Who are the best Harry Potter villains? The only thing worse than a werewolf is a politician or a tabloid journalist. That’s the rule of thumb when it comes to baddies in the world of Harry Potter, but it’s tough to narrow it all down.
We’ve dusted off our Harry Potter books, watched the Harry Potter movies in order, and been through the ranks of the Harry Potter characters to bring you the foulest bad guys ever. There are countless terrible people throughout the best movies in the franchise, but this bunch includes the worst of the worst. Unforgivable curses on these guys are at least a little forgivable.
The best Harry Potter villains ranked:
- Dudley Dursley
- Argus Filch
- Vernon Dursley
- Gellert Grindelwald
- Draco Malfoy
- Gilderoy Lockhart
- Fenrir Greyback
- Barty Crouch Jr
- Rita Skeeter
- Quirinus Quirrell
- Peter Pettigrew
- Lucius Malfoy
- Bellatrix Lestrange
- Lord Voldemort
- Dolores Umbridge
15. Dudley Dursley
The older Dursleys are certainly loathsome, and they’ve passed all of that hate and snobbery down to their only child. Dudley makes Harry’s life an absolute misery, not to mention all of the other Surrey kids who end up on the receiving end of his beatings. But he does get a bit of a redemption arc in the books.
Harry Melling has since gone on to become one of the most fascinating members of the Harry Potter cast. He has worked with the Coen Brothers and starred alongside Christian Bale, to name just two of his recent projects. But it all started with this cake-obsessed bully boy.
14. Argus Filch
There’s absolutely no reason for Filch to be evil. He’s just the school caretaker. But for some reason, this guy is obsessed with punishing children and nurses a fantasy for the more medieval forms of retribution against slightly misbehaving kids. He also has an evil cat, naturally.
David Bradley does a stellar job of showing Filch as malicious in just about every way, conjuring one of the most memorable Potter villains even without the important detail from the books about him being a Squib.
13. Vernon Dursley
You don’t need magic to be evil. Nobody proved that more clearly than the loathsome Vernon Dursley, who is effectively the poster boy for abusive parenting. He treated Harry awfully out of fear of his magical gifts, taking sadistic pleasure in locking him in a cupboard.
Richard Griffiths’ performance in the movies, which walks the line between darkness and comedy, made it abundantly clear just how much joy Vernon got from every misfortune that befell Harry.
There’s a Dursley fan theory that suggests their meanness was because they were so close to the Horcrux inside Harry while he was growing up, As Hagrid might say, that’s codswallop in my opinion. The guy’s just a rotter.
12. Gellert Grindelwald
Before there was Voldemort, we had Grindelwald as our lead magical tyrant. He had a reign of terror over Europe during the middle of the 20th century until he was bested by Dumbledore in a legendary magical duel, which saw the Elder Wand pass from villain to hero.
We’ve seen numerous versions of Grindelwald in the movies, including Mads Mikkelsen in Fantastic Beasts 3. We’ll no doubt see more of his nefarious plan for the world unfold when the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date arrives and we’re still holding out hope that we’ll see that duel with Dumbledore. Eventually.
11. Draco Malfoy
Draco Malfoy is a fascinating little guy. He starts the franchise as a swaggering, sure-footed scumbag of the sort we all remember from school. In the first few movies, his slicked-back blonde hair alone is enough to send a shudder down the spine of any audience member.
But, as the series continues, it turns out that the malign influence of his pathetic father meant he was born into being an utter nightmare. He never really stood a chance. Parents, eh? What can you do about them?
10. Gilderoy Lockhart
Vainglorious and about as useful as a chocolate wand, Gilderoy Lockhart may not be the most dangerous of characters on this list, but his methods are among the scariest. Lockhart lacks any real magical talent except for a certain flair for memory charms – using one of the best Harry Potter spells for devious ends.
He uses these skills to take credit for other witches’ and wizards’ achievements. Usually, these involve his unfortunate victims defeating some fiendish magical creature, then he uses his memory charms to erase their memory and take the credit. What’s particularly creepy about this is that he’s essentially stealing parts of people’s minds. What’s worse is he seems to get away with it.
While yes, he does eventually wipe his own memory (and his entire identity in the process), we see in the books he still gets fan mail, and there’s no mention of restoring the memories of the people he enchanted.
9. Fenrir Greyback
Easily one of the scariest wizards on this list, it’s not Fenrir Greyback’s magical skill that makes him so threatening but his savagery. Greyback is a werewolf who, unlike others afflicted with the Lycan curse, deliberately attempts to infect other witches and wizards. Even the best monster movies have nothing on him.
He’s the werewolf that infected Lupin when he was a child and apparently did so deliberately because Lupin’s father insulted him. Also, Greyback’s attack on Bill, which leaves the eldest Weasley with permanent scars, is one of the more gruesome moments in a series that’s usually relatively bloodless.
8. Barty Crouch Jr.
One of the most cunning and manipulative dark wizards in the entire magical saga, Barty Crouch Jr managed to fool even Dumbledore into thinking he was Mad-Eye Moody.
