Sorry to those who read the blog regularly for skipping a week as I post the Disney-related lists I prepared after finally going through my Disney Canon Project, but last week was nightmarishly busy for me. But now I’m back (yay!), and after letting you know what my favorite Disney Movies and Songs are, here’s a list of my favorite Disney Villains. After all, it’s incredibly often in movies (and Disney movies in particular) that the villains are much more fun to watch than the heroes, so let us celebrate the best bad guys and ladies of Disney’s filmography.
10. Bowler-Hat Guy (from Meet the Robinsons)
Even though it’s not a great movie, I still think Meet the Robinsons didn’t get the response it deserved. Yes, it’s a little too cutesy and chaotic, but it manages to come together rather beautifully in its final act. It is also unafraid of being weird, and it’s weirded element is without a doubt its villain. The Guy in the Bowler-Hat is so bizarre in his comedy that I still surprised he is actually a Disney villain. Male Disney villains are always either flamboyant or stone-faced cold, this dude is just relentlessly crazy. And while he is very stupid (which is a quality that can drain villains of their frightening qualities), he is so grotesque that you can’t help but feel an eerie discomfort while watching him.
9. Ratigan (from The Great Mouse Detective)
The movie is just ok, but Vincent Price’s voice performance as Ratigan, the rodent version of Professor Moriarty, makes for one of the most delightful Disney villains in the Canon. At this point, there had been some flamboyant male villains in the Canon (Shere Khan, from The Jungle Book, comes to mind), but Ratigan was a whole other level of theatricality, and Price’s delivery, in which he seems to savor every line like it’s the last thing that is ever going to come out of his mouth, is a large part of why he is so effective. He also must have played an important part in why we got so many similar (and memorable) male villains in the nineties, which is to say that without Ratigan, we probably wouldn’t have met Jafar, Scar, or Hades.
8. Yzma (from The Emperor’s New Groove)
“Pull the lever, Kronk!” Just three entries into this list and you better have caught up on the fact that Disney loves its villains to be big, loud, and theatrical. Yzma follows the tradition of strong female villains i the Disney Canon, but she stands out as the rare villain who is not threatening, yet incredibly memorable. You know there is no way that Yzma is going to get away with her plan to poison and kill Emperor Kuzco, but she is such a fantastic source of comedy (especially when paired with her minion Kronk) that she nevertheless emerges as one of the movie’s strongest characters. It helps that the design and animation make her look so hilariously decrepit, and that she is voiced by the fabulous Eartha Kitt.
7. Mother Gothel (from Tangled)
Mother Gothel is very much your typical Disney Villain – an evil stepmother who is incredibly selfish and has the personality of a Broadway diva (she is even voiced by one). These archetypical qualities work perfectly in Tangled, which is very much a movie built on the most effective archetypes of previous Disney features. Donna Murphy’s performance serves her perfectly, and her big musical number, “Mother Knows Best“, is one for the ages. But what ultimately puts Gothel on the list is the level of darkness and cold-heartness she shows in her manipulation of poor Rapunzel. Gothel knows her psychology, and how to work the Stockholm syndrome in her favor for that matter, and that makes her a wonderful villain.
6. The Evil Queen/Witch (from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Just like almost everything in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s first-ever feature, the Evil Queen (who is apparently named Grimhilde), practically set the precedent for all Disney villains to come in the future. She also set the bar pretty high. In her witch form, she is incredibly creepy, and sports one of the most iconic faces in the history of animation. In her queen form, well, here’s where the genius comes in. Disney was very determined to have the lead characters in Snow White be animated as realistically as possible, and the fact that the Queen looks so realistic is what makes her so freaking terrifying.
5. Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty)
The greatest thing about Maleficent, just like the greatest thing about Sleeping Beauty as a whole, is her design. It’s probably the most iconic and elegant design of any Disney villain. The slightly green skin, the angular jaw, the flowing cloak, and my God, those horns! No animated villain ever looked as perfect as she did (and probably never will). The character animation is also fantastic, although if I’m completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the character. Eleanor Audley’s performance just seems a little too excited for a character that looks so cool as Maleficent does. But don’t get me wrong, she’s a fantastic villain, and she transforms into a fire-breathing dragon, how cool is that?
4. Scar (from The Lion King)
Scar is the result of a marriage made in heaven (or hell?). Animator Andreas Deja, who previously worked animating Gaston and Jafar, and actor Jeremy Irons collaborated into what is simply the very best example of the male Disney villain, one that is as much of a diva as any of the evil ladies, and while not exactly a threatening physical presence to Mufasa and Simba, an incredibly cunning and cold soul. Like the best villains in history, he is incredibly smart, incredibly evil, and incredibly charismatic. “Be Prepared” is also a fantastic musical number, in which Irons and Deja milk as much Shakespearean grandeur as they possibly can.
3. Lady Tremaine (from Cinderella)
I said I wasn’t the biggest fan of Eleanor Audley’s voice performance as Maleficent, but she earned all of my admiration for her work as Lady Tremaine. In the category of cold and distant villains, no one is as cold, cruel and distant as this woman. What is so scary and infuriating about Lady Tremaine is that she is not a witch, or queen, or sorceress, she is just a really mean woman. And as if that weren’t enough, she is one of Disney’s most human-like characters in terms of animation. It’s as if the eery realism of the Evil Queen from Snow White were perfected and taken to the extreme just to torment Cinderella.
2. Ursula (from The Little Mermaid)
The answer to why Ursula is a great villain is easy: “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” What a show-stopping number, and what a performance by Pat Carroll. She is also a fantastic creation, and a natural development coming from a rich history of Disney villains. She has the iconic and fantastic design of Maleficent, but also the over-the-top personality of Cruela De Vil and Madame Medusa. Like The Little Mermaid, she succeeds by being a product of the people at Disney knowing what worked in the past and taking it to the next level. She is in many ways the ultimate pastiche of villainy, and the biggest, baddest diva in the Disney Canon. Well, the biggest diva except for…
1. Cruella De Vil (from One Hundred and One Dalmatians)
She might just be a commoner, but no one is as much of a queen as Cruella. She even got a song written about how terrible she is. What is so fantastic about Cruella is that she is a larger-than-life character inhabiting the regular world. She is so big, and loud, and fabulous that she can only work in animation. I mean, Glen Close tried to channel her madness in live action, and ended up looking ridiculous. In One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Cruella is a star, a force of nature, an exploding rage demon, and her quest is probably the most selfish and cruel of all animated villains. I’m just saying, there is a special place in hell for people who want to skin little puppies.