Note: This is Marge’s top 13 (Arthur can do his own if he really wants to), and I’m including all media for this list. Movies, games, books, shows, etc.
The only thing I’m leaving out is music, and that’s because music doesn’t typically have heroes and villains…unless you count one-note, one-sided break-up songs.
So, why top 13? Because:
It’s Halloween season, and I’ve got your number! Unlucky 13!
Also, you may see some antagonists on this list. The difference between antagonist and villain is that the former can be merely a force that opposes the protagonist (the main character), while the later is seen as unambiguously bad or wicked. I used “villains” in the title because it sounds better, but I’m not limiting the choices.
This is how I judge them:
- Crazy, hammy, and/or fun to watch
- Creepy and scary
- Love to hate ’em
- Complex and/or sympathetic
Enough chatter! Let’s get to it!
#13: Team Rocket (from Pokemon)
Ah, Team Rocket. Was there ever a more nostalgic and lovable force of complete and total failure?
Well, maybe this one:
But she’s a bit grating on my ears, and I didn’t watch Power Rangers for very long, so…
While I think that Jessie, James (haha, get the joke?), and Meowth lost all menace very early on in the show, they were instantly and lastingly memorable with their theme song, epic proclamation (where they state their names and cause every single episode), and subsequent defeat and blast off. With only those three aspects remaining constant, they quickly grew into the beloved, inept but determined characters we know today.
Jessie and James have big egos, but James is the more flamboyant and wimpy of the two. If they were in a relationship
Jessie would probably wear the pants.
Meowth is one of the only speaking pokemon in the series. He’s a sarcastic loudmouth, ridiculing Jessie and James nearly as much as he schemes with them, but ultimately, he is loyal and cares about them very much. He wants to please their boss, Giovanni, and regain his standing in Team Rocket, having been demoted from evil villain lap cat.
Their aim is to steal rare and interesting pokemon, at first because, well, it’s their job, but later mostly to get back in Giovanni’s good graces. For some insane reason, they usually settle for trying to steal Ash’s Pikachu.
These guys are endlessly fun to watch. They’re corny, snarky, hammy, and safe, but by God, they will get that Pikachu one day…
#12: Gladys Leeman (from Drop Dead Gorgeous)
Hyperbolic, and yet so eerily spot on, this character is what I see when I look at crazy, jerk parents who try to bask in their kids’ accomplishments. Or, similarly, berate all the self esteem out of them when they lose.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a mockumentary (think Spinal Tap) about a succession of beauty pageants, starting off in small town Mount Rose, Minnesota. Rebecca Leeman is the richest girl around, and you can bet that her parents Gladys and Lester have bought off all of the judges to vote for their precious little princess.
But Gladys takes it a step further.
Gladys shows us that divas never age well.
Taken from the spotlight of her own pageants perhaps a little too early, she sets out to make sure her daughter gets to state levels no matter what. She is willing to murder and sabotage anyone who gets in her way.
I love how sweet and impartial she pretends to be, playing it up for the cameras and breaking only occasionally when her husband is around. She’s punchable, but mostly enjoyably crazy and cutthroat, and we’re never really sure what means the most to her: her daughter, or the competition.
She’s more realistic than Violet’s mom in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the movie), and yet just, if not more, cartoony.
I have no doubt that this self-proclaimed “God-fearing” woman would sell her soul for another chance at glory.
#11: Big Brother and the Inner Party (from 1984)
The basic gist of this one boils down to: overbearing government that noses its way into everyone’s business, manipulates news and changes history, watches citizens at all times, and even changes the language in order to better control people’s thoughts.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a cautionary tale about overabundance of power; it being abused by one group jealously guarding the monopoly. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and what better way to keep everyone in line than to make them fear for their lives if they don’t fully, willingly, submit.
No one outside the Inner Party knows what is real and true anymore, and questioning could end them up in the mysterious Room 101 in the Ministry of Love.
Yes, I’ve spoiled that the government and Big Brother are the villains, but what they want, what exactly they do, and just how thoroughly they have infiltrated everyone’s lives will be left up for you to read, should you choose to. And especially given the controversies surrounding the NSA in recent years regarding breaches of privacy, you may find it even more interesting and relevant.
This story is a word to the wise and a whisper to the wondering. It urges we, the common folk, to be vigilant and involved in our government, lest it grow out of hand and turn on the very people it is sworn to serve and protect. Big Brother and the Inner Party earn this spot for the mystery; they took the people’s faith and trust and repaid them in fear and uncertainty.
It is good to love Big Brother. And we’d never want to be ungood.
#10: Ursula (from Disney’s The Little Mermaid)
Ursula. What can I say that would do her complete justice?
