The Top 10 Most Evil Disney Villains
The 10 Most Evil Disney Characters of All Time
There are so many factors that go into making a great Disney movie, but the most important is to have an excellent villain. Sure, the heroes and princesses make the audience drool, but what good are these saccharine sweethearts without someone to try to bring them down?
The score breaks down like this: Did they try to kill someone? Who was it? Why are they so evil? How evil was their sidekick? In addition, are there any interesting tidbits that give them any evil bonuses?
Here is my top ten list of those evildoers, those good-for-nothing bad guys and gals who tried their best to do their worst.
10. Lady Tremaine
Movie: Cinderella (1950)
Voiced by: Eleanor Audley
Personality traits: Cruel, cold, and jealous
Appearance: A gray-haired older woman with sharp features, green eyes, and fair skin
Sidekick(s): Her two daughters, Drizella and Anastasia
As Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine is one of the mildest "villains" on the list. She didn’t kill or try to kill Cinderella; she was a social climber who used her two ugly daughters to try to nab a royal title. She wasn't a nice lady, but she wasn't the worst, either.
Cinderella’s evil step-sisters, Drizella and Anastasia, are two bumbling, vain nitwits who are minimally useful as sidekicks. Lady Tremaine gets some clever help from her wonderfully wickedly minded kitty, Lucifer, who tries to make Cinderella's rodent friends lunch. Who names their cat "Lucifer"?
In the end, Lady Tremaine is the brains and brawn of the operation and gets bonus points for taking the lady of the house, Cinderella, and turning her into her own personal servant.
Lady Tremaine's character is also known as "Evil Stepmother," "Wicked Stepmother," or just "Stepmother." She is based on the Wicked Stepmother from the original Cinderella tale, written by Charles Perrault, and by the Brothers Grimm in Grimms' Fairy Tales. However, the story has renditions from as far back as Ancient Greece, as well as Asian iterations and variants in One Thousand and One Nights from the Medieval Middle East.
Lady Tremaine is also featured in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains, Cinderella (2015), Descendants 2 (voice only), and Descendants 3.
Well, don't just stand there. Bring up the breakfast trays at once, and hurry!— Lady Tremaine
9. The Queen of Hearts
Movie: Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Voiced by: Verna Felton
Personality traits: Obsessive, angry, and insane
Appearance: Large woman always seen wearing red, black, and gold
Sidekick(s): The White Rabbit, Card Soldiers, the King
Anyone whose main line is “Off with their head!” deserves a place on this list of villains. She wants to behead just about everyone when she loses her temper, which is more often than not. She's not interested in reason or kindness, nor is she interested in being fair. All she seems to care about is pushing people around and screaming orders to behead anyone who doesn't follow her always-changing rules.
The Queen of Hearts is based on a fictional character from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a book published in 1865 by Lewis Carroll. Some believe that her character is based on Queen Victoria (1819–1901).
There doesn’t seem to be any reason for the Queen of Hearts' murderous streak, only that in Alice’s world, queens are insane. I'm not sure of its social commentary of our time, but singers like Morrissey would be inclined to agree and then crack a faint smile because that's all they could bear.
Some go as far as to theorize that the Queen of Hearts' character, along with others in the film and novel the film is based on, are part of Lewis Carroll's commentary on those with mental illnesses as misunderstood rather than possessed by the Devil or other negative outlooks of his time. It's also thought to be a commentary on the "insanity" of giving narcissistic and self-centered individuals an undue amount of political power (thus, the parallels drawn to Queen Victoria).
As for the Queen of Hearts, being "insane" is definitely a bonus. She’d be higher on the list, but she comes across as comical, and all the evil she does is easily turned around by her sidekick, the gentle King.
The Queen of Hearts is also featured in Mickey's House of Villains, and Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse; as well as the television programs Walt Disney anthology series (cameo), Adventures in Wonderland, House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time, and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
I warn you, child... if I lose my temper, you lose your head! Understand?— Queen of Hearts
Movie: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Voiced by: Richard White
Personality traits: Self-obsessed, rude, and ruthless
Appearance: Athletic and handsome with icy blue eyes
Gaston's a rude, vain, shallow hunter who doesn’t like taking "no" for an answer. So, how bad is he?
