Disney is one of the most popular media companies in the world. Dating back to 1937 with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney continues to release iconic animated movies that have become prolific parts of pop culture. Every hero has a villain, and Disney villains are classic. Everyone roots for the good guys, however, the villains are just as, if not more, popular — they even inspired a recent Funko Pop series. In honor of Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration, let’s rank the five best animated Disney villains.
5. Shere Khan, ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967)
Shere Khan (George Sanders) is likely not the first character that comes to mind when discussing the best animated Disney villains, however, he stands out in my mind from the countless times I watched The Jungle Book as a kid. Tigers are adorable animals but are some of nature’s most ruthless predators. Shere Khan lives up to the animal’s predatory nature with his condescending lines and intimidating roars.
One thing that characterizes a top five Disney villain is their motivations; Shere Khan’s complex motivations make him a fascinating villain. His main fears are humans and fire, which is understandable and somewhat sympathetic considering humans are a major threat to animals, the environment, and even themselves. His fear of humans makes him terrifying in the context of the movie since his goal is to kill Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman), the main protagonist. Shere Khan’s interesting motives and terrifying presence make him an easy choice for number five on this list.
4. Mother Gothel, ‘Tangled’ (2010)
Coming in at number four is a villain from a more recent Disney movie, Mother Gothel from Tangled. I mean, how could the woman who kept Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) isolated and locked up in her tower for 18 years not make the list?
Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) is the epitome of manipulative and selfish with a classic villainous plan: she cares only about her youth, and thus keeps Rapunzel locked away in her tower so she has access to her hair with magical healing properties. Mother Gothel may not garner much sympathy, but she is entertaining to watch on screen. She provides a catchy villain song outlining her evil motives — “Mother Knows Best” — beautifully performed by Donna Murphy. Mother Gothel is a villain you love to hate who deserves the fourth spot on this list.
3. Yzma, ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ (2000)
Next on the list is one of the funniest and most relatable Disney villains, Yzma (Eartha Kitt) from The Emperor’s New Groove. After being fired by Emperor Kuzco (David Spade), she is intent on killing him to get revenge. With her moronic sidekick Kronk (Patrick Warburton), she makes countless attempts on Kuzco’s life using various potions she concocts. However, the plan goes awry when she accidentally turns Kuzco into a llama.
Voiced by the late Eartha Kitt, she delivers hilarious zingers as she navigates her evil plan, especially when dealing with Kronk (I find myself repeating, “Pull the lever, Kronk!” all the time). While she is not the most intelligent villain, she is truly entertaining to watch on screen, and it’s difficult to truly dislike her, especially since — let’s face it — Kuzco is not the most likable protagonist at the beginning of the movie. Thus, including her on this list was a no-brainer.
2. Ursula, ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989)
Taking the number two spot is everyone’s favorite purple sea witch, Ursula (Pat Carroll). She is a sinister villain, essentially forcing a child to enter into an extremely unfair, binding contract. She takes advantage of 16-year-old Ariel’s (Jodi Benson) desire to be a part of the human world for her own selfish gain. Using her evil eel sidekicks, Ursula convinces her to give up her voice in exchange for legs. Voiced by Pat Carroll, Ursula belts out the iconic song “Poor Unfortunate Souls” as she steals Ariel’s voice. This scene will instantly give you goosebumps; it’s one of the most memorable scenes of any Disney movie.
The Little Mermaid is a classic animated Disney movie, even inspiring a recent successful live-action version. The movie has countless iconic characters, but it would not be such a success without the enchanting but terrifying Ursula.
1. Scar, ‘The Lion King’ (1994)
We’re rounding out our number one spot with another jungle animal. The clear choice for the top spot is not only the best Disney animated villain, but one of the best villains of all time. The character that traumatized an entire generation of children is none other than Scar (Jeremy Irons) from The Lion King.
Scar is a straight-up terrifying villain, and the animators did an excellent job giving him a sinister look. In one of the most spine-chilling scenes of any Disney movie, he works with the hyenas to set up a stampede of wildebeests to kill his brother, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). He succeeds and ends up being the one to let Mufasa fall off a cliff to his death, uttering the famous line “Long live the king.”
Not only does he kill his brother, he blames his nephew Simba (Matthew Broderick) for Mufasa’s death. In addition to his evil tendencies, he manages to drop some hilarious and relatable lines and provide a catchy song. Brought to life by Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons, Scar is undoubtedly the best Disney animated villain.
Did We Miss Any in Our Best Disney Animated Villains List?
With myriad animated movies to choose from, each with its own villain, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down the best villains to only five. However, it’s clear that Disney has no shortage of fantastic series, movies, and characters that have been entertaining us for years and will continue to entertain us for years to come.
Did your favorite animated Disney villain make the list? Let us know in the comments and make sure to follow Agents of Fandom socials to join in on the conversation.