Almost all movies make room for a hated villain. The baddie is always there to stir your emotions and make your blood boil. In fact, if one thing is certain, no movie would be half as interesting without their baddies leading the plot.
They kill, they sin and they deliberately damage the hero – and that’s okay (for the sake of entertainment, of course).
From characters in popular movie franchises to others that made one-off, yet memorable appearances, we list the 25 best movie villains that you simply can’t help but love to hate.
Movie: The Lion King
Voiced by: Jeremy Irons
The iconic animated character was the pure evil at the heart of this classic Disney movie. Scar, so ruthless and devilishly appealing, is almost completely hated as if he were real.
The devious brother who wants to be king and goes to extreme measures to take the throne will have you in tears thanks to his evil motives (like erm, killing his bro). This dark and catty lion is without a doubt, one of the most loathed Disney characters ever to be created, but his brutal badness and evil magnetism will enthrall you, all the while.
2. Darth Vader
Movie: Star Wars saga
Played by: David Prowse Voiced by: James Earl Jones
Admit it, Darth Vadar from the Star Wars saga has a menacing aura that makes your teeth chatter. From his intimidating, yet fantastic costume, to his deep, unnerving breathing, every feature of this character has made him a globally recognized and beloved cinematic villain.
3. Lord Voldemort
Movie: Harry Potter saga
Played by: Ralph Fiennes
Lord Voldemort is the ultimate villain in the popular, fictional series of Harry Potter. This monstrous character may have tried to kill a baby (yeah, disturbing) and attack a school (those aren’t even the worst of his actions), but we can’t help but class him as one of the best movie villains of all time.
Only Voldy is brave enough to tear apart his soul and transform into a slit-nosed sinister figure, right? With his mutilated soul that’s driven by evil and unmatched supernatural powers, Voldemort is even feared by viewers – do you dare to speak his name?
4. Ivan Drago
Movie: Rocky IV
Played by: Dolph Lundgren
Ivan Drago is a boxer from Russia who is pumped on performance enhancing drugs. He wants to beat Rocky – and in our eyes, no one should take down the famous heavyweight champion!
This bad guy was so heartless and terribly loathed. There was a lot of political backdrop at the time this movie was released, but simply put, nobody will forget this cold-blooded baddie in a hurry. Ivan Drago is still hated by millions until this day.
5. Jack Torrance
Movie: The Shining
Played by: Jack Nicholson
Labelled as one of Stephen King’s most twisted and complex characters, this bad guy will certainly give you the chills throughout the run of this classic film.
Jack Torrance moves with his family to maintain a huge isolated and creepy hotel, but evil supernatural forces soon get the better of him. From chasing his family with an axe to telling his wife he’s going to “bash” her brains in, it’s the pure insanity that makes Jack Torrance such an iconic villain. Only Jack Nicholson could have played a deranged role so well!
6. Alonzo Harris
Movie: Training Day
Played by: Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is renowned for playing the good-guy in many of his movies, but in Training Day, you quite literally end up hating the guy. Alonzo is a corrupt L.A.P.D. detective who is tasked with training newbie, Jake (played by Ethan Hawke).
As with all great villains in movies, Alonzo’s screen presence is continually strong giving viewers a daunting feeling whenever he’s on screen. Denzel Washington channeled his inner-evil-doer brilliantly.
7. Tommy DeVito
Played by: Joe Pesci
Tommy DeVito is as cruel as gangsters can get and Joe Pesci will forever be remembered for playing this spiteful and prestigious role. While he is so hated at times, you still can’t help but enjoy watching him on your screen. He’s hot-headed, he’s dangerous and he’s committed unspeakable crimes – but that’s why we love him.
With his destructiveness and memorable villainy, Tommy is undoubtedly charming for all the wrong reasons.
8. Hannibal Lecter
Movie: The Silence of the Lambs
Played by: Anthony Hopkins
The Silence of the Lambs is a chilling thriller and Hannibal Lecter is one of the most terrifying villains to ever grace our television screens – it’s safe to say he sends shivers down your spine just by looking at him.
We don’t see this villain do much harm in the movie, but we are taken aback and naturally frightened by his manipulative nature and way of talking. Needless to say, Anthony Hopkins did such a great job at his portrayal, so much so that you would think twice at approaching the actor in the streets!
9. Tony Montana
Played by: Al Pacino
The gangster who had it all, then loses it in the most tragic way. Tony Montana is a Cuban immigrant who goes to America with big dreams, and big balls. This gangster is not your typical movie villain because you actually root for him.
