17 Best Horror Movie Villains of All Time

Over the passage of time, the “Horror” genre has seasoned as one of the favourites of cinemaholics.  They have the capability of creating adrenaline and stomach-churning brutality. The “Horror film” genre has the penetrating capability of creating a physiological reaction and racy heartbeat. Through the use of fear and shock, thriller films share a close relationship with horror films – both provoking tension and pressure.

A horror movie, unlike other generic films, relies heavily on a terrifying villain. The more menacing and diabolical, the better. The tradition of having iconic villains grace the screen has been a long and cherished one. Right since the times of ‘The Exorcist’, people have not only flocked to theatres in numbers but have also urged filmmakers to come back at them in higher numbers. Here is the list of top horror movie villains ever! Which horror movie villain are you?


17. John Kramer/ Jigsaw

The ‘Saw’ franchise has seen ups and downs through the release of its films. Initially, the film was received uncharacteristically violent and gory in nature. As a result, the film kept itself in the news and eventually broke water with the audience. And today, the franchise can be regarded as one of the most successful and influential horror series of all time. John Kramer added a whole another layer to slasher films and aesthetics in violence in films.

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16. Ghostface

How can a list of horror villains be complete without this genius? The ‘Scream’ series, even though not accurately haunting, brought about a new genre within the already established category of phantoms and vengeful dead people. Ghostface doesn’t really have an actor’s bodily form, but has been voiced by actor Roger L. Jackson in all the Scream movies. The character is used primarily as a disguise for each of the antagonists of each film to conceal their identity while conducting serial murders and as such has been portrayed by several actors. The ingenuity and a sheer lack of seriousness in the movies and the portrayal of the character are truly remarkable.

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15. Annabelle/ Mia Higgins

The ‘Annabelle’ saga, which will come to an end with ‘The Nun’ this year, has been a pleasant reinforcement in vintage style horror films. The James Wan created series has been commercially the most successful horror franchise ever and certainly one of the most engaging as well. The porcelain doll, created to terrify by Wan, holds the demon spirit of Mia Higgins, originally Janice, as confirmed by Annabelle: Creation, a possessed woman who murders her adoptive parents and attaches the diabolical entity to the doll. While not being the one carrying out the actions, the doll is always in the center of the action and often takes the blame for the most unpleasant things happening around.

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14. Chucky

Horror movie makers have a niche for transforming the most unassuming interactions, things and people into a living nightmare, and ‘Child’s Play’ embracing it with disturbing love and compassion. Originally a human serial killer, Charles Lee Ray uses his last ounce of strength to transport his soul into a “Good Guy” doll – Chucky. From thereon, he continues his killing spree by murdering people, while trying to gain a new human host. While turning a toy doll into a horror movie monster might have seemed like a silly idea, Chucky’s menacing self-aware tonality the film completely destroyed our love for dolls, setting a new benchmark for horror film antagonists.

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13. Samara Morgan

Samara Morgan has appeared in ‘The Ring’ series and has been the focal point of all action. The American remake of the Japanese movie ‘Ringu’ told the story of the deadly tape whose curse consumes anyone who sees it. The dreadful tale behind the becoming of Samara is truly heart-breaking and makes her one of the most sympathetic characters on the list.

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12. Pennywise

It’s no mean feat to reincarnate an iconic movie villain and also bring new tonality to it – and Bill Skarsgård did just that. The monster possesses a variety of powers such as the ability of shape-shifting, manipulate, and go unnoticed by adults. However, the biggest and most dangerous power that he possesses is the physical form of “Pennywise the Dancing Clown’ – a nightmare which no one wants to see. The horrifying and chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s equally brilliant novella became the talk of the town with its release. ‘It’ has been adjudged as the highest-earning horror film of all time and sent shockwaves through the industry with its demonic, flesh-eating clown, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The shape-shifting creature is certainly one of the most frightening movie villains on screen.

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11. Valak

There hasn’t been a more terrifying horror villain than Valak in the 21st century. The character’s popularity has prompted the makers to give her a stand-alone movie, ‘The Nun’, which releases this year. Valak has made several appearances in ‘The Conjuring’ series, but featured most prominently in the second part, ‘Conjuring 2’. It remains no secret that Wan was after making a movie solely dedicated to the character for the sheer horror that she carries. According to Wikipedia, she is, in fact, a real-life demon. The description reads: “Valac is a demon described in the goetic grimoires the Key of Solomon, Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, the Liber Officium Spirituum, and in the Munich Manual of Demonic Magic as an angelically winged boy riding a two-headed dragon, attributed with the power of finding treasures.” ‘The Nun’ can’t seem to be far now!

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10. Pazuzu

Directed by William Friedkin, ‘The Exorcist’ is responsible to bring horror films into the mainstream scene and Pazuzu possessed Regan MacNeil was the face of it. Essayed by Linda Blair, Regan MacNeil is a 12-year-old girl who is possessed by Pazuzu – a combination of animal and human parts with his right hand pointing upwards and his left hand downwards. His body is of a man, the head of a lion or dog, eagle-like taloned feet, two pairs of wings, a scorpion’s tail, and a serpentine penis – YUCK. While MacNeil is the sweetest girl you’ll ever see, the possessed MacNeil curses, vomits on people and turns her head 180 degrees. While the character might not be as scary as others on this list, given the modern age of horror filmmaking, she is certainly a great scare.

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9. Sadako Yamamura

The only kid on this list, she is one of the reasons as to why nobody likes kids. Essayed by Rie Inō, Sadaoko Yamamura is the antagonist the film franchise. Sadako is a vengeful ghost of a psychic who was murdered and thrown into a well. Sadako uses nensha – her most powerful weapon – to create a cursed videotape that will kill whoever watches it exactly one week later unless the tape is copied and shown to another person, who then must repeat the same process. Yamamura, with her horrifying past, is relentless therefore earns a name on this list.

