Jolly Holiday: Disney Villains!

Welcome back to Jason and Caitie Flum, our resident newlyweds! Today, they're taking a he said / she said look at the Disney Villains!

Last column we talked about characters in the parks. That got us to thinking about some of our favorite characters in the movies, and what better place to start than the very characters that drive the action in most stories: the villains.


We decided to make it hard on ourselves, and only choose our top five favorites each. As with every other column, our criteria for deciding differed for each of us, so we're simply calling this our "Favorite" villains:

I chose my top five based on three rules: One, the character had to be scary, both to children and still to adults. Two, the character had to play a significantly large role in the story (thus ruling out characters like the hyenas in "The Lion King"). Three, the character had to be complex and interesting. So, here we go.

5. Mother Gothel from Tangled
I know, she's new, but think about how deranged she is. Under the guise of "loving" her daughter, she locked her in a tower to keep the magic in Rapunzel's hair for herself. In essence, she's nothing more than a vain child abuser.

I subscribe to the theory I have discussed in other columns that the reason women and mother figures are often the bad guy in movies is because they are meant to represent security. Taking away the protection of motherhood from a child is terrifying " and that's precisely why Mother Gothel is so scary. Rapunzel knows no one but Mother Gothel, and her ultimate betrayal and callousness is frightening.

4. Evil Queen from Snow White
The woman who started it all. Vanity personified, her transformation midway through the movie is that much scarier when you consider her motivations.

She is so obsessed with her appearance that she is willing to deform herself to prove that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. This is a twisted idea when you think about it, and alone makes her worthy of this list.

Add to that the fact that, on a personal level, her pop up appearances in the original Snow White's Scary Adventures absolutely terrified me as a kid, and there was no question she belonged in my top five.

3. Gaston
I've been thinking (a dangerous past time, I know) about Gaston a lot as we've been prepping for this column. Gaston isn't your typical villain " he's good looking, he's confident, he's intelligent, he's a leader " he's got everything your usual hero would have. The difference is, Gaston is vain and arrogant. Gaston cares for nothing but himself, and when he doesn't get what he wants, he turns violent.

Gaston is a complex character to say the least, and one who, in real life, many people would be taken in by. The fact that there are so many people like him in the real world is scary enough; the fact that his actions are so easily relatable (in that if we can't see ourselves in him, we can certainly see some people we know) makes him one of the best villains of all time.

2. Scar
Scar's appearance on both of our lists speaks for itself. The story tellers at Disney not only took a Shakespearean villain of the highest order (he is like Claudius from Hamlet), but threw in fascist qualities ("Be Prepared") for good measure. Scar is manipulative, malicious, cunning, brutal, selfish, and powerful " all traits of great villainy.

1. Frollo
Hunchback of Notre Dame is often maligned as one of the weaker Disney films, but I absolutely love it. I think a big part of the reason for its reputation is of all the animated films it is the least "child like" in the canon. The songs are mature and beautiful (if you can ever find the cut song "In a Place of Miracles," it's absolutely gorgeous), and as good as anything else written by Stephen Schwartz in his career.

One of the standout numbers for me is "Hellfire." As I said in our playlist column, I have no idea how this song made it into a Disney movie. A song about a priest's lust for a woman and what amounts to self flagellation is hardly a usual subject for Disney!

Frollo combines the security-ripped-away parenting figure of Mother Gothel, the deceitfulness of Gaston, the manipulation of Scar, and the tortured soul of the Evil Queen (though for different reasons). He is vicious, cruel and sadistic. Not only is he underrated as a villain, but he easily deserves his place at the top of this list because his villainy is so very realistic and undeniably horrifying.

Wow -- Jason wrote this first and he had me almost convinced that some of his should go on my list too...but I will stick with my original 5! My reasons were basically the same as Jason's -- they had to hold up for young and old, and they had to be interesting.

5. Cruella De Vil
She scared me when I was a kid. Not only did she look scary, but she had an incredibly scary song to go along with her! She also went after the innocent: a bunch of cute puppies! Looking back, she was also pretty deranged/insane, which makes her an even more interesting villain now!


4. Madam Mim
The Sword in the Stone seems like an often forgotten Disney movie, but it was played at my house a LOT. She isn't really the most evil villain (though trying to stop an 11 year old kid isn't exactly nice), but I love the final battle between Mim and Merlin. The mix of humor and scary gets her a spot on my list!

3. Jafar
Oh Jafar, with the classic motivation of power. He is cunning and looks really scary, even now! The most scary thing about him is that most of the time, he is so calm and level-headed about being so bad. He doesn't appear to be crazy, at least until he is crazy with his power.

2. Ursula
Ursula scared me so much as a kid! The tentacles freaked me out and she was such a great example of how power can be used for evil instead of good. Of course, she also has the absolute BEST villain song in Disney history!

1. Scar
Like Jason said, he is based on the villain in Hamlet, but he is even worse because he wants to push everyone who isn't like him down -- like a certain dictator in history. He is maniacal and crazy. He is, in my opinion, the best villain in Disney.

Who are your favorite villains that we missed? We could each list a few more we really wanted to mention!

DonaldDork wrote on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 06:09:

DonaldDork's picture

I think Frollo would be at the top of my list too.. so quick to murder and torture in the "name of God" is just so wrong.
But about "Hellfire" I believe in the original Victor Hugo book, Frollo is a priest, but Disney made him the Minister of Justice and he was a Judge. He chose a celibate lifestyle but was not a priest. (in the Disney version anyway). I think there would have been WAAAY too much backlash for that!

WyckedPhoenix wrote on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 08:11:

WyckedPhoenix's picture

Great lists! I agree, Scar is one of my all time favorites when it comes to villains.

Mase wrote on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 12:50:

Mase's picture

I think Scar is easily one of the coolest villains in Disney history. Jafar to me is a very close second. His want for power, and would do anything to get it is just like Scar. Willing to sacrifice anyone for power.

But.... the one I would not want to meet in a dark alley.... Chernabog.

And one of the funnier ones is Hades... heh

caitiesus wrote on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 13:31:

caitiesus's picture

Hades is a great "villain"! He made that movie for me.

And reading this remind me how much I hate Gaston and how Belle would have never ended up with him. She is much too smart!

KellyT wrote on Fri, 04/15/2011 - 13:34:

KellyT's picture

I'm not sure how Maleficent failed to make either of your lists. I mean, in my book she is the ultimate Disney villain, beautiful, powerful, pure evil to the core. My list would round out with #2 being Cruella, #3 Ursula, #4 Scar, #5 Captain Hook.

teacherdrama wrote on Sun, 04/17/2011 - 15:48:

teacherdrama's picture

Kelly - Maleficent was close on my list, and probably would have made it if I didn't include Mother Gothel. The villain from Tangled is more complex of a character than Maleficent is. Maleficent is motivated solely by revenge throughout the movie. As far as I remember, the reason for her not being invited to the party to begin with was just "she's bad." Without a REASON, she becomes pretty 2D, as opposed to Mother Gothel who is quite complex.

alicemouse wrote on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 18:23:

alicemouse's picture

I was really happy to see some love for Hunchback on this list. I was late to the party and just saw it for the first time about a year ago, but it is phenomenal! I don't like the style that it's drawn in, but I love the story, the music, and the characters--and what good are all of the heroic actions of the protagonists without a suitable villain!

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