We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

The 12 best Disney villains of all time

Disney has traumatized children for decades with some rotten baddies on the big screen. Here are our picks for the best Disney villains, featuring true evil.

Best Disney villains ranked - Ursula, Maleficent, and more

Who are the best Disney villains? The House of Mouse creates great heroes, obviously, but we always gravitate towards the bad guys. When we were kids, they scared us silly and now we’re grown-ups (apparently), we just think they’re pretty cool.

Disney has introduced some of the best movie villains the big screen has ever seen across 100 years of the best Disney movies. So we’ve gone on a journey through a century of the best animated movies ever made in order to find the most rotten apples in the bunch. These are the baddies who none of the best Disney princesses would ever want to see again.

For this list, we are looking strictly at official Disney movies – meaning there’s no Pixar movies, sorry to any Sid or Randall fans. There are also spoilers ahead for certain films so consider yourself warned. Now without further ado, let’s crack on with our top picks for the best Disney villains of all time.

Who are the best Disney villains?

  1. Shere Khan
  2. Hans
  3. Mother Gothel
  4. Jafar
  5. Claude Frollo
  6. Dawn Bellwether
  7. Ursula
  8. Hades
  9. Cruella de Vil
  10. Scar
  11. Gaston
  12. Maleficent

Disney villains ranked - Shere Khan

12. Shere Khan – The Jungle Book

Disney has a terrific supply of outwardly sophisticated baddies, and they don’t come much posher than George Sanders’ voice performance as the Bengal tiger Shere Khan in the ’60s adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. He hates humans more than anything, which means he is willing to go to any lengths imaginable to make sure that Mowgli comes to a grisly end. Eating kids is about as evil as it gets.

Khan has even come out on the right side of the current remake trend, with Idris Elba bringing a different kind of snarling menace to the character in one of the best live-action Disney remakes: Jon Favreau’s take on The Jungle Book in 2016.

Disney villains ranked - Hans in Frozen

11. Hans – Frozen

Frozen deserves a lot of credit for revitalizing Disney’s fortunes, with the studio subsequently riding one of the best musicals in years to the crest of a new golden age for the studio’s animations. And although Frozen is very much a story about two sisters, the true villain of the piece is the smarmy Hans.

In one of Disney’s most devastating twists ever, Anna’s dashing suitor reveals he never loved her and instead just wanted to seize the throne of Arendelle. He’s an utter rotter and Santino Fontana deserves loads of credit for really selling one of modern cinema’s greatest heel turns.

Unfortunately, Love is an Open Door still stands up as one of the best Disney songs, even after we learn how hollow it all was. We have conflicting feelings about Hans.

Best Disney villains: Mother Gothel in Tangled

10. Mother Gothel – Tangled

Nothing screams a ‘mother’s love’ like imprisonment and kidnapping, right? In the 2010 movie Tangled, Mother Gothel poses as Rapunzel’s parent, but (drumroll please) she turns out to be an imposter and devious captor instead. Obsessed with maintaining her youth, she locks the princess away, keeping Rapunzel from her family and the outside world to keep her magical hair all to herself.

It’s a pretty dark scenario already, but what really makes this Disney villain stand out is all the gaslighting and intense manipulation we see her inflict on poor old Rapunzel. At times it is downright uncomfortable to watch as Mother Gothel warps an innocent young woman’s view of the world for her own self-interest.

I mean, come on, seeing psychological abuse animated and then being sung about too in the banger ‘Mother Knows Best’, that is the epitome of evil for any of the best family movies, right?

Best Disney villains: Jafar in Aladdin

9. Jafar – Aladdin

It’s no secret that Disney villains get the best lines in every film. However, Jafar is particularly memorable for his quotable, suave sarcasm. He is also one of the most intimidating villains and comes so close to beating the good guys that you’ll be left screaming in your seat.

Carrying himself tall as the King’s adviser in the movie Aladdin, Jafar as a character, right off the bat, feels untouchable – especially in comparison to our underdog street rat hero. On top of his strong political position, he is also a powerful sorcerer, able to utilize mind control with a simple wave of his fancy snake staff.

In the film, we also see his already frightening authority increase twofold once he gains control over Genie – proving that there is nothing scarier than a power-hungry villain. But equally, it is hard not to appreciate the genius storytelling, where Jafar’s obsession and evil ambition later become the very reason for his downfall.

Best Disney villains: Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

8. Claude Frollo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The only Disney character to ever try and burn someone at the stake, you know we couldn’t rank the top Disney villains without mentioning the French priest Claude Frollo. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is often considered one of Disney’s darkest animations, dealing with themes such as lust, genocide, sin, and infanticide (very family-friendly, we know). But who is the central man behind all these wicked deeds – none other than Frollo.

Voiced by Tony Jay, Claude Frollo is a creepy and unforgiving character with a terrifying god complex. He also has one of if not the best villain songs you’ll ever hear. ‘Hellfire’ is a dark and spicy ballad about his attraction to the character Esmeralda. Yes, you read right. Disney did a song all about sexual frustration that turns into attempted murder – another reason why Frollo’s place on our list is untouchable.

Best Disney villains: Dawn Bellwether in Zootopia

7. Dawn Bellwether – Zootopia

Cute and cuddly have never been so diabolical. Zootopia was one of the best movies in recent Disney memory for many reasons when it was first released in 2016. It looked stunning, held up a mirror to prejudice and bias in society, and had a great twist – a Disney villain that no one saw coming.

The little sheep assistant mayor Dawn Bellwether had all of us fooled, appearing as a weak and timid character at first before revealing herself actually to be a crafty and ruthless politician. Having felt undermined by predators her whole life, Dawn’s main mission is to create a world where prey can rule over predators and live comfortably.

