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19 Best Worst Villains of All Time

I recently read a “Top 10 Best Villains” post by NC blogger and romance author Sonja Foust that made me start thinking about the bad guys I love to hate. Here’s my own ordered version of the list, with a few notes and “Dishonorable Mentions” at the end. I hope you’ll add your villains to the comments, too.

1. Count Dracula, from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel
Definitely my worst villain of all time. I discovered the novel at a young age and was in horrified thrall to vampires. I lost MANY nights of sleep over this, and it was years, years I say, before I began to get over my delicious and unwelcome terror.

The thing about the Count — and you KNEW it was coming — was that he got Lucy and Mina! I was so upset about that. Mina was a wimp (a redshirt from the beginning), but I had hopes for Lucy. Forget garlic, get yourself a throat-cutting kukri and a Bowie knife for the heart work. Even then, I worry.

ChildCatcher12. The Child Catcher, played by Robert Helpmann in the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This terrifying creature had a HOOK and a net and a cage and moved around in broad daylight! What on earth was this horrible bit doing in an otherwise cheery-wonderful film (he wasn’t in the book, interestingly)? I had actually forgotten about the creepy Child Catcher until I had kids of my own and rented this as a family film one night. It caught me completely unawares and I had to stop the movie, I was so upset. Augh! This character was also supposedly the “inspiration” for Marilyn Manson’s 1995 release Smells Like Children. Yikes.

3. Bluebeard, from the 1697 French fairy tale by Charles Perrault
Technically the most ancient of my villainous panoply (“villainous panoply,” did you like that?), this murderous aristocrat first showed up on my horizon in a (most treasured) book of fairy tales I received as a gift as a 6 year old. I was so horrified by this particular character that I marked the story and for years I carefully avoided opening the book to that page.  The story is thought to be based on the life of a 15th century self-confessed serial killer. Perfect for the kiddies!

4. Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz
The first female villain to appear in my nightmares, this witch was even more frightening to me than the wicked queen from Snow White, the Snow Queen from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and Disney’s Cruella de Vil all rolled into one.

5. Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund in the 1984 movie A Nightmare on Elm Street

SweenyTodd6. Sweeney Todd, from the 1846 series The String of Pearls
I first encountered Sweeny Todd in theater class in junior high school. We didn’t do the play, but we studied it. I was shocked that such a character would find its way to the stage. Seemed a bit bloody to me. Btw, the original Demon Barber of Fleet Street was NOT a tragic figure, but was rotten from the beginning.

7. Buffalo Bill aka Jame Gumb, played by Ted Levine in 1991 film Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal Lector was awful, but Buffalo Bill and his pit in the basement was the real terror for me.

frank booth8. Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper in the 1986 movie Blue Velvet
Saw this film in college and have regretted it ever since. Whew.

9. Dr. Christian Szell, played by Laurence Olivier in the 1976 movie Marathon Man
Going to the dentist was never the same.

10. Rhoda Penmark, age 8, from the book The Bad Seed by William March
Wicked, wicked child. I heard they made this into a movie. I’m glad I didn’t see it.

11. Damien Thorn, from the book The Omen by David Seltzer
Another wicked, wicked child.

12. The Grand Inquisitor, from Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov
Having been raised in the church, this story rang so horribly true that I could barely think of anything else for weeks after I read it.

JackTorrance13. Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson in the movie The Shining.
I had read the novel long before I saw the film, and I have to admit that Jack Nicholson did the character justice.

14. Annie Wilkes, from Stephen King’s book Misery
I never saw Kathy Bates’ portrayal of Annie Wilkes, but I can imagine. And no matter how horrifying you thought the movie was, I’m here to tell you that I bet the book was far worse. I thought it would NEVER be over! I swear I’ll never be anyone’s “Number One Fan.” Aaaaah!

15. Alex Forrest, played by Glen Close in the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction
Bunny boiler!

16. Miss Havisham, from Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations
In the vein of Miss Hannigan, the orphanage matron in (Little Orphan) Annie, and Fagin from Dickens’ Oliver Twist. What is it with people being mean to orphans?

Ash17-19. Non-human villians:
Jaws, as well as the Alien and Ash (Bilbo Baggins!! What a creepy android) from the Alien film(s).

Dishonorable Mentions
Norman Bates (Psycho), the Borg (Star Trek), and Audrey Jr., the man-eating plant (Little Shop of Horrors).

I didn’t see The Dark Knight, A Clockwork Orange, or Schindler’s List, so those notable villains don’t appear here. And sorry, Darth Vader never made my list. Not scary.

And finally, I LOVED the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (Ghostbusters). And I love Ray Stantz’s silly little brain for thinking him up.

