Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the greatest villain of them all?
Villains are just plain scarier when they only have one name, aren’t they?
Who’s your choice?
Nathan Bransford | Writing, Book Editing, Publishing
Helping authors achieve their dreams
The Red Angel says
Cruella Devil is pretty psycho in my opinion…I'd be super scared if she and I were in the same room. O_O
Nurse Ratched, for sure…and Mama Elena in "Like Water for Chocolate" — two ladies who simply oozed villainy.
Kellye Parish says
I gotta go with The Crimson King (aka Randall Flag, aka The Dark Man) in Stephen King's multiverse.
It takes a lot of villainy to cover that many novels.
This has been an interesting thread, but also rather disturbing.
I hope next week's You Tell Me will be about the greatest bunny rabbit in fiction.
Or teddy bear. I'm not picky.
Ken Kerouac says
My vote is for Prof. Moriarty. His presence and impact were felt well beyond the relatively few original stories in which he was mentioned.
Wow! Lots of great suggestions.
My first thought was Ranulf of Chester from Edith Partiger's Heaven Tree Trilogy. In addition to being powerful, unscrupulously ambitious and a manipulator of men, he was a real historical figure. King Stephen didn't have a chance!
Voldemort, Umbrige, forget them. I'll go for Snape. He had me squirming in my chair, and the fact that you never knew what side he was really on, could sympathize with his abused childhood and yet still consider him a little creep who deserved it, just added to the mix. Even more to Rowling's credit,she had me hoping he'd turn out ok in the end.
But, for me, the greatest villan of all time is one I recently came across: Keith Allen playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the new Jonas Armstrong BBC Robin Hood series (well, not that new, it's been going for 3 years. Last year was its last season.) Every time he'd take a canary out it cage and crush it in his hands, every time he'd get someone's hopes up and then say,"Wrong," I'd shutter. He's witty (in a black humor way), sadistic and totally socialpathic. And that gold tooth he'd take in and out! Gets my vote.
E. L. Psomiadis says
Anton Chigurh from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
Duke Needham says
ooo, The minute I saw the question my choice was Iago. There is just something about a "friend" that stabs you in the back that screams evil. But in the spirit of being original what about Beowulf in the novel Grendel? Think about that one.
Sara Murphy says
Voldemort was great, but didn't pack the fear for me.
Talking movies, pinhead.
Most of the books I read lately the heroes are their own worst enemy.
Gilbert J. Avila says
Am I the only one who remembers Doctor Fu Manchu?
My vote goes to Livia the poisoner in Robert Graves' I, Claudius. At the end of her life, she is such a diminished, weakened character who still begs Claudius, the boy she hated and mocked as he grew up, to do right by her after she dies. She has murdered and betrayed nearly everyone who comes into her view. Evil woman. Evil: the progenitor of every evil villainess to follow, from Mrs. Johnny Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate to the Livia Soprano who plots to have her mobster son murdered.
Warden Norton in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
(smacks forehead for having forgotten this true sleaze)
My favorite is Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmations from Dodie Smith. A coat made from puppies? No way!
In history, who could ever forget Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann and the rest of the horrid Nazi's. Now that's pure evil and not fiction.
Jape Waltzer from Leif Enger's Peace Like a River scares me spitless.
A Writer from India says
Thank you for this topic, Nathan. Enjoyed reading the comments.
I would say Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Could never understand why Cathy preferred him over good, gentle Edgar), Dolores Umbridge who evokes so much more hatred than even Voldemort, Humbert from Lolita (Gross), Claude Frollo and the Thénardier couple, Becky Sharp, Uriah Heep, It from a Wrinkle in Time (shudder), the Murdstones and many of the villains from Dickens and Shakespeare…Hate 'em all.
The Crooked Man from The Book of Lost Things, by John Connely
The Unman from Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
I'd have to say that the Man in Black is the greatest villain; the one from The Gunslinger, by Stephen King. He seemed to be one step ahead of Roland, and anyone who can outmaneuver Roland deserves some props.
Sauron from Lord of the Rings gets my vote. First of all, you never saw him. He was this evil entity with pure hatred in his nonexistent heart. That eye, always searching gives me the creeps.
I do have to agree with many posts voting for King's Pennywise. I cannot look at clowns because of him.
One more – the whole book Pet Cemetary – read the last line and you'll understand pure horror.
Definetly Iago.Described as a "motiveless malignity" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he enjoys others suffering for the pure sadistic relish.
Non-fiction must fall to Judas with Brutus a distant second.
Chigur for me – No Country for Old Men.
And Sir Bernard Pellegrin in The Constant Gardener.
Oh, and yes: Iago.
Shannon Ryan says
Antoine Leng Pendergast from Preston and Child's "Cabinet of Curiosities."
A man who tortured dozens of people to discover the secret of immortality so he could live long enough to exterminate human life.
Lady Macbeth!! She was evil, conniving, emasculating, murdering…she's got it all!
Strange but my choices for greatest villain are taken from my favourite childhood authors:
-C.S. Lewis' Jadis, the White Witch from his Chronicles of Narnia series
-the always formidable Miss Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda by Roald Dahl.
So many choices…
I have to admit to liking Disney villains. They may not always have the most complex characters, but they tend to be very stylish, which I like in a villain. There's something about a swishing cloak, and they can be more stylish and interesting than the heroes. I always loved Maleficent (and loathed all the fairies except Merryweather. The green one, Fauna, was such an annoying drip!)
Mrs Danvers: yes, exceptionally creepy, though I wonder if Rebecca herself doesn't deserve a mention, even though she never appears in person.
From TV: Mr Morden from Babylon 5. Makes my skin crawl. The Shadow themselves are deeply scary, but he's the real villain.
If we're going for Jasper Fforde, the worst of the Hades siblings has to be Aornis. She gets in your head and messes with it!
Got to agree with whoever said Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. They are excellent villains. Also with all the votes for the White Witch and Umbridge.
Is Lady Macbeth a villain, or also a tragic hero(ine)? In the end, she can't be as heartless as she wanted to be – what she's done affects her deeply and leads to her taking her own life. But then she wanted to be a cold-blooded murderer. Discuss…
Macavity the Mystery Cat. A classic villainous mastermind.
Aphrodite in Euripides' Hippolytus. The Greek gods make very good villains. Look up Apollo and see how many people he destroyed without caring (cf Cassandra).
I could be at this all day, but had better stop now.
Sarah L. Blair says
I have to agree with all of these suggestions. Super creepy villains here.
On the Voldemort / Umbridge front, yes. Definitely evil incarnate, both of them. But I don't feel like Bellatrix Lestrange is getting her props. Come on, she killed her own cousin and laughed about it! Not to mention she spends the entire series wreaking havoc on the lives of Harry and his friends just to earn the love of someone who will never love anyone but himself. How messed up is that?
Also, Warren Hoyt from Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon and The Apprentice.
The scariest thing about him is that there are real people out there who might do those kinds of things. I had to get my blood taken for a test a few days after finishing these books (I finished both of them in two days) and was seriously freaked out about where that part of me was going and who might get their hands on it… I think villains that mess with your mind like that are the best ones.