Gaston drinks, smokes, and gets into bar fights, which is a whole lot of "badness" in a Disney film. It's almost cause for a parental advisory. For a villain, it’s a nice little bonus. Worst of all is his jealous streak, which is when he goes for the jugular. He threatened to have Maurice, Belle’s father, committed to an insane asylum unless Belle married him—talk about being unable to take rejection well!
In the end, he rallied a mob of villagers to kill Beast, eventually stabbing Belle’s love in the back. He is a nasty one, indeed.
Gaston's character has received criticism for being portrayed as a caricature of a "manly-man" who is unsophisticated and whose character isn't quite "evil" enough to be considered a full-fledged villain.
The "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale was written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but the story didn't originally include Gaston's character. The character was created specifically for the 1946 film adaptation by screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who based the character on an amalgamation of several of her ex-boyfriends. The studio believed the story lacked a strong villain, and thus, Gaston became the villain of the tale.
Gaston is also featured in Mickey's House of Villains, Once Upon a Halloween, and Beauty and the Beast (2017), as well as the television programs Sing Me a Story With Belle, House of Mouse, and Once Upon a Time.
No one plots like Gaston.— Gaston
Movie: Hercules (1997)
Voiced by: James Woods
Personality traits: Quick-tempered and comedic
Appearance: Large and blue-haired with a massive chin
Sidekick(s): Pain and Panic
He is a killer, but considering he’s Hades, the ruler of the underworld, you shouldn’t expect anything less. So why is he so low on the list? It hurts to have Pain (voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait) and Panic (voiced by Matt Frewer) as your sidekicks. They are pretty inept, and that makes Hades look pretty bad, considering he doesn’t seem to know what the hell is going on half the time.
In the end, he uses Megara to do his dirty work. Why? He’s jealous of his big brother, Zeus, and wants to be in charge. Not a good sign for someone so powerful. But he is the ruler of the underworld, and that gives him bonus points.
In Greek mythology, Hades was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, so he served as quite an important figure in the ancient mythological tales. Although frequently associated with death due to his position as ruler of the underworld, Hades was portrayed in a more neutral and altruistic manner in Greek mythology; he played an important role in maintaining the balance of life and death.
Hades' character is quite different from the original Hades. In fact, his character in Hercules was originally scripted quite differently until James Woods took on the role. He was originally intended to be a much more slow-paced, frightening character, but Woods' subsequent casting and reimagining of the role resulted in the quick-witted Hades audiences know and love today. The script was re-written after Woods was cast, but he continued to ad-lib many lines throughout filming and often cites Hades as one of his all-time favorite roles.
Hades is also featured in Hercules: Zero to Hero, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains, and Descendants 3, and the television programs Hercules, House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time, and Descendants: Wicked World.
Oh, you know what slipped my mind? You'll be dead before you can get to her. That's not a problem, is it?— Hades
Movie: Aladdin (1992)
Voiced by: Jonathan Freeman
Personality traits: Dry humor; narcissistic and psychopathic
Appearance: Tall, bony, and always extravagantly dressed
Like other villains before him, Jafar craves power and will do just about anything for it. He tried to marry Jasmine, hypnotize the sultan, and then use magic to become all-powerful. At least he's goal-oriented.
He does try to kill Aladdin and Jasmine, but like every Disney bad guy before and after, he fails. He did send a man into the Cave of Wonders, knowing full well the thief wasn’t the “Diamond in the Rough,” so he does kill someone. What was that thief's name? Yeah, I don’t know either, but at least the bad intentions were there.
Jafar has a pretty awesome sidekick in Iago (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried), who has a pretty bad attitude and nasty disposition for such a colorful bird.
Some sources indicate that the film's director based Jafar's character on former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and the character's designer used previous designs for Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent, including the bird henchman, staff, and ability to turn themselves into a reptile, to create the famous villain.
Aladdin is based on a story from One Thousand and One Nights, a famous, centuries-old tale about a woman who, after marrying a king known for murdering his wives the day after their wedding, evades death by telling him stories each night that end in cliffhangers. However, in the original tale, there were three villains—in fact, Disney took quite a few liberties in rewriting the original narrative.
Jafar is also featured in The Return of Jafar, Aladdin and the King of Thieves (cameo), Mickey's House of Villains, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Descendants, and Aladdin (2019), as well as the television programs Hercules, House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Once Upon a Time, and Mickey Mouse (cameo).