Al Pacino was definitely the best man for the role. It’s hard to imagine another actor who can pull off the role of Tony Montana and make Scarface the popular movie it still is today. Overly ‘ambitious’, incredibly greedy, and the most tenacious and coolest villains out there, you just gotta love to hate Tony. In fact, his attitude, character, and mannerisms make him stand out among all the bad guys in Hollywood.
Movie: Marvel Cinematic Universe
Played by: Tom Hiddleston
Thor’s adoptive brother is one a favorite character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for good reasons. The God of Thunder’s eloquent and witty sibling changes sides depending on which cause suits his interest best. He’s a trickster who will do anything to get what he wants, even if it means using someone’s appearance to cheat people.
Loki is one of those top villains that shine by their intelligence and ability to make us clap at their mischiefs. There’s no denying that Tom Hiddleston’s take on the character makes it extremely difficult not to like him.
11. Kylo Ren
Movie: Star Wars saga
Played by: Adam Driver
Kylo Ren is no ‘Darth Vader’, but that’s perhaps one of the reasons why this popular villain feels fresh in the Star Wars universe. His wounds and insecurities are crystal clear, and we can see that he is truly conflicted with his own actions against our heroes. There are even moments when you feel sorry for this bad guy.
The son of Han and Leia will remain one of the most memorable villains because of how he manages to be cunning, yet vulnerable in a saga that often prefers its villains to be absolute despots.
12. The Joker
Movie: The Dark Knight
Played by: Heath Ledger
The Joker in The Dark Knight is so deranged, psychotic and portrayed so effortlessly well that he instantly becomes one of the greatest villains you love to hate. The combination of this bad guy’s unpredictability, gruesome appearance, and irrational motives have made him unforgettable to many.
Heath Ledger played the role of The Joker flawlessly. It’s hard to come by such a movie villain who has received such widespread applause from both critics and fans. Batman’s arch-nemesis will forever be a movie icon.
13. Dolores Umbridge
Movie: Harry Potter saga
Played by: Imelda Staunton
There’s a long string of villainous characters in Harry Potter, and yet none apart from Lord Voldemort terrified us quite as much as Professor Dolores Umbridge. The professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts has Hogwarts under her thumb for an entire year, during which she abuses her power by physically punishing the children, notably muggle-borns.
Harry himself was one of her victims, until she got what she deserved by ending up in prison. And although we hated this character with everything we had, we can’t deny Imelda Staunton did a great job at making her the worst.
14. Norman Bates
Played by: Anthony Perkins
Even if you haven’t watched Hitchcock’s thriller, you’ve definitely seen the legendary black and white shower scene where a young woman screams before being stabbed repeatedly. And you’ve probably also seen Norman Bates’ terrifying smile towards the camera from the movie’s iconic last scene.
Anthony Perkins’ bone-chilling performance as the solitary, deranged hotel keeper, Norman Bates is one of the finest acting jobs of the 20th century. If you’ve seen this masterpiece, there’s no denying the horrifying character still fuels some of your nightmares. That’s how you know a good villain – they stay with you forever.
15. Claude Frollo
Movie: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Voiced by: Tony Jay
The antagonist of the 34th Disney animated feature film is not only cruel and manipulative, he also feels a bit too real for a children’s movie. A hypocritical religious figure in medieval Paris, Frollo represents a whole world of complex themes of corruption and misogyny that are still prevalent today.
He may be animated, but this villain is more realistic than a lot of other Disney baddies. He certainly deserves a place in the pantheon of antagonists we definitely would fight.
Played by: Bill Skarsgard
Pennywise doesn’t exactly have a personality, he’s rather the embodiment of many different fears, and more generally of fear itself. But of course, most people will chiefly remember him as his preferred form: a creepy clown with haunting yellow eyes.
Although it’s difficult to choose between the 1990 TV adaptation and the more recent horror movie saga, there’s no denying that Bill Skarsgard’s take on the role is one of the most disturbing yet brilliant things we’ve ever seen. We’ll be staying away from circuses for now.
Played by: Angelina Jolie
There are very few female villains that stand out, but one of them is certainly Maleficent. She’s framed as a misunderstood heroine in the latest Disney retellings, but for the vast majority, she’s the villain that cursed Aurora to an endless sleep in Sleeping Beauty.
