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Best Animated Villains Ranked

Everyone loves an animated hero — after all, what would a movie be without a Little Mermaid, a Coraline, or an Aladdin? But when it comes down to it, there's nothing better than a great animated villain — a character drawn so perfectly and whose voice actor is so well-cast that no matter how evil they are, when they're on-screen you can't take your eyes off them. Even more than many popular live-action movie villains, animated villains have an indelible quality that makes them so memorable that many have become instantly recognizable to people of all ages again and again, even after being around for decades.

No animated villains exemplify that more than those listed below. Of course, Disney villains are heavily represented — many of them are icons, after all. But it isn't all about them, so here are some characters who strike a balance between memorability and overall villainy; take a look and see if your favorites made the list.

14. Lord Business (The Lego Movie)

Audiences tend to be skeptical of movies based on children's toys, and for good reason. A movie adapted from something like LEGO bricks may have brand recognition, but it lacks an obvious plot (which is pretty essential to the success of any movie), and in the wrong hands could have turned into "Battleship." 

Fortunately, the writers behind "The Lego Movie" — Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller — looked at the wide world of LEGO and came up with a plot that showcased the toy itself while also telling a poignant, original story that resonated with kids and adults alike.

Key to that story is its villain Lord Business (Will Farrell). A ruthless figure who plans to bring order to the world by freezing it in place with the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with several letters rubbed off), Business comes across as a pretty standard bad guy — albeit with fabulous headwear — until the flick moves into the real world, making it clear exactly who is the inspiration behind this towering, tie-wearing LEGO megalomaniac.

When hero Emmet (Chris Pratt) sacrifices himself in the LEGO world, he wakes up in the basement of a boy who's playing with his father's vast, preciously-guarded LEGO sets despite rules against doing so. As his father squelches his creativity, so does Lord Business squelch his citizens' desire to live outside the lines. It's a satisfying revelation that makes Lord Business — and his change of heart, also inspired by the boy's father — much more than he initially seems.

13. Hades (Hercules)

When it comes to the pantheon of gods in Disney's 1997 outing "Hercules," Hades (James Woods) is the odd man out. While everyone else gets to spend their time in lighter, brighter places, Hades drew the short straw and got assigned to the underworld. Spending all your time with ghouls and ghosts would make anybody surly, so it's not exactly a surprise that he isn't thrilled about the birth of his brother Zeus' son, Hercules (Tate Donovan), or that he tries to kill the child when he learns Hercules could ruin his plans for a hostile takeover of Mount Olympus.

With a blue flame of hair, sharp teeth, and a short temper, Hades is definitely not someone to mess with, but Woods also imbues the character with a manic, disarming, slick charm. In the actor's hands, Hades becomes a smooth operator who you kind of like, but can never completely trust. It's an unexpected, but delightful, take on the god of the underworld that ends up being the best part of the movie — something Hades would appreciate. After all, if he can't steal Mount Olympus, at least he can steal scenes from Hercules.

12. Rasputin (Anastasia)

The 1997 animated film "Anastasia" used the rumors and legends about the end of Russia's Romanov dynasty as a jumping off point for a fairy tale about a young girl who dreams of finding her family, only to discover she's actually royalty. 

The movie is a heartfelt Disney-esque romp, but one of its more unique elements is its vision of Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd). In real life, Rasputin was assassinated before the Romanovs, however somewhere along the line rumors started that he survived multiple attempts on his life, and was ultimately somehow behind the deaths of the Emperor and his family. It's a story the flick takes to its most extreme conclusion by having an exiled, angry Rasputin sell his soul in exchange for the demise of the Romanovs. After Anastasia escapes his wrath, Rasputin becomes a wraith who's unable to shuffle off this mortal coil until he finishes what he started by offing the girl.

Rasputin's undead status has done him no favors, though, as parts of him continuously break off or slip from their intended locations. As a result, Rasputin is one of the most off-putting villains in animation history. Yet, his gross predicament becomes downright uproarious, not to mention something the villain himself finds horrific yet motivating. Meanwhile, his quippy sidekick Bartok (Hank Azaria), a white bat, does his best to make sure his master keeps it together ... literally.

11. The Other Mother (Coraline)

There may be no villain who makes a more spine-tingling first impression than the Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) in "Coraline." 

After going through a mysterious door and crawling along a tunnel that leads to an alternate version of her apartment, Coraline (Dakota Fanning) meets someone who looks exactly like her real-life mother, except there are buttons where her eyes should be. Despite that disconcerting feature, the Other Mother is the opposite of Coraline's neglectful parents, so she willingly spends time with her — at least, until the Other Mother expresses her desire to sew buttons over Coraline's eyes so they can stay together forever.

