No story is complete without a villain or two, and in my years consuming books, movies, TV, and music, I have come across the terrifying, the silly, and the strange as the villains. So, from my young childhood to adulthood, on the scale from "total weaksauce" to "literally the devil" here are my top 15 most memorable villains.
15: The Greedy, from Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure
In "A Musical Adventure" Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy go on a strange journey to rescue Babette, the French doll from some pirates. Along the way, they meet this uncanny valley resident, the Greedy. The Greedy is a creature made from living taffy, constantly eating sweets that float in his mass and lamenting his longing for a sweetheart in song. When Ann mentions she has a candy heart, and is the sweetest person the Greedy has ever met, he decides that Ann's heart is exactly the thing he needs to be happy. Ann and Andy, along with the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees, escape from an increasingly insane Greedy by climbing out of his lair and throwing more taffy to the monster.
For whatever reason, 5 year old me found this fella terrifying, probably the "body horror" factor and the fact that he wanted to eat Ann's heart, pretty heavy for a preschooler! (Mom, if you're reading this, I saw it at a friend's house, you certainly didn't let us see this!)
14: The Crud, from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Crud appeared in one episode of "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" as the literal monster under Christopher Robin's bed. The Crud's goal: To use all the crud and things under Christopher's bed to coat the world in his vile, sticky substance. After enslaving all Christopher's toys, he makes the Anti-Vacuum, which spews out nasty junk rather than sucking it up. Christopher, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger are determined to stop the Crud's plans and rescue the toys. Fortunately, the Crud's weakness is soap!
In the ultimate "clean under your bed" warning, the Crud was not so much scary (to me, anyway) as he was a cautionary tale. Listen to you mom, kids, don't just throw stuff under your beds. He also had that "body horror" thing going on, so there's that.
13: Hexxus, from FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Hexxus, representing destructive pollution is set free to ravage the world by clumsy humans. The only thing in his way? Fairies. Y'know, that sounds really dumb now.
Hexxus was one of the scariest villains my little brain could conceive of, his aims are destruction, his schemes endangering beautiful things, and his voice bone-chilling. (His musical number is creepily suggestive, too.) Of course, FernGully the is a propaganda piece to end all propaganda pieces, and now as a grown-up, I find it hilariously bad. The only things that made this movie bearable was Hexxus (the voice of Tim Curry) and Batty (the voice of Robin Williams).
Clayface, from Batman the Animated Series
Clayface was originally an actor, who after an accident disfigured him, became addicted to a chemical makeup which restored his appearance. When he tried to escape from a crooked deal with recurrent Batman adversary Roland Daggett, an entire vat of the compound was dumped on him, transforming him into a monstrous blob of clay. Unable to return to normal, Clayface turned to crime.
My feelings about Clayface ranged from fear to sympathy, which for this character, I suppose is appropriate. On the whole, I feel Clayface deserves more pity than censure. But still... blob. *shudder*.
11: Venom, from Spiderman the Animated Series
Venom is a parasitic alien that latched itself to Peter Parker. At first, it seemed to be a boon for your friendly neighborhood Spiderman. It rendered him nearly invulnerable, increased his senses, and best of all, had a never-ending supply of web! Unfortunately, the longer he was in contact with it, the more Venom exerted his influence over him. Peter realized what was happening and got rid of the creature. Venom then latched himself to a rival of Peter's and became the super villain we know today.
Body Horror strikes again! Slavering, mind stealing Venom elicited nothing but terror and disgust from me. It was just a HUGE no, thank you.
10: Mozenrath, from Aladdin the Series
Suave, sophisticated wizard Mozenrath is Aladdin's primary foe throughout the Aladdin TV series. He has incredible magic, (can easily defeat Genie's "semi-phenomenal, nearly-cosmic" powers) a legion of zombie slaves, and with his magic gauntlet can cook up any number of obstacles for Aladdin. His downfall comes because he underestimates Aladdin and relies too much on his magic.
