The Top Ten Scariest Movie Villains

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Lists
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Here’s the deal.  In honor of all Hallows’ Eve, I am more or less proud to present Makya McBee Vs. Other People’s Lists – Volume 5, The Ten Scariest Movie Villains. 

Lon Chaney, Jr. as Kharis in the film The Mumm...

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Most consider Halloween to be the scariest holiday (although, admittedly, some men are more frightened by Valentine’s Day) and Hollywood has a storied tradition of tapping into our primal fears with classic movie monsters.  From The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to House of Frankenstein starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to The Mummy’s Tomb starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to Son of Dracula starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to The Mummy’s Ghost starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to House of Dracula starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to Dracula Vs. Frankenstein starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to The Ghost of Frankenstein starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to The Mummy’s Curse starring Lon Chaney, Jr. to Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein starring Abbott and Costello….and Lon Chaney, Jr., Tinseltown has always offered a wide variety of horror films, with a wide variety of actors to boot.

But have you ever wondered…which are the most terrifying film villains of all time?  And…where can aforementioned villains be found, in list format?  Well, wonder no longer, my friend.  Forget the bite-size Kit Kat, consider this your Halloween treat.    

Top Ten Scariest Movie Villains

11. John Ryder    (The Hitcher is not a great movie, but Ryder is a uniquely creepy bad guy because he’s suicidal.  What’s more menacing than a man willing to kill you and daring you to kill him?  Essentially, he’s a villain that chooses suicide via C. Thomas Howell…the same strategy employed by the movie Soul Man)

10. Norman Bates    (Bates is especially eerie because he is attempting to battle his dementia.  Evil is scary, but even more frightening is the notion that we could become evil.  The fact that he struggles with his madness is both humanizing and terrifying.  Plus there’s the fact that he’ll stab you in the shower)

9. The Joker    (Let’s be clear, we’re talking about Heath Ledger here.  Ledger’s Joker made Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like a joke…made all the more impressive by the fact that, previously, Nicholson’s relatively unnerving take on the character had made Cesar Romero’s Joker look terrible.  But Ledger’s Joker reveled in his madness in a truly terrifying way.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a character enjoy violence and mayhem as much as he did…it’s always nice when you love your work) 

8. Zombies    (From Dawn of the Dead to 28 Days Later all zombies are scary – and, I would argue, for one key reason.  Sure, it’s no fun to be chased around by a hillbilly with a chainsaw, but the worst thing any normal killer can do is…well, kill you.  Zombies are even more blood curdling – and they’re not picky, they’ll eat you even if your blood has curdled – because they can turn you into one of them.  Sure, so can vampires and werewolves, but those, at least, are powerful creatures.  Zombies serve as a metaphor for all diseases which makes them legitimately chilling.  If you don’t think that zombies are scarier than vampires and werewolves combined…you’re dead wrong)

7. Nurse Ratched    (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest may not be a horror movie, but don’t tell the nurse in charge that.  What’s more frightening than monsters?  Reality.  Villains are usually criminals or creatures…but this villain is in a position of power, which is scarier because nobody’s even trying to stop her.  A kid possessed by the devil is unsettling, but realizing that there are actual people like this in charge of the world…that’s disturbing)

Michael Myers (Halloween)

Somebody needs a dry cleaner...

6. Michael Myers    (In general, I find the slasher movies to be more gory than scary.  Myers, however, makes the list for one important reason – the fact that he doesn’t have one.  Let me explain.  A killer who’s out for revenge is much less terrifying than a killer who’s just out there killing for no reason in particular.  We can understand the notion of someone becoming a monster by how they were raised or what they went through in life.  It’s the idea of someone being born a monster that is much more frightening.  Besides, anyone who doesn’t think Mike Myers is scary didn’t see The Cat in the Hat…I shiver just thinking about it)

5. Annie Wilkes    (Now here’s a character that proves that love hurts.  Wilkes is infinitely creepy because she adores the person she’s torturing.  Misery is a great movie and it is so easy to identify with the utter hopelessness of the protagonist.  And if you can make the word, “cockadoodie” seem scary, you’ve got to be doing something right)

4. Hannibal Lecter    (When horror heroes and heroines are being stalked by various masked killers, they always have one advantage…they’re smarter than the villains.  Evil is almost always associated with a simple single-mindedness, which makes this character all the more unnerving.  Sure, he’s a murderous cannibal, but he’s a smart, sophisticated murderous cannibal.  Here’s a guy that’s willing to cut off your nose to eat your face…and, even scarier, he can probably talk you into making the first slice) 