The twisted wizard seemed to take genuine pleasure in tricking our heroes into thinking he was the famed Auror and was wholly dedicated to the Dark Lord. Not the first nor last time David Tennant would play a scheming villain to perfection.
7. Rita Skeeter
Not all villains have to be mustache-twirling maniacs with dreams of world domination; some are just gossip columnists. Yet that doesn’t make Rita Skeeter any less insidious. No, not that sort of Insidious.
Aside from her unethical news-sourcing techniques (get a TweetDeck, Rita), she shows a complete lack of compassion for Harry and his friends, libeling them at every opportunity just to sell more papers. Even worse, she gets away with it and spends the rest of her days pumping out poison in her Daily Prophet column.
She might be the most real of the Potter villains. We can certainly name a few columnists who could be cited as a clear inspiration.
6. Quirinus Quirrell
The first villain Harry ever faces off against, Quirrell’s story is a sad one. Teased for his stammer and never getting the respect he felt he deserved, Quirrell set off to Albania, looking for the Dark Lord.
He foolishly believed he could beat the weakened Voldemort and finally earn his due recognition. Things didn’t go to plan. Voldemort ended up possessing Quirrell, occupying the back of his head, and using him in his scheme to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone.
5. Peter Pettigrew
Peter Pettigrew may not be a powerful or frightening wizard on his own, but he represents a different sort of evil. This rat-faced – and often rat-bodied – villain shows that cowardice can be just as bad as out-and-out malice.
Pettigrew chose to betray his friends to save his own skin from Voldemort, and he’s proof that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (although good may be a stretch in this case). Also, let’s not forget one of the creepier aspects of Pettigrew’s backstory. He spent decades living with the Weasleys, even sleeping in Ron’s bed. Gross.
4. Lucius Malfoy
Another wizard who may not be the most dangerous duelist, but Lucius is a different kind of sinister. He’s representative of institutional rot. Well-connected, politically powerful, and racist, Lucius thinks he’s better than other witches and isn’t afraid to let them know it.
The patriarch of the Malfoy family is, unfortunately, a very real villain and one who exists in our world as well. Thankfully, Lucius sees sense in the end, realizing he loves his family more than he fears Voldemort and abandons the Dark Lord in the climactic battle.
A lot of the genius of Lucius comes down to Jason Isaacs (hello to him, by the way) and his delightfully malevolent performance, especially in the early movies. He finds emotional depth in the character later on too.
3. Bellatrix Lestrange
The Dark Lord’s most loyal lieutenant, Bellatrix Lestrange, is as vicious as Greyback, as deadly as Voldemort, and as cruel as Umbridge. She’s a dab hand with a Cruciatus Curse and seemingly has absolutely no moral compass. Helena Bonham Carter plays her as an onslaught of pure evil energy.
Honestly, if she were slightly more stable and not absolutely infatuated with the Dark Lord, she’d probably have been a real threat to his rule. Now that’s a terrifying thought.
2. Lord Voldemort
Lord Voldemort needs no introduction. The most dangerous dark wizard in more than a century, it would be easier to list the crimes Voldemort hasn’t committed during his life. From murder and torture to blackmail and theft, the dastardly snake-faced sorcerer has done it all. He even stole the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb!
His vilest act, though, has to be the creation of not one but several Horcruxes. These enchanted items serve as vessels for the Dark Lord’s soul, giving him a form of quasi-immortality.
The creation of just one of these artifacts was considered the most terrible form of dark magic, and he made lots of them. It’s no wonder he wasn’t even close to human by the end. He’s certainly one of the best movie villains of all time, but he’s not even the most repellent character in the Wizarding World.
1. Dolores Umbridge
Voldemort may be the Harry Potter movie series’ big bad and the evilest, but he’s not the scariest character in the films. That has to be Dolores Umbridge, the toad-faced undersecretary to the Minister for Magic turned High Inquisitor of Hogwarts.
Voldemort may be a vile, torturous murderer, but even he has some twisted code of loyalty. Umbridge has no such values; she’s only loyal to power. Umbridge is an out-and-out bully who enjoys inflicting pain on anyone and everyone, actively seeking authority so she can use it to make others miserable.
Umbridge is perhaps the scariest character in the series because she’s terrifyingly real. She represents the smiling face of bureaucracy that can’t help you because you filled in the wrong form or joined the wrong queue. Uncaring, callous, and arrogant, pray you never meet a Umbridge in your life.
It’s a great time to be a fan of the Wizarding World, so find out how the Harry Potter movies almost ruined Snape’s death and the meaning of “Always” in Harry Potter. Or, if you’re up for some controversy, find out why we think Hermione overshadows Harry Potter in the movies.
We’ve also got written up everything you could want to know about the upcoming Harry Potter TV series release date and the possible Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date. Or, for upcoming magical releases, here is our guide to all the new movies heading our way in 2023 and beyond, as well as House of the Dragon season 2.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.