Disney Villains: Who’s the Cruelest of them All?

Disney Villains: Who's the Cruelest of them All?

Just because Disney is family-friendly doesn’t mean there’s not some messed-up stuff in their movies. In fact, some of those villains border on being inappropriate for kids, from their willful disregard for human life to their gleeful sadism.

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As people took a look through Disney’s impressive catalog of villains and selected the absolute cruelest of the bunch, it is easy to see that some of the villains are worse than others. These bad guys tried the line between PG and PG-13, as some of the cruelest Disney villains of all time.

Updated on April 14th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: In recent years, Disney has done something interesting with their movies. While in the old days, there were battles between good and evil, in modern-day Disney animated movies, there are not many real villains anymore. In Moana, it was a misunderstanding that needed to be fixed. In both Encanto and Turning Red, it was about fitting in.

However, going back to the long history of Disney animation, there are plenty of Disney villains that have nothing but evil deeds in mind to inflict on the heroes. These male and female Disney villains are a strong mix of evil witches, politicians, pirates, and dog-nappers, all intent on one thing. They just want to be evil.

15 Gaston – Beauty And The Beast

Belle looks displeased with Gaston in Beauty and the Beast

Gaston is an incredibly vain character. But it’s actually that selfishness that makes him less despicable than other Disney villains. Gaston is a jerk in almost everything he does, but it’s not like he’s a sadist.

As long as he is getting his way, he’s not even that bad. The problems arise when he doesn’t get what he wants, sending him into an erratic, even violent state. Gaston is a boar, but he’s pretty far down on the list of “most cruel.”

14 Madame Medusa – The Rescuers

There is a malevolent glee in the actions of Madame Medusa. In The Rescuers, she doesn’t just kidnap a kid, but actually puts her in danger to retrieve some jewels.

However, she isn’t as evil as other female Disney villains because, even though she seems to enjoy her actions, her evil deeds only apply to one person. However, the act of kidnapping kids and forcing them to retrieve jewelry is not a nice thing.

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13 Dawn Bellwether – Zootopia

Dawn Bellwether in Zootopia ending

Dawn Bellwether was a bad guy who isn’t as bad as other female Disney villains because she felt she was doing what was right for people like her. In Zootopia, not all animals were created equal even though they all lived together in peace.

Tha mammals ruled over everyone, with a lion as a Mayor and a buffalo as the police chief. Both held down the lesser animals, with Bellwether an assistant treated like a secretary and Judy made a meter maid rather than a real police officer. However, her actions of having mammals turn savage with a rare drug put everyone in danger, and she did try to kill Judy in the end.

12 Captain Hook – Peter Pan

Captain-Hook-Peter-Pan

Just like Gaston, Captain Hook’s cruelty only comes out when he himself is offended. Sure, he wants to kill Peter Pan, but to be fair, the guy cut off his hand. It’s not like Peter’s an angel in this case.

Unlike Gaston, there is a sinister glee in Hook as he’s plotting the downfall of Pan and the Lost Boys. Still, Hook’s cruelty isn’t half as developed as most Disney villains. He even gives Wendy and the gang a chance to join him against Peter.

11 Queen of Hearts – Alice In Wonderland

Red-faced Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland

It says something about a Disney villain when one of the things they love the most is decapitating anyone who disagrees with them. In the case of Alice in Wonderland, that description fits the Queen of Hearts, someone who wants to be in charge of everything.

What is most interesting about Queen of Hearts is that she isn’t after power like Maleficent or beauty like The Evil Queen in Snow White. The Queen of Hearts just wants to have her way, and when she doesn’t get it, she just screams “off with their heads” and expects someone to follow through with her threat.

10 Hades – Hercules

Zeus with his arm around a disgruntled Hades in Hercules

It really comes as no surprise that the God of the Underworld would stand the test of time as one of Disney’s worst villains. In the Greek pantheon, Hades has always wanted to topple Zeus and take control of the world. In Hercules, he went after Zeus’s demigod son.

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The desire for power was enough to corrupt Hades and make him an even more despicable character. He stole souls, kidnapped babies, and attempted to murder his own family members. What makes Hades so dangerous is that he will never renege on promises, putting him about the liars and cheats in Disney animation.

9 Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty

Maleficent - Disney's Sleeping Beauty

When Disney began turning its classic animation into live-action movies, one of the first things they started to do was attempt to rehabilitate their worst villains. This happened with Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. The evil woman got a movie of her own and became the hero of her own story.

However, in Sleeping Beauty, she was pure evil. Maleficent cursed Aurora as a baby to an untimely death, which was one of the worst things a Disney villain could do. Sadly for her, she failed in her goal and fell in the end.

