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SYFY WIRE The Lion King

The 11 best animated movie villains

These animated villains continue to set the bar for the very best baddies.

By Tara Bennett
Maleficent Sleeping Beauty

Animators know how to bring nightmares to life, which is why the medium is responsible for translating some of the greatest examples of evil in storytelling to the screen. We can't help but feel drawn to these animated baddies. In honor of The Bad Guys dropping in theaters, SYFY WIRE's putting together some of the greatest animated villains that have haunted our childhoods or just made us feel real scared in the very best ways.

The Other Mother - Coraline


The Other Mother in the Laika adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline is the personification of that old chestnut: "be careful what you wish for." She is the welcoming maternal figure that Coraline discovers inside a parallel universe. Seemingly more stylish, attentive and supportive, Coraline thinks she's the much "better" version of her harried mother back home. But the facade soon lifts and Coraline's Other Mother with the button eyes reveals herself to be a Belddam, with a terrifying true form that haunts Coraline and the audience. Kudos to Teri Hatcher for voicing The Other Mother with a sinister warmth that sells the scary.

Scar - The Lion King

In a perfect marriage of animation and voice, actor Jeremy Irons' witty and disdainful performance in The Lion King as Mufasa's power-hungry brother, Scar, remains a classic. Irons' effete British accent elevated the character, and the story dynamics, to Shakespearean heights. He slinks, he coos, and he taunts the naive Simba until the two come face-to-face in the last act for a frightening battle for supremacy. Scar remains so potent because he's a charmer until he's not, and then you're reminded how dangerous the enemy can be.

Phantasm – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm YT

The only theatrical film released based on the exceptional Batman: The Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm features an original villain in the Phantasm, which makes it standout from the pantheon of DC antagonists. But the Phantasm really works as a character because of the intricate, emotional story that ties them to Bruce Wayne. Without spoiling any big reveals, the Phantasm looks and sounds threatening with its Grim Reaper vibe and the modified voice of the effectively menacing Stacy Keach. The Phantasm also works so well as a memorable villain because of the parallels to Wayne/Batman's own vigilante path in life.

Kingpin - Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Drawn as a hulking mass of villainy, Kingpin in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has the scale and brute force to be a worthy threat to Miles Morales/Spider-Man. Liev Schreiber imbues the vocal performance with a lot of New York menace and heft which is needed to sell the heightened character design. Plus, there's a simmering rage that makes this Kingpin extremely unhinged and unpredictable; a necessary quality in crafting a memorable villain. When he gets mad and unleashes his power, there's a brutality to it that leaves you very worried for anyone in his path.

Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear - Toy Story 3

Toy Story

One of the great twists in the entire Toy Story franchise was having a sweet, stuffed bear be capable of doing terrible things. Pixar really went there in Toy Story 3 by making Lotso bear the surprise villain of the piece. Sure, they provided a heartbreaking backstory as the origins of his terrible behavior, and that certainly added resonance to his story, but they still made the hot pink fuzzball the baddie! Ned Beatty should also be praised for lulling us with his calming, Southern charm of a voice performance and then turning him on a dime into a crazed and menacing antagonist who almost gets Andy's toys incinerated to oblivion and beyond.

Ursula - The Little Mermaid

Ursula The Little Mermaid

Does it get much better than the legendary Pat Carroll being cast as Ursula? No, it does not. The comedian and singer put her Broadway belting skills to great use as her vocal power turned the undersea witch into a bombastic and threatening nemesis for everyone who dared cross her in Walt Disney Animation's adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Whether she was purring out dialogue to tempt sweet Ariel into a devil's bargain, or just nailing a showstopper like "Poor Unfortunate Souls," we can't imagine anyone making Ursula as potent as Carroll. The Disney animators knew it too as they translated so much of the actresses' countenance and facial movements into their design for the villainess. From her purple skin to her punk white hair and maniacal laugh, Ursula still haunts us as one of the best.

Lord Farquaad - Shrek

Shrek was way ahead of its time in mocking toxic masculinity in all of its compact forms with the egomaniac, Lord Maximus Farquaad. Voiced with obsequious relish by John Lithgow, Farquaad was just plain awful and thin-skinned. He was the easy butt of endless jokes, but his narcissism was also horrifying and mercurial which made him such a potent despot.

Maleficent - Sleeping Beauty

The title "Mistress of All Evil" might be hyperbole in the hands of other baddies, but Maleficent the witch owns the moniker with her head held high. Disney animator Marc Davis designed one of the all-time greats with Maleficent, the wicked witch who curses Princess Aurora in Walt Disney Animation's adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. With her sinister black silhouette and her velvety voice provided by Eleanor Audley, Maleficent is about as potent as you can get when it comes to reading instantaneously "bad" on screen. However, she's so arc and beguiling that you end up rooting for her to stick around, either as a witch or a dragon, because she's just that striking and memorable every time she appears.

Rattlesnake Jake - Rango

Rango remains an extremely underrated CG western that finds a pet chameleon transformed into an Old West hero. The baddie Rango ends up having to defeat is Rattlesnake Jake, voiced by the exceptional scary Bill Nighy. Designed to look as menacing as an actual western diamondback rattlesnake, Jake coils around the townspeople of Dirt with malice and a total disregard for boundaries. He licks people and throws shots of his venom around like water. A bad hombre all around who rises to the occasion in putting on quite a third act show of villainy.

King Haggard - The Last Unicorn

If you're a Gen-Xer, the Rankin and Bass animated adaptation of Peter S. Beagle's classic book still looms large. Because it tells a story set in time when magic still exists and exotic beats like unicorns and harpies still hide in the shadows of man, the movie portrays some gorgeous and horrifying creatures. But the worst of them is a mere mortal, the decrepit King Haggard. Miserable, gaunt and churlish, Haggard rules in a decaying castle overlooking the sea and keeps a terrible secret. As voiced by the spectacular Christopher Lee, Haggard is a scary, sad villain who doesn't engender any sympathy. Clutching to the things he loves most makes him a monster, inside and out.

Gaston - Beauty and the Beast

The himbo of all villains, Gaston of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is the beefcake everyone loves to hate. He's the overly enthusiastic hunter of Belle's town who has all the single ladies, except her, hot and bothered. He's pure testosterone squeezed into a muscle suit with the great singing voice of Wolf Bauer. As the movie unfolds, it becomes clear that the Beast is not the villain of the story, but Gaston with his unfettered ego and toxic entitlement.