Top 20 Evil Characters of All Time
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These guys truly are the worst of the worst. For this list, we'll be looking at the evillest characters throughout all of media, which means film, television, and video games. Our countdown includes characters such as Anton Chigurh, Jigsaw, Michael Myers & more!
Script written by Nathan Sharp
Top 20 Evil Characters of All Time
These guys truly are the worst of the worst. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Evil Characters of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the evillest characters throughout all of media, which means film, television, and video games. We will also be including literary and comic book characters, but only if they were adapted into some form of media. These characters also don’t necessarily need to be the antagonists of their respective stories – we will also be including protagonists, so long as they are morally corrupt characters.
#20: Anton Chigurh
Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers, and of course Javier Bardem all helped create one of the greatest villains in recent years. Anton is the primary antagonist of McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” and the resulting movie adaptation, and we never thought a guy with that kind of haircut could be so menacing! Like many of McCarthy’s villains, Chigurh is more of a walking, talking metaphor than a three-dimensional character. And what Chigurh represents is certainly up to interpretation, although many fans and scholars have debated elements of death, chance, and fate. Is he Death itself? Does he represent remorseless fate? Either way, he’s a stone-cold and emotionless killer, and there is nothing scarier than that!
#19: The Sheriff of Nottingham
Like Chigurh, the Sheriff of Nottingham serves largely as a representation, although in this case the metaphor a bit clearer. The Sheriff is the main antagonist in the legend of Robin Hood, and as you all know, Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The Sheriff is the very embodiment of said rich. He is covetous, he is selfish, and he imposes unaffordable taxes on the citizens of Nottinghamshire. He is the very personification of greed and avarice. He has also been portrayed by some true movie legends, perhaps most famously by Alan Rickman in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”
It doesn’t get much more depraved than the Jigsaw Killer. Unlike most movies of its ilk, the “Saw” franchise actually personified Jigsaw by giving him a tragic backstory and a legitimate motivation. But that doesn’t make him any less sick. Of all the traditional horror movie killers, Jigsaw is easily one of the most psychotic - not only because he forces his victims to mutilate and traumatize themselves (that is, if they even survive), but because he genuinely believes that he’s doing good. He’s not just some mindless and unstoppable killer that walks around in a mask. He’s just a man with a really sick and twisted sense of righteousness, not to mention an obscene imagination!
It doesn’t get much more evil than a galactic Space tyrant. Frieza, one of the primary villains of the Dragon Ball universe, was responsible for enslaving and destroying entire planets, including that of our hero, Goku. When searching for the Dragon Balls on planet Namek, Frieza’s kill-count was pretty much unprecedented in anime; taking down the likes of Dende, Vegeta, and of course, Krillin. While his actions in the tournament of Power made it seem like he could have turned over a new leaf, his attempts to once again put an end to Goku and Vegeta with the power of Broly prove he’s just as much of a scumbag as always.
#16: Joffrey Baratheon
“Game of Thrones” was filled with complex and three-dimensional characters, and even most of the evil characters weren’t portrayed as mustache-twirling cartoon villains. Aside from Joffrey Baratheon. Well, and Ramsay Bolton. But Joffrey takes the cake. There are absolutely zero redeeming qualities to Joffrey, and even his selfish and conniving family think he’s a piece of crap. He’s a perfect representation of a spoiled child given way too much power. He kills on a whim (and often without thinking of the consequences), treats his citizens and family like dirt, and roots his entertainment in the suffering of others. And to make matters worse, he’s a total cry baby. His painful death couldn’t have come fast enough.
#15: Victor Von Doom [aka Doctor Doom]
Another wonderful creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Doctor Doom is one of the all-time greatest comic book villains. Doom is all about holding and displaying his incredible power as the ruler of Latveria, and he often comes into conflict with the Fantastic Four. He also manages to get his hands on all the latest powers, magical abilities, and pieces of dangerous technology. He’s also entirely self-serving and is not above sacrificing his first love to obtain a killer piece of mystical armor. Which derived from her skin. No big deal. Hopefully, we get a decent live-action version soon because those “Fantastic Four” movies are insulting to his legacy.
