Admit it, no matter how hard hearted you are, there is at least one Disney movie that you love. And for good reason.
Some of the most immersive and emotional works of fiction to ever be produced have come from Disney Studios. They provoke emotional reactions and create characters that evoke sympathy and empathy in the viewers. The heroes of Disney never cease to amaze and inspire us. They overcome impossible odds and give us that warm and fuzzy feeling that keeps us buying their movies.
Even though the heroes always win, there is one part of the story that is always underrated. Even though they are never sided with by the viewers, the villains of Disney are the true stars of the show. Whether their power lies in their strength, magic, cunning or intellect, the villain drives the story and creates obstacles that help the protagonist grow. Without them, the story simply would not exist. Whether you hate them or not, they are never one-dimensional. They always have a reason and, if Once Upon A Time is to be believed, they really just want to be loved.
In honor of the unsung characters and their untimely demises, I present you with a list of the most powerful Disney villains ever to grace our screens.
Let’s hear it for the villains!
14. Hades – Hercules
Three brothers. One is the king of the gods, slinging lightning bolts from his high and mighty throne on Olympus. The second presides over the vast and unknowable depths of the ocean, ruling everything on or in it. Third, as if he were the red-headed stepchild of the Olympic family, is Hades.
Given the proverbial shaft by the other gods, he was given the dead and decaying underworld to preside over and, for good reason, became quite agitated by his lot in life. He fought the titans just like the other gods, right?
13. Ursula – The Little Mermaid
Something that most viewers of The Little Mermaid might not realize about Ursula the Sea Witch is that her method of taking Ariel’s voice was much more grotesque than the movie might let on. Instead of simply taking some ephemeral, metaphorical manifestation of the sound of Ariel’s voice, the original story actually depicts Ursula as RIPPING OUT ARIEL’S TONGUE.
A truly cruel individual, her evil is matched by her power. She is one of the sea witches, which are capable of incredible feats of magic, manipulation and evil much more powerful than just taking a little girl’s voice. Keep in mind that she is capable of living under Triton’s rulership and there is nothing that the Sea King can do against her except keep her at arm’s length.
12. The Horned King – The Black Cauldron
You may not remember The Horned King, but he sure remembers you. If you have played Dungeons and Dragons, then you will get a kick out of this lich-like creature. This horned and devilish abomination is one of the most cool and composed villains to have ever made it to our television screens. Though already powerful beyond imagining, he wants to become a god amongst men by finding the Black Cauldron and unleashing the Cauldron Born into the world, under his command. Though he uses very little magic in the film itself, it is obvious that he is a sorcerer of immense power to have come into his position as he has. He is at the very least capable of teleportation, but he is also quite obviously undead. This guy is awesome.
11. The Firebird – Fantasia
There are a lot of arguments back and forth about whether or not The Firebird is a villain due to its apparent presence as a force of nature. Antagonists of the moniker of villain for this creature base their arguments on the fact that this creature is a force of nature and as such, cannot be good or evil. The Firebird’s power is obviously godlike, however, so there is no question of that.
If you watch the film Fantasia carefully, it is obvious that The Firebird is an obvious villain. While The Firebird is giving chase, it doesn’t move like a normal force of nature. It actively attempts to harm those it chases. As far as good or evil goes, chasing down and trying to engulf someone in lava is about as villainous as it gets.
10. Evil Genie Jafar – Aladdin
In Disney’s Aladdin, a genie is considered to have “INFINITE COSMIC POWER.” Even though Jafar makes his final mistake by wishing himself to be a genie, it cannot be denied that if he was ever freed, the Jafar Genie would not have any trouble taking the entire world as his own. This is evidenced by the sequels.
Imagine this, if you will. A creature like Genie has literally zero friction when attempting to enact his will upon the world. He literally has all of the power of the universe. Should someone make it their wish, he could cause the entire world to engulf in flames. He could single-handedly turn the entire world into a fluffy pillow and sleep on it. Can you imagine what would happen if Jafar was freed, as well?
9. Cruella DeVille – 101 Dalmatians
If cruelty were a super-power, and some argue that it is, Cruella DeVille would be the strongest, most hated super-villain ever.
While this may be true, for all intents and purposes, Cruella DeVille has no real power to speak of. She doesn’t have any magic, she isn’t particularly strong and while she isn’t dumb, she’s not a super-genius either. What she does have is a penchant for abuse that no villain in the Disney universe can hope to rival. Why? She wears a coat that is made from the skin of animals she has hand picked as babies and skinned them alive because that’s how you keep their coat shiny long after they’ve died. She doesn’t mind killing anyone, be it human or animal. Babies included.
