A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

25 Best Disney Villains for All the Evil Laughs

Whether we hate them—or love to hate them—these Disney villains always keep us laughing

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Disney Villains Gif
RD.com, Getty Images (5)

Our top all-time Disney villains list

Evil is as evil does, but the best Disney villains are a lot more complex than just baddies who make diabolical schemes and cunning plans. Villains may continuously threaten our beloved Disney couples, but none of the best Disney movies would be as memorable without them. They actually have important things to teach us and our kids.

After all, how many Disney quotes come out of the mouths of one of your favorite ruthless Disney characters who’s facing certain failure with a sense of humor and determination? When Plan A doesn’t work out, a true villain has plans B, C and D up their sleeve, and that attitude can be something to admire. Lovers of Disney trivia will agree that these nefarious villains are the best enemies a hero or heroine—or a viewer—could ask for.

Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more entertainment, cleaning, travel, humor and fun facts all week long.

Cruella de Vil (One Hundred and One Dalmations, Cruella)

Rich, vain and totally devilish, the fabulous-yet-terrifying Cruella de Vil is obsessed with two things: the colors black and white and dognapping. We learned about her origin story in the 2021 film Cruella, which didn’t quite make us feel sorry for her, but it did give us a lot of context for her evil ways. Of course, we can’t support anyone who thrives on animal cruelty, but she might be one of Disney’s scariest villains for her complete dedication to capturing those sweet, spotted puppies. There’s no denying that her iconic outfit makes one of the best Disney Halloween costumes too.

Stream Now

Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

The sea witch Ursula is a woman—er, octopus—with goals. All she wants is to trick Ariel, The Little Mermaid, into helping her usurp King Triton and become the Queen of the Sea. And who can blame her? We love a woman in charge! It’s just a shame she’s willing to act with such malice and trickery to get there.

Still, when she sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” it’s a strong viewer who doesn’t get a little shiver down their spine. Ursula is one of the best Disney female villains because she has absolutely no moral compass, is happy to break her deals and thrives on taking advantage of the less fortunate. It’s fine to be driven, but Ursula’s downfall shows us that getting what you want at any cost rarely works out the way you hope it will. Case in point: There are definitely no evil schemes involved with the best Disney park jobs.

Stream Now

Hades (Hercules)

You can’t be a Disney villain without having a seriously fierce look, and Hades—the real star of Hercules, as far as we’re concerned—features one of the most memorable. His hair is fire, as in, actual fire. He’s the dramatic, fast-talking lord of the underworld, and he’s sick of being overlooked. Like many other villains, Hades thinks he should be ruler of the universe, and there’s only one precocious, muscular kid standing in his way.

But when it comes down to it, we love Hades because he’s hilarious. With one-liners like “Is this an audience or a mosaic?” and “Fine, fine, I’m cool, I’m fine” (we felt that), Hades is the villain with the best snark. Even these Walt Disney quotes can’t outdo the lord of the underworld.

Stream Now

Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil)

With arguably the best bone structure of any Disney villain and a fantastic live-action duo of films that complicate her character beautifully, Maleficent is one of the most interesting villains of any Disney film. In the original Sleeping Beauty, her villainy stems from not being invited to Princess Aurora’s christening (who hasn’t felt angry and hurt after being excluded from something?).

In her origin story film Maleficent, she’s a fierce protector of her magical forest home who turns to the dark side when that home is threatened. The film gives Maleficent one of the best Disney villain arcs, allowing her to transform from hurt and flawed to loving and free. Fortunately, that’s not the kind of thing banned from Disney movies.

Stream Now

Scar (The Lion King)

In classic younger brother style, Scar’s villainy is based on his jealousy of his older brother Mufasa, the titular king in The Lion King. Scar’s most frightening moment may be when he sings “Be Prepared,” with kids all over the world terrified by his elephant graveyard home and hyena army.