Don’t forget to leave your villains in the comments!!

Top image credit: krancien

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11 Responses to 19 Best Worst Villains of All Time

  1. Sonja Foust August 2, 2009 at 9:22 pm #

    Wow, what a GREAT list! I got the oogies just sitting here reading it. 🙂 Thanks for the nod!

  2. Jonny B August 3, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    Oddly enough, I don’t see Jaws or the Aliens as villains…. whenever a monster is introduced into a movie, I wind up rooting for them, because there is usually a reason for their behavior.

    Jaws was simply hungry, and found himself at a buffet… we was then attacked by the humans in the boat and protected himself.

    The Aliens were in the middle of a turf war against humans, who had invaded their space. Not unlike other “bugs”, they were simply acting on instinct in order to allow for the survival of their species.

    Sorry to be a killjoy! LOL

    Go zombies! Yeah! (And great blog!)

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 3, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Okay, Jonny, maybe you have a valid point about motives. The big fish (and the big alien, and the big plant) is hongry. You could also say that Ash was at the mercy of his human programmers. But then my question becomes, are you going to judge the motives of the humans as well? I mean, what can we say about Count Dracula? Maybe that whole infectious blood thing was just too much for him and he wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Are we gonna have to pay to keep him in prison his whole life? (Hehehe, this is fun.) Or wait! Maybe he gets a “get out of jail free” card cuz we’re not sure he’s human. Now what??

    Oh, man. You’ve just thrown a whole big wrench in the works. It’s gonna get messy now! We need some psych majors to wade in. Know any?

  4. Jonny B August 3, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Actually, I do know a psych major… I live with one. 🙂

    While Ash could have been at the mercy of his human programmers, we all know how reliable Vista is, for example… nothing saying that operating systems in the future aren’t without bugs and problems as well… could it have been a simple hardware malfunction? Got a little too close to the microwave or something and diverted some logic gates?

    Dracula is a different story. As “Vlad the Impaler”, he was brutal and violent, but considering the time period and location, that’s how one made a name for themselves. His love for what’s-her-face and her subsequent untimely death pushed him over the edge from “fierce warrior” to “evil”… Love has a strange effect on people.. he could have chosen to suck it up and get over it, like most of the rest of the world would have done, or take the easy route, which he did.

    Oh.. and we wouldn’t be able to imprison him, since he was pretty good at that whole “turn to mist and float away” thing… 😉

  5. Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 3, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Logic gates, mist… crap, this is just getting too too complex for me. Who knew being responsible for naming villians would be so difficult?? I need a drink. (Feeling dehydrated. I really haven’t been myself since these odd puncture marks appeared on my neck.)

  6. Jonny B August 3, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Oooh.. Carolina Ale House. Your treat.

    I didn’t bite your neck though.. sorry. 😛

  7. Darcyjo August 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    I may be a psych major, but I’ve studiously avoided most of those movies for many years. Sorry ’bout dat, hon. Never been able to force myself to watch one since I saw “Carrie” in the way-back-when. Now, books, yeah. And Stephen King’s villains are top notch, you have people you could really imagine running into, and that (to me) is a whole lot more scary than people I can’t imagine meeting. Try “The Long Walk”, for example. With the history of the last century the way it is, I can actually imagine what happens to those boys. (YIKES!)
    But with the non-humans, well, I wouldn’t have any problem defending myself. The big toothy fish, for example? Boom. End of story. Sushi on a grand scale. :o)
    What can I say. I watch the news and go to my little psych classes, and that’s plenty scary enough for me. I’m a bit of an avoider, what can I say?

  8. Terri August 5, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    I thought Ash was creepy too and definitely hate the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I’m surprised you didn’t list Hannibel Lecter…he totally creeps me out! Max Cady (played by Robert De Niro) in Cape Fear….definitely one to hate for me.

  9. Lisa Creech Bledsoe August 5, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    Terri, you and several others from Twitter and Facebook mentioned the Hannibal Lector thing, and honestly I can’t figure out why the freakazoid killer Buffalo Bill from the same film (#7, above) loomed larger for me than HL did. But when I think of the movie, I get flashes of Clarice in that dark basement, and the poor victim in the pit / dry well down there, and my absolute terror that BB was gonna get both of them!! And ME TOO! Yaaaah! /shaking off the willies/

  10. SPURWING PLOVER August 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    The aliens from INDEPENDENCE DAY ruthless killers of hunderds

  11. Brenda Moore October 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    I’m getting on in years and thought I should see some of those fright movies that I have avoided for so long, expecially since I finally got cable this past year. So I started with “Halloween” (the original one with Jamie Curtis), and I’ve decided to skip all the others after all.

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