She’s a Disney villainess modeled off of an iconic drag queen. She lusts for power over all the oceans…and a decent meal. She’s a cacaelia and a witch who effortlessly hooks our ditzy, pouty protagonist into her schemes, and mostly gives her a fighting chance.
But most of all, she sings this song:
How Ariel has no qualms about this, I’ll never know, but this is one of the best villain songs ever. I stand by it.
That song alone tells you all you need to know about Ursula’s character. She’s just awesome. Maleficent is a close second, but despite her powers and presence, she feels a bit one note.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
I think Ursula has more personality (silly, fun, and serious), even if Pat Carroll isn’t nearly as boss as Eleanor Audley.
Also, Maleficent’s motivation is pretty funny, when you think about it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
#9: Dolores Umbridge (from Harry Potter and
the Order of the Phoenix)
Book or movie, take your pick. I’m going more for the movie character because damn did her actress know how to make her so perfectly punchable.
Senior Undersecretary for the Minister of Magic, and for a brief while, Hogwarts’ Professor, Inquisitor, and Headmistress, Umbridge drove students and readers to call for a good, old fashioned witch hunt. She is harsh and unforgiving, yet outwardly sweet enough to rot your teeth. And she has no qualms about hurting students; like a pink-clad nun holding that dreaded ruler.
The movie made her extra annoying, with pictures of kittens all over her walls, meowing constantly. And the way she smiles widely, knowing she’s hurting or irritating people and clearly doesn’t care…I just love to hate this woman.
The only thing I hate more than Dolores Umbridge is that we didn’t get to see the full extent of her comeuppance.
#7: Gaston (from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast)
Yep, another Disney. And who do you think gave Frozen the idea of the whole “who’s the real villain” upheaval?
No one’s slick as Gaston, no one’s quick as Gaston, and no one turns a superstitious town into a angry mob like Gaston. He does this in seconds, and you know why? Because he wants to marry the prettiest girl in town, and she snubbed him in favor of a brooding beast.
For that, all bets are off.
Gaston, like Maleficent, is not the most complex character, but in some ways, he’s a bit scarier than the Mistress of All Evil. He’s a jock and a misogynist who is so used to getting his way that he won’t tolerate otherwise. He’ll turn dirty and underhanded, even violent, to get his prize, and he’ll manipulate his crowd of followers to do so. Out of fear and love.
Gaston is one of the more relatable Disney villains. We know from the start that he’s a jerk, and by the end, he’s the true villain, but as I’ve said, he’s the town darling. He’s close to being just an average guy, and he uses other people to suit his ends. There are plenty of people in the real world like that, whether we like to admit it or not, and that’s kind of scary.
Could one of them become a Gaston?
I’m inclined to say no because, hey, as no one Gastons like Gaston, but the sad truth of the matter is yes. And they can be even worse than him, too.
Gaston. He’s the evil potential in all of us viewers. Handsome on the outside, jerkish in the middle, and pure monster on the inside.
#7: Azula (from Avatar: The Last Airbender)
This is the princess of the Fire Nation. If this is your first time meeting her, rest assured: she will either find a way to use you, or kill you. Or both.
What is it with kids’ and family fare giving us some of the best villains ever?
Azula is Dolores Umbridge fully realized. She is a joy to hate, but also frighteningly awesome; incredibly powerful and intelligent, manipulative, and, in one episode at least, even a bit relatable.
She schemes in circles around her adversaries, and bullies her friends. She watched her own brother be scarred in a duel with their father, and smiled. She lives a life of luxury in the Fire Nation, that seeks to dominate the other nations, and gets pretty much whatever she wants. And Azula mercilessly hunts down the one hope for the salvation of the world, fully intent to kill. She’ll kill her brother and uncle if they embarrass her, or get in her way.
(big spoilers below)
This scene is one of her best and most punchable moments.
While Zuko, her brother, is perhaps just as interesting and complex (but more sympathetic), Azula looks cool, sounds cool, and is bitingly cold. Scarier than even the Fire Lord himself.
#6: Lord Darcia (from Wolf’s Rain)
I doubt even some anime fans would know this guy, but trust me, he’s worth checking out.
Darcia is the main antagonist of the series, starting out with motives that are good (albeit selfish) that eventually deteriorate into madness. Without spoiling too much of his or the story’s twists and turns, the world is coming to an end and wolves, which are believed to be the messengers of the gods, are prophesied to open the way to a place called Paradise. Though believed to have been hunted to extinction, wolves have survived by passing themselves off as humans and living scattered among them.
