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Let’s put all the princesses, adorable animal sidekicks, and valiant princes to the side. It’s time to turn off the lights, sing songs in a minor key, and fill the room with ominous green smoke that no one knows where it came from. Let’s talk about the bad guys! Disney villains are some of Disney’s most well-thought-out characters. While I doubt you can even name the prince in Sleeping Beauty (it’s Phillip, BTW), everyone knows who Maleficent is. She got her own movie, for crying out loud! As a rule of thumb, Disney villains are always scene-stealers.
They usually have one of the most epic songs in their respective movies (Hellfire puts Let it Go to shame. Sorry, not sorry.) Unlike some of the side characters in Disney movies or even the prince, Disney villains almost never are one-dimensional. Do you want to disagree with me? Name me one notable personality trait of Prince Charming besides charming. You can’t do it.
So, Here is the List of the Top 10 Disney Villains:
#10 – Captain Hook – ‘Peter Pan’ (1953)
Some Disney villains are scary, and some are Captain Hook. But what Captain Hook lacks in terrifying brutality, he makes up for in impressively straight mustaches and fashion-forward body length red coats. Captain Hook is the only character who sails a boat around an island where people can literally fly and stalks Peter Pan because Peter caused him to lose his hand to a crocodile. I’d be pissed too if I was in that situation. Captain Hook serves as both a source of comic relief and a villain. You know when a dad shows a kid a telescope, he’ll look in the wrong end of the telescope to make the kid laugh? Well, Captain Hook is the type of person who’d do that because he really doesn’t know which end to look into. Let’s just say he didn’t get the title “Captain” from being a high-ranking official in Neverland’s Navy.
#9 – Hans – ‘Frozen’ (2013)
Hans is the rare Disney villain who looks like a contestant on The Bachelorette. Hans of the Southern Isles (“of the Southern Isles” apparently counts as a last name) swindles main character Anna into falling in love with him so he can steal the Arendale throne. Hans breaks all the rules for Disney villains: He’s got the Disney eyes, he’s conventionally handsome, and he tricks us all into thinking he’s on Anna’s side. Hans is responsible for the most dramatic plot twist in any Disney movie ever. Unlike some other Disney villains (I’m looking at you Hook), Hans is intelligent and strategic, and in some Game of Thrones level evil plot, he has planned to marry Anna and kill her ballad-belting sister Elsa so he can be king.
#8 – Jafar – ‘Aladdin’ (1992)
Jafar wins for best headwear of any Disney character, and that’s a close race considering Dumbo’s adorable yellow hat. Jafar is the second highest authority in all of Agrabah. He is the Royal Advisor to the Sultan. But, in case you haven’t been picking up on a trend in this list, he’s evil. Jafar wants nothing more than to take down the Sultan and have the Agrabahan crown all to himself. Jafar is scary because he’s the closest Disney villain to power from the beginning. Also, he dabbles a bit in the dark arts which just adds to his deviousness. Add to that the fact that he taught a parrot to talk in full sentences. So, he has sorcery powers greater than Doctor Doolittle!
#7 – Frollo – ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996)
Claude Frollo is a minister of Notre Dame. Disney villains range on a scale of dark and scary, to funny and keeping it light for the kids. Frollo is purely terrifying. I guess you have to have a dark and brooding villain to match the Gothic era setting of the movie. Hunchback is the Disney movie that most teeters the line between a kids movie and a movie made for adults and it’s largely because of Frollo. The character serves as a commentary on the brutality of the Catholic church during the medieval era, which certainly is a far cry from Captain Hook and his fear of marine reptiles and maybe ticking clocks.
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#6 – Scar – ‘The Lion King’ (1994)
Scar earns points for having the least creative name of any character in his movie. This was the discussion over his name by the writers of the movie:
“we have Mufasa, Zazu, Simba, now we just need a name for the bad guy.”
“… he has a Scar on his face.”
Scar was loosely based on Claudius from Hamlet. You know a character is wicked when they’re based on a Shakespearean villain. Scar is also played by Jeremy Irons, a man who’s voice just screams bad guy. No offense to Irons, it’s not his fault that he has a voice that sounds like he’s constantly in conniving mode. Scar isn’t the only villain on this list with royal ambitions, but he is very eager to take his turn at the throne. He kills his own brother, for crying out loud!