8. Yubaba – Spirited Away
The malodorous and wicked Yubaba is the main antagonist in the Spirited Away series. She is insanely powerful, having abilities that magicians and wizards can only hope to one day attain. Her giant head is not only a physical deformity brought on, one might say by her magics, but it is also a metaphor of Yubaba’s view on herself. She is never one to back down, but also considers herself to be the strongest witch in the realm. There are few who would disagree. Just one of her many powers is the crux which an entire movie, Spirited Away, is based around. This is her ability to take away the names of a person, causing them to serve her in perpetuity and eventually forget who they are.
7. Chernabog – Night on Bald Mountain
If you don’t know who Chernabog is, then you should definitely go pick up the 1940 Disney film Night on Bald Mountain. This demonic villain is based on Czernobog, a Slavic deity who is also called The Black God. Chernabog is so powerful and so utterly awesome that he has single-handedly been acclaimed as Disney’s best representation of absolute and pure evil. So evil is he that he has no real place in any specific story, and his servants do not show him to have any discernible goals. He is simply evil.
He has no defined personality. No goals. No weaknesses. He is simply a ferocious, animalistic evil that seeks only to devour and destroy. For that, he makes the list of one of the most powerful villains in the Disney universe.
6. Queen Grimhilde – Snow White
Almost everyone who knows anything about Disney knows who the Evil Queen is. Much, as I imagine, to her dismay, her real name is rather subdued. She is the Evil Queen, Snow White’s nemesis and bane of the Seven Dwarves. She is a cruel and calculating villain, and her mirror shows her to be as vain as the day is long. She cannot stand that anyone be prettier than she is, so she has a cursed apple sent to Snow White’s doorstep, delivered by herself dressed as a sweet old lady. To be honest, the Wicked Queen Grimhilde was never all that beautiful to begin with. It’s hard to understand how the magic mirror showed her to be the fairest of them all when it would take me at least six beers to take her home.
5. Shan Yu – Mulan
Another villain that has no magical superpowers to speak of, Shan Yu uses his incredible strength and intelligence to win the day… as a villain. Shan Yu is based on the legendary and very real Atilla the Hun, who bedded so many women that it is thought that a large percentage of the world’s population is actually related to him. Though his virility is no superpower, it very well should be! Regardless of his sexual prowess, he is also an expert at physical combat. There is hardly a warrior on the side of good or evil that could hope to best him. His superhuman strength and endurance are matched by his combat training, making him nearly unstoppable. Even though he has no magic, he is by far one of the strongest villains on this list.
4. Queen of Hearts – Alice in Wonderland
Another Queen to add to the ranks of incredibly powerful Disney villains, the Queen of Hearts would rank at the heights if you were to measure her ill temper and anger management issues. She is described in Lewis Carrol’s version as having a “blind fury” and is known to have beheaded dozens if not hundreds of people. Some of those having had their heads taken for a slight so simple as to have put lettuce on her sandwich facing in the wrong direction. I fact, she used the phrase “Off with their heads!” as a means to settle just about any argument. In spite of this, fewer people have actually lost their heads due to the beneficence of the King of Hearts, her doting, loving and kind-hearted husband.
3. Dr. Facilier – The Princess And The Frog
Doctor Facilier is a voodoo priest. Often called a charlatan or faker in The Princess and the Frog, the kind Doctor Facilier really just hates being referred to as such. “Don’t respect me, little man!” he says. “I’ve got friends on the other side!” Which is true. Based on the Baron Samedi, who is the God of the Dead in Haitian Voodoo culture, Dr. Facilier actually practices Left Handed Magic, or the stereotypical voodoo as seen in Hollywood films. He possesses powerful voodoo magic and as such, is capable of accomplishing just about anything he puts his mind to. His favorite power of all seems to be his ability to manipulate playing cards. He shuffles, moves and twirls them and astounds just about anyone who looks his way.
2. Ratigan – The Great Mouse Detective
Who doesn’t know Ratigan? He is the most despicable, detestable, deplorable villain this side of the Disney universe. Walking high among the villains of this list without any powers to speak of, the legendary Ratigan doesn’t need magic to be powerful. He may be a rodent, but among the rodents of the Disney World, Ratigan is strong and cunning and cruel. What he might lack in magic he makes up for in his manipulative leadership of several henchmen who can do the work where magic is lacking. As far as rodents go, he is incredibly strong, especially when he goes feral at the end of the movie. He leads his henchmen, but he wants more, and any villain within an inch of being king is powerful enough to make this list.
1. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
If Mickey Mouse is the leader of the Disney Heroes, then it might be said that Maleficent is the leader of the Disney Villains. While the protagonists of the Disney world follow in Mickey’s footsteps, the villains of Disney submit to Maleficent as her subjects. Her story is incredibly detailed and strikes a chord in the hearts of even the most hard hearted viewer. She begins her life as a gold-hearted young woman who lives in a forest kingdom. When a terrible betrayal causes her to lose hope in the world, she winds up giving in to that loss of hope and takes her place on the throne of the most powerful Disney villain in existence. Her power knows no bounds.
All hail the queen.