No Disney film is complete without a classic villain. Good overcoming evil is the foundation of these films, and throughout history Disney have done a phenomenal job of creating complex and evil, yet highly entertaining villains who are often anthropomorphic characters (much like the other characters) to add humor. Often these villains will steal the show away from the protagonist by having the most depth and the best lines, but of course they will always get their just deserts in the end. This list will focus on the classic Disney films (pre 2000).
12. Queen of Hearts
Alice in Wonderland is one of the older Disney films (1951), and a literary classic. The story lends itself well to animation, largely thanks to the vast array of fantastic characters that include the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Mad Hatter. The Queen of Hearts is the main antagonist, and like the other characters in the story, she is completely insane but also incredibly dangerous. She is ruler of the land and dominates those around her, including her husband, insisting that “all ways are my way,” and her answer to most problems are beheadings. The Queens of Hearts has a brutish appearance with large forearms, a big mouth a small nose and is usually seen with a frown on her face. She has black hair and wears a small crown on her head, along with a red and black gown.
Often an overlooked film, The Great Mouse Detective‘s main character, Basil, is essentially Sherlock Holmes with mice. The villain, an anthropomorphic rat called Ratigan, is particularly evil and has a very dark sense of humor. He is also very charismatic, but can quickly become violent whenever his nemesis, Basil, is mentioned. Ratigan also has a brilliant, archetypal villainous appearance, wearing a dark gray suit along with a long black cape, which has a red underside. He wears a top hat, white gloves and carries a gold cane. But his elegant appearance is quickly lost when he becomes enraged, emphasizing his yellow eyes, sharp fangs, long fingers and a long pink tail. He also gets extra points for his henchmen that follow him, which include Bill the Lizard, a mouse called Bartholomew, a peg-legged bat called Fidget and a brilliantly fat cat called Felicia.
10. Lady Tremaine
Lady Tremaine, from Cinderella, is often labeled the most hated Disney villain (and thus one of the greatest). Unlike other villains, she does not want to physically harm the hero, but instead wants to abuse her mentally due to her jealousy of Cinderella being more beautiful. This cruel and irrational behavior makes her unpopular, but she also is not suave, cool or funny, qualities which all other Disney villains have at least one of. She does not posses any powers, and instead treats her stepdaughter like a servant whilst she goes out to parties, attempting to get her daughters married to those higher on the social ladder in order to improve her social status. She has a cold, evil appearance with a hooked nose, green eyes and grey hair worn in a high pompadour. She wears a large red gown with a green brooch and a similar ring on her finger.
Ursula, from the 1989 classic The Little Mermaid, is one of the more popular and instantly recognizable antagonists. She is very manipulative and has an evil sense of humor, but unlike most Disney villains she cares deeply for her followers (Flotsam and Jetsam). She has magical abilities along with superhuman strength, which she use in an attempt to rule the seas. She has been described as a sea witch, with white hair, a plump figure, bright red lipstick and blue eye shadow. And from the waist down she has black octopus tentacles. Ursula is also particularly popular amongst fans for her song “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and like so many Disney villains she has a fantastic evil voice which was done by Pat Carroll.
8. Captain Hook
Peter Pan is one of Disney’s most beloved stories, and this is largely thanks to the excellent characterization. Captain Hook is a ruthless, menacing and cunning antagonist, but also one that is cowardly, which helps bring humor. He has a fear of crocodiles because one was fed his hand when Peter Pan cut it off prior to the story. Because of this, Captain Hook seeks revenge on Peter Pan, but is always destined to lose because he has one hand, Peter Pan can fly and Captain Hook’s sidekick, Mr. Smee, is incompetent. This makes Captain Hook one of the more sympathetic villains, but also one that brings plenty of entertainment. He is very suave, with a gold-lined red coat and white cravat, along with red trousers, white socks and black boots. He tops this off with a crimson hat that holds a large lavender feather.
Hades, villain in 1999’s Hercules, is one of the more popular Disney villains and often steals the show. He is perhaps the funniest of all the villains and makes plenty of jokes, but the main humor lies in his inability to control his temper. He tries to remain calm and composed, but even the smallest of things can send him into a fiery rage, and this will also impact his appearance. Hades is blue/grey and wears a black robe, along with yellow eyes and flaming blue hair. When he becomes enraged, his skin turns red and his hair turns to red and orange fire until his tantrum subsides. He is, of course, incredibly evil and is able to manipulate those around him to get what he wants. He also has two minions, Pain and Panic, which are excellent characters who provide plenty of comic relief in the film.
