Maleficent is easily one of the most iconic Disney villains out there. In 2014, we got to see how amazing (and scary) she really is when Angelina Jolie played her in the live-action film. Jolie played this evil queen so well that Disney decided that she deserved a sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019).
All the queen ever wanted was respect, and we can see why she deserves it. Sure, she put a curse over an entire kingdom (as well as the princess) to do it, but she knew what she wanted and went after it. Did we mention she can also turn into a freaking dragon? Not enough villains can turn into dragons.
Hela (Thor: Ragnarok)
Hela is one of the best Norse guardians, and she was perfectly personified in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Played by the amazingly talented Cate Blanchett, we saw Hela steal the spotlight from every character in Ragnarok (including Thor).
Hela is the goddess of death and ruler of the underworld, and she ruled with an iron hand. Up until Ragnarok, we assumed Thor was the strongest person in the series, but Hela showed us that he could be defeated – and pretty easily considering how she destroyed Mjolnir with one hand.
Harley Quinn (The Batman Universe)
It’s hard to pick which Harley Quinn is the best. Harley Quinn was the therapist of the infamous Joker, but she couldn’t resist his “charms.” She decided to throw everything away and become the villain she knew she was all along.
Throughout many comics and movies, Harley was nothing more than a henchman for Joker, but in more recent versions (like Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey), we saw that Harley has a mind of her own. She’s strong, smart, and (best of all) as deadly as they come.
Cersei (Game of Thrones)
Game of Thrones was full of villains that left the audience speechless, but none were more terrifying than Cersei. Cersei was the mastermind behind much of the chaos that occurred in Westeros. On the outside, she looked like a doting mother that would do anything for her children.
Once we got to know her better, we realized that Cersei used her children as pawns to get what she wanted – a kingdom to call her own. In the end, she got her kingdom, but it was at a hefty price. If it weren’t for Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei would’ve ruled for years to come due to how much of a tactician she was.
Catwoman (Batman Universe)
There’s been a whole slew of Catwomen over the years, including Anne Hathaway and Zoe Kravitz. However, the best Cat Woman has and will always be Michelle Pfeiffer. She really brought the character to life. Cat Woman, once mousey office employee, is the sexpot that made everyone drool in the ’90s.
Despite being of the feline variety, she slithered herself around like a snake to get what she wanted. Even Batman couldn’t resist her, so we don’t think anyone could. When things got violent, Catwoman also proved that kitty had claws. She could fight with the best of them. Not only did she steal the show in Batman Returns, but she also became the Catwoman anyone pictures when they hear the name.
Mystique (X-Men Universe)
Mystique’s character in the comics is scary and deadly, but we want to talk about Mystique from the original X-Men films. Portrayed Rebecca Romijn, we got a good look at what Mystique could really do. There are plenty of villains out there that can beat you up, but Mystique? She can ruin your whole life. She’s so calculating and hits you where it really emotionally hurts, until you’re broken down to nothing.
Without a doubt, Mystique is one of the most powerful characters in the franchise, which says a lot considering there are tons of superheroes. Not only can she shapeshift into anything she wants (which means everyone should watch their back), she can also take out an opponent with her bare hands.
Baby Jane Hudson (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)
Bette Davis is another woman that really knows how to bring villains to life. So much so, she was nominated for Best Actress for her evil role as Baby Jane Hudson. The character was a former child star, who was forgotten as she grew older.
After becoming a washout, she lived with her disabled sister, who she relentlessly abused. As the story goes on, her anger and rage turned into insanity and madness. No doubt the character was over the top, but that’s part of the reason Baby Jane Hudson became one of cinema’s greatest villains.
Cruella (101 Dalmatians)
Hurting a person is one thing, but hurting animals? Now that’s a whole ‘nother level of evilness. Cruella de Vil wanted nothing more than to turn puppies into a fur coat for herself, and she was ready to do anything to get it.
Many claim that she’s the evilest character in Disney’s lineup, and you know what, we’re gonna give her that. In the original cartoon, she’s also one of the only Disney villains that wasn’t a victim of a greater evil. The woman just wants to massacre puppies.