As a scheming, power-hungry villain, Scar reminds us of the terrible power of loneliness—after all, he is the only lion to live outside the pride. Turning his back on his family in favor of pursuing power ultimately leads to his downfall, despite his cleverness and charm. Jeremy Irons’s drawling voice gives Scar an air of aristocratic world-weariness, which makes him one of the most sophisticated Disney villains. If his mean spirit puts you off cats for a while, try entertaining yourself by reading these Disney dog names.

Stream Now

Captain Hook (Peter Pan)

Charming, suave and cruel, Captain Hook embodies the evil gentleman pirate in his “The Elegant Captain Hook” song. He tries to get the Lost Boys to join his crew, but the captain of the Jolly Roger has three main problems making that happen: Peter Pan himself; the many mistakes made by his bumbling first mate, Mr. Smee; and a crocodile.

Hook’s beef with Peter Pan comes about when Peter cuts off his hand and feeds it to the crocodile. (That sounds pretty villain-ish too, doesn’t it?) The crocodile likes the taste of pirate so much, he follows the Captain forevermore, which provides some of Peter Pan‘s funniest scenes as the crocodile endlessly pursues him. The Peter Pan ride is always a big hit at theme parks too. Here’s a testimonial from someone who’s visited every single one to find out their favorite Disney parks.

Stream Now

Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)

Arrogant? Check. Sexist? Check. Egotistical? Oh, definitely. The villain of Beauty and the Beast, Gaston, sees himself as better than everyone around him, and that lack of self-awareness ultimately leads to his downfall. Gaston reminds us that being strong and good-looking isn’t enough without kindness and humility to go along with it—and you probably shouldn’t go around singing a self-titled song about how great you are either. No one’s as narcissistic and vain as Gaston, but his tune is still one of the best Disney songs.

Learn More

Wicked Stepmother/Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)

Has anyone ever been so cruel yet so self-controlled and graceful at the same time? Lady Tremaine, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella, is a master class in villainy without raising her voice. She manipulates, verbally and emotionally abuses both her biological daughters and her stepdaughter, and finds a way to wiggle out of every promise she ever makes—like when she tells Cinderella that she will be able to attend the ball. Plus, she has what any villainess needs: a big fluffy cat as her evil sidekick.

In a time when the only way for a woman to survive in comfort was by marrying rich, can we really blame her for doing absolutely anything to marry her daughters off to the highest rung on society’s ladder? It’s a good thing times have changed! Speaking of different eras, find out the Disney movie that came out the year you were born.

Stream Now

Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)

The undisputed Lord of the Jungle, this Bengal tiger rules his kingdom with his fearsome reputation. Every character in The Jungle Book is afraid of his unpredictability. His soft, polite voice is terrifying, hiding the ferocious temper beneath. Scary as he is, Shere Khan is hard not to sympathize with. His fear of humans is based on being hunted and his home burned—which we can all agree is wrong.

However, the tiger also likes to taunt and tease his prey, prolonging their fear. Overall, Shere Khan is one of Disney’s more complicated villains. To simplify the viewing experience, as you’re watching this film with your family, try whipping up a homemade version of one of these must-try Disney World foods.

Stream Now

Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)

Also known as the Shadow Man, this charming, smooth-talking voodoo witch doctor from a humble background has good reason for resenting the rich characters in The Princess and the Frog. What have they ever done to help him? As he sings in his showstopping number “Friends on the Other Side,” he is motivated by the pursuit of wealth. He uses his magical powers and dark-spirit friends to gain power and authority in New Orleans, and he’s not afraid to kill or hurt innocent people to get what he wants. Dr. Facilier is playing a dangerous game, though, as his otherworldly “friends” expect payback for helping him achieve his goals. (We bet those cunning spirits have some gossip about these Disney park rumors too.)

Stream Now

Shan Yu (Mulan)

As the leader of the Hun army in Mulan, Shan Yu is utterly without mercy—not above killing even his own men in cold blood rather than allow anyone to show any form of weakness. That’s what makes him one of the scariest Disney villains, particularly because he doesn’t fear death (or, apparently, anything else).

He’s unbelievably strong; determined, smart and strategic; and almost seems to have psychic powers, sensing Imperial Scouts before they can be seen. He even survives an avalanche! What any of us could get done if we had even an ounce of Shan Yu’s strength of will—and used it for the greater good.

