Most of us grew up talking about our favorite Disney characters. You think back on the pantheon of characters that Disney has and how iconic they are, and we usually think of the classics like Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. But what made these movies as good as they are was how unique and sometimes terrifying their villains could be. So I am going to try my best to rank my top 10 Disney villains.
#10 – Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons)
Does he have a real name? Yes, it’s Michael “Goob” Yagoobian, but he is known as Bowler Hat Guy for most of the film. I know what you are thinking. “Jose, how in the world is this guy in the top 10 of anything?” I get it. But he was such a great villain in how he mirrored what it must feel like to be helplessly alone in the world. He held a grudge his whole life, and it turned his heart so black that he tried his best to get revenge on the 10-year-old version of his nemesis, Lewis. At some points in the movie, you can’t help but sympathize with him. Is it so hard to think you wouldn’t become so cynical if no one ever loved you?
#9 – Long John Silver (Treasure Planet)
I am super biased when it comes to this movie because it is one of my favorites. I think the whole cyberpunk pirate theme was so freaking cool. I’m obsessed with that world. Honestly, Jim Hawkins is the only person, fictional or otherwise, who can pull off a rattail haircut. But we aren’t here to talk about him. Long John Silver is the embodiment of greed. He starts as an ally. Playing the cook of the ship, he and Jim soon form a relationship. The once steely-hearted pirate now has a soft spot for the main character.
I love this character because we are shown that Long John Silver is willing to do anything to achieve his life goal of finding Treasure Planet. He is willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill all for the sake of unimaginable wealth. But when push comes to shove, our villain doesn’t act villainous at the climax of the movie. Instead of taking as much wealth as he could carry before Treasure Planet exploded, he saved Jim. He redeemed himself, if only a little bit by sacrificing his dream for the sake of someone he cared about deeply.
#8 – Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)
Shere Khan isn’t even in most of the movie. He doesn’t show up until about 2/3rds into the movie. But what I love about Shere Khan is that he isn’t so terrifying as he is intimidating. He is the apex predator of the jungles and is treated as such. He is respected by everyone and not someone to mess with at all. So when he sets his eyes on Mowgli, it takes a panther and a bear to keep him safe. (Let’s be real, though, an adult brown bear is clapping a tiger in a fight.) There is something intimidating about a villain when it takes the whole cast of characters in a movie to prevent the villain from winning. It took all of the Avengers to take out Thanos. What I’m trying to say is that Shere Khan is the Thanos of the Jungle Book. A man/tiger on a mission, and it looks like nothing is going to stop him.
#7 – Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Yzma is probably the most unique on this list because of why she makes it. Does her jealousy drive her to try to commit murder? Absolutely, but she is a great villain because of how hilariously incompetent she is. (along with Kronk, but he is one the OG Himbos) She has some of the most iconic fits in all of Disney. And who didn’t laugh when she yelled, “WROOOOONG LEVER!!!!!” So while she isn’t the scariest or most compelling character, she fits perfectly. She’s the villain that is the most laughed at, and that’s why she makes it on the list.
#6 – Randall Boggs (Monster’s Inc.)
First of all, every monster that works at Monsters Inc. is a villain. Their whole jobs revolve around tormenting children for a power company. A smarter person would explain how this demonstrates the downfalls of capitalism, but I’m not that person or that smart. But a monster like Randall, who is so competitively driven that he is willing to commit crimes, is a compelling character. Every scene he was in gave me the heebeegeebees as a kid.
The fact that he can turn invisible and appear anywhere to scare you was terrifying to watch. Especially when he was hunting down Sully as he was holding Boo, he must have been inspired by the nightmares of one of the writers, but I don’t think you just come up with his concept out of thin air.
I will say the origin of his glare in Monsters University is a top 5 funny moments in Disney. He looked so terrifying in the first movie simply because he couldn’t see without his glasses? Whoever came up with that needs a raise.
#5 – Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians Live Action)
I don’t know if you have seen the ideas out on the world wide web about Cruella De Vil being a secret feminist hero, but if you haven’t, go look it up. It is a fun read.