With that being said, Angelina Jolie brought a humanity to the character that made her look even more badass and nuanced. Not that all villains deserve to be forgiven, but Maleficent might just be one of those antagonists who deserves a top spot on both sides.
Movie: The Lord of the Rings saga
Played by: Andy Serkis
“My precious”. It’s hard to escape these iconic words by none other than Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Gollum is a terrifying, annoying, yet fascinating and complex character. He’s a human-turned-monster because of greed and selfishness, and in true villain fashion, he had a few moments that almost led him to redemption. Only he never stopped obsessing over Frodo’s shiny ring and ended up drowning in lava because of it.
That, folks, is definitely not a crash course on how to lead your life but it makes for a very good crash course on how to be the perfect villain.
Movie: Marvel Cinematic Universe
Played by: Josh Brolin
First, it needs to be said that Thanos’ actions cannot be excused. Killing half the galaxy’s population and abusing your kids is not okay – in fact there’s never been anything less okay. With that being said, this is a top villains list, and Thanos definitely delivers in that respect.
The purple giant who intends to rule the universe with his infinity gauntlet never fails to impress and we can think of a few Marvel antagonists who were ever that hard to vanquish. It took three movies of nearly three hours each, goddamn it.
Movie: Beauty and the Beast
Played by: Richard White
Ah, Gaston. We all remember Belle’s douchey suitor in Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast. Perhaps the character’s worst trait is that he thinks everything he lays eyes on is automatically his.
From chasing Belle despite her refusal, to gathering half of their village to try and kill the love of her life…Gaston brings the term ‘toxic masculinity’ to a whole new level. In that regard, we can’t say there was ever a more despicable, timeless villain. We’re looking at you, frat boys.
21. Harry and Marv
Movie: Home Alone
Played by: Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern
Home Alone – everyone’s favorite Christmas movie. A young boy is accidentally abandoned by his family and must defend his home from two burglars determined to steal everything they can find in the family’s absence.
Yes, we really enjoyed watching Harry and Marv get their asses kicked as Kevin invented more and more clever ways to send them home crying. There’s no denying however, that of all the thieves we’ve seen in the history of film, these two are so hilarious, we almost wish they’d come ransack our house. Almost.
22. Bellatrix Lestrange
Movie: Harry Potter saga
Played by: Helena Bonham Carter
It’s almost impossible not to cite more than one Harry Potter villain here, simply because the magical franchise has way too many good baddies.
Unlike some characters on this list, Bellatrix Lestrange has strictly no redeeming qualities and is very fond of making other people suffer – one of her most infamous exploits being the torture of Neville Longbottom’s parents. Fortunately, she’s killed by Molly Weasley in the last Potter movie, but we still tremble at the thought of her diabolical laugh.
Movie: X-Men saga
Played by: Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen’s Magneto is the type of supervillain you can’t help but bow down to. Sorry, but being able to control metal is just that cool. However, just like Thanos, the mutant’s political views are a little bit rusty, as he believes mutants should rule over humans and refuses to accept the possibility of a peaceful coexistence with the ‘lesser species’.
Former friend of Charles Xavier, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means killing a lot of people in the process. Once again: Villain 1.01.
24. Sid Phillips
Movie: Toy Story
Played by: Erik von Detten
This kid has haunted legions of children, and we’re not sure if we’ll ever be able to forget his skull t-shirt and evil glare. Andy’s neighbor is just as fond of toys as the former, only he likes to tear them apart and put them back together at random to create monstrous hybrids. Yay.
Although Toy Story has enough villains to populate a country, Sid is by far the most terrifying one because… well, he’s just like any other school bully we’ve ever encountered. And what’s more terrifying than that?
25. Erik Killmonger
Movie: Black Panther
Played by: Michael B. Jordan
Yet another bad guy we can’t help but like a little. Erik Killmonger is the antagonist of Black Panther, a young man who grew up in the U.S. despite coming from Wakanda. After developing a thirst for revenge towards the mythical country, Killmonger sets out to dethrone his cousin T’Challa in order to help oppressed communities all over the world.
With a goal like this, it’s difficult not to sympathize with the antihero. Like Maleficent, Erik Killmonger is a character who can be seen as a great supervillain, or a misunderstood hero depending on how you look at it.
Although liking a villain sort of goes against the point, sometimes they are just so good at being bad that we can’t help but sit back and shake our heads in astonishment.
If there is any Hollywood villain you’d like to see on this list, let us know in the comments and tell us which evil guy is your favorite!
Want more from the world of film? Check out our list of the best books made into great movies!