Who are the best Disney villains? Let’s be honest, the House of Mouse has a knack for creating the perfect ‘bad guy’. Full of style and oozing charisma, after watching any Disney movie, you’ll soon realise that villains get the best songs, the best lines, and are way better dressed than any of our favourite animated heroes. From evil fairies to fur loving heiresses, the studio has gifted us with some of the best antagonists in Hollywood.
But after a century of making films and tons of iconic characters to pick from, you may be wondering who is really the best out of Disney’s bad bunch. Choosing just ten villains isn’t easy, and, like anything with Disney, no one is ever going to agree completely. But saying that, we are confident that we’ve found the top characters from the studio that, no matter what your favourite animated movie is, we all love to hate
For this list, we are looking strictly at Disney only – meaning no Pixar entries – sorry to any Sid or Randall fans. There are also spoilers ahead for certain films so consider yourself warned. Now without further ado, let’s crack on with our top picks for the best of Disney’s poisonous bad apples.
Who are the top ten Disney villains?
Cruella de Vil
Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
Maleficent is the queen bee of all Disney villains and a fairy you don’t want to mess with. She has immense power, a huge castle packed full of minions, oh yeah, and she can also turn into a dragon. If her magical abilities weren’t impressive enough, her personality is so extreme and arrogant that you can’t help but secretly love her for it.
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Giving petty a whole new meaning, Maleficent decides to kill a young baby after simply being snubbed from a party by the royal family. Putting a curse on Aurora in the classic Disney movie Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent knows how to hold a grudge and is adamant about punishing everyone who crosses her.
With her power, clear goal and cackling laugh that will haunt your nightmares, you just can’t help but admire her sure-fire determination or shudder with intimidation whenever she’s on-screen.
Gaston – Beauty and the Beast
Toxic masculinity on a silver platter, Gaston is an obnoxious hunk who is hilarious as well as rage-inducing. Seeing how unashamedly vain and self-involved this Disney villain is, in some ways, Gaston is kind of admirable as well as just plain funny.
In the Academy Award-winning movie Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is the burly hunter with a thick neck who has an obsession with making Belle his wife. Having a problem with rejection, we see the character use his upstanding reputation with the town to imprison Belle’s father, try and kill her Beast boyfriend, and essentially attempt to force Belle to be with him (yikes).
If you haven’t noticed already, Gaston embodies misogyny, and in a post #MeToo era, is a villain who hits especially hard.
Scar – The Lion King
Be prepared…for some good old-fashioned scheming because no one does betrayal or manipulation like dear old Scar. Voiced by Jeremy Irons in the hit ’90s movie The Lion King, Scar kills his brother King Mufasa. But wait, there is more: he convinces his nephew, the young Simba, that his dad’s death is actually his fault. But wait, there is even more: he then ravages the Pride Lands under tyrannical rule once Simba – the rightful heir – goes into self-imposed exile. Pretty brutal, right?
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Throughout the film, we see Scar use his intelligence and charm to trick others into doing his bidding, be they his fellow lions or his hyena underlings. After witnessing this character continuously hurt the people around him, he is easy to hate. Nothing feels more satisfying than watching karma do its work in the movie’s final confrontation.
Cruella de Vil- 101 Dalmatians
What’s more evil than wanting to kill puppies? The answer is nothing. Cruella de Vil is simply put one of the most sinister characters ever to come from the Magic Kingdom. From her obsession with skinning animals for their fur to her striking skeletal character design, we don’t often see such a dark figure in a kids movie, period.
A fashionable and powerful heiress, in the movie 101 Dalmatians, we see Cruella dog nap, emotionally abuse everyone she meets, and violate several driving regulations. She is spoiled and rude, yet she is incredibly stylish and captivating. Over the years, Cruella has become a figure in pop culture for greed and vanity.
She has also recently bagged her own live-action origin movie, Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the titular character. So yeah, this Disney villain is timeless and undeniably iconic.
Hades – Hercules
Sometimes you just can’t help but feel sorry for a villain, especially one that is as hilariously exasperated and witty as Hades. Voiced by James Woods, in the movie Hercules, Hades constantly has his plans foiled and delivers snappy one-liners to all his enemies. In short, he is one of the most entertaining and high strung villains in Disney history.
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With his incompetent duo of henchmen – Panic and Pain – and a prophecy of his impending demise, Hades is also the only Disney villain to be so blatantly suffering from anxiety. He is constantly on edge about his fate and is desperate to change the future by killing Hercules. Truly a complex and very funny character Hades has cemented his place as one of the antagonist greats.
