Disney brought another one of their animated classics to live-action life last week with Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon and the cast -- including Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad and more -- had some big shoes to fill. The 1991 Beauty and the Beast is rightfully considered one of the best movies Disney's ever made, animated fairy tale or not. I don't even know how you'd begin crafting a new version of Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Potts or the late Jerry Orbach's Lumiere.
And not for nothing: The songs are pretty great, particularly "Gaston," henchman LeFou's tribute to his boorish, brainless friend. It's a great Disney villain song ... but is it the best Disney villain song? If there's one thing Disney's good at, it's having its baddies pour their heart out through song. Let's run down the competition with this definitive comprehensive extremely opinionated ranking of classic Disney villain tunes.
"The Siamese Cat Song," Lady and the Tramp (1955)
A banger, if you're racist.
"Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo," Home on the Range (2004)
The villain in Home on the Range hypnotizes cows by yodeling at them. The visuals provide shades of "Pink Elephants on Parade"'s (below) surreality, except not as inventive or unsettling. "Yodel-Adle-Eedle-Idle-Oo" is admittedly ear-catching, in an "I will punch anyone who attempts to sing this in my presence" sort of way.
"Mad Madam Mim," The Sword in the Stone (1963)
"Mad Madam Mim" is the singtalker's Disney villain song. There's not much actual singing in it, and what little there is is missing the earworm quality that sets the best Disney songs apart. But credit where credit is due: singtalking about how great you are is a boss-ass bitch power move, and I respect a woman who free-boobs it with such reckless abandon (skip to 2:20).
"Trust In Me," The Jungle Book (1967)
Kaa the snake's big musical number isn't the best in terms of having a particularly memorable hook or anything like that, but it does succeed in being vaguely creepy.
"Pink Elephants on Parade," Dumbo (1941)
Tim Burton may have lost the plot over the last few years, but his visuals are still on-point, so I (hesitantly, gritting my teeth as I say this) look forward to what he's going to do for the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence in his Dumbo remake. That said, this number is more about the trippy visuals than the song itself. And what visuals they are. 75+ years down the line, and this is still some creepy stuff.
"The Elegant Captain Hook," Peter Pan (1953)
Captain Hook (Hans Conried) has sass and verve, but what really makes "The Elegant Captain Hook" is Smee's sweet as heck dance moves. "Crickety crocket cricket crook, the croc is after Captain-CLANG." That's my go-to groove on the dance floor, and I won't deny it. However, the best Hans Conried musical number will always be "The Dressing Song: Do-Mi-Do Duds: from The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. Pure, unadulterated style goals.
"Prince Ali (Reprise)," Aladdin (1992)
Jafar's such a punk that he doesn't even get a full villain song until the direct-to-video sequel The Return of Jafar. There are some good moments here — the energy displayed in “ex-Prince AliiiiIIIIEEEEEEEE” is worthy of its own dedicated number—but still. A reprise. How embarrassing for him.
"Every Little Piece," Pete's Dragon (1977)
I'd forgotten about this song from Pete's Dragon -- honestly, I'd forgotten just about everything from Pete's Dragon, but damn, this is a lot. "We could make a million by slicing him, dicing him." Not bad at all in terms of villainy and also hats.
"Savages," Pocahontas (1995)
"Savages," unlike "The Siamese Cat Song" from Lady of the Tramp, has the benefit of knowing the viewpoints it espouses are racist and presenting them in an intentionally negative light. That still doesn't make lyrics like "Their skin's a hellish red. They're only good when dead. They're vermin, as I said. And worse! They're savages! Savages! Barely even human" any easier to sing on Disney karaoke night. Positive points for sweet neon stylings, negative points for making me briefly look at animated Mel Gibson's face.
"The World's Greatest Criminal Mind," The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
"The World's Greatest Criminal Mind" may be sung by a rat, but horror legend Vincent Price -- who voices this Disney take on Sherlock Holmes nemesis Moriarty -- is in full ham mode, and it's delighful. Oh, Ratigan! Oh, Ratigan! (Also, "worse than the widows and orphans you drowned"? Damn, Vince.)
"Mother Knows Best," Tangled (2010)
Tangled's only memorable song, but it's a good'un. Don't argue with me about either part.
"Oogie Boogie's Song," The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas isn't a Disney musical in the traditional sense of the world -- it's Disney, and it's animated, and it's a musical, but it's kind of in its own little world compared to the others -- but "Oogie Boogie's Song," sung by Ken Page, is too good not to include here. Put together a playlist that's just this and "Friends on the Other Side" repeated ad nauseam, and you'll have yourself one jamming commute.
