Disney villains come in all shapes and sizes. While some of the most menacing ones wear their black hearts on their sleeves, making no secret of their wicked ways, others use a more unassuming approach. And this latter group is the one we must be on our guard around, for they are the greatest of deceivers. From those who succeed at hiding their evil intentions as to fool the audience or film’s protagonist (or both) to those villains who just lacked popularity owing to an admittedly less popular box office reception, we’re taking a closer look at some of the most underrated Disney villains of all time. Warning: This article contains spoilers.
20. Dawn Bellwether
Don’t be fooled by this meek little sheep from Disney’s hit computer-animated film Zootopia. She may seem like a timid pushover, who gets easily taken advantage of at work, but she’s not just a cuddly ball of fluff after all. As is eventually revealed during the film’s climax, it is she who is the ultimate mastermind behind a devious scheme to single out and frame innocent animals that just happen to be classified as predators.
From the moment this seemingly concerned and caring prince from Disney’s Frozen came onto the scene, Princess Anna was taken with him, as were most of the first-time viewers. There was nothing about his gentlemanly nature to even remotely foreshadow the fact that he had ulterior motives in wanting to marry Anna. So when the big reveal came crashing down during the grand finale, it was a true shocker, to say the least. Other odious characters in the film, like the Duke of Weselton for instance, made no secret about their deplorable nature from the very start.
A teddy-bear-turned villain is never something we expect to see, not even in a movie where all the key players happen to be toys. But that’s the case with the Disney-Pixar computer-animated hit Toy Story 3. With his full name being “Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear,” we can’t entirely blame him for having such a bitter outlook on life, given his unfortunate past. But that doesn’t excuse his villainous ways, especially in regards to his tyranny towards the other toys. All the same, our first initial opinion of him is that he is a friendly, welcoming sort of guy. But like all facades, this farce quickly fades away, leaving us just as equally deceived as our on-screen heroes.
17. Sid Phillips
This toy-terrorizing boy from the first installment in the Toy Story franchise makes no secret about his very blatant maliciousness and disregard for his own playthings. Therefore, we can’t really coin him as being an unexpected or surprising villain, per se. The only real shocker lies in the fact that we are not often presented with a little boy being a movie’s leading antagonist. But that is indeed the case here.
16. Michael Yagoobian
Disney’s computer-animated production of Meet the Robinsons from 2007 is one of those often-overlooked charms lacking anywhere near the amount of credit or recognition it deserves. What’s more, it has some of the most original plot twists ever to be featured in a Disney film. While the unpredictability of the storyline keeps us guessing from start to finish, one of the most flabbergasting realizations comes when the film’s villain is revealed to be none other than the lead protagonist’s one-time roommate, Michael Yagoobian, as a detestable grown man from the future.
We normally expect a movie centering around superheroes to feature all-powerful supervillains on the opposing side. But in Disney’s animated hit The Incredibles, things are done differently on so many levels. Not only are heroes the vilified ones in the featured plot, but the mastermind villain here ends up being none other than a disgruntled former fan who makes up for his lack of super abilities through inventive methods that suffice just fine in unleashing his wrath.
While Shere Khan is the bad Bengal Tiger that rules Disney’s The Jungle Book as the primary villain, he’s not the only one who causes problems in the film. King Louie’s not so great either, but one creepy critter that often slithers past the memories of many fans is that infamous Indian Python Kaa. Despite first attempting to earn the trust of the film’s protagonist, this snake’s truly evil ulterior motive is really to eat Mowgli.
We could easily consider the demigod Maui to be the villain in Disney’s 2016 computer-animated film Moana. It is his fault, after all, that the problem of the movie’