Whether you agree with it or not, it is really hard to overlook that she wants to kill puppies to make coats. I know real furs back in the day were super popular and a sign of wealth and importance, but there has to be a line. If you come for the puppies, you leave me no choice but to challenge you to an Agni Kai. (Mixing my universes, but you get my point.) She definitely gets villainized throughout the movie simply for being a successful working woman in her time. Still, it really is hard to overlook the whole wanting to kill puppies thing.
#4 – Hades (Hercules)
Is this the Hades of Greek Mythology? Nope, but this interpretation is a top-notch rendition. He is easy to hate, but you also find yourself laughing with him at times. As the lord over the Underworld, a job he actually hates and resents his brother, Zeus, for giving it to him.
Hades plots against the other Olympians to overthrow Zeus. As most stories with the Greek gods go, Hades plays with the lives of mortals using monsters as means to undermine his brother’s authority. Slowly, Hades unleashes his plan onto the world, the titans, to take out the Olympians.
The thing with Hades is that there are points in his own story that make you wish nothing but the best for him. He is the retail worker who hates their job but can’t leave it because he has to pay rent. Imagine being condemned to working a job you hate for all eternity. That would turn even the best of people rotten at some point. Plus, Hercules as a movie has some of the best bangers in all of Disney’s discography.
#3 – Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Mother Gothel is the queen of gaslighting. She ranks number three on my list for the simple fact that she highlights what a modern toxic relationship looks like. The lying and emotional manipulation she uses to keep Rapunzel locked in the tower and in check is disgusting. But I would bet that most of us have seen a friend or loved one get played by a Mother Gothel in their lives.
So many people are taught that blood is thicker than water. That family is the most important thing in the world, but what happens when you have a mom like Mother Gothel? Someone who preys on your fears, constantly gaslights you, makes passive-aggressive jokes at your expense, always looking for praise and recognition even when you are the one who accomplished something, and only valuing you for what you provide and not your inherent worth is an archetype of some people’s parents. Would you have the galls to tell someone who has a narcissistic parent that “blood is thicker than water?”
#2 – Clayton (Tarzan)
Again, we see the troupe of allies turned into enemies or someone we thought was an ally. Clayton was one of the scariest villains to me as a kid, but I think it was because he was human. Most worlds in Disney movies are magical or make-believe. Kings and queens, magic and sorcery, talking monsters and animals, but Tarzan was one of the first to take place in a mostly realistic world.
So when Clayton turned evil during the climax of the movie, even as a kid, I could feel the wickedness I was experiencing was more real than make-believe. Just pure unadulterated hate for something he knew nothing about. His blind rage and ignorance led to his eventual downfall. And let’s be real, his death is probably one of the darkest depicted scenes from that era of Disney. The shadow of his lifeless corpse hanging from the vines as Tarzan recovers from the fall still haunts the 8-year-old part of my brain.
Sidenote: Phil Collins did not have to go that hard on the soundtrack for this movie.
#1 – Scar (Lion King)
I think this goes without saying. Scar is the best Disney villain out there. Everyone else is competing for 2nd place. But what was the pride of lions expecting from him? Was he named Scar before he got the one on his eye, or was it some cruel nickname given to him after the fact? If anything, Scar is just fighting back against his bullies. But in all seriousness, The Lion King was probably my first instance of experiencing death. Scar commits fratricide, giving us one of Disney’s most iconic lines. “Long live the king.” He killed his brother with zero remorse, even as Mufasa yelled for help. Mufasa was filled with fear as his brother clawed him off the cliff into the wildebeest stampede. And what did becoming King get him? Hate, resent, and a land lacking in every resource needed to survive. Scar killed his brother out of pettiness and blamed his nephew out of jealousy.
To sum it up
I think any well-written protagonist is made by their antagonist. If you have a bad villain, then your hero’s win isn’t as compelling. Batman has the joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. The Avengers have Thanos. And every Disney hero has their compelling villain. But I’m curious to know who you think the best Disney villain is. Comment down below and let us know.
And if you want to read more about villains, try reading our article on what your favorite avatar villain says about you.