Amy Dunne (Gone Girl)
Amy is such a good villain that you don’t even know she’s the villain until halfway through the movie. Throughout the whole thing, you’re sure the husband had something to do with his wife’s disappearance, only to find out she staged the entire thing.
Amy is always one step ahead of the police and her husband, all while trying to concoct a new life for herself. When things don’t work out in her favor, she rolls with the punches by augmenting her plan. In the end, she gets what she wants, and the audience sees her in a completely different light.
Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct)
Anyone that was alive in the ’90s knows Basic Instinct. The movie was about a woman, Catherine Tramell, who used her body to get away with murder – literally. The movie put Sharon Stone on the map, partially due to the infamous leg-crossing scene, but we want to look past that.
Catherine Tramell murdered and orchestrated the murder of several people. When interrogated, she managed to keep her cool and control the room using nothing more than her...charm. Who needs weapons when you have legs for days? The fact she could do all that without batting an eye makes her one of the best villains in cinema history.
Annie Wilkes (Misery)
Protect your ankles! Annie Wilkes is such a terrifying character that she landed 17th on the American Film Institute’s list of most iconic villains. She’s also the sixth most iconic villainess, according to their list. The character was so shockingly well-played that Kathy Bates won an Oscar for the role.
Annie Wilkes was a nurse by trade, or at least she was training to become one. She fit all the stereotypes you would expect an evil nurse to fit. Wilkes was a torturer and an Angel of Mercy, but you’ll probably be okay as long as she’s not your number one fan.
Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter)
There are a lot of villains out there, but no universe hates a villain more than the Harry Potter fandom hates Dolores Umbridge. You know you have a good baddie when the entire fanbase despises them. Dolores Umbridge became the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor but quickly rose to the rank of Headmistress of Hogwarts.
The character was absolutely cruel, and she took her unhappiness out on the students and staff of Hogwarts. Among her offenses, she made one professor homeless while also being extremely condescending to Professor McGonagall, one of the series most favorite teachers. Dolores Umbridge also hit students – you read that right. She hit students.
Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction)
Fatal Attraction is one of the best thrillers out there, and that’s largely thanks to Glenn Close in her portrayal of Alex Forrest. She’s the epitome of don’t mess with crazy. Her character was willing to do anything to get her lover back.
That included boiling a bunny to scare away the guy’s current girl. The character even acted as a precursor for similar films and characters like Basic Instinct, Disclosure, and other movies with a similar character. It’s no surprise that Glenn Close won an Oscar for the shocking role.
MaMa (Judge Dredd)
Lena Hadley just knows how to play stellar villains. Even though we already have one of her characters on the list, we had to put a second. MaMa is a sociopathic woman that became a drug kingpin while gaining a reputation for excessive violence.
That fact is shown numerous times throughout the film. In one scene, she wanted Judge Dredd’s head, and she was willing to kill any civilian that was even outside at the time. To be fair, however, she told them to go inside and stay there.
Xenia Onatopp (James Bond)
Famke Janssen was born to play villains. It’s a role that she’s comfortable in. Xenia Onatopp is a great example of that. Xenia Onatopp exuded a certain confidence, so much so that most people can’t even remember the actual Bond girl from GoldenEye. It’s Natalya, by the way.
Xenia even has a unique way of killing people – by squeezing them to death. We think she deserves the spot on this list because she stole the screen in a way that few other villains could do. Famke Janssen would go on and star in many other movies, but this is easily her most memorable.
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Mother Gothel is a unique kind of villain. She wasn’t physically deadly, but she is one of the best manipulators in Disney history. She kidnapped the princess because Rapunzel’s hair had magical properties to keep her young. While many women have the goal to stay young to attract a man, Mother Gothel didn’t want that. She just wanted to keep her good looks.
The reason she was such a good manipulator was because she used little bits of sprinkled truth, which made those around her believe every tale she spun. Talk about turning a story into gold! Whether it was thugs or young girls, Mother Gothel could subdue them all with a catchy song or a hard fact.