Soon, Coraline learns who the Other Mother really is, and all the young lives she's ruined with her buttons and duplicity. "Coraline," adapted from a story by Neil Gaiman, is an effective children's horror movie that's unsettling for adults too. The Other Mother's button-eyed stare sums up in a single terrifying image the old adage that when something's too good to be true, it probably is.

10. Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (Toy Story 3)

Who wouldn't love a stuffed pink teddy bear who smells like strawberries? That's pretty much what Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) is counting on when he presents himself to Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and the rest of the beloved toy gang after they're mistakenly donated to Sunnyside Daycare in "Toy Story 3." But beneath his adorable plush exterior and his avuncular manner lies a dark heart, one that pulls the strings at Sunnyside like a prison for kids' playthings.

Lotso has a pretty heartbreaking backstory. He was once the beloved companion of a girl named Daisy, but after he and two of her other toys were left behind during a family outing, Lotso returned to Daisy's house only to find he'd been replaced. Of course, this would be heartbreaking for any toy, but Lotso channels his grief into white-hot rage, and by the time he meets Woody and his friends, Lotso is both corrupt and unfeeling. It's that contrast between Lotso's innocent exterior and villainous interior that makes him an especially memorable bad guy.

9. Megamind (Megamind)

Megamind (Will Ferrell) is one of two characters on this list who aren't just the supervillains of their movies, but their protagonists as well. 

In his 2010 self-titled film, Megamind's story starts like that of Superman. Unfortunately, he isn't the only alien being on his way to Earth, and when his pod is knocked off course, the brainy blue guy ends up being raised in prison, where he learns to prize crime above everything else, leading him to become the biggest do-badder in Metro City. Megamind has a rollicking rivalry with superhero Metro Man, although in many ways his constant losses and frequent stints in prison seem like bids to get back home. So, Megamind is shocked when he finally triumphs over Metro Man and learns that evil is nothing without its opposite.

Ferrell revels in Megamind's diabolical schemes and giddy flamboyance, making the character an amusing mass of villainous commitment, lingering insecurities, impressive genius, and inexplicable mispronunciations (instead of "Hello" he answers the phone with "Hallo"). "Megamind" offers a glimpse into the worldview of a supervillain whose journey is equal parts hilarious and strangely sympathetic.

8. Jafar (Aladdin)

In "Aladdin," Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) has reached great heights as both a powerful sorcerer and the Sultan of Agrabah's most trusted advisor. He wields great influence, due to proximity to the ruler and a snake staff that can hypnotize him, yet Jafar is still unsatisfied. He covets the throne itself, so when a street rat named Aladdin (Scott Weinger) manages to find the lamp holding a genie that could enable him to get it, the grasping baddie goes power-mad.

While this proves to be his undoing, beforehand the villain is laser-focused on becoming Sultan and unconcerned with whom he hurts to ensure it happens. Ultimately, what makes Jafar so fascinating is that he's an extreme version of a sycophantic assistant who secretly hates his boss. Jafar is willing to do what he must to curry favor with the daffy Sultan until it's safe to let his true colors shine through. It's the success of that subterfuge that makes him unnerving — and perhaps a little relatable.

7. Ursula (The Little Mermaid)

While the reputation of Ursula (Pat Carroll) as a sea witch preceded her in "The Little Mermaid," that hadn't prevented her from luring dozens of "poor unfortunate souls" to their doom with promises to improve their lives. Of course, Ursula sees herself as the victim — what else is a girl to do after being "banished and exiled" by King Triton?

Despite her vast magical powers — which enable her to do everything from extracting Ariel's voice to turning herself into a gorgeous human being — it's Ursula's ability to craft a convincing sales pitch that has kept her going despite her outsider status. Plus, Ursula's persona (based to a large degree on "Pink Flamingos" star Divine) is as strangely seductive as her offers to help desperate mer-people, making her a villain every bit as unforgettable as her movie's title character. Ursula seems to relish winning over Ariel (Jodi Benson), giving her hope, only to dash it away. That enjoyment makes her especially dastardly, and also awfully fun to watch — it's no wonder, then, she has become one of the most well-known animated movie villains ever. 

6. The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)

The Evil Queen (Lucille La Verne) from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"' has the distinction of being the oldest character on this list, but don't tell her that. So vain she's willing to murder her stepdaughter to maintain her status as "fairest of them all," the Evil Queen combines petty jealousy with a determination to get what she wants, and that makes her truly awful. The movie never quite fills us in on why the Queen values her looks so highly — or her magic mirror's criteria for determining the fairest person in the land — but even without that backstory, she makes quite an impression.

The irony of her predicament is that to take down Snow White (Adriana Caselotti), she uses magic to turn herself into an ugly crone. It's only then, when her looks match her ugly heart, that she manages to achieve her goal. Short-lived as her victory is, there's no denying the character's place in movie history. Hate her or love to hate her, the Evil Queen set the standard for animated black hats.