You little fool. You thought you could defeat the most powerful being on Earth.— Jafar
5. Cruella De Vil
Movie: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Voiced by: Betty Lou Gerson
Personality traits: Selfish, cruel, and obsessive
Appearance: Thin and bony with half-white, half-black hair; always stylishly dressed
Sidekick(s): Jasper and Horace
She’s a nasty piece of work throughout the movie and hunts down puppies like the predator she is. I guess when a woman loves fur that much, there’s not much she won’t do for it.
Her name is a combination of "cruel" (Cruella) and "devil" (De Vil), which suits her evil personality perfectly.
Her two sidekicks, Jasper and Horace Badun, are bumbling fools, but you don’t have to be smart to kidnap and skin puppies. In the end, she doesn’t get her puppy coat, but Cruella gets major bonus points for this line alone:
“Poison them. Drown them. Bash them in the head. You got any chloroform?”
Are you kidding me? Did she really say that? The woman has no heart at all. Of course, that’s why in the movie, Roger sings, “The world was such a wholesome place until Cruella… Cruella… De Vil.”
The film was based on a 1956 children's novel, The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, in which Cruella's character is a spoiled student who knows the Dalmatian puppies' owner from school.
Cruella's character was said to be based on that of the early-20th-century actress Tallulah Brockman Bankhead, who was known for her catchphrase "hello, dahling," as well as actresses Bette Davis and Rosalind Russell. Her look was based on the style of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was known for wearing large coats. In the original novel, Cruella's style wasn't quite as outlandish as in the animated film or later, live-action renditions.
Cruella De Vil is also featured in 102 Dalmatians, Mickey's House of Villains, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, Once Upon a Halloween, Descendants, and Cruella (2021), as well as the television programs 101 Dalmatians: The Series
House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time, and 101 Dalmatian Street (voice only).
I don't care how you kill the little beasts, but do it, and do it now!— Cruella De Vil
Movie: Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Voiced by: Eleanor Audley
Personality traits: Ruthless, evil, and devious
Appearance: Tall and thin with pale, green skin
Sidekick(s): Diablo (raven) and Goons
She’s a fairy with an ax to grind. Maleficent gives Aurora the gift of death on her 16th birthday. Nice present, huh? Her gift is thwarted by Merryweather, one of the three good fairies.
Why? Maybe the king and queen should have been more considerate and invited her to their daughter’s christening. That or she’s evil to the bone and not afraid to show it.
She also has the best sidekick of all time: Diablo, her Raven familiar, but gets brought down a little bit by having bumbling goons who search for an infant when the princess is already a teen. She gets bonus points for mind-screwing the king and queen. They get to spend 16 years tormented about Aurora’s downfall while she waits around and goths up her castle. She’s my personal favorite, but there are other Disney villains that top the scale.
Maleficent's look is inspired by Vampira, a 1950s character created by actress Maila Nurmi who was based on Morticia Addams as well as the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The tale itself, however, is thought to have been originally published in the 16th century and later adapted and published by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.
Maleficent is also featured in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains, Once Upon a Halloween, Maleficent, Descendants, Descendants 2, Descendants 3 (flashback), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and the television programs Walt Disney anthology series, The Little Mermaid (dragon form), Timon & Pumbaa (dragon form cameo), House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time, and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (voice only).
A forest of thorns shall be his tomb! Borne through the skies on a fog of doom! Now go with the curse, and serve me well! 'Round Stefan's castle, CAST MY SPELL!— Maleficent
3. Dr. Facilier aka the Shadow Man
Movie: The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Voiced by: Keith David
Personality traits: Scheming, greedy, and suave
Appearance: Tall and skinny with purple eyes and a gap between his two front teeth
Sidekick(s): His shadow; Lawrence
He’s a voodoo man, and he’s only too happy to use black magic to get his way. Anyone who’s known as The Shadow Man is one to be feared.
He gets major kudos for being one of only two villains who actually succeed at killing a major character (the loveable Cajun firefly, Ray), a rare feat in the world of Disney.
He gets bonus points for using voodoo, tapping into demonic forces, and controlling shadows. Now that’s a bad guy doing his best to be the worst.
Dr. Facilier's character has physical relations to the Voodoo god of magic and death, Baron Samedi, who is often depicted with a top hat and black tailcoat with a face painted as a skull. His animator, Bruce W. Smith, referred to him as "the love child of Peter Pan's Captain Hook and One Hundred and One Dalmatians's Cruella De Vil."
Dr. Facilier is also featured in Descendants 3 and the television program Once Upon a Time.
