My Top 10 Disney Animated Villains

I wasn’t sure what to do for this month’s Top 10 list, so I asked my daughters. We looked through my long list of potential future categories, and we came across Disney Villains. They offered up their suggestions, and I gave them some ground rules.

The villains had to be from Disney’s Animation Studios theatrically released canon. No Pixar movies, as that’s a separate entity. No other movies distributed by Disney units. The villain has to be ever present throughout the film, so that ruled out the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland (one of my all-time favorite stories). And the villain has to be clear throughout the entire film, so Hans from Frozen or Turbo/King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph weren’t eligible. The latter was definitely a memorable villain when revealed, but we had to draw lines somewhere.

Our opinions of the movies these villains are from may be reserved for another list. In fact, the villain that tops this list is from a princess movie that my daughters aren’t very fond of.

In the end, we were in complete agreement on the top three, so that’s cool. So here’s our unhappily ever after list!


#10 – Gaston

From 1991’s Academy Award Best Picture nomination Beauty and the Beast, sing aloud with me: No one verbs like Gaston, adverb verbs like Gaston, no one verbs preposition noun verbs like Gaston! When you sing a song about yourself this way, you’ve got a severe case of inflated ego. If that were his only flaw, then he probably wouldn’t appear on this list at all. But he’s also xenophobic (he incites the mob to be frightened of the beast—something different that they don’t understand), and he’s a predator. Belle said NO! Respect women, you stupid knuckleheaded lunk! Being especially good at expectorating doesn’t excuse you from reprehensible behavior.


#9 – Doctor Facilier

The most recent villain on the list, from 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. First off, I don’t think this film receives the credit that it’s due. I love the inversion of the source material; there’s a prince who’s been turned into a frog, but the kiss from Tiana doesn’t break the spell but turns her into a frog also! Whether that side effect was Doctor Facilier’s plan or not isn’t clear, but he surely didn’t want Prince Naveen to return to human form. Why not? Because his voodoo not only turned Naveen into the frog, but it turned Naveen’s valet Lawrence into a copy of Naveen! Doctor Facilier wants to “rule” New Orleans, and that means through money. He wants fake-Naveen to marry Charlotte LaBouff, southern belle and daughter of a rich sugar baron. That’s evil enough, but then when he tries to play the two frogs against each other, he really shows how cunning he is.


#8 – Jafar

The Grand vizier of Agrabah in 1992’s Aladdin is a greedy, power-hungry villain. We first meet him trying to get into the Cave of Wonders to get the genie’s lamp. He wants to use it to become the ruler, probably because a genie’s wish can rewrite the world and ensure him the power rather than usurping power by any criminal means. Well, that’s my theory. We don’t know the true level of his evil until he traps Aladdin in the cave and then tries to unravel Aladdin’s extensive lies to Princess Jasmine about his identity. Well, Aladdin shouldn’t have lied in the first place, but he learns his lesson. What does Jafar learn in the end? Don’t make a wish (enormous cosmic power) without knowing the consequences (itty bitty living space).


#7 – Evil Queen Grimhilde

Going back all the way to 1937 and Disney’s very first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Right from the get-go, we know that the evil queen is, well, evil. She plots to kill her stepdaughter only because she’s the “fairest of them all.” Of course Snow White is fairer! She’s younger and not evil! Her vanity is her defining factor. She’s not out for power or revenge like some other villains on this list; she purely wants to be the prettiest. Couldn’t they just compromise and declare that she’s the fairest adult woman? After all, Snow White looks and sounds like she’s twelve years old. When the Huntsman spares Snow White, Grimhilde turns herself all ugly (defeating the purpose, maybe) and gives Snow the poison apple. She’s on this list because she’s iconic, but not higher on the list because she’s just plain petty.


#6 – Captain Hook

One of the most iconic villains in all of children’s literature, and typically one of the most dangerous. In 1953’s Peter Pan, Disney decided to make the character a little more comical and put him in a few more slapstick situations, and in the end, it makes his murderous tendencies even more frightening. He’s a pirate, so he’s already on the villainous side of things for that. Beyond that, he’s primarily out for revenge. Thanks to Peter Pan, Captain Hook lost his left hand to a crocodile and had to replace it with a metal hook—an accessory that really makes him look scarier. The crocodile also swallowed a clock, so whenever Hook hears that ticking, he starts twitching, and his frazzled state makes him even more scarier. He’s mad and manic and off the walls, a perfect villain for this kind of fantasy story.