3. Jack Torrance    (Alright, Stephen King knows what he’s doing.  After all, I put two of his villains in my top five.  I find Torrance particularly menacing for two reasons.  Firstly, we are witnessing his descent into madness.  In most horror films, the killer is pretty much already crazy and we just watch him wreak some havoc.  It’s a little bit creepier to watch this slow transition.  Secondly, instead of hacking up sexy sorority girls or sinful Camp Crystal Lake counselors, Torrance is trying to kill his wife and young son.  The more intimate the fear – the more impactful.  Plus, speaking as a writer, Torrance has the creepiest writer’s block ever)

2. The Blair Witch    (Perhaps it seems strange that I should give the number two spot to a villain that never even appears on screen…but that’s kind of the point.  The directors who know how to truly scare us all understand that there is nothing they can show on screen that is as frightening as what we can imagine.  This film borders on boring for the first ninety minutes, but the final scene remains the scariest thing I have ever seen in a movie.  I know exactly what Freddy Krueger looks like…and he can’t begin to haunt my dreams like an evil I can only imagine)    

1. The Shark    (There are movies that have made the woods seem creepy.  There are others that have made me wary of old, abandoned buildings.  But Jaws, to this day, has caused me to avoid 71% of the Earth’s surface.  I’ve never really been concerned with encountering a blood-thirsty alien, being bitten by Dracula or having a tiny doll come to life and try to kill me…but I have, on numerous occasions, seen actual news footage of disturbingly large sharks swimming just off the beach that’s a couple of miles from where I live.  It might not be common, but those sharks are really out there and they can eat you up good.  And you know that inevitable scene in the horror film where the victim cowers in the corner and pleads with the killer, “Please, don’t do this.”  There’s no such scene in this movie because there’s no use pleading with a shark or yelling no.  Besides, under water, nobody can hear you scream)

  1. heathersnyder1 says:

    Thanks for mentioning Lon Chaney, Jr., even though he’s not on your list. He’s the best scary movie villian and I do love him in Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. But, my favorite Abbott and Costello scary movie is Hold That Ghost, which has Shemp Howard (also in Abbott and Costello’s funniest movie-Africa Screams). Shemp is the brother to Moe and Curly of Three Stooges. Shemp joins the Three Stooges with Larry Fine. Larry was born in Philadelphia, PA. Which is also where W.C. Fields was born (well, born in Darby near Philly, which is a very scary place). W.C. Fields was in the movie Follow the Boys with…you guessed it…Lon Chaney, Jr. Wait, where am I going with this one? I was trying to connect Lon with Kevin Bacon.

    But, I would have to say I think the scariest movie villians happen to be kids. Like Henry Evans in The Good Son, Damien in The Omen or Esther in The Orphan. They look so cute and innocent until they hack you up in little pieces or just use their mind to get you to kill someone for them. That’s freaky stuff.

  2. heathersnyder1 says:

    Oh, I forgot–Happy Halloween!

  3. AiXeLsyD13 says:

    Great list, I agree with you on Nurse Ratched… Such a great performance!

    But I have to ask; No Darth Vader? I mean… DARTH VADER.

    Ha ha.

  4. Crystal says:

    I’m with you on the shark thing. I have avoided large bodies of water on vacation just for that reason.

    • Makya McBee says:

      Heather – It was my pleasure to mention Lon Chaney, Jr…forty two times…yeah, the kids are creepy, but not as scary as someone (or thing) that is taller than, say, my knee caps.

      Axl – Darth Vader? Totally overrated. In terms of being scary, at least. First of all, he started out good and ended up good – when you see someone like Michael Myers or Annie Wilkes, you know there’s no chance for redemption. And, come on, he’s just a glorified henchman. You’ll never hear Lecter or the Joker saying, “Yes, master.”

      Crystal – Land lovers unite.

  5. Lokyra Stone says:

    You should do a best henchman list too. Then you could put Peter Lorre on it. Boris Karloff was a good movie villain as well.

    I have actually never watched Psycho. I keep meaning to. Maybe next year for the Halloween movie marathon. We did a zombie marathon this year.

    Heath Ledger’s Joker was… deliciously horrifying. I loved it.
    A good Stephen King runner up is from the Shining. Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!
    If I was gonna be a super villain, I think I would want to be like either Heath Ledger’s Joker or Hannibal Lecter. Because I think about things like this.

    Ok. The Blair Witch Project sucked. I couldn’t believe there was that much raving about that movie.
    And then the final scene came on.
    It creeps me out just thinking about it. And every time I see someone happen to be in a similar pose, I make them move. Immediately.

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