The main character is a deeply faithful and prideful wolf named Kiba, who soon gathers friends in the form of a small, ragtag group of outcast wolves. They seek to rescue and protect Cheza, a maiden artificially created from a Lunar Flower, who is another, more established key to the doors of Paradise.
Back to Darcia, he is what is known as a Noble. He is powerful, old money, and not as human as he appears. He seeks a cure for his lover Hamona’s illness. Known simply as Paradise sickness, it supposedly takes the soul to Paradise but leaves the body behind, resulting in a comatose state.
There is much more to it than that, and the show is fairly complicated. For the best and shortest explanation of things, I would recommend this lovely video:
Suffice it to say, Darcia has a lot of complexity and mystery surrounding him, like Big Brother. Who he is, what he is, and all that he plans to accomplish can be found in watching the progression of the show, of course, but also by musing over subtle hints and details wagged just under your nose. Wolf’s Rain is very deep and takes “show, don’t tell” to heart, often revealing very little outright, but making the discoveries regarding the characters and the surrounding world all the more rewarding and interesting.
At least, I think so.
Darcia is generally calm and cool, and can even be sympathetic at times, but he also has moments of creepy and crazy. You do not want to mess with this guy lightly.
#5: The Joker (from Batman The Animated
I’m sorry. As good as Heath Ledger was, I couldn’t put him higher than Mark Hamill.
This Joker is a ball of ham wrapped in an enigma. We’re not sure why he does what he does, but boy does he enjoy it!
And best of all (or worst, depending on how you look at it), he makes it enjoyable for us too.
Batman the Animated Series is a great show that gave kids something a little different than what they were used to. It took influence from Tim Burton; being just as campy, but darker, with truly tragic backstories, memorable and dramatic characters, and stylish and shadowy animation.
As I’ve said, we’re never sure if what the Joker says is true, but it almost doesn’t matter. He is the embodiment of chaos, for fun and for the sake of itself. He bounces around with the temperament of a toddler, but he’s so devious, clever, and malicious, tormenting people in his unique little traps without a care.
And must I mention his sidekick?
Their relationship is so twisted, it’s evil.
He’s one of Batman’s most dangerous adversaries, and my favorite.
#4: Ghirahim (from The Legend of Zelda:Skyward
I am sufficiently conflicted about this.
I know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t Ganondorf be here? He is the main baddie, and the most iconic of the Zelda series. He’s such a big deal that he literally hijacks games away from other villains.
Let me say that Ganondorf is awesome. He has consistently great character designs, and has given players some great, memorable battles over the course of the games. But to be honest, his personality is not all that memorable. He wants to rule Hyrule (Wind Waker probably gives him the most sympathetic reason why), and that’s about it. Sometimes his minions have more stage presence than he does.
So why not the main villain of the game, Demise, then?
Because he doesn’t get enough screen time or presence to stand out besides the cool, menacing design. As you’ve probably guessed by now, cool look alone doesn’t make a good villain. He, she, or it has to have a stronger whole than that.
Demise’s principle minion, Ghirahim, on the other hand, has a distinct personality. He very nearly smacks you in the face with it.
Ghirahim is sporadic and flamboyant, which makes him seem both very creepy and very hammy at the same time. He loves to monologue like the classics, but his ability to teleport allows him to sneak up on you and spook you easily while he does it.
He’s got a calm, calculating side that barely manages to rein in his murderous side. One minute, he’s strolling around the room and taunting you quietly. The next, he’s doing something like this:
I don’t even know what this is.
When it’s finally revealed who he is, it all makes sense. But until then, you’re left to wonder at this strange person popping in occasionally to hijack dungeon boss battles and taunt you. All you know is that he wants to revive his master, which means bad news for you and the rest of the world.
His early fights are fairly easy, but then again, he underestimates you.
He dances, prances, whispers, and shrieks. He even kind of flirts with you. He’s Ghirahim!
The news that he made this list “has just filled (his) heart with rainbows!”
No, really. That’s a quote.
Oh, Japan. You and your homophobic game villains…
#3: GLaDOS (from Portal and Portal 2)
Imagine Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but make it a woman.
Okay, it’s not that simple. GLaDOS is a lot more human than Hal (for good, but spoilery reasons), starting out as quietly deceptive and dry but slowly becoming more childish and, as you might have guessed, murderous. Even when she claims to be losing the restraints that kept her ethical and “human,” she still has a strong presence and personality you wouldn’t think a machine would be capable of.
She controls the Aperture Science Computerated Enrichment Center, an AI computer that stands for “Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.” I’d say putting her on this list is a spoiler in and of itself, but anyone who is in anyway familiar with the meme “The Cake is a Lie,” or even casually starts playing the first game (with two functioning brain cells to rub together) could deduce that she’s up to something.