Mozenrath is an influence on my writing today, in fact. It is revealed at one point that Mozenrath gave a pound of flesh for his magic. I mean literally, under his gauntlet, his right hand was nothing but bones! Again, surprisingly heavy for a Disney show. In my stories, seeking black magic leads to the wielder loosing his humanity, I hadn't thought about that until I was writing this!
9: Trymon from The Colour of Magic
Guess who's back? Trymon is a scheming wizard who is part of Discworld's Unseen University. These high-ranking wizards can be ruthless, and Trymon is no exception. Intent on becoming Arch-Chancellor of the Unseen University and gaining access to the Octavo, the most powerful magic text in Discworld, he murders his way to the top. Upon gaining access to the Octavo, he tries to gain the ultimate magic power. He is stopped by a bungling wizard, Rincewind, who alone knows the eighth spell.
The amusing and crafty Trymon is one of the consummate English villains. Intent on power and power alone, he cares little for anyone or anything else, but it is his greed and selfishness that brings an end to him and his schemes.
8: Elliot Burch, from Beauty and the Beast
Meet the Gaston of 1987's Beauty and the Beast. Elliot Burch is a millionaire city planner with a dark side. When a group of elderly Jews refuses to abandon the tenement they have all lived in for most of their lives, he sends in thugs to clear them out. Coming across the thugs throwing Molatav Cocktails into the windows, Vincent (the Beast) rescues the elderly people and promises to help find the culprits. Meanwhile, Catherine (the Beauty) is being romanced by Burch, and almost falls for him until she learns who he really is and what he's been doing. She rejects him, but he persistently tries to get her back. Catherine is a lawyer, however, and promises to eventually gain enough evidence for his illegal activities to put him behind bars.
7: The Joker, from Batman and related franchises
The Joker is no joke! Though the subject of parody in recent times, those who have seen more of the Joker than average, (like me!) know just how evil he really is. Obsessed with Batman and either killing him or sending him round the bend, the Joker will do anything to bring down his foe. And why? Just for fun! That's why he does what he does, for fun. And that's what makes him so evil. (And yes, that's Mark Hamill.)
6: Saruman, from Lord of the Rings
Once part of the angelic order of the Maiar, Saruman was the greatest wizard in Middle Earth. His power was only second to the high elves like Galadriel, and his wisdom far beyond even her's. He had sung in the choirs of the world's beginning, and it was his pride that brought him down. Convinced to ally with Sauron, Saruman took to making the Orcs, creatures built from the earth in a mockery of elves for his new master. In the end his pride ended his life when his power was taken from him and was killed by Grima Wormtounge.
5: Gul Dukat, from Star Trek Deep Space 9
The spine-chilling Gul Dukat was the official in charge of the planet Bajor during his planet's occupation of Bajor. Living like royalty while the Bajoran people suffered, Gul Dukat was hated and loathed, even by his own people. However his people, the Cardassians saw his usefulness as a military commander. His crimes included taking beautiful Bajoran women for his concubines, among them the mother of one of DS9's officers. When he sees Major Kira, the daughter of the Bajoran woman he claimed as his own, he became obsessed with her, wanting her to love him as much as Dukat thought her mother did. When his daughter by another Bajoran woman, Ziyal, is killed, Dukat becomes even more darkly obsessed with Kira and even more with taking Bajor back as his own private kingdom. When he returns to DS9, his plans to take back the planet are stopped by Captain Sisko, and he is taken to a prison provided for the evil beings he associated himself with.
Dukat's obsession and madness, while also being perfectly lucid, are what makes him a grand villain. He wants to believe that everyone loved him. He wants to believe he could have a perfect family, with the perfect woman, and his own benevolent kingdom. He believes that he's right in all these things, and it's this belief that he's right that makes him evil.