Stream Now

Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove)

While she appears in the grand tradition of hilarious villainesses pursuing power through magic and nefarious means, Yzma is one of our favorite Disney villains for good reason: Her high self-esteem. She doesn’t take lightly being fired by the titular Emperor in The Emperor’s New Groove and instead seeks revenge.

Played to perfection by Eartha Kitt, Yzma is constantly foiled by her dim-witted (yet hilarious) assistant Kronk. We love her because she doesn’t let her age define her or allow the ageism of other characters to bring her down. Instead, she pursues her goals with a single-minded focus. You could try applying the same focus to getting these amazing Disney gifts for your family at the holidays.

Stream Now

Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

One of the most unsettling Disney villains, Oogie Boogie is a giant burlap sack filled with thousands of bugs in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Gross, right? He may have a snake for a tongue and be the incarnation of all our childhood nightmares, but he also has one of the best villain songs in the Disney universe with the “Oogie Boogie Song.” He’s a straight-up villain whose vices include causing fear and gambling, although he’s not very good at winning. But he is one of the most fun Disney villains because of his musical grooves and dramatic gestures.

Stream Now

Jafar (Aladdin)

In the 1992 animated film Aladdin, the Disney villain character Jafar was trying to usurp the throne, control the kingdom and gain power for himself. Jafar is scary because he wears a perfect mask of cool-headed intelligence, disguising the rageful, evil schemer beneath—albeit with one of the best evil laughs in the Disney universe.

But he does show a glimpse of a softer side: He has a best friend in Iago the parrot, and at one point he even gifts him with his own turban. Jafar’s desire for absolute power leads him to try to compete with the Genie, which ultimately leads to his downfall. Jafar doesn’t wear them in this movie, but have you wondered why so many other Disney characters wear gloves?

Learn More

Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)

What’s more villainous than being obsessed with removing people’s heads? The Queen of Hearts appears in both the animated and live-action Alice in Wonderland films, and she’s absolutely terrifying in both of them.

The Queen isn’t just scary because of her love of separating people’s heads from their necks, but also because of her unpredictability. She can go from classy croquet to crazy mad in seconds. With a memorable catchphrase (“Off with their heads!”) and an iconic look, she’s easily one of the most recognizable Disney villains.

Stream Now

Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)

Sure, Madame Mim is an evil witch who delights in the misery of the other Sword in the Stone characters. But is she also the greatest magician of all time, overshadowed by a bearded old man? We think there is an argument for Madame Mim as a feminist hero. The woman also knows how to put together a fashionably monochrome outfit, and she can fly, teleport and turn into anything she wants—including a dragon. Madame Mim doesn’t fear failure or death, and she’s not afraid to break the rules if she finds them limiting her in her pursuit of her goals. We bet Madame Mim would love the Disney 4-Park Magic Ticket this summer.

Stream Now

Syndrome (The Incredibles)

There’s something very relatable about Syndrome, the main villain in The Incredibles. After all, who hasn’t wanted superpowers at some point in their life? Unlike most of us, the man formerly known as Buddy Pine made a lot of his super-powered dreams come true—but at a huge cost to his own happiness.

Syndrome doesn’t care about what his tech-powered gadgets can do for the world—he’s focused on the power and fame they can bring him. He’s a classic narcissist, unable to see beyond his own perspective and underestimating everyone else around him, from the Incredibles family to his own robot creation.

Stream Now

The Evil Queen (Snow White)

One of Disney’s most classic villains, the Evil Queen is the antagonist of Disney’s 1937 film Snow White. She taps into women’s fears of aging and losing their beauty—and therefore their perceived value. She becomes jealous of a younger, more beautiful woman to the point of insanity and murder.

The Evil Queen is so consumed by her vanity, she is unable to feel any happiness. She hides behind a mask of cold, regal sophistication. If only she had had access to some therapy, the Evil Queen’s story might have ended very differently. Likewise, your dreamy Disney vacation can go better or worse—depending on whether you know these Disney World tips.

