- Disney’s most evil villains are compelling and drive their tales just as much as the heroes, from Jafar to Cruella de Vil.
- These villains exhibit despicable traits like manipulation, obsession with power, animal cruelty, and abuse of others.
- The most despicable villain is Claude Frollo, who persecutes gypsies, murders, and abuses Quasimodo, showing that evil can take any form.
The Disney animated film has entertained children and adults alike for almost a century. What makes these films compelling are their characters. From damsels in distress and sequestered princesses to a prince charming in a quest to rescue the object of his affection, these tales leave audiences with a smile on their faces after spectating a happily ever after.
There is also another group of characters that engage audiences for an entirely different reason – the villains. From evil stepmothers and magical sorcerers to simple characters fueled by jealousy and anger, Disney’s animated villains tend to drive their tales as much as the heroes. Here are the most evil villains in Disney animated films, ranked.
12 Jafar – Aladdin (1992)
What makes Jafar utterly terrifying is that he feels like many real-life people who weasel their way into high-ranking positions using their charm, silver tongue, or skill to create intrigue. The lead advisor to the Sultan in Aladdin poses as a faithful servant to the well-meaning regent, but he’s actually a master manipulator who firmly believes the ends justify the means. Jafar is not above sacrificing others to get whatever he wants, and what he wants is absolute power, which eventually turns out to be the cause of his downfall after biting more than he could chew without considering the consequences of his actions.
11 Madam Mim – The Sword in the Stone (1963)
Madam Mim feels like a footnote in the larger scope of the story being told in The Sword in the Stone, but make no mistake, the arch-nemesis of Merlin poses a serious threat after kidnapping Arthur in his bird form. The powerful witch rivals the benevolent Merlin and even overpowers him in physical strength when it comes to transformations. However, Mim’s firm belief that strength topples wit proves to be her downfall when Merlin transforms into a virus and makes her sick.
10 Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmatians (1956)
We are still wondering why (and when) Disney decided it was okay to make films about some of the most despicable characters in their catalog to give them a sympathetic turn. While 2021’s Cruella gives the character a tragic background, the real Cruella, as depicted in the original 101 Dalmatians film, is a wealthy yet terrible woman who married an even richer man and forced him to take her name.
Cruella gets her kicks out of the most cardinal sin of them all: Animal cruelty. The character’s borderline obsession with Dalmatians derives from the fact she loves making furs out of the skin of these cute dogs, and she won’t stop at anything to get what she wants, even if it affects her friends and underlings.
9 The Evil Queen – Snow White (1937)
Disney’s first villain, the evil Queen and stepmother from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, does everything in her power to ensure that she’s the fairest of them all, from dressing Snow White in rags to keeping her constantly overworked. Nevertheless, Snow White’s optimism makes her radiance and natural beauty shine – this unleashes the evil stepmother’s wrath. From trying to have Snow White murdered through a loyal servant to finally trying to enact the deed herself – this villain stops at nothing to achieve her ultimate goal, resulting in her own demise at the hands of mother nature.
8 Lady Tremaine – Cinderella (1950)
While not murderous like her Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs counterpart, Lady Tremaine is evil in her own right. From relegating Cinderella to a servant, bargaining to let Cinderella go to the ball under false pretenses, allowing her daughters to destroy Cinderella’s original gown for the ball, to lastly, imprisoning Cinderella inside her room to stop her from revealing her identity to the Duke; Lady Tremaine takes each and every opportunity to humiliate and repress her step-daughter.
7 Scar – The Lion King (1994)
What makes Scar so horrifying is that his deeds are all directed at his family. From plotting Mufasa and Simba’s demise, guilt-tripping Simba into abandoning The Pride Lands, to finally enslaving the entire kingdom to service his own deal with the hyenas – Scar is despicable from the beginning of The Lion King to the end. Most disturbing is his lack of remorse throughout any of his actions, notably witnessing his own brother’s death.
6 Sid – Toy Story (1996)
Sid is so terrifying in Toy Story because he’s merely a child, but this doesn’t lessen his maniacal tendencies. From slowly dismembering his toys to concocting disturbing ways to end their existences, Sid takes great joy in the idea of destruction, not once considering repercussions for his actions. Sid is a troubled youth well on his way to becoming a criminal.
5 Mother Gothel – Tangled (2010)
Mother Gothel is driven by her narcissism, notably her fear of aging. Gothel believes she has the key to eternal youth when discovering a sunlit flower with healing powers that reverse aging – but unfortunately for her, so do the royal guards for a neighboring kingdom. When the pregnant queen consumes the flower, her baby inherits the flower’s magical abilities, giving Gothel a truly wicked idea: kidnap the baby and exploit her powers.
Gothel succeeds in her master plan and, for 18 years, keeps Rapunzel locked away. Kidnapping aside, Gothel is despicable for her general treatment towards Rapunzel. She manipulates Rapunzel into believing the world is dangerous, hinders her from making any real human connections, and resorts to attempted murder in order to keep Rapunzel by her side. Mother Gothel is a master of gaslighting in Tangled, earning her place as Disney’s most vile guardian.
4 Syndrome – The Incredibles (2004)
Syndrome is one of Disney’s most sympathetic characters in The Incredibles, falling more into the category of anti-hero. Unlike many Disney villains, Syndrome actually starts off as a regular person, a tech genius obsessed with Mr. Incredible. When Mr.Incredible dismisses Syndrome during their first meet, Syndrome develops a bitter disposition towards superheroes and humans alike, leading him to spend years plotting a way to take over the world. While Syndrome causes a great deal of damage in his wake, he is ultimately a flawed individual who just longs to be accepted by someone.
3 Hans – Frozen (2013)
Hans is a prime example of hypocrisy in Frozen. He presents himself as virtually flawless, taking an immediate interest in Anna, saying all the right things to sweep her off her feet, and demonstrating an overall supportive nature towards the neglected princess of Arendelle. Of course, Hans is too good to be true, taking his opportunity to try and dethrone Elsa while leaving Anna to succumb to an icy demise. Fortunately, love overcomes Hans’ wicked plans, and he receives his due punishment. Regardless, it’s heartbreaking to see Hans manipulate Anna’s hopeless romantic spirit.
2 Gaston – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Gaston isn’t just a narcissist; he is a full-fledged predator. Throughout his entire time onscreen in Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is driven to fulfill his need for validation by enamoring Belle at all costs. When Belle rejects him, Gaston decides to force Belle into accepting his marriage proposal, even if that means imprisoning her father, Maurice, as blackmail. What is most disturbing about Gaston is his parallels to countless real-life people who refuse to respect other’s decisions.
1 Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Claude Frollo, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is inarguably Disney’s most despicable villain. From leading a persecution for ages against the gypsies, murdering under the guise of maintaining order in Paris, to his salacious pursuit of Esmeralda, Claude Frollo is a living nightmare for anyone who crosses his path.
Yet, Frollo’s greatest misdeed is his treatment towards Quasimodo, whom he abused relentlessly for over 20 years. From murdering Quasimodo’s mother, raising Quasimodo to believe he is unworthy of love due to his appearance, to generally degrading Quasimodo for sport, Frollo demonstrates that evil comes in any shape or form and frequently hides behind a facade of self-righteousness.