8 Dr. Facilier – The Princess And The Frog

Dr. Facilier laughing during song solo in The Princess and the Frog

Dr. Facilier is a witch doctor who uses his voodoo powers and tricks to make himself a rich man, and he does it without caring who he hurts or walks over. He often promises big things and rewards to those he encounters, but then turns those promises into pain.

Facilier’s main goal is to kill the rich Big Daddy and take all his wealth for himself. He is selfish, greedy, deadly, and one of the most dishonest Disney villains in any animated movie.

7 Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmatians

It is impossible to list Disney’s cruelest without including the woman with “cruel” in her name. Cruella de Vil is a particularly heartless Disney villain, and not just because she’s selfish. Cruella actually gets some joy out of the idea of murdering puppies.

While she technically doesn’t want to kill people, and might not be as evil as other Disney villains, there is something terribly sadistic about a person who hurts animals. The live-action movie tried to rehabilitate her, but in 101 Dalmatians, there wasn’t anyone worse.

6 Ursula – The Little Mermaid

Ursula, Flotsam and Jetsam in The Little Mermaid

Ursula might enjoy being bad more than anyone else in a Disney animated movie. She’s like a classic soap opera villain, delighting in creating chaos for people’s personal lives. Maybe it’s just because of her awesome solo song, but Ursula really seems to like the evil she does.

RELATED: The Little Mermaid – 10 Differences Between The Book And The Film

She gleefully goes over the steps to her plans and thrills at new opportunities to achieve them. Ursula is a showperson about her deeds, flaunting them like a tap dancer flaunts a special routine. She’s probably the most fun villain to watch as well.

5 Jafar – Aladdin

Jafar in Aladdin

There’s a reason Jafar turns into a grinning snake at the end of Aladdin. He is just so vile, so pleased with his atrocities, that it only makes sense he’d take the form of nature’s slipperiest trickster. However, In Aladdin, Jafar’s cruelty is rooted in arrogance, which diminishes it a bit.

He takes pleasure in trapping Princess Jasmine in a rapidly filling sand clock, but he’s half as pleased with the fact that he made a giant sand clock as he is with his capture. Still, Jafar’s arrogance takes on an especially cruel quality. He hurts people for fun, not just because they’ve wronged him.

4 Evil Queen – Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

Evil Queen holds box in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

Jafar and the Evil Queen are peas of the same rotten pod. The Evil Queen also delights in her craft, making her especially cruel to anyone she considers inferior — which is probably everyone. However, she is scarier than Jafar.

Even in her “beautiful” form, the Evil Queen looks straight out of a Medieval horror tale. For her skill, her pride, and her decent Elizabeth Bathory impression, she will almost always remain one of the most despicable female Disney villains.

3 Shan Yu – Mulan

Shan Yu’s inspiration clearly came from the fierce Khans of old. Like those bloody conquerors, he takes delight in not just winning battles, but humiliating enemies. Shan Yu is something worse than many other power-hungry Disney villains.

Victory, to him, means the total decimation of a culture, and usually, the people that live in it. For this particularly inhuman method of leadership, he remains one of the evilest villains that Disney has ever created.

2 John Ratcliffe – Pocahontas

Governor John Ratcliffe is a villain you can’t even have fun with. He is a murdering racist; the kind of villain that hits a little too close to real history for comfort. Not only is Ratcliffe biased and hateful, but he’s convinced that what he’s doing is correct.

One of the worst things a villain can be, as we’ve seen so many times throughout real history, is convinced of his own righteousness.

1 Claude Frollo – The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

Claude Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame

As Paris’s “Minister of Justice,” Claude Frollo committed so many despicable, biased crimes that it’s hard to see him anywhere but as the worst of the worst Disney villains. He murders loads of Romani people then only reluctantly adopts one because he’s afraid of going to Hell.

But even after adopting this person and raising him as his own, Frollo is still only too happy to lock him away from the world and even attempt to murder him when he gets in his way. Frollo’s got the beliefs of Ratcliffe, the tactics of Shan Yu, and heartlessness that even the Evil Queen would find disturbing.

NEXT: 10 Non-Musical Disney Animation Movies Worth Watching, Ranked According to IMDb

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About The Author

Grant DeArmitt
(65 Articles Published)

Grant DeArmitt is a New York City-based writer and lover of all things weird. He enjoys comic books and detective novels, firmly believes in Dracula, and has a special place in his heart for animated comedies. You can follow him on Twitter @GrantDeArmitt.

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