The Ten Most Contemptible, Despicable, Vile, and Completely Delicious Disney Villains
Disney fans: we all love our princesses from Ariel to Tiana, we drool over our dashing heroes, and laugh at all the loyal and loveable sidekicks. But if we were to be honest, it is the villains in Disney movies that get us most excited. And why not? They are some of the most beautifully drawn of all the animated characters, they always have epic moments of evil, and they always keep the balance in Disney movies, saving the stories from becoming too sticky sweet.
I decided to go back through all of the Disney animated films and assess each villain for their evil impact. Who exactly are the ten most contemptible, despicable, vile, and completely delicious villains in the Disney canon? This piece will hopefully represent your favorites. I know that I certainly had a hard time cutting some for the final ten (Captain Hook, The Queen of Hearts, Yzma, Mother Gothel are all worthy members of the all-purpose “baddy club” who just weren’t nasty enough to join the top ten).
So, without further ado, here they are:
10. Wicked Queen: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
In 1937, the Wicked Queen became Disney’s first feature film villain, and she set the standard by which all others would be judged. Though she isn’t given a name other than “The Queen”, her striking tailored look: a flowing cape with pointed collar, her pallid face encircled by a black wimple, a severe crown perched on her head. Stage actress Lucille La Verne was brought in to voice this dramatic villain whose heart was set on poisoning her stepdaughter Snow White. Her most memorable sequence in the films involves the wicked brew that she concocts to transform herself into an unbelievably frightening old hag. When she offers Snow White an apple and hisses “Take a bite”, it is a thing of nightmares. She is evil personified.
9. Cruella de Vil: 101 Dalmatians
I would be remiss not to include a puppy killer on this list, and Cruella de Vil wants nothing more that have a fur coat made entirely out of the spotted coats of Dalmatian pups. There are 101 of these of animals that she wants for her very own, so it is easy to think she has plans for more than just a coat. Perhaps Dalmatian culottes? Regardless, her cigarette waving, her wild hair, and her austere expression make her a pretty memorable character, even without taking into consideration her dastardly plots. Betty Lou Gerson infused her with an indelible vocal characterization as well.
8. Dr. Facilier: The Princess and the Frog
Dr. Facilier of Disney’s New Orleans set The Princess and the Frog is a villain who truly makes my skin crawl. He is a voodoo witchdoctor who has no problems summoning evil from “the other side” to aide in his wicked doings. Also going by the name of “The Shadow Man”, he sings a song called “Friends on the Other Side” that comes pretty close to being uncomfortably out of the realm of acceptably Disney, while still being tremendously effective and horrifying. The character is voiced by Keith David who keeps him sounding slightly demonic and slightly creole. Visually, he is drawn to be a stunning creation of strength and dark energy, an imposing force who is set to wreak havoc.
7. Jafar: Aladdin
The Royal Vizier of Agrabah, Jafar isn’t really all that interested in serving the sultan. Jafar wants to BE the sultan, and so he seldom plays nice with others. In fact, he uses his magic and his position to make the Princess Jasmine marry him so that he will inherit the kingdom through marriage. Never mind that she doesn’t love him. Never mind that he tries to kill Aladdin to get him out of the way so he CAN marry the girl. Never mind that he can turn himself into a very intimidating snake. This is not exactly the guy that most people would dream of for a spouse. Jonathan Freeman voices him brilliantly, always stretching out the words with a pompous condescension that makes him all the more unlikeable.
6. Madam Medusa: The Rescuers
It has always astounded me that Madam Medusa (and indeed The Rescuers itself) do not get more appreciation in the world of Disney films than they do. Madam Medusa basically kidnaps a little orphan girl, drags her to her dilapidated riverboat in a Louisiana bayou, drops the kid down a dark hole in a dangerous cave that fills at high tide, and expects her to pry a huge diamond called “The Devil’s Eye” out of skull. No one can ever forget her horrific line “What makes you think anyone would ever want to adopt a homely little girl like you?”. Her crazy mane of orange hair, her vulgar fake eyelashes, and her cherry red, overly tight spaghetti strap dress make her look like sinister trash, and her voice characterization by legendary actress Geraldine Page is simply unforgettable.
5. Scar: The Lion King
Fratricide is a pretty despicable crime, going back to the notorious case of Caine and Abel. Is it any surprise that we find Scar from The Lion King so deplorable for killing his brother, King Mufasa? Scar has a lot of evil going for him, much of it captured in his manifesto “Be Prepared”, a song that has Nazi-esque undertones. Let us also not forget that he convinces an innocent little lion cub that the child is responsible for the murder that he, himself, committed. He’s drawn with heavy eyes, dark circles encasing his fierce gaze. And then there is the voice of Jeremy Irons, that razor sharp sting mixed with a gravely smokiness that makes him sound as if his words are dripping with venom.
4. Lady Tremaine: Cinderella
Her name may be Lady Tremaine, but to us, she will always be Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. Indeed, this maternal nightmare is drawn with an elegant steeliness: a hatchet nose, a patrician chin, a pronounced widow’s peak, and the most stone cold eyes ever to be created for an animated character. The control and stately way she delivers her cruelty makes her easily the worst mother of all time, especially when does it with those eyes piercing and smile upon her face. But what really stands out with Lady Tremaine is her harsh and clipped voice, expertly executed by actress Eleanor Audley who was also the physical model on which the character was based. When she sharply admonishes “Cinderella!”, you can feel the contempt in her words. Your heart jumps a little.
3. Frollo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
There is a creepiness that just oozes out of Judge Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame that I find disturbing (especially in a Disney film). I am not sure if it is his religious zealotry, his mistreatment of the gentle Quasimodo, or his licentious preoccupation with the Gypsy Esmerelda that I find most appalling, but this one fellow I know I have no interest spending any time with him. Tony Jay’s voiceover work brings this snakelike creature to life with such palpable arrogance and superiority. His musical number “Hellfire” is the most-frightening (and most bordering on libidinous) song to ever be sung in a Disney movie.
2. Ursula: The Little Mermaid
The fact that Ursula’s physicality is based on the drag queen Divine is already enough to make her a fierce competitor as one of Disney’s best villains. The fact that voice actress Pat Carroll does great service to her characterization only elevates her status even higher in the echelons of wickedness. Though she is an anthropomorphic squid, you cannot help but feel she is every bit human in her sinister need to own human beings and add them to her creepy little garden of ocean bottom greenery. “What?” you say? Her song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is a the perfect example of “squid pro quo”, her magic in exchange for Ariel’s lovely voice.
1. Maleficent: Sleeping Beauty
The woman has horns, an enormous bat-like cape, a complexion that feels like it sits somewhere between ochre and mint green, and arching brows that reveal that she is contemplating a wealth of evil. What’s more, she is voiced by Eleanor Audley (see Lady Tremaine). Maleficent show’s up for the bestowing of gifts upon a little baby and curses the child with death on her sixteenth-birthday. She summons assistance from HELL to turn into a dragon and tries to destroy the prince who will awake the Princess Aurora from her deep sleep. Never mind how the live-action film in her honor tried to turn her into a misunderstood victim. Her darkness is a thing of nightmares and Maleficent is a force to reckoned with. She intends to do evil because that is what she excels at. What more could you want in a contemptible, despicable, vile, and completely delicious villain?