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Top 10 Smartest Animated Disney Villains

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Alexander Gauthier
What they lack in strength these baddies more than make up for in manipulation, brilliant schemes and elaborate plans! For this list we're counting down our picks for the top 10 Smartest Animated Disney Villains. We'll be taking a look at the smartest animated evil-doers from the Mouse brand. Since some of the characters reveal their plans as a twist, be aware that there will be spoilers.

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Top 10 Smartest Animated Disney Villains

What they lack in moral fiber, these baddies more than make up for in manipulation, brilliant schemes and elaborate plans. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Smartest Animated Disney Villains.
For this list, we'll be taking a look at the smartest animated evil-doers from the Mouse brand. Since some of the characters reveal their plans as a twist, be aware that there will be spoilers.

#10: Clayton
“Tarzan” (1999)

At first Clayton seems to be a charming man, albeit quick to anger. Serving as the bodyguard for Jane and her father, this manipulative maniac plays the long con. He preys on Tarzan’s feelings, telling him that Jane will only stay with him if the ape-man leads them to the gorillas. Clayton then waits until the team arrives on the ship to reveal he has deceived them and plans to sell the gorillas to a zoo. Clayton’s intelligence lies in his patience, waiting for the pieces of his ruse to come together all while manipulating Tarzan’s emotions.

#9: Yokai / Robert Callaghan
“Big Hero 6” (2014)

Hiding behind a Kabuki mask, this mysterious spectre uses high-tech gadgets to accomplish his goals. A genius racked with grief over the loss of his daughter, Professor Callaghan becomes Yokai to get revenge against the man responsible for his daughter’s disappearance. Yokai harnesses the power of the microbots he stole from Hiro to transform into a shape-shifting and telekinetic master. He is an undeniable creative genius with advanced technologies, innovating with the microbot tech to do things Hiro couldn’t conceive of, like using it as a shield or to move quickly across difficult terrain.

#8: Shan Yu
“Mulan” (1998)

Not only is this Hun warlord intimidating and seemingly unstoppable; he proves to be quite crafty as well. After he is buried by an avalanche, he attempts to use the belief that he is defeated to surprise his enemies. Shan Yu accomplishes this by planting soldiers within dancing dragons during a celebration, and having his trained falcon, Hayabusa, retrieve his sword to ambush the Chinese imperials at their castle. He manages to infiltrate the castle and hold the emperor hostage, but is undone by his wish to destroy Mulan, the soldier that buried him and his troops.

#7: Scar
“The Lion King” (1994)

As far as brains go, this villain has the lion’s share. This devious and jealous baddie goes as far as murdering his own brother to ascend to the throne. He also convinces the hyenas to help him by promising that they will “never go hungry again”. In a multi-step plan, he uses the hyenas to scare a herd of wildebeest to trample Mufasa. Scar rises above the pack by being one of the few Disney villains whose plan actually succeeds. Of course, he later meets his end because he fails to honor his promise to the hyenas, but he had a good run as king nonetheless.

#6: Hopper
“A Bug’s Life” (1998)

This six-legged dictator is ruthless and rules over the bug kingdom with an iron fist. He has no qualms killing other grasshoppers to prove a point, either. He uses the ants to supply the grasshoppers with food in order to survive the winter. And even when they have more than enough food without the help of the ants, he asserts that they must continue the practice to “keep the ants in line”. While you could question his methods, you can’t deny that having someone do your heavy lifting is an intelligent plan.

#5: Ursula
“The Little Mermaid” (1989)

This cruel and nasty sea witch preys on the innocent and desperate, taking advantage of any “poor unfortunate souls” who ask her for help. Ursula promises to fulfill their dreams if they can complete a simple task, but if they fail, they’re imprisoned forever. When Ariel comes to her, she promises her love if she can kiss Prince Eric within three days. But when Ariel gets close to achieving her goal, Ursula appears in disguise and sabotages her by charming the prince with Ariel’s own singing voice. Ursula then strikes a bargain with King Triton, trading Ariel’s freedom for his own. This briefly makes Ursula the ruler of the sea. These elaborate and conniving tactics are proof that Ursula’s is one smart cookie.

#4: Doctor Facilier
“The Princess and the Frog” (2009)

This spooky voodoo witch doctor wants nothing more than to be rich and powerful, which he tries to achieve with some help from his “friends on the other side” and his trusty shadow. He begins by tricking Prince Naveen and his assistant Lawrence. Facilier transforms the prince into a frog, and the assistant into the prince’s doppelganger so that he can take his place in an upcoming wedding. Facilier’s end game is to split inheritance money with Lawrence after killing the bride-to-be’s rich father. This villain is a true puppet master, orchestrating a complex ruse with impressive detail. He outdoes other villains by manipulating many characters, and is only brought down by his greed and an unpaid debt.

#3: Hades
“Hercules” (1997)

This fiery and short-tempered king of the underworld wants nothing more than to rule Olympus. However, he can only do so by ridding himself of Hercules. Hades begins with making Hercules mortal by having his henchmen slip him a potion. Then, he tricks Hercules when the boy hero falls in love with Hades’ assistant, Megara. Hades gets the demi-god to give up his powers for a day, and then unleashes the titans to conquer Olympus. Had he not broken his promise to keep Megara out of harm’s way, his conniving ploy definitely would have succeeded. His ability to convince Hercules to give up his power shows us that Hades is a wily and adept trickster.

#2: Dawn Bellwether
“Zootopia” (2016)

This metaphorical wolf in sheep’s clothing attempts to stir up a revolution. Bellwether plays ally to the prey class of Zootopia, and tries to take power away from the predators by revealing their aggressive nature using a special serum. However, she hides her deceitful nature by working as the mayor’s assistant. Thanks to Bellwether’s plot, Zootopia’s general population loses confidence in the predators, which allows her to make a power grab of her own. Bellwether’s conspiracy affects the entire political structure of Zootopia, and the scope and intricacy of Bellwether’s manipulations prove that she is more than a glorified secretary.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Professor Ratigan
“The Great Mouse Detective” (1986)

“Toy Story 3” (2010)

Ernesto de la Cruz
“Coco” (2017)

#1: Buddy Pine / Syndrome
“The Incredibles” (2004)

This dejected wannabe sidekick uses his skills to create a superhero-destroying research and development proving ground. Syndrome lures heroes to his island in the guise of giving them work, and then has them eliminated by his ever-evolving killer Omnidroid. The villain’s intelligence is evident in his ability to build an entire organization just so he could prove himself capable and take down his former idol. Not to mention his skill working with advanced technology, which includes rings that shoot paralyzing beams and rocket boots. While he was clearly intelligent as a child, years of dedication and seething hatred helped mold Syndrome into a true evil genius. If only his smarts extended to his fashion sense.

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