Ursula – The Little Mermaid
The ultimate charismatic con artist has eight tentacles and lives under the sea. That’s right; we are talking about the villain for the 1989 movie The Little Mermaid, Ursula. Designed after the legendary drag queen Divine, this sea witch is a mesmerising salesperson to who you’ll end up selling your unfortunate soul to if you ever stumble into her dark underwater cave.
Ursula is a clever, powerful and just downright sassy ‘bad guy’ who stands out from the Disney pack. Her expressive animation, booming sultry voice, and head on aggressive attitude makes her the most proactive character in the film, as well as one of those villains you love but just can’t seem to hate.
Like Maleficent, Ursula also has one of the most impressive showdowns in a family movie, turning into a giant, and devastating everything and everyone in her wake. Truly a forceful diva right to her dramatic end.
Dawn Bellwether – Zootopia
Cute and cuddly have never been so diabolical. Zootopia was a standout film for many reasons when it was first released in 2016. It looked stunning, held up a mirror to prejudice and bias in society, and had a great twist – a villain that no one saw coming.
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The little sheep assistant mayor Dawn Bellwether had all of us fooled, appearing as a weak and timid character at first before revealing herself actually to be a crafty and ruthless politician. Having felt undermined by predators her whole life, Dawn’s main mission is to create a world where prey can rule over predators and live comfortably.
Ironically the villain becomes a figurative wolf in sheep’s clothing as she goes about on her mission to ‘protect’ her kind. Breaking up families and playing on her citizen’s biases towards predators being “savages”, this villain is undeniably cruel, doesn’t hesitate to kill, and also reflects ongoing real-world issues about systematic injustice.
Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The only Disney character to ever try and burn someone at the stake, you know we couldn’t rank the top Disney villains without mentioning the French priest Claude Frollo. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is often considered one of Disney’s darkest animations, dealing with themes such as lust, genocide, sin, and infanticide (very family-friendly, we know). But who is the central man behind all these wicked deeds – none other than Frollo.
Voiced by Tony Jay, Claude Frollo is a creepy and unforgiving character with a terrifying god complex. He also has one of if not the best villain songs you’ll ever hear, ‘Hellfire’, a dark and spicy ballad about his attraction to the character Esmeralda. Yes, you read right. Disney did a song all about sexual frustration that turns into attempted murder – another reason why Frollo’s place on our list is untouchable.
Jafar – Aladdin
It’s no secret that Disney Villains get the best lines in every film. However, Jafar is particularly memorable for his quotable suave sarcasm. He is also one of the most intimidating villains and comes so close to beating the good guys that you’ll be left screaming in your seat.
Carrying himself tall as the King’s adviser in the movie Aladdin Jafar as a character, right off the bat, feels untouchable – especially in comparison to our underdog street rat hero. On top of his strong political position, he is also a powerful sorcerer, able to utilise mind control with a simple wave of his fancy snake staff.
In the film, we also see his already frightening authority increase double fold once he gains control over Genie – proving that there is nothing scarier than a power-hungry villain. But equally, it is hard not to appreciate the genius storytelling, where Jafar’s obsession and evil ambition later become the very reason for his downfall.
Mother Gothel – Tangled
Nothing screams a ‘mother’s love’ like imprisonment and kidnapping, right? In the 2010 movie, Tangled, Mother Gothel poses as Rapunzel’s parent – but (drumroll please) she turns out to be an imposter and devious captor instead. Obsessed with maintaining her youth, she locks the princess away, keeping Rapunzel from her family and the outside world to keep her magical hair all to herself.
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It’s a pretty dark scenario already, but what really makes this villain stand out is all the gaslighting and intense manipulation we see her inflict on poor old Rapunzel. At times it is downright uncomfortable to watch as Mother Gothel warps an innocent young woman’s view of the world for her own self-interest.
I mean, come on, seeing psychological abuse animated and then being sung about too in the banger ‘Mother Knows Best’, that is the epitome of evil for any family movie, right?
And that’s it! The top ten Disney villains of all time. Some honourable mentions go to Dr Facilier from the Princess and the Frog and Lady Tremaine from the 1950s movie Cinderella – who just missed the cut.
If you are after more stories with villains and complicated happily ever afters, here is our list of the best scary movies for kids.