Ironically the villain becomes a figurative wolf in sheep’s clothing as she goes about on her mission to ‘protect’ her kind. Breaking up families and playing on her citizen’s biases towards predators being “savages”, this villain is undeniably cruel, doesn’t hesitate to kill, and also reflects ongoing real-world issues about systematic injustice.

Disney villains ranked: Ursula in The Little Mermaid

6. Ursula – The Little Mermaid

The ultimate charismatic con artist has eight tentacles and lives under the sea. That’s right; we are talking about the Disney villain for the 1989 movie The Little Mermaid, Ursula. Designed after the legendary drag queen Divine, this sea witch is a mesmerizing salesperson to who you’ll end up selling your unfortunate soul if you ever stumble into her dark, underwater cave.

Ursula is a clever, powerful and just downright sassy ‘bad guy’ who stands out from the Disney pack. Her expressive animation, booming sultry voice, and head-on aggressive attitude make her the most proactive character in the film, as well as one of those villains you love but just can’t seem to hate.

Like Maleficent, Ursula also has one of the most impressive showdowns in the history of Disney’s best fantasy movies, turning into a giant, and devastating everything and everyone in her wake. Truly a forceful diva right to her dramatic end.

Best Disney villains: Hades in Hercules

5. Hades – Hercules

Sometimes you just can’t help but feel sorry for a  Disney villain, especially one that is as hilariously exasperated and witty as Hades. Voiced by James Woods in the movie Hercules, Hades constantly has his plans foiled and delivers snappy one-liners to all his enemies. In short, he is one of the most entertaining and high-strung villains in the history of Disney’s best comedy movies.

With his incompetent duo of henchmen – Panic and Pain – and a prophecy of his impending demise, Hades is also the only Disney villain to be so blatantly suffering from anxiety. He is constantly on edge about his fate and is desperate to change the future by killing Hercules. Truly a complex and very funny character, Hades has cemented his place as one of the antagonist greats.

Best Disney villains: Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians

4. Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmatians

What’s eviler than wanting to kill puppies? The answer is nothing. Cruella de Vil is, simply put, one of the most sinister characters ever to come from the Magic Kingdom. From her obsession with skinning animals for their fur to her striking skeletal character design, we don’t often see such a dark figure in any of the best kids movies, period.

A fashionable and powerful heiress in the movie 101 Dalmatians, we see Cruella dog-nap, emotionally abuse everyone she meets, and violate several driving regulations. She is spoiled and rude, yet she is incredibly stylish and captivating. Over the years, Cruella has become a figure in pop culture for greed and vanity.

She also recently bagged her own live-action movie, Cruella, starring Emma Stone as the titular character. So yeah, this villain is timeless and undeniably iconic.

Best Disney villains: Scar in The Lion King

3. Scar – The Lion King

Be prepared…for some good old-fashioned scheming because no one does betrayal or manipulation like dear old Scar. Voiced by Jeremy Irons in one of the best ’90s movies, The Lion King, Scar kills his brother King Mufasa. But wait, there is more: he convinces his nephew, the young Simba, that his dad’s death is actually his fault. But wait, there is even more: he then ravages the Pride Lands under tyrannical rule once Simba – the rightful heir – goes into self-imposed exile. Pretty brutal, right?

Throughout the film, we see Scar use his intelligence and charm to trick others into doing his bidding, be they his fellow lions or his hyena underlings. After witnessing this character continuously hurt the people around him, he is easy to hate. Nothing feels more satisfying than watching karma do its work in the movie’s final confrontation.

Best Disney villains: Gaston in Beauty and the Beast

2. Gaston – Beauty and the Beast

Toxic masculinity on a silver platter, Gaston is an obnoxious hunk who is hilarious as well as rage-inducing. In the Academy Award-winning movie Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is the burly hunter with a thick neck who has an obsession with making Belle his wife.

Having a problem with rejection, we see the character use his upstanding reputation with the town to imprison Belle’s father, try and kill her Beast boyfriend, and essentially attempt to force Belle to be with him (yikes).

If you haven’t noticed already, Gaston embodies misogyny, and in a post #MeToo era, is a villain who hits especially hard.

best Disney villains: Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty

1. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty

Maleficent is the queen bee of all Disney villains and a fairy you don’t want to mess with. She has immense power, a huge castle packed full of minions and, oh yeah, she can also turn into a dragon. If her magical abilities weren’t impressive enough, her personality is so extreme and arrogant that you can’t help but secretly love her for it.

Giving petty a whole new meaning, Maleficent decides to kill a young baby after simply being snubbed from a party by the royal family. Putting a curse on Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent knows how to hold a grudge and is adamant about punishing everyone who crosses her.

With her power, clear goal and cackling laugh that will haunt your nightmares, you just can’t help but admire her sure-fire determination or shudder with intimidation whenever she’s on screen.

YouTube Thumbnail

And that’s it! The best Disney villains of all time. Some honourable mentions go to Dr Facilier from The Princess and the Frog and Lady Tremaine from the 1950s movie Cinderella – who just missed the cut.

Of course, if you want to check out these villains for yourself, you can head on over to Disney Plus. When you’re done with these classics, you should check out everything new on Disney Plus.

If you are after more stories with villains and complicated happily ever afters, here are our lists of the best scary movies for kids and the best horror movies of all time. You can also find out why this classic Disney movie inspired the name of a real octopus and learn why Alfred Hitchcok was banned from Disneyland, as well as checking out our Haunted Mansion review.

Of course, you’ll also want to know about the new movies heading our way from Disney, including the Wish release date and the Frozen 3 release date. There’s also the small matter of Avatar 3.