Y'all should have taken my deal. Now you'll spend the rest of your life being a slimy little frog!— Dr. Facilier
2. The Evil Queen
Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Voiced by: Lucille La Verne
Personality traits: Jealous, determined, and evil
Appearance: Beautiful but cold with thin eyebrows and red lips
Sidekick(s): The Huntsman, Raven, and Magic Mirror
She sends her servant to kill Snow White, then bring the girl’s heart back in a box. There’s a whole lot of ugliness behind that beautiful exterior.
Her only companion is Magic Mirror, who is actually a slave and only able to answer questions when asked. This makes him the perfect sidekick since his lack of humor and honest approach make him pretty darn creepy. If you've ever put on the DVD, he eerily talks until you start the movie. That alone is worth the price of having to listen to Snow White's shrill voice throughout the movie.
But the Evil Queen is only interested in one thing: how beautiful she is. In the true traditions of a pageant queen, when you’re the "fairest in the land," you will do whatever it takes to keep that title. This includes tricking the newest pretty girl into eating a poisonous apple to kill her.
So what does the Evil Queen do when she figures out Snow White will not die but only go into a deep sleep? She cackles, “The dwarfs will think she's dead. She'll be buried alive!” She’s not called the Evil Queen for nothing.
In designing the Evil Queen's character, Walt Disney stated he wanted her to be a combination of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf. When voicing the role, actress Lucille La Verne took her false teeth out to create a raspier, more menacing voice for the character.
The Evil Queen is also featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (cameo), Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains, Once Upon a Halloween, and Descendants, as well as the television programs Walt Disney anthology series, House of Mouse, Once Upon a Time, and Mickey Mouse (cameo).
Now, a formula to transform my beauty into ugliness. Change my queenly raiment to a peddler's cloak. Mummy dust, to make me old. To shroud my clothes, the black of night. To age my voice, an old hag's cackle. To whiten my hair, a scream of fright. A blast of wind to fan my hate. A thunderbolt to mix it well. Now, begin thy magic spell.— The Evil Queen
Movie: The Lion King (1994)
Voiced by: Jeremy Irons
Personality traits: Sarcastic, resentful, and egotistical
Appearance: Elegant but wild (a lion) with a scar over his left eye
Sidekick(s): Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed
Everything about this lion is dastardly and wicked. He wants to be the king, and nothing, not his older brother or his nephew, will stop him from doing that.
Being the big thinker that he is, killing two birds (or lions as the case may be) with one stone (or herd of wildebeest) was the way to go. He was successful in killing his older brother, the great Mustafa, and sent his sidekicks, Shenzi (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg), Banzai (voiced by Cheech Marin), and Ed to kill the only remaining heir.
The crazy hyenas failed to kill Simba, but they gave it an honest effort. In fact, they are so nasty and vicious, they eventually kill him. You are the company you keep.
Dirty and deadly. Be prepared indeed.
Similarities have been drawn to The Lion King and Shakespeare's Hamlet, which would make Scar analogous to Claudius, Hamlet's uncle who, in the beginning of Hamlet, becomes king by killing his brother.
Scar is also featured in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, The Lion King 1½, Hercules (cameo), The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, and The Lion King (2019), as well as the television programs Timon & Pumbaa (cameos), House of Mouse, A Poem Is..., and The Lion Guard.
Life's not fair, is it? You see, I... well, I shall never be king. And you... shall never see the light of another day. Hmm-hmm-hmm, adieu.— Scar
Other Deadly, Dastardly Disney Villains
Sure there are some other memorable villains not on this list. Like Ursula from The Little Mermaid, but she actually gave Ariel what she wanted even though it was for nefarious reasons. She would have been equally contented to have Ariel completely on land and out of the way. There’s also Captain Hook from Peter Pan. He’s a dastardly pirate who also came across as a buffoon more often than not, and poor, sweet Mr. Smee doesn’t help any.
Love them or love to hate them; a good villain can’t help but steal the show. Did I miss any? Do you think one should rate higher than another? Evil, like art, is subjective, or so these villains would like us to think.
Of course, not all Disney villains terrified audiences the way the scoundrels in this article did; for a taste of the flip side, take a look at some of the worst and least terrifying Disney villains.
Disney Villains: Honorable Mentions
Big Bad Wolf (Three Little Pigs)
Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Hopper (A Bug's Life)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Edgar Balthazar (The Aristocats)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)