Whilst Aladdin may not be as old as some of the classic Disney films (1992), Jafar is one of Disney’s greatest villains. He demonstrates unsettling psychopathic behavior, but covers this with a mask of normalcy where he appears to be levelheaded and calm. He will destroy anyone in his path, and is particularly cruel to his followers, including the parrot that sits on his shoulder—Lago. Similar to many Disney villains, Jafar is suave with a long black gown and a cape with a red underside. He also wears a distinctive headdress with a ruby at the front and a bright red feather just above it. He also has a famous cobra head staff which he uses for his sorcery, plus a classic twisted black goatee (facial hair is a must for male villains).
5. Cruella De Vil
Not only is 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella De Vil one of the greatest Disney villains, she is often regarded as one of cinema’s greatest villains. Unlike most Disney villains, De Vil does not scheme or come up with master plans; she instead acts on impulse and this makes her a wild and unpredictable character. She also has a striking appearance, with one half of her hair black and the other half white, a skeletal frame and a black dress that she wears with a huge mink coat. She wants to have the Dalmatians skinned and turned into a coat, making her a particularly despicable character, and certainly not a sympathetic one. She is, however, a classic and inspirational villain, and her famous song goes—“Cruella De Vil, Cruella De Vil/If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will!”
4. Shere Khan
The Jungle Book is a much loved Disney film and contains brilliant characters such as Baloo, Kaa, Bagheera, King Louie, the vultures and, of course, the villainous tiger Shere Khan. Like many Disney antagonists, Shere Khan is very sophisticated and suave, speaks with an English accent and is particularly dangerous. Shere Khan has a fierce reputation and is feared throughout the jungle, making his presence alone enough to scare the other characters (and manipulate them). He has a fear of man and fire (this is how his family was killed), which is why he is hunting down Mowgli. He, of course, would be defeated and even humiliated by Mowgli, who uses fire to see Shere Khan flee with his tail between his legs. Originally voiced by the excellent George Sanders, Idris Elba will take on the prestigious role for the 2016 live-action film.
3. Queen Grimhilde
Queen Grimhilde, or The Evil Queen as she is more commonly known, is the villain in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is a special Disney film as it was their first feature length animated film (1934), meaning that all of the stories and characters that came after it would be inspired by this film in some way. The Evil Queen has remained one of the more prominent villains throughout history and has become an iconic antagonist. She is cruel, vain and extremely cold, and has an obsession to remain “the fairest in the land.” She is slender, beautiful and serene, but distinctively cold. She has green eyes, raven-black hair and red lips, and she wears an elegant purple gown and a black balaclava that ensures that her face is all you see. She also has a witch disguise that she uses to trick Snow White.
The Lion King is arguably the most popular Disney film, and this is because it has a heartbreaking, exciting and entertaining storyline, along with some fantastic characters that include Timon and Pumbaa, Rafiki, Mufasa, the hyenas, Zazu and Scar. Scar is a despicably evil villain who wants to be rid of his nephew, Simba, so that he can take the throne. Scar is not strong or physically imposing, but instead uses his cunning to execute his plans. His intelligence makes him narcissistic and egotistical, and he is even cruel to those that are helping him (the bone-headed hyenas). His shockingly evil plan is matched by his appearance, with a thick black mane, evil green eyes, a small white goatee, and black claws that are always out. He is suave, elegant and speaks with a British accent, and has a scar over his left eye.
The brilliant villain Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty was recently brought back in to the public eye with 2014’s live-action film, with the role portrayed by Angelina Jolie. The character from the 1959 film is one of the more popular villains of all time and a brilliantly developed character. She is especially evil and dark with a “stone cold” heart. Like all good villains, she is devious and will do whatever it takes to succeed, but she is also elegant and dramatic. She is tall, pale and slender with greenish skin, yellow eyes and a narrow face, along with her iconic black horns. She wears a black and purple robe and carries a large gold staff with a green orb that enables her to cast spells. Her pet raven, Diablo, is the only thing she acts kindly to and, unlike other Disney villains, she is not comical or clumsy.