#5 – Dr. Facilier – ‘The Princess and the Frog‘ (2009)
This guy gets bonus points for having the most overly elaborate and unnecessarily dark death of any Disney character ever. Dr. Facilier is one of those cute and cuddly people who dabble in the dark arts and has “friends on the other side.” “I’ve got friends on the other side” is a phrase only totally non-evil people work into conversation. He’s definitely on the scarier side of the Disney villain spectrum. He uses voodoo to earn a living. When he meets a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed Prince Naveen, he tricks him into falling for a magical trap that turns him into a frog so he could steal all his riches. And if you’re wondering just how dark his death is, he gets dragged into his grave by evil spirits. So that’s fun.
#4 – Gaston –‘Beauty and the Beast‘ (1991)
“No one’s quick like Gaston. No one’s slick like Gaston. No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s!” Why the thickness of one’s neck is a bragging point, I’m not sure. Gaston was the world’s first dude-bro. He’s essentially an animated Kanye West. Beauty and the Beast is an incredibly memorable movie and Gaston is one of the most unforgettable characters. And he shares the screen with singing IKEA products, so that’s really saying something. His alliance with his ragtag sidekick LeFou is one of the funniest parts of the entire movie. And all this on top of the fact that he has one of the biggest show-stopping villain numbers in all of Disney history. Gaston is everyone’s favorite dude to hate and it’s not hard to see why.
#3 – The Evil Queen – ‘Snow White‘ (1937)
We now come to the OG; the first villain in a Disney feature-length movie. I wasn’t going to put The Evil Queen on the list because I haven’t seen Snow White since I was young enough for my level of obsession with Disney to not be considered “unhealthy.” Then my mom pointed out that The Evil Queen tried to steal Snow White’s heart! If that’s not gangster, I don’t know what is. So, I immediately re-watched the Disney classic. Though she is the only nameless villain on this list, she certainly leaves an impression. I had forgotten until I re-watched Snow White just how scary she is. It takes a very special skillset to make an apple scary, but the Evil Queen manages to do it. She turns an average hunter just trying to make a living into a would-be Hannibal Lecter-style assassin when she asks for Snow White’s heart in a box, to be presented to her like a new shoe. Now that’s evil!
#2 – Shan Yu – ‘Mulan’ (1998)
Shan Yu is the villain who has the least screen time in his respective movie on this list and quite possibly in Disney history. But when he does show up, he is terrifying. Whether he is burning Chinese villages to the ground or shooting prisoners he just freed, I sincerely believe Shan Yu is the scariest and most underappreciated Disney villain. It only amplifies his scariness that we know next to nothing about him. We know he’s a Hun and he hates the Chinese, but that’s about it. His mysteriousness makes him a fascinating foe for the audience to root against. His character design leaves him giant and imposing with shadow almost always shrouding his face. Just thinking about him sends a chill down my spine.
#1 – Ursula – ‘The Little Mermaid‘ (1989)
And finally, we arrive at the queen of all Disney villains, Ursula. Ursula is an eight-legged (tentacled?) fiend. Her ambitions are all-terrain: she plots against King Triton under the sea and almost tricks Prince Eric into marrying her on land. And that’s not even taking into consideration that she sings the best Disney villain song in all of Disney villain-dom. It’s catchy and conniving: what more could you want? Ursula’s character design is based on famous drag queen Divine, so she was the first hint of LGBTQ+ inclusion for Disney. Plus, she’s a beast. What other villain turns themselves into a giant to wreak havoc? Ursula is scary, wicked, and she knows how to use body language!
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Carrie Fishbane is obsessed with all things comedy and loves to reflect on the impact of comedy on the world. Having spent thousands of hours studying literature, she also writes about the political impact of entertainment and the power movies and TV have to create social change. Hollywood Insider promotes ethics and substance in entertainment, which is exactly in line with Carrie’s perspective. Carrie’s favorite movies include Jojo Rabbit, Deadpool, and Inception and her favorite shows are Rick and Morty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and The Office.