Samara (The Ring)
When you have a villain that can’t be killed, then you know you’re gonna have a hard time. Samara was the villain of The Ring, and she became one of the scariest characters in horror history. She was a spirit who wanted revenge for her tragic life.
She took the anger she had out on anyone that watched a tape with disturbing images. Afterward, the person had seven days before Samara would come and claim them, which represented the seven days she spent trapped in a well before her death.
Bellatrix LeStrange (Harry Potter)
Sometimes the best villains are the ones that are just insane. Bellatrix LeStrange fits that bill. She was aligned with Lord Voldemort and was one of the deadliest Death Eaters in the series. Considering how dangerous she was, we could see why Voldemort had to have her.
Throughout the book and movie, she killed several people, including some of the most beloved characters in the whole Harry Potter universe. As we watched our favorite characters meet their demise, we also got to see their murderer grin and laugh about what she’d just done. It was infuriating.
Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest)
Joan Crawford was the main antagonist of Mommie Dearest, and she was the epitome of the evil stepmother. Joan was an actress that was fading into irrelevance, so she adopted a girl, Christina. While the cameras were rolling, she doted on her little one.
However, when the doors were closed, she berated and abused Christina with a violent temper. Several moments define the character, but none are more memorable than her “No wire hangers!” scene. The character is so epic that it currently ranked 41 on AFI’s Top 50 Villains.
Grand High Witch (The Witches)
For kids born in the '90s, there was nothing more terrifying than The Witches. This fantasy horror film inspired by a book by Roald Dahl was ostensibly made for children, but it ended up being a horrific experience that left us scarred for life. There were lots of spooky moments, but the real terror was the main antagonist, the Grand High Witch.
Portrayed brilliantly by Anjelica Huston, the Grand High Witch wasn't afraid to leave a warpath of curses and terrified children in her wake. However, things got really scary when the Witch makes her hideous transformation from an alluring woman into the beak-nosed crone she truly is. We hope the people who worked on her prosthetics got a raise because she was truly frightening!
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Every Disney movie has an iconic villain, but none have risen to fame quite like Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid. Whether she was cutting a Faustian bargain with Ariel or growing larger than life for a fight on the open seas, Ursula was bad to the bone and loved to create chaos.
While Pat Carroll would ultimately go on to voice this iconic villain, several other famous ladies were in the running for the part as well--Broadway icon Elaine Stritch and Golden Girls star Bea Arthur. Carroll said she wanted to make Ursula sound like something between a Shakespearean character and a car salesman, and, as strange as that combination is, it worked, and the villain got her iconic deep, raspy voice.
Miss Hannigan (Annie)
The musical Annie has inspired multiple movie adaptations, but no matter what version you see, one thing is for sure--Miss Hannigan is the worst. Hannigan runs the orphanage where Annie originally lives and spends her days getting drunk and forcing the children to clean. She doesn't even like children, so why in the world is she running an orphanage?
Some people may disagree, but when it comes to portrayals of Miss Hannigan, no one has done it better than Carol Burnett in the 1982 movie adaptation of Annie. Burnett's penchant for funny faces and physical humor make Miss Hannigan one of the most hilarious villains on this list. She may be cruel, but you just can't help but laugh!
Nancy Downs (The Craft)
The best villains aren't 100% no-holds-barred evil--they're more complicated and sympathetic than that. And that's exactly how audiences felt when they were introduced to teen witch Nancy Downs in 1996's The Craft. In the movie, Nancy and her friends use witchcraft to escape their problems at home and school, but Nancy can't handle all of that power and she wants more.
While all the girls to some extent wreak havoc on their school and community, it's Nancy and her unstable personality that really stand out as the most terrifying in the movie. You better not scorn her, or you could wind up dead! However, by the end of the film, she's lost her powers and has been confined to a mental institution where she tries desperately in vain to convince people she can fly.
Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist)
The Exorcist is frequently cited as the scariest movie ever made, and we're inclined to agree. When it was originally released, moviegoers allegedly fainted in their seats from the horrifying images on the screen. And, as surprising as it sounds, all of that terror was created by one little girl.
Regan MacNeil (portrayed by a young Linda Blair) was the unfortunate child who found herself possessed by a demon of immense power. Once possessed, she terrifies friends, family, and the priests trying to save her with her supernatural violence and incredibly foul mouth. While Regan might have technically been at the mercy of this demon, you'll still never look at a little kid the same after watching The Exorcist!
Margaret White (Carrie)
If you've ever seen any movie adaptation of Stephen King's book Carrie, you know that Carrie's mom, Margaret White, won't be winning mother of the year anytime soon! While Carrie may be a villain in her own right, telekinetically murdering her classmates and neighbors, you at least have sympathy for her and the way she's treated. But her mother Margaret? She's bad to the bone.
White is a deeply fundamentalist religious nut job, whose idiosyncratic brand of Christianity involves a lot of guilt and shame, with a healthy dose of violence mixed in. Several actresses have portrayed this murderous mother over the years, but none have done it better than Piper Laurie in the 1976 version of the film. It's truly terrifying to see her gleefully chase her daughter with a butcher knife in an attempt to "cleanse" her of her sin.
Number Six (Battlestar Galactica)
The 2000s sci-fi hit Battlestar Galactica had lots of memorable characters, but none were quite as iconic as Number Six, the sexy, smart Cylon who plays a pivotal role in the attempted annihilation of humanity. She's no stranger to using sweet talk or violence to get her way, and her way usually involves the murder of humans.
What makes Number Six such a great, memorable villain is that she's not some deranged supervillain. As the series progresses, she begins to question the morality of destroying the entire human race and the role that she plays in that. She may be more complicated than a traditional villain, but I still wouldn't want to get on her bad side!
Moms are great unless we're talking about Futurama. In that case, Mom is a cartoonish supervillain both literally and figuratively! Mom (real name Carol) is the evil CEO of a supercorporation that's responsible for producing most of the world's robots. While her public image might be that of a sweet old lady, she's really anything but!
Behind the scenes, Mom is a cruel, ruthless leader who is anything but motherly. Thankfully, this is Futurama we're talking about, so Mom is definitely more of a comic figure than a terrifying baddie. Still, Mom knows how to rule with an iron fist, so maybe find someone else to take care of your robot needs!
Kristin Shepard (Dallas)
Even if you've never seen Dallas, you're probably familiar with the iconic question, "Who Shot JR?" At the end of season 3, JR Ewing (who is an amazing villain in his own right) is shot by an unknown culprit. For a whole year, America pondered over who could have done the deed, and in season four, it was revealed to be his sister-in-law, Kristin Shepard.
Shepard (who was played by Bing Crosby's daughter, Mary) connived, schemed, and gold dug like a pro during her time on Dallas, but she reached true villain status only when she attempted to take the life of America's favorite scoundrel oilman. Funnily enough, this wasn't the first or the last time someone shot JR on the show, and honestly, most of the time he had it coming.
Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Nurse Ratched is one of those characters that’s defined as one of the best villains in history – not just one of the best female villains. Nurse Ratched represented the power institutions had over people who were admitted to mental wards.
She was ruthless and sadistic, treating the patients of Salem State Hospital like her own little playthings. While we do understand being a nurse of a mental ward would be tough, Nurse Ratched enjoyed everything she put them through. Moreover, she loved the power that she was charged with and was vindictive against anyone who undermined it.
Queen Xenomorph (Aliens)
The Xenomorph creature from the original Alien movie was terrifying enough, but they really kicked things up a notch when it came to the 1986 sequel Aliens. In this film, we're introduced to the Queen Xenomorph, who in addition to fangs, claws, and an insatiable appetite for blood comes with quite a few more arms and legs than a regular one.
The Queen Xenomorph obviously doesn't have a lot of character development owing to the fact that she's more akin to a wild animal than a human, but she's hands down the most fearsome villain on this list. This is one queen who rules with an iron (and bloody) fist!