Best Of the Worst: Disney’s Greatest Animated Villains of All Times 

Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney has launched countless animated films, going beyond the modest dreams of Walt and Roy Disney. The 62 feature films are so successful and iconic that the world’s leading producer and provider of entertainment has found a lucrative business in remaking these movies. A critical component of all these films is the villain. Every story needs a great villain, right? Their absence is often limited to plotlines where the hero is their own worst enemy; their greatest foe isn’t an outside force but something closer to the heart. The villain challenges the hero – without them, good has nothing to triumph over. 

Both Disney and Marvel have their fair share of villains. One of the recurring themes in Spider-Man is the idea that Peter Parker would be a force to be reckoned with if he didnt sacrifice everything to uphold his virtue. Check out the Funko Pop Marvel Spider-Man figures and expand your options of fun home activities. In Marvel, villains are bitter and vengeful due to their tough backgrounds. In Disney, they’re envious of the protagonists. Villains don’t abide by the rules of civilized society, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, for audiences not to enjoy themselves, especially during their iconic moments. They offer much more to the story than heroes, whether it’s humor, wit, or genuine terror. 

As a tribute to Disney’s gallery of sinister characters, we’ve ranked the baddest of them all. Remember that some of them aren’t revealed as evil until the end of the movie. 

Ursula (The Little Mermaid) 

Ursula does everything within her power to sabotage Ariel’s chances so she can seize King Triton’s position as the ruler of the oceans. She transforms Ariel into a human for three days, during which time she must receive a kiss of true love from Prince Eric; otherwise, she’ll transform back into a mermaid and become a slave to Ursula for eternity. Ursula’s death ultimately breaks the curse. By orders of the King, Ursula was banished from Atlantica due to her use of black magic, which explains why she hates Triton so much. We don’t know why she lives alone because the movie doesn’t provide her backstory. 

The Little Mermaid adaptations have always focused on Ariel, so the 2023 cinematic production allows us to get to know her a little better. Ursula has a sister, Morgana, who dislikes being criticized because that’s all her mother used to do. Morgana is as cruel as her older sister but lacks her deviousness. Since Ursula died in the original movie, she doesn’t appear in the sequel but is mentioned a great many times by her sister. Ursula, unlike Jafar (Aladdin), relies on her own skills to get what she wants, although she gets some help from smooth-talking eels. Also, she has one of the best songs – Poor Unfortunate Souls. 

Gaston (Beauty and The Beast) 

Gaston is one of Disney’s classic villains, lacking the strength the hero does while being strong when the hero is weak. His vanity is entertaining, particularly alongside LeFou, the second antagonist of the Beauty and the Beast. No one can eat like Gaston or boast about their accomplishments like the captain can. Gaston doesn’t have any magical powers, but he still manages to get people under his spell, which is more than any other Disney character is capable of. He hates Belle because she’s not interested in him romantically. Instead of admitting his fault, Gaston attacks the Beast’s castle, leaving no one alive. 

Maleficent (Maleficent) 

Maleficent from the Sleeping Beauty represents pure evil. After the death of her lover, King Stefan, she places a curse on Aurora that can be broken only with a true love’s kiss. Needless to say, no power on Earth can break the spell. In the original tale by Charles Perrault and Disney’s 1959 animated film, Maleficent curses Aurora because she’s vicious and resentful for not being invited to her christening. However, in the 2014 movie, we find out Maleficent is the way she is due to King Stefan’s betrayal. She had a pure heart as an adult fairy; betrayed by the person she loved, Maleficent’s heart turned to stone. 

Originally, the villain didn’t call herself Maleficent. In every version of the story, an evil fairy comes to the Moors after a girl is born to the King and Queen, cursing the Princess to die from wounding her hand on a spindle. Another fairy undoes the curse so that Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep. When she’s 15 or 16, the Princess meets a spinning woman, cuts herself with a needle, and falls into a deep, deep sleep. Maleficent cursed the little girl because all she wanted to do was to cause chaos. In the latest adaptation of the story, Maleficent is layered, regretting every decision she makes. She eventually turns good. 

Cruella De Vil (One Hundred and One Dalmatians) 

Cruella de Vil, the main antagonist of the One Hundred and One Dalmatians, is renowned for her name, extravagance, and worship of fur. Cruella kidnaps Pongo and Perdita’s 15 puppies, not to mention 84 other Dalmatians, to make them into fur coats. When Dodie Smith introduced the character in her novel, she drew attention to the villain’s outfit – fabrics, accessories, and all their intricacies. Cruella de Vil is evil because she was born that way. In the 2021 movie, it’s revealed her biological mother was a serial killer, and her adoptive mother is equally homicidal and insane. 

Hades (Hercules) 

Finally, yet importantly, there’s Hades, the bad guy in Hercules. He’s the ruler of the Underworld and, most importantly, the uncle and archenemy of Hercules. Hades wants to take control of Olympus (and the world), a fearsome figure for those still living; he’s sarcastic, cynical, manipulative, and ruthless. In the adaptations of the Greek god, Hades is always up to something bad, concocting an evil plan and causing mayhem. However, in the Greek mythological canon, he hardly causes trouble. There’s no real villain in the tale of Hercules, although he has some enemies, but every movie needs an antagonist of some kind. 

The Takeaway 

All in all, villains can be compelling as they have complex motivations and backgrounds. Movies like Frozen II don’t have a bad guy, which only goes to show that the villain, once a staple of Disney animations, has been slowly phased out. Not quite a bad thing. 

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