In the world of Disney, the villainous characters are often just as charming as—if not more than—the heroes. They're designed to play the perfect foil for the main characters and instigate meaningful conflict. They're immoral, self-centered, and merciless. They love being evil.
Disney villains can be appealing in different ways. Some might be selfish but charismatic, while others may share their motives through song, but no matter how you dice it, Disney villains are cleverly fascinating.
Here are our picks for the best villains in Disney movies of all time that stand out for their unique brands of chaos and evil.
10. Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Yzma is one of the funniest Disney villains of all time. Power-hungry and scheming, she first served as Emperor Kuzco's advisor. Eventually, she stretches her authority too far and runs the kingdom without Kusco's approval—but Yzma never backs down from being a real threat.
One of the best parts about her is her schemes with her bumbling Kronk. The two have so many greatly comedic moments, with Yzma as the straight man and Kronk doing pratfalls. It's also thanks to Eartha Kitt's performance that Yzma is a fan favorite Disney villain.
9. Horned King in The Black Cauldron (1985)
With the Horned King, we enter into scarier Disney territory. The Horned King is the main threat of the cult fantasy film The Black Cauldron.
He longs to find the Black Cauldron and wield its power to unleash a deadly army called the Cauldron Born. Whenever the young Taran tries to stop him, he never relents to strike back.
Even with a huge army under his command, his cronies have no idea where the Horned King comes from or what his true motives are—but his ghastly appearance, scornful apathy, and unnerving voice (by John Hurt) make The Horned King a fascinating Disney villain to behold.
8. Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (1950)
The modern trope of evil stepmother (or stepfather) would not be possible without Lady Tremaine's influence.
In Cinderella, she and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella take in Cinderella after her father dies, but they demote her to be nothing more than a scullery maid—and Tremaine always finds ways to belittle her.
When she's not verbally abusing Cinderella, Lady Tremaine is desperately grooming Anastasia and Drizella to blend in with the higher class, as seen during the ball and their attempts to sing "beautifully." In turn, she becomes delicately abusive toward them.
With her sinister looks and subtle cruelties, Lady Tremaine is truly a wicked stepmother we love to hate.
7. Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Gaston is a homegrown hero in his village, respected by the men and adored by the ladies (except for Belle). Despite being a proven skilled hunter, he has to constantly boast about his strengths and feats—and Belle sees through it all as nothing more than pompous vanity.
Gaston serves as the perfect foil for the Beast, making him a reflection of the Beast's past self. He does not wield any power but he has a strong influence over the village, especially over his sidekick Le Fou, which he leads (after gaslighting them) into charging the Beast's castle.
6. Cruella de Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
Cruella de Vil is known for one devious goal: to wear the fur of Dalmatians. It's an evil deed that turns her into one of the most iconic villainesses of all time. Just from her appearance alone, with her thin skin and crooked façade, Cruella brings fear to all Dalmatians.
At first, she seems comical thanks to her bumbling henchmen Horace and Jasper. But Cruella soon shows a scarier side, especially during the climax of One Hundred and One Dalmatians where she rambunctiously chases down the escaping Dalmatians.
Yet, after all is said and done, it's hard to not look away from such a wickedly fun presence. Cruella truly embodies her apt name.
5. Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Like the film's source material, Judge Claude Frollo is a creation of Victor Hugo. Both the novel and the Disney film portray him as a guardian for Quasimodo and a devout figure of the cleric who falls for Esmeralda. Throughout the story, he struggles to battle his inner demons.
Frollo believes himself to be the most righteous man of Paris, while ignoring his cruelty toward the city's poor and his hypocrisy of his religion. In turn, he wields an oppressive power that changes the lives of Quasimodo and Esmeralda. Witness it in the "Hellfire" sequence.
4. Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Maleficent is a Disney villain who's purely evil. The first time she shows up, she displays her true menace via her "gift" to Princess Aurora.
By her very nature, Maleficent is the opposite of Aurora's fairy guardians Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. While the three care for Aurora's growth, Maleficent simply wants her gone.
In the original Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent's backstory is never known beyond her wicked and sinister side, and her cronies just take her orders, like luring Aurora to the deadly spinning wheel. But when Prince Philip ruins her plans, she transforms into a fire-breathing dragon.
3. Scar in The Lion King (1994)
Few Disney villains are as power-hungry as Scar.
He's the opposite of his ruling brother Mufasa in that he only wants to wield power for the sake of having power. His desire for it is so strong that he maliciously acts upon it, luring Mufasa to his death with his hyena cronies and driving Simba away from the Pride Lands.
With The Lion King being a Hamlet adaptation, Scar is loosely based on King Claudius, Hamlet's ruthless uncle. However, he's also a clear sendup of history's most ruthless rulers. If that wasn't clear, rewatch the "Be Prepared" sequence and its reference to a certain World War.
But despite his villainous aspirations, Scar's haughty ambitions and showy attitude make him fun to watch.
2. Ursula in The Little Mermaid (1989)
Ursula is a top-tier Disney villain. Both comical yet frightening, the sea witch lures Ariel into giving in to her aspirations to become human and earn the love of Prince Eric. However, this turns out to be a ruse, so that Ursula can gain the upper hand over King Triton's rule.
Not much is needed to know about Ursula's backstory or hidden motives. Just wallow for the fact she transformed other mermaids and mermen into deranged polyps. Or go back to her awesome villain song, "Poor Unfortunate Souls". Or watch her frightening transformation into a kaiju-like monster!
1. Jafar in Aladdin (1992)
When we look for the best Disney movie villains, we're looking for balance of evil, menace, and entertainment. Jafar possesses them all.
As the Royal Vizier, he holds strong influence over the Sultan's decisions, even going as far as brainwashing him. But Jafar desires more. Despite others pushing him around, Jafar never relents from taking any and all opportunities to gain power.
That became obvious with his brief possession of the Genie and enslavement of Agrabah. Because of that, his power-hungry motives blind him from his fate. But his tenacity and charm ironically make Jafar one of the bright spots in Aladdin and the perfect Disney villain.