Both games’ greatest comedic moments come from her, whether she’s being sarcastic, childish, matter-of-fact, or any combination of the three. If you can’t play for whatever reason, I suggest watching a let’s play of the games. The first game takes about an hour if you know what you’re doing. And GLaDOS’s dialogue is worth it.
She’s my in my top 3 for a reason 🙂
#2: Eric Cartmen (from South Park)
This “kid” is a piece of work. The ultimate bratty, despised character.
Sometimes I love to hate him, and other times I just love to watch him. Eric Cartmen is fascinating in many ways, but primarily for being a character that can represent the worst in both children and adults.
Like Gaston, but cartoonier. And worse.
He’s manipulative, bigoted, selfish, murderous; he is whatever the plot demands, or whatever he needs to be if the plot threatens him in any way. Often, he will act like he’s working for the greater good, when really it’s for his own reasons, and if good comes from his actions, it’s usually an accident or incidental to his whims.
I think Kyle sums his character up best here (excuse the crappiness of the clip, but it was the only one I could find):
In case the video doesn’t play, here’s the quote:
“I believe that you believe you helped write that joke. That’s how people like you work. Your ego is so out-of-whack that it will do whatever it can to protect itself. People with a messed-up ego can do these mental gymnastics to convince themselves that they’re awesome, when really they’re just douchebags.”
~ Kyle, Season 13, “Fishsticks”
He lives under the delusion that the other kids think he’s cool, when really, only Butters does. He is constantly critical and bigoted towards Kyle and his family for being Jewish, Kenny for being poor, and many others, mostly in denial of his own insecurities of being fat and not cool. He prays on his lonely mom’s desire for companionship and acceptance, manipulating her and other parents and authority figures when it suits him.
Cartmen is the worst. Even when he ends up doing something good, he’s either not happy about it, or spins it to work in his favor. If he comes out on top, you just want to smack him off his high horse with a spiky mallet, then set him on fire tied to Joffery Baratheon.
The funniest and most reprehensible of cartoon figures.
So who’s going to beat him? Well…
#1: Lady Eboshi (from Princess Mononoke)
Some people are probably thinking “who now?” Others might be wondering why she’s so high up on this list.
Let me explain…
The main character of the movie, Prince Ashitaka, leaves his people and travels to a far away land in search of a cure for the curse that is slowly killing him. The curse was given to him when he battled a cursed, enraged boar god that attempted to attack his village. His only clue to the curse and what angered the deity is an iron ball that he found in the boar’s body. The metal festered inside of him, driving him mad with “a poisonous hatred.”
Ashitaka eventually finds the land that the boar god came from. It is a land at war, with the local humans attempting to destroy the forest for their own gain and safety, and the animal gods fighting to drive the humans out and protect their domain.
It sounds like your typical hippy “save the forest” kind of movie, but it isn’t. It really, really isn’t.
Lady Eboshi is the mistress of Iron Town. She wants to uproot the forest for more iron and riches, but she also protects the people who work for her. She saved prostitutes from local brothels and gave them jobs working the bellows at the ironworks in her town. She took in lepers, “washed (their) rotting flesh,” and put them to work making rifles and other weapons. Neither the lepers nor the woman have easy lives, but they are very happy and indebted to Eboshi, following her plans and dreams faithfully.
In addition to the forest gods, Eboshi also has to deal with other humans as well; lords and samurai who are jealous of her success and aim to take it for themselves. She is also employed by the emperor’s men to help track down the forest spirit, the deer god who can grant life and death, and cut off its head. The head of such a powerful spirit may be the key to healing illnesses and unlocking eternal life, but Eboshi is more concerned with the safety of her own people, and aims to put an end to the war between man and nature once and for all.
This is a sympathetic villain done right, although Miyazaki clearly strives to make the opposing sides equal threats to one another, and equally misguided. There is no designated good or evil, but beings simply working toward their own ends, and Lady Eboshi is a strong character among a cast of strong characters. She is charismatic and likable; taking care of the needy, powerless, and lowest members of society. She is smart, smooth, calculating, and caring, with moments of crazed obsession scattered here and there.
The other characters like to joke that she’s out to rule the world.
Eboshi is on the top of my list because she was the first genuinely likable, sympathetic villain I ever came across, and her characterization is done masterfully well. Sure, she’s not hammy, creepy, or the most fun to watch out of everyone on this list, but she comes the closest to seeming like a real person you would meet (without being a total psycho like Gaston or Cartmen). A person who may be likable, doing what she thinks is right, and someone normal people would be inclined to follow.
Eboshi: A leader and general decent human being, though misguided.
*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