"Snuff Out the Light (Yzma's Song)," The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Did you think, "Wait a minute, if there were an Eartha Kitt song in The Emperor's New Groove, I definitely would have remembered it"? You'd be right: this villain number was cut from the movie itself. I understand why -- it isn't really necessary in terms of story, and Yzma's a near-perfect Disney villain without it — but damn does Eartha bring it here. She gets into the top ten on a song that wasn't even in the movie. That's her power.
"Shiny," Moana (2016)
I never in my whole life thought I'd get Jemaine Clement as a crab doing his Bowie impression in a Disney musical, but that's where we are and I'm pleased as punch about it.
"Cruella De Vil," 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Being sung about a villain and not byone, the jazzy "Cruella de Vil" lacks the teeth of a lot of other Disney villain songs. But it's a classic for a reason, and the reason is that iconic hook. And "This inhuman beast/she ought to be locked up and never released" is surprisingly hardcore from the normally chill Roger.
"I Wan'na Be Like You," The Jungle Book (1967)
Holding down the old-school Disney fort in the top ten along with "Cruella de Vil" is King Louie's "I Wan'na Be Like You" from The Jungle Book. They may be considerably more old-fashioned than the other high-ranking tuns on this list -- because they're, you know, older -- but you know something's worthy of standing the test of time when you can't stop humming and tapping your feet as soon as it comes on.
"Friends on the Other Side," The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The Princess and the Frog is underrated in many respects. Tiana: top three Disney princess and resident Mouse House badass Hufflepuff. Naveen: hottest Disney prince, at least in his human form. (Frog Naveen: Not hot. I need to specify that because Disney has a history of attractive anthropomorphic animals. Robin.) And "Friends on the Other Side," written by Randy Newman and sung by the velvet-voiced, villainous Dr. Facilier (Keith David): easily a top five Disney song from the last 20 years. Possibly top three. Don't @ me.
"Hellfire," The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
It's not often you get to hear a Disney song about a priestly boner. In addition to the sheer novelty "Hellfire" provides, it's notable in how unusually dark it gets: in subject matter (sexual obsession with a big pinch of "she was asking for it" rape culture on the side), in musical stylings (this is full-on, high-drama Phantom of the Operastuff), and in visuals. The roaring flames; the dark, cavernous room; the freaky hooded demon things. Safe to say I did notfully appreciate this when I was a kid.
"Gaston," Beauty and the Beast (1991)
It's the top three where ranking Disney villain songs gets really tough. One of the songs falls into the more high-spirited, fun category ("Shiny," "Mother Knows Best"). One is super-intense ("Hellfire," "Savages"). The third falls somewhere in-between. Honestly, I went back and forth constantly on how to rank these, but you have to pull the cord sometime. And so: number three is Beauty and the Beast's "Gaston," a mocking tribute to how alpha male Redditor MRAs see themselves. This is the song that taught you what "expectorating" means. (Incidentally, in the new movie "Gaston" is done pretty well. "Be Our Guest" is ... not.)
"Poor Unfortunate Souls," The Little Mermaid (1989)
"Bahhhh-dy languaaaaaage, HA!" It pains me more than I can say to put Pat Carroll's eminently karaoke-able (I have seen it done) "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in the runner-up position. Ursula mixes intensity with joie de vivre better than any other Disney villain. Other Disney villains are fun like Ursula -- Gaston, for example -- but they're rarely scary. Gaston, bless him (in the Southern United States sense of the term), is a doofus.
"Be Prepared," The Lion King (1994)
Apologies to "Gaston and "Poor Unfortunate Souls," but I can't not put "Be Prepared" in the number-one spot. I was going to shuffle it to number two, but then I listened to it again, and my fingers starred tap tap tapping away to give it the victory of their own volition. Iconic, perfect, etc. etc. “Be Prepared” is made even more impressive by the fact that that's not even Jeremy Irons, who did Scar's speaking voice, singing. It's voice acting legend Jim Cummings, who voices Edd, doing his best Jeremy Irons impression. (Irons was going to sing, but he blew his voice out.) I'd like to think if I could do a pitch-perfect Jeremy Irons voice I wouldn't abuse that power, but I know I would. Jim Cummings is a champ and a gem of a human being.