5. Gru (Despicable Me)

Gru (Steve Carrell) from the "Despicable Me" franchise has been shown as a loving father and husband, so it can be hard to remember that he started out as a proud supervillain in a world overrun with evil-doers. Not content to be one among many, Gru is willing to do just about anything to secure his place at the top of the bad-guy heap. So whenever a new villain threatens his position, he's all-too-eager to use a shrink ray to steal the moon, or do whatever else he can to make an evil name for himself.

Carell gives Gru an unplaceable accent and sour attitude that make him hard to forget. The series also saddles him with a disapproving mother, whose withering criticism drives him to be the best — or in this case, the worst. While Gru ultimately goes legit after his evil plans lead him to adopt three little girls he comes to care about, for years he was a guy who was willing to use a freeze ray to cut the line at the local coffee shop — despicable, indeed.

4. Lord Farquaad (Shrek)

It's hard to imagine someone who isn't enchanted by fairy tale creatures, but "Shrek" villain Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) despises the anarchy they bring to Duloc, his perfectly organized kingdom. Or at least, it would be a kingdom if he could just find a princess to marry so he can become king. His decision to dump Duloc's fairy tale creatures in reclusive ogre Shrek's (Mike Meyers) swamp sets the two characters on a collision course that sees Lord Farquaad persuading Shrek to rescue the ruler's chosen princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in exchange for returning his land to him.

The vertically-challenged Farquaad may talk a good game, but the truth is he's rotten to the core. In one of his most memorable scenes, he even ruthlessly tortures the gingerbread man, mocking the beleaguered cookie with his own detached legs. Farquaad's vicious tactics, combined with belief in his righteous cause to amass even more power, make him a villain who isn't easily defeated — unless you have a dragon.

3. Scar (The Lion King)

It's hard to overstate how truly horrible Scar (Jeremy Irons) turns out to be in "The Lion King." He initially comes across as nothing more than King Mufasa's (James Earl Jones) weak, bitter younger brother, yet he firmly believes he should be the ruler of Pride Rock instead of his sibling. Consequently, when he sees an opportunity to take over by killing Mufasa, he jumps at it. Then he scares away his young nephew Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) by blaming him for the crime, demonstrating the true depths of his cruelty. Yet, while Scar makes a claim to an intellect his brother can't touch, one thing he doesn't possess is wisdom, and his inability to respect or appreciate anyone but himself makes him a terrible king.

With Irons' voice and a straggly look that speaks to his physical shortcomings, Scar is the perfect combination of self-righteous and sniveling. Years of striving have clearly left him cracked and broken, and his off-kilter imperiousness makes him a noteworthy villain. It's no wonder, then, that many people have pointed out similarities between "The Lion King" and "Hamlet" given that as a character, Scar is positively Shakespearean.

2. Cruella De Vil (One Hundred and One Dalmatians)

Don't take Disney's recent attempt to rehab Cruella De Vil's image in the live-action movie "Cruella" too seriously. After all, the villain is much older in "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," and no matter what happened between "Cruella" and the animated movie, Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson) is one of the most evil characters in the history of cinema. Others may want power, respect, or order, but what drives Cruella is fashion — and there's no fashion trend she adores more than fur coats. In fact, she's so dedicated to making sure she has the latest and greatest furs that she's willing to kidnap and kill 99 puppies to ensure she maintains her fashion bona fides.

However, even before her horrific intentions are revealed, the character makes quite an entrance. The face, the cigarette, the clothes, the dismissive attitude — Cruella is the epitome of unappealing. Plus, we're warned about just how unsavory she is by her anthem, an earworm that observes, "if she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will." By the time "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" ends, Cruella has lived up to that pronouncement, showing us what the true face of evil looks like no matter how fabulously it's dressed.

1. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

Coming in at number one is the Mistress of All Evil herself, "Sleeping Beauty" baddie Maleficent (Eleanor Audley), a character whose very presence seems to cast a spell. 

Beneath her regal look and calm demeanor lies terrible power that she wields in horrifying ways, so horrifying in fact that the King and Queen decide not to invite her to their newborn daughter's christening. Not one to take a snub lightly, Maleficent crashes the party and delivers a magical curse that will teach them all a lesson: by the child's sixteenth birthday, she'll prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Despite years of attempting to prevent the curse from coming to pass by the royals and their allies, Maleficent is powerful enough to ensure things go her way.

It may seem like a trivial oversight to get so upset about, but one of the things that makes Maleficent so intriguing is that she's the rare villain who directly expresses her grievances instead of working in secret. Even decades after the 1959 premiere of "Sleeping Beauty," the empowered dark fairy remains one of Disney's most popular animated villains. A triumph of character design, Maleficent is fierce and calculated, a femme fatale who supercharges every scene she appears in — and another villain far more compelling than her movie's milquetoast title character.