4: Kyubey, from Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This sugary-sweet creature, a villain? Yes. Kyubey is an alien with magical powers and is able to grant those powers to young girls who contract with him to become Magical Girls. Now, this sounds not so different from shows like Sailor Moon and Glitter Force/Pretty Cure. Cute creature gives girls magical powers, right? WRONG! Kyubey withholds vital information from the girls he contracts with, never warning them the true cost of their wish... their soul. For a wish to be granted, a life must be traded, and once a girl contracts, there's no going back. Eventually, the girls give in to despair and turn into witches, who are then killed by other Magical Girls. Kyubey mentions none of this, and in fact enjoys tormenting the five heroines of Madoka Magica, until finally being undone by the power of love, which he and his kind cannot understand.
3: The Queen of the Night, from Mozart's Magic Flute
In Mozart's "The Magic Flute" Prince Tamino is given the portrait of Princess Pamina by her mother, the Queen of the Night. The Queen of the Night plays at being a worried mother, offering Tamino her daughter's hand in marriage (like you do in these sorts of fairy tales) if he rescues her from her enemy Sarastro. What Prince Tamino doesn't know is that Sarastro is a good man, who rescued Pamina from her wicked mother. Later in the opera, when the Queen sees her plans unraveling, she comes to Pamina and orders her to murder Sarastro, or be disowned. Sarastro, however comforts Pamina in the loss of her mother, and guides Pamina and Tamino to victory over the darkness.
The Queen of the Night is the perfect evil mother. If you read the translation of her famous aria "Der Holle Rache" you can see how mean and manipulative she is. She mocks and scorns her daughter, calling her weak for loving Sarastro and Tamino. Her evil stems from the fact that she desires to be the queen of both night and day, and her greed leads to her downfall.
2: Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty and Kingdom Hearts
I'm not talking about that mess with Angelina Jolie, I'm talking about the real Maleficent. In Sleeping Beauty, she is the spiteful fairy who places a curse on baby Aurora. Demanding her revenge, the powerful fairy stalks the young princess with her goblins, unable to find her. Lest you think that this is somehow overkill, Unseelie fae like Maleficent are notorious for over the top vengeance. In any case, sixteen years pass, and Maleficent is able to locate Aurora. Completing her curse, she also takes Aurora's true love, Prince Philip prisoner, intending to release him when he is an old man, and thus denying Aurora a life with him. When the Three Good Fairies rescue Philip, Maleficent tries to stop him from reaching her by various means, eventually transforming into a dragon. In dragon form, Philip is able to defeat her and rescue Aurora.
Maleficent is the most powerful standard Disney Villain. She has command of various magic powers, most notably her dragon form. Also, let's not forget that she is the only Disney character to actively ally herself with the Devil. Her impact on modern culture is immeasurable, and probably ranks among the most evil characters in fiction.
1: Tie- Chernabog, from Fantasia and Sauron from Lord of the Rings
Here we have the baddest of the bad, the worst of the worst, the literal devils of their universes, Chernabog and Sauron. You certainly don't see Chernabog on Disney merch! Designed by one of my favorite illustrators, Kay Neilsen, Chernabog rules Bald Mountain, an evil place where the wicked spirits and witches go to party. And this guy is the master of ceremonies. I could never force myself to watch the end of Fantasia (though a favorite of mine) because of this guy!
Sauron was once part of the network of spirits under Eru Illuvitar who created Middle-Earth. He, though was jealous of the beautiful things the other spirits sang into being and sang discord into the song of creation. He was foiled by Illuvitar and cast down into Middle Earth, to the land of Mordor, where he plotted the downfall of the world Illuvitar created. Three times he tried to bring an end to Middle Earth and each time he was defeated. Until he forged the One Ring, that all creatures came to lust after for it's power. Finally though, the Ring was destroyed, and with it the majority of Sauron's power.
Of course there's more villains I like, Loki, the Master, and many others, but these are the ones that loom largest in my imagination, who for some reason or other captured my interest. Every story needs a villain, and these are the ones that gave me prototypes of how to write them.
I'm T.K. Wilson, Read my blog for great information and stories about dolls, toy restoration, Christian Fantasy and so much more! Blog updates Fridays.