabog is a giant demon who summons ghosts, including spirits of hung criminals, demons, and harpies, and for fun he occasionally grabs one of his minions and casts them into the fire to watch their torment and all to the awesome music of Modest Mussorgsky.
Basically, he is just that Metal. He is also a rare Disney villain in that he never speaks, but he pretty much defines the phrase “Actions speaker louder than words.” He is only undone by the church bells ringing and the rays of the dawning sun.
Maleficent is the Queen of Evil and the star of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, now some may think Princess Aurora is the star of this film but she doesn’t hold a candle to the magnificence that is Maleficent. Not only is she the most beautifully designed villain in Disney’s canon, but she also gives Chernabog a run for his money in the pure evil category. Her arrival in the movie is at the christening of baby Princess Aurora and because she wasn’t invited Maleficent places a curse on the baby stating that before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Now that’s a pretty heavy overreaction to being left off the party list, cursing a baby?
“You poor simple fools, thinking you could defeat me. Me, the mistress of all evil.” Maleficent is certainly the most powerful of the Disney villains, she can teleport, cast lightning, create a forest of thorns and has an army of goblins and trolls at her beck and call.
Maleficent for the win. Well, she would have won if it wasn’t for those meddling faeries that enchanted Prince Philip’s sword with the incantation, “Sword of truth fly swift and sure that evil die and good endure!” In by book that’s just cheating. But regardless of her losing to “Prince Charming” she does win the top spot on my list of greatest Disney villains.
So those are my top ten favorite Disney Villains, now I know my ranking may differ from yours, and some of your favorites may be missing completely, but that is what fun debates are for.
Honorable mentions go-to man, as it was man in the forest who shoots Bambi’s mother. Probably one of the most traumatic moments in many a child’s formative years.