Stream Now

Prince John (Robin Hood)

Prince John’s story begins after he has seized power and usurped the throne from his brother, King Richard. But he’s much more pathetic than scary, ruling the people of Nottingham through fear and impoverishment by making them pay incredibly high taxes.

One could argue that the true villain of Robin Hood is the Sheriff of Nottingham, but we think Prince John ultimately wins the title. The Sheriff is sadistic and cruel, yes, but he’s just taking advantage of a situation Prince John has put him in. The Prince’s villainy is rooted in his immaturity and greed, and his short temper and sense of entitlement are way off the charts.

Stream Now

Governor John Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)

As befits a film like Pocahontas, Ratcliffe is one of Disney’s most inexcusable villains—cruel, racist, ruthless and greedy. Perhaps his worst fault is that he genuinely seems to believe that he is a good person who’s doing the right thing in the name of the Crown, rather than realizing that stealing ancestral land from others is a despicable thing to do. Derided back in England as a pathetic social climber, Ratcliffe has a deep desire to make a name for himself as a colonizer and become as wealthy as possible along the way.

Stream Now

Mother Gothel (Tangled)

What’s more villainous than posing as a protector while really exploiting your kidnapped daughter’s magical powers for your own gain? Not very much. Mother Gothel is terrifying, taking all the tropes of a loving, protective maternal figure and twisting them into a nightmare of captivity and emotional abuse.

When she’s called out on it, she expertly poses as the true victim of Tangled, when really it’s Rapunzel. Mother Gothel and her manipulation are perfectly explained in her great song “Mother Knows Best.” She’s one of the best Disney villains for teaching us the terrible power vanity can have. Us? We just want to teach you these Disney employee secrets.

Stream Now

Randall Boggs (Monsters, Inc.)

The monsters in Monsters, Inc. are frightening, sure, but they’re not really evil monsters … except for Randall Boggs. He cares about three things: himself, getting rid of Sulley and getting the most screams—and he doesn’t care how many little children (or other monsters) get hurt along the way. In the grand tradition of Disney villains, his Scream Extractor invention is indicative of his cruelty, madness and evil nature.

Stream Now

Sanderson Sisters (Hocus Pocus)

The powerful Sanderson Sisters of Hocus Pocus, Winifred, Mary and Sarah Sanderson are classic Disney villains, using magic and cruelty to win youth and beauty. These evil sisters are unusual in their deadly pursuit of children, but their iconic version of the song “I Put a Spell on You” nearly makes this forgivable.

Like other Disney villains, the sisters have distinct yet iconic looks (the vibe could be called medieval Spice Girls) and a clear relationship dynamic. Winifred is the leader who thinks she’s clever, and Sarah and Mary are the less-strategic thinkers.

Stream Now

Prince Hans (Frozen)

A rich, handsome prince who will someday be king? Dreamy! Unless it’s Prince Hans from Frozen. This intelligent and ambitious man has a sense of entitlement and cruelty that leads him to believe he deserves the throne—and that entitlement justifies any action he takes to achieve it.

Hans may be one of the smartest Disney villains, altering his plans throughout the film as he has to adapt to changing circumstances and shifting events—and he still gets people to think he’s a nice guy. It’s this good-guy appearance that makes Hans so scary, as he’s got everyone around him totally fooled.

Stream Now

Judge Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Among the most complex (and darkest) Disney villains, Judge Frollo is driven by his prejudice toward the Romani people, using his religious faith as a cover for his corruption and violence in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He seems to genuinely consider himself a good person, forgiving his charge Quasimodo for attending the Festival of Fools and considering himself above sin despite his feelings for Esmerelda.

Frollo’s song “Hellfire” shows his contradictory nature, describing himself as a righteous man yet unable to help his attraction to Esmerelda (for which he blames her, of course). Frollo is definitely one of the least redeemable villains, because he believes his own actions are always justifiable.

Stream Now

Chloë Nannestad
Chloë Nannestad is a lifestyle writer covering crafts, holidays, beauty and amazing products for RD.com. When she's not scouring the internet or reading product reviews, she's planning her next backpacking trip and thinking about getting a dog.