#14: Freddy Krueger
Despite the campy sequels and his colorful personality, Freddy Krueger is undeniably one of the scariest slashers in movie history. For one thing, there’s literally no escaping him. You can’t run away, you can’t hide, and you can’t outthink him – you’ll have to sleep eventually, and when you do, Freddy will be waiting. He was a monster in real life as well, as he earned the nickname Springwood Slasher due to his propensity for torturing and murdering children. His finger knives and horribly burnt face are also literally the stuff of nightmares. To make matters worse, he’s also incredibly cocky and isn’t above viciously taunting you before he cuts you up like a steak. He’s a walking smorgasbord of scares.
#13: Ganon / Ganondorf
Ganon is much like Shao Kahn. He is massive, he wields some incredible pieces of mystical magic, and he wants nothing more than to rule the world. He originally appeared in an imposing boar-like form before obtaining his signature humanoid appearance in “Ocarina of Time.” Still imposing, just in a different way! He also serves as the very embodiment of evil, not just because of his awesome stature, dangerous abilities, and the use of the Triforce of Power, but because he will use a variety of evil methods to obtain his desires (including political manipulation). Ganon is easily one of gaming’s most iconic, and most unstoppable, villains.
#12: Walter White
“Breaking Bad” is a paragon in the art of character development. We all rooted for Walt at first, as he was a poor, underachieving, and down on his luck chemistry teacher and family man. By the end of the series, Walt had turned into a conniving criminal mastermind who wasn’t above poisoning children, destroying his family, selling his partner into slavery, or literally melting a child to fuel his ego and meteoric rise to power. He’s arguably the most villainous protagonist in television history, and it made for some truly difficult viewing. Gus was a tough and heartless SOB, but Walt was on a whole other level.
#11: Kefka Palazzo
The “Final Fantasy” video game series is host to a wide variety of villains, ranging from the evil priests, evil mercenaries and in one case; an evil tree. Yet after 15 instalments and countless spinoffs, this maniacal jester from the 6th instalment of the series remains the most evil of the lot. To put it simply; Kefka views all life, all culture, hell, all of existence; as worthless, a means to fuel his desire for destruction. He’ll even betray his own allies without a second thought just because he feels like it. Yet even when he manages to devastate the world and obtains godlike powers, that’s still not enough for him.
#10: Hans Landa
Landa is arguably Quentin Tarantino’s greatest villain. Not only is he a brilliantly written character, but he is played with awe-inspiring reverence by Christoph Waltz, who went on to win, like, all the awards. Landa takes pride in being wicked and feared, egotistically embodying his nickname The Jew Hunter by using manipulative tactics and a false sense of friendliness to root out the Jews. He’s a complete monster who hides behind his admittedly alluring charm. He is also fiercely intelligent and is able to outsmart his enemies at every turn. Even in the end he is able to worm his way out of trouble (well, mostly) by betraying Hitler and the Nazi Party to the Basterds. The smartest villains are always the scariest.
#9: Hannibal Lecter
While we’re on the subject of intelligent villains, let’s go ahead and talk about Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter. Hannibal is a highly intelligent man who once worked as a forensic psychiatrist before being imprisoned for, you know, eating people. There’s something intrinsic and primal about fearing Hannibal Lecter - one look into his emotionless eyes is enough to set off some instinctual warning bells. It’s like looking into the eyes of a lion – you just know this thing will overpower you and eat you for dinner without a second thought. And, like Hans Landa, Hannibal often uses his intelligence to his benefit, resulting in his ever-elusive nature. It doesn’t get much scarier than Hannibal Lecter. Not when it comes to human villains, anyway.
#8: Michael Myers
Don’t let the everyday name fool you – Michael Myers is not human. Well, he is, but not really. Michael Myers also goes by The Shape or The Boogeyman, which is perhaps a more apt description. Michael is arguably the most influential slasher in movie history, as his template was used for countless villains throughout the years. Slow but menacing and unrelenting, totally unkillable, completely emotionless and silent, and seemingly without a shred of humanity. The first “Halloween” implies that nothing made Michael evil; he was simply born into it. And that’s a horrifying summation of humanity. Some people are just empty and soulless, and that is not a comforting thought.