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8. Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s influence on gothic horror literature has been immense and appropriately immeasurable. Her iconic character and the story of man coming to terms with his mistakes and inquisitiveness made waves in the literati at the time. The novel, as expected, has been adapted many times for screen and each time the character of Frankenstein has stood out. Out of the many interpretations, the 1931 film remains atop the gleeful story of Frankenstein. The character isn’t exactly a villain by choice but has been turned into one due to his master’s fault.

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7. Leatherface


‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ became a sleeper hit and an overnight success when it first released in 1974. The classic has subsequently been remade three times, with three other installments as continuations of the original story. Inspired from the antiquities of American serial murderer Ed Gein, Leatherface has influenced the slasher genre with eye-boggling brilliance. With his gigantic body, a power tool as the weapon of choice, and a mask made from human skin, this satanic man’s appearance alone represents his motives, i.e. carnage. Leatherface became a feared and often excitable commodity since the first release and has certainly climbed the pop culture jargon in recent times. 2017 saw a stand-alone movie for the character, even though it failed to reach the height of the success of the source material.

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6. Norman Bates

With an unassuming face and a seemingly affectionate heart for his mother, Norman Bates’ evil cannot be comprehended. Suffering from severe psychological issues, Bates’ gradual decline into a fearful abyss is tarrying. From a quiet and helpful lad who loves to chat with his customers to a man donning on his dead mother’s clothes to kill a woman, Alfred Hitchcock’s creation is unnerving and disturbing. ‘Psycho’ marked a watershed moment in the history of celluloid with its infamous ‘Shower scene’. Alfred Hitchcock’s most Hitchcockian film ever gave the world a psychopath so far placed from the conventional figure of psychopaths that he seemed one of us. Norman Bates has since seen incarnations on the screen, both small and big, with partial success. While ‘Bates Motel’ has seen great success, other installments and follow-ups have disappointed. The lean, mysterious, and repellant figure of Anthony Perkins still remains the iconic reflection of a character that rests in the golden annals of cinematic history.

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5. Freddy Krueger

Disrupting every child’s sleep, Freddy Krueger is the personification of the nightmare. Essayed by Robert Englund from 1984 to 2003 and Jackie Earle Haley in 2010, Freddy Krueger is a burnt serial killer who possesses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, causing them to die in the real world as well. In the dream world or the world of nightmare, his powerful force is invincible. ‘The Nightmare on Elm Street’ that released in 1984 is fondly remembered as Johnny Depp’s debut. Wes Craven’s iconic movie retains its status quo thirty years in posterity through its terrifying villain. The once hearty gardener was burnt in Kindergarten on account of suspicions of pedophilia. Craven thought of creating the character after a bizarre bout of people dying in their sleep. That inspirational moment has created one of the most iconic villains in horror film history and we can’t be anything but indebted in gratitude.

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4. The Alien

Preserved by the Library of Congress, ‘Alien’ set a benchmark for the horror genre which still hasn’t been surpassed.  ‘Alien’ is brilliantly symbolical, amalgamated with the classic mystery of the fear and an unpleasant social construct. Directed by Ridley Scott, this sci-fi horror film is vividly visual, intensifying the inner fear of the human and fear of a grotesque reality. The sheer brutality with which the “xenomorphs” kill their victims is a proof of the horrifying power. They attach themselves to the victim’s face – implant an egg in the person’s stomach – and then a baby aliens burst out of their chest – a cycle which continues until everyone is killed brutally.

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3. Michael Myers

Michael Myers is the one constant that has remained through years of molding and alterations in the franchise. The horrifying figure tends to spark fear in the hearts of everyone who have ever heard his despicable fortune. Myers’ intrinsic flaws are what make him the quintessential movie villain and help us appreciate the magic of film. ‘Halloween’ paved the way for modern day horror films and deranged murderer Michael Myers is a reason for that. Providing the prototype for villains to come, Myers is sent to a mental institution after he butchers his sister and a kid. Things seem normal until he escapes the institution and sets on an endeavour to terrorize some teenagers on Halloween. While most horror movie villains have had an intrinsic backstory, explaining a grief behind the now evil force, what makes Myers so menacing is the fact that he has been the living incarnation of the villain since he was a child.

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2. Jack Torrance

Stanley Kubrick’s genius is unparalleled in the history of cinema. The visionary director is often cited as one of the greatest directors of all time and rightly so. When you look at his incredible filmography, Kubrick’s films have been groundbreaking and distinctively separated in themes and values from the other. His adaptation of Stephen Kung’s ‘The Shining’ remains one of the most classic examples of a director respecting the story, while also bringing in his own narrative values to tell it. Jack Torrance and the Overlook Hotel have never sounded the same after the film’s release in 1980. Jack Nicholson’s enigmatic and crazily genius portrayal is one of a kind and evokes great emotions on every watch.

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1. Hannibal Lecter

While horror films have always been popular, critically successful and commercially fruitful, the genre wasn’t ever considered as a serious contender in award functions.  However, Anthony Hopkins, with his Incan ascent talents proved to be the wind of change. Directed by Jonathan Demmem, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ stars       Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, a young U.S. FBI trainee who seeks the advice of the imprisoned candle Dr Hannibal Lecter, essayed by Hopkins to apprehend another serial killer, known infamously as “Buffalo Bill”. While fellow killer Bill, essayed by Ted Levine, was a commendable performance, Hannibal Lecter stole the show. A brilliant forensic psychiatrist, Lecter is a cannibalistic serial killer. With his calm and cool demeanour, Lecter is the quintessential serial killer.

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