What makes a good villain? I’ve already written an article on what I call the Villainous Venn-Triagram, but there’s an element I left out: hatability. It’s the amount of deadness you want that person to suffer.
For example: Voldemort is a good villain, but Umbridge is the one you want to strangle with piano wire.
So this is not a list of the most charismatic, powerful, or even favorite villains. These are the top ten Disney villains that send you searching for the nail bat and cattle prod.
I know “Disney” encompasses a lot now, but I’m only looking at animated theatrical releases. No Star Wars, Marvel, etc. We doin’ it old school.
10. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast
Gaston is a dudebro. A dudebro is a hybrid between a tool and a douche bag. Full of himself, pampered by the whole town, and determined to force marriage on the single, solitary woman who doesn’t lick his muddy boots.
However, the movie knows it, and for half the film, they play up the character for laughs, which is why he’s low on this list. Gaston is a fun character at times, like when he’s singing while eating four eggs (how?!).
Still, Gaston’s darker side comes out and he really is a dudebro, the kind of guy you’d slap in real life, so he just barely creeps onto this list.
9. Scar from The Lion King
Once more, we have a character who’s actually kind of awesome. He’s a suave, dignified lion voiced by Jeremy Irons, so he can’t be too hateable.
On the other hand, he did kill his own brother and then brainwash the dead brother’s child into thinking he caused his own father’s death and that everyone would hate him. Oh, and then he tried to kill said child.
Everything Scar does is underhanded and sick. By the time he looks at the hyenas and says, “My friends,” you’re asking those slobbering, mangy, stupid poachers to save you a leg.
Bonus points! There’s a deleted scene of Scar hitting on Nala. Check it:
8. Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians
Here’s another villain who almost didn’t make the list because she’s just so darn fun. But then I saw the movie again and heard a line I’d missed before.
When the police are closing in on Cruella, she demands that Jasper and Horace kill the 99 puppies for their coats immediately. Jasper argues, “You couldn’t get half a dozen coats out of the whole kaboodle.” Cruella’s response? “Then we’ll settle for half a dozen!”
So let me get this straight. You’re willing to poison, drown, or bash in the skulls of 99 puppies for the sake of…six fur coats? When the puppies escape, you could just walk away and the police will never trace them back to you, but you hunt them through the freezing weather for…six fur coats? You nearly ram an innocent truck driver off a cliff for…six fur coats?
When you said you lived for fur and worshiped fur, you really meant it didn’t you, you freak!
7. Mother Grothel from Tangled
This one just makes you shudder. Mother Grothel isn’t your standard, “Muahahaha” villain, in fact she plays the loving mother part so well you can almost believe her. Her sweet smile, her commitment to Rapunzel’s safety, she’s like icing that’s just a hair too sweet.
And poisonous. I mean passively-aggressively insulting Rapunzel, keeping her in the tower, freaking kidnapping her as a baby for her magical hair that keeps one young? There’s also that whole attempted-murder thing.
I think Mother Grothel is scary because she’s just real enough. Manipulative people and parents really do exist, and that’s what makes our skin crawl.
6. Madame Medusa from The Rescuers
Speaking of women who kidnap children, what’s up with this psycho lady?!
If you haven’t seen it in a while, or ever, Madame Medusa wants to adopt little orphan Penny, but it doesn’t go well, so she kidnaps her and forces her to live on a decrepit steamboat in the scariest set piece Disney has ever painted (fight me).
Why does Madame Medusa want Penny? Because Penny is small and able to fit down a tiny crevice that opens into a hidden treasure trove of diamonds and gems. But even the worthwhile cash Penny repeatedly finds isn’t enough. Medusa wants the Devil’s Eye, a diamond the size of a softball. She tells Penny to go down into “the black hole” and stay there until she finds the Devil’s Eye.
Problem: the Devil’s Eye is across a giant hole in the cave. What’s more, the tide comes in through that hole. Not only does it flood, but it creates whirlpools which drag little children into the drowning depths below.
The cherry on it all? Medusa forces Penny down there by threatening her teddy bear, the little girl’s only friend in this hell of an existence.
Anybody else glad that Medusa left scrambling up a steam pipe as alligators snap at her her heels?
5. Lady Tremaine from Cinderella
Cruel mother figures make this list quite a bit, don’t they? But Lady Tremaine tops them all. Her life goal seems to be to torture Cinderella psychologically. Not only does she make Cinderella work like a slave, she builds up her hopes about going to the ball, then laughs as they’re literally ripped apart.
When the prince finally comes, Lady Tremaine tries to lock Cinderella away to avoid her having any happiness. Even when her own daughters clearly don’t work out, Lady Tremaine just wants to make sure Cinderella never escapes.
And that’s the sick part. She never threatens Cinderella’s life, and has nothing to gain from her cruelty. She just hates the idea of Cinderella being happy.
4. Hans from Frozen
“Oh, Anna…if only there was someone out there who loved you.”
Need I say more?
3. Judge Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
At first, Frollo wasn’t even on this list. Then he was low. Now he’s at number three. The more I thought about this asshole, the higher a place he deserved.
Let’s start with his religious complex, where he is pure of heart and everyone else is Satan incarnate, especially gypsies. He starts the movie by killing a woman and nearly drowning her baby. Nice. He then brainwashes the child for twenty years so that he will be obedient, but keeps his education so limited that at the age of twenty, Quasimodo only knows his ABCs. Oh, and he named him Quasimodo, “half-formed.”
And then he creeps on Esmerelda, then blames her for inciting his lust. That lust grows so powerful that he imprisons random people and burns half the city. And then, of course, tries to kill just about everyone.
Why isn’t he higher? Because he’s voiced by the late Tony Jay, and that’s amazing.
2. The Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood
Remember that allusion to Voldemort and Umbridge? Here we are again. Prince John is a good villain, a setter of wise traps, but also silly enough to make you laugh. All in all, though, he’s just a mama’s boy.
But the wolf Sheriff is just plain evil. In his very first scene, he comes to collect the taxes of an injured blacksmith who can barely work enough to live. The Sheriff cares so little for the man’s woes that when he realizes the blacksmith is hiding his money in his busted leg’s bandage, he beats on the wound until the last coin falls out.
There’s a parallel to the modern day somewhere in there…
However, that’s not bad enough. Right after the Sheriff abuses the injured, he goes to the house of a poor woman with a zillion kids and steals her child’s birthday money right in front of him. And then turns around and robs a blind beggar!
And he’s not done! After cheating at an archery tournament and executing Prince John’s orders to hike up taxes to impossible amounts, the “Honorable” Sheriff walks into a church, takes money out of the poor box, and arrests the friar.
Sir, you shall go to the Special Hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater.
1. The Coachman from Pinocchio
They showed this to kids…
Okay, so the Coachman is an otherwise-unnamed villain from one of Walt Disney’s oldest movies. He drives the coach that leads cartfuls of boys to Pleasure Island, a place where bad little boys are allowed to break things, drink alcohol, smoke, and whatever they want with no consequences.
Except the little fact that they’re turned into donkeys which are sold to the mines.
Read that again: he picks up delinquent boys, turns them into donkeys, and sells them to the mines. And he gets away with it. The Coachman is never caught, and never seen again after Pinocchio escapes his clutches. It’s safe to assume he’s out there still, searching for more boys to lure into his sick trap.
Dude…DUDE! What do you even say to that? I suppose it’s a harrowing cautionary tale of people who try to seduce you with “the good life,” only to use you and throw you away, but…DUDE!
Which ones did I miss? Shout out in the comments!