Disney movies were a big part of our childhood for many of us Millennials and Gen Zers. Terk and Tantor have a particular place in our hearts, and we still sing “Be Our Guest” and “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You.” But what about the villains? Some of them are amusing, some are heartbreaking, and some are just plain scary.
For a variety of reasons, there are also certain Disney villains and films that are troublesome. So why are these characters so polarising? To answer this question, we’re going to go beyond the political incorrectness of the characters and examine their psyches to discover what drives them.
Based on the depth of their character development, each villain will be given a place on this list.
Here are the top 10 villains in Disney.
1. Hades (Hercules, 1997)
Hades’ motivations for his evil activity during Hercules derive from a centuries-long animosity toward Zeus for making him Lord of the Underworld, a position he despises. His goal to depose Zeus as king of Olympus prompts him to kidnap Hercules in order to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy that the baby will obstruct his schemes.
These two facts alone demonstrate that Hades is very crucial to the plot of the film, as Hercules’ journey to realize himself sets everything in motion, and the monsters that Hades sends after Hercules propel events ahead.
On top of that, Hades has a really colorful personality — he’s humorous and easygoing most of the time, but his very short temper may easily set him off. Despite his determination to unleash the Titans on the rest of humanity, he has a curious soft place for Meg.
Because Hades’ character has so many intricacies, and because he is the most essential villain in his film’s tale, he stands at the very top of our list.
2. Ursula (The Little Mermaid, 1989)
Ursula is an important character in The Little Mermaid because she allows Ariel to meet and woo her prince.
Ariel would not have been able to abandon her father’s dominion and spend time with Prince Eric if it hadn’t been for Ursula. And, while Ursula operates a business where she deceives merfolk into damning their souls for eternity, it’s personal for Ariel because King Triton exiled her from Atlantica.
Ursula’s exile reveals her true motivations: she wishes to seize King Triton’s trident and control the oceans through Ariel. Ursula is a clever villain who has been in the trade for a long time before Ariel arrives and is well known throughout the oceans as someone to avoid.
Ursula is perhaps the most beloved villain, although she has less subtlety and relevance in the film than our top pick.
3. Scar (The Lion King, 1994)
The scar is a villain with a major inferiority problem, which helps us understand his conduct. He has lived in his giant brother’s shadow his entire life. A scar is a sarcastic narcissist who is so insecure as a monarch that the mere mention of Mufasa’s name (after his death) drives him insane.
The scar is a more developed character than the other villains on this list because we understand why he is so bitter and because fraternal competition leads to passionate quarrels. It’s also no secret that if Simba had stayed with the pride, he would have been killed because he was the last threat to Scar having the crown for good.
If Simba hadn’t been forced to walk off on his own, he might never have met Timon and Pumba, and he might never have found the confidence to reclaim his rightful kingship. Scar’s evil enmity is so vital to The Lion King.
4. Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove, 2000)
In The Emperor’s New Groove, Yzma becomes a villain after Kuzco removes her as his advisor for attempting to run the country behind his back. Yzma, unlike any other Disney villain, is a mad scientist with a laboratory buried beneath the castle.
Though Yzma is definitely the film’s antagonist, Kuzco begins as a somewhat unlikeable guy. Kuzco would not have matured into the more compassionate emperor he is now if he had not embarked on his journey as a llama.
The two’s interactions are distinct because of their sarcastically funny personalities and their comfortability with one another. Yzma’s goal to steal the throne from Kuzco is unoriginal, but her accidentally destroying the potion and transforming the emperor into a llama is.
Yzma also conducts a lot more dirty labor than previous villains because Kronk continuously demonstrates his incompetence.
5. Shere Khan (The Jungle Book, 1967)
Shere Khan, the most fearsome beast in the forest, emanates arrogance and might. He feels that no other animal can compete with him except man (since he wields fire), thus he is anxious to kill Mowgli when they meet. Shere Khan is the reason Mowgli must leave the forest for good because he will not be safe there as long as he lives.
Beyond Shere Khan’s appeal and significance to the story’s outcome, what he represents philosophically places him high on our list. Shere Khan is terrified of man and fire because he understands how destructive they are and how little people care about nature.
And, while the other creatures in the jungle are scared of Shere Khan, he appears to just kill to survive. He wants to kill Mowgli because he fears becoming like the men who burn down the jungle, which you can’t really blame him for.
6. Queen of Hearts (Alice In Wonderland, 1951)
A world known as Wonderland needs a ruler who is just as crazy as its inhabitants, and the Queen of Hearts is the ideal candidate for the role. The mind of the Queen of Hearts, in most cases, does not make any sense, just like all of the whimsical and perplexing plants, animals, and other creatures in the movie who cannot be explained.
Every person who makes their home in Wonderland is subject to her irrational whims and is in a state of perpetual peril of losing their heads as a result. Even if the Cheshire Cat brings his own unique brand of nefariousness to the table, it is nothing in comparison to the Queen’s potentially lethal outbursts of rage.
Because she behaves like a kid and is unable to be predicted, the Queen of Hearts is an intriguing character. Everything is dictated by her whims and fancies.
The Queen poses the greatest threat to Alice while she is in Wonderland because she has Alice sentenced to death and will not let her leave the kingdom until she has done it.
7. Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Though Claude Frollo’s personality is typical in the real world, his characteristics as a Disney villain are significantly more unique and deep.
First and foremost, Frollo regards himself as a God-fearing man who does everything in God’s name. So, when Frollo attempts to force the Roma out of Paris, he sincerely believes he is doing the right thing.
Furthermore, his desire to nurture Quasimodo – even if he is a rather horrible father figure – reflects his remorse and acceptance of his fault (killing Quasimodo’s mother).
Frollo, without a doubt, is the key mover of the plot, as his mistreatment and confinement of Quasimodo are the reason the man is so impressed with the love shown to him by Esmeralda and Phoebus, making him fiercely protective of them against Frollo.
8. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
Maleficent’s self-description as “mistress of all evil” argues that her character lacks depth. We never see how she became a pure image of evil, therefore she lacks emotional depth.
Her intention to ensure that Aurora’s curse is carried out, on the other hand, has somewhat complex undertones, as her exclusion from the baptism would have been a major affront to any woman.
And the film would be meaningless without Maleficent, as the entire plot focuses around rescuing Aurora from her curse. Also, if Maleficent hadn’t transformed into a dragon, Prince Phillip would not have had his heroic “save the day” moment.
Sleeping Beauty is hardly the most exciting Disney classic, and it would be even less so if Maleficent’s grandiose portrayals of evil were not present.
9. Jafar (Aladdin, 1992)
As the Sultan’s most trusted advisor, Jafar is in a unique position to use his villainy in secret until he achieves his ultimate goal of ruling Agrabah and ultimately the world. Jafar’s strategy of gaining the trust of his intended victims, like Clayton’s, is ultimately what allows him to carry out his objectives.
When trying to persuade Jasmine that he is a prince, Jafar’s skepticism of Aladdin keeps the “street rat” on his toes, and his ruthless treatment of Jasmine as his prospective wife/slave lends him a genuinely evil edge.
Jafar is also the film’s main adversary, frequently relying on his comedic sidekick Iago to accomplish his bidding. Jafar’s friendship with Iago may be his one redeemable attribute, as he exudes psychotic disregard for all other existence. But Jafar’s evilness lacks a compelling reason, and his arrogant manner is overused.
10. Captain Hook (Peter Pan, 1953)
Captain Hook has an advantage in this ranking because he is the only pirate villain in the Disney franchise.
Captain Hook’s amusing, lighthearted banter with Peter Pan provides a distinct protagonist/villain relationship, and his motivation for seeking vengeance is comprehensible, as the flying “forever” youngster removed his hand and fed it to a crocodile as a joke.
And, while Captain Hook’s homicidal aim extends to the majority of his men, his unexpected soft spot for Smee displays, albeit fleetingly, tenderness in him. Captain Hook is also the only villain with their own villain, as the crocodile seemed to have a specific liking for him, having already devoured a portion of the captain.
However, despite Captain Hook’s numerous unique qualities, he is not particularly vital to the overall plot of Peter Pan and hence ranks rather low in our ranking.