#7: Mr. Hyde
Despite being introduced way back in 1886, Mr. Hyde is still synonymous with evil. Such is the staying power of a wonderfully written villain. As you probably all know, Edward Hyde represents the evil traits of protagonist Henry Jekyll. Unlike his kind and moral counterpart, Mr. Hyde is completely merciless and is willing to indulge in vices and perform actions that Jekyll is not willing to do, including murder. Perhaps the story has remained so relevant due to its topicality and universality. After all, who amongst us hasn’t had to repress sinful, or perhaps even violent, urges throughout our lives? Jekyll could not resist the temptation and it completely ruined his life. Now let that be a lesson to you!
Once again, we have a villain who represents the very concept of evil itself. Sauron was never meant to be much of a character - he was always meant to serve as a representation of evil, greed, and the fallibility of man. He makes a ring to rule Middle-Earth, and most people caught in the ring’s vicinity (especially humans) are drawn to and corrupted by its promises of unimaginable power. But even the brief glances of Sauron we do get, like his striking immensity, formidable armor, the fiery Eye of Sauron, and his guttural whispers are enough to scare us senseless. Even in scenes not directly involving Sauron or the ring, his oppressive presence and promises of destruction are felt. He is an omnipotent evil incarnate.
#5: Pennywise / It
Despite a bibliography spanning decades, Pennywise is arguably Stephen King’s greatest creation. Of course, It serves as the very personification of fear itself, as it takes on whatever form its victim is most afraid of. And It does this because – get this – it makes its victims tastier. Yeah, It’s pretty depraved. And, like Freddy Krueger, It has a massive ego and constantly taunts its victims with horrific visuals and cocky asides. Oh, and let’s not forget that It is actually a shapeless and eons-old alien that comes from something called the Macroverse. We’ve got quite literally a little bit of everything here, including some Lovecraftian madness! What’s not to love?
If we’re going by the “The Lion King is just ‘Hamlet’ for kids” argument (which we totally should, because it’s true), then Scar is the cartoon equivalent of King Claudius. Only, he’s a lot worse. Whereas Claudius showed some remorse for his actions, Scar is totally unrepentant. Not only is he conniving, but he’s also not above killing children to obtain complete and total control. Not only children, but his own nephew! This guy is cold. Everyone intrinsically hates Scar because we’ve been living with his misdeeds since childhood. He’s a fantastic introduction to elements of depravity, greed, and total selfishness. And fascism. Children have to learn about it eventually!
We’ve all had bad teachers, but none quite like Dolores Umbridge. However, we’re starting to realize that some of the greatest villains are really just analogs of Hitler - and that’s where He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named comes in. Voldemort is Hitler’s equivalent in the magic world. He unequivocally believes in blood purity, he leads a devout following of violent and prejudice minions, and he wishes for complete and total control of the magical world. Unlike Hitler, he also has dark magic on his side and people are literally afraid to say his name out of fear and traumatic memories of the First Wizarding War. You have to be a special kind of evil for people to fear your very name! Like Sauron, the threat of Voldemort hangs over the early novels, even when Voldemort himself is incapacitated. He is universally feared, and his evil presence is unrelenting.
#2: The Joker
The Joker is easily one of the most prolific villains in modern history. Joker is an OG Batman villain, having first appeared in the debut issue of “Batman” in 1940. Since then, him and his psychotic ways have popped up in animation, video games, movies, TV shows… you name it. Joker is one of the most enticing villains not because he’s fun and novel (although he certainly is that), but because he’s cunning, manipulative, and intelligent. This is perhaps best displayed in “The Dark Knight,” when The Joker constantly outsmarts and manipulates everyone and remains one step ahead of his targets. Despite displaying no superhuman characteristics, The Joker remains the most threatening and dangerous villain in comic book history. And that’s saying something!
#1: The Hamburglar
Honestly, who steals people’s hamburgers!? That’s a worse offense than anything on this list! Nah, just kidding…
#1: Emperor Sheev Palpatine [aka Darth Sidious]
Darth Vader is certainly an iconic villain, but he’s not the evillest. You know, seeing as how he turns good. No, that distinction belongs to Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine doesn’t get a lot of screen time in the original trilogy, but he still makes one sinister impression. Most of Palpatine’s characterization comes from the supplemental material and prequel trilogy, where we witness his progression from cunning and devious politician to full-blown tyrant. He proceeded to reign over the most tyrannical and abusive regime in history and became the very embodiment of evil within the “Star Wars” Skywalker Saga.