#5 – Scar

From the moment you meet him in 1994’s The Lion King, it’s clear that Scar is the villain of the movie. He’s motivated by naked ambition and jealousy of Simba, whose birth pushes Scar down one notch in the line for the throne. Jeremy Irons gives him the perfect voice, especially for a Shakespearian-inspired tale. My favorite parts of the story are the ones that stay closest to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, particularly how Scar usurps Pride Rock from Mufasa. Arranging the stampede to kill his brother but make it look like an accident is outright evil, but to convince his nephew that he’s responsible and has to leave is just plain devious. And to make matters worse, once he’s in charge, his greed and envy lead to sloth, and the once glorious savannah turns into a shadowland. Still, he gets it in the end.


#4 – Hades

From Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the underworld. As one of the three sons of Cronus, who had been defeated by Zeus, they each took a respective domain. Zeus took the biggest piece—the land, humas, etc.—and presides over Mount Olympus. Poseidon took the seas. And Hades took the underworld. For the most part in mythology, he hangs out down there and keeps pretty much to himself. But based on who he is, you’d expect a menacing voice. But James Woods subverted that expectation with his portrayal of Hades in 1997’s Hercules, inspired by Hollywood agents and car salesmen. Sure, the character had a temper, displayed by the flame atop his head. But what’s he after? Well, he wants to stop Hercules from fulfilling a prophecy that would prevent him from releasing the Titans so they can overthrow Olympus. In short, he wants to rule everything, and for that, he rules high on this list.


#3 – Ursula

1989’s The Little Mermaid is often considered the start of the Disney Animation Renaissance, and it’s very clear to see why. It was a compelling story, told and animated in a classic way. It had memorable characters and a fantastic soundtrack. Say whatever you want about the interpretation that Ariel changed who she was to please the guy, but that’s not what this list is about. This list is about the villains, and part of the reason The Little Mermaid was the success it was is because Ursula is a tremendous villain. From the moment she’s first introduced, you know exactly what she wants: King Triton’s trident so she can rule the sea. She’s been watching for an opportunity for a long time, and as she spies on Ariel, she takes her opportunity. When she gets poor unfortunate soul Ariel to sign away her voice, she believes the titular little mermaid won’t be able to charm Prince Eric without it. Even though she sings the sexist line about men not wanting a lot of chatter, she knows it’s not true—Ariel’s voice would have worked for Eric. But Ursula had a longer con in mind, knowing all along that in the end, Triton would willingly give up his power to save his daughter. A truly evil plan, executed almost to perfection… until her poor unfortunate impalement.


#2 – Cruella de Vil

Anyone who stoops to the sheer level of depravity as this villain in 1961’s 101 Dalmatians deserves her spot near the top of the list. She’s rich and spoiled and rude and cruel, and she openly mocks poor Roger and Anita simply because they want to make a living out of being songwriters. If that’s all she did, she wouldn’t be this high on the list. An aficionado of fur coats, she wants to buy Roger and Anita’s Dalmatian puppies to turn them into her next outfit! And when they refuse, she has them dognapped! That’s just cruel and devilish, just like the perfect fit of her name. She’s also got a crazed look, adding to her evil characterization. She’s also one of the few villains on this list to have a song sung about her in the course of the film. Gaston is the other, but he sings it about himself. Here, Roger sings about her scariness and evilness. When other characters sing about you’re evilness, you’ve arrived as a villain.


And at the top of the Disney baddie list…


Admit it; you’ve been waiting to see her on the list. Originally from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, maybe she gains serious street cred when Angelina Jolie played her in the live-action eponymous film. But she needs nothing extra to top this list. Not only is she evil, she has a solid, classic, iconic look—the black and purple outfit, the imposing height, the pointed chin, and the two horns of her headpiece. And she can really hold a grudge! After Maleficent crashed the party celebrating Princess Aurora’s birth, she curses the child with an inevitable prick from a spinning wheel needle that would kill her. The fairies change that to a long sleep, and then they take Aurora into hiding in the forest and raise her as their own under the name Briar Rose. Now my daughters and I aren’t the biggest fans of this part of the movie. Though there are funny scenes when the fairies try to bake a cake and make a dress without magic for Aurora’s sixteenth birthday. Wait a minute! They’ve been living without magic—to avoid drawing attention to them—for sixteen years and have yet to figure out how to bake a freaking cake? Or make clothes? Whatever! But this list is about the villains, and Maleficent holds that grudge for years, waiting to hypnotize Aurora to prick her finger and fall asleep. She stews for that long, and that elevates her to the top of the list. That, and she can turn into a scary dragon! It’s no wonder that in the Disney Channel movie The Descendants, featuring children of these classic villains, that the leader of that pack is none other than Maleficent’s daughter. Why? Because she’s evil to the core…and the best of the Disney baddies.


Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? You’d better not argue; there be villains here!

Note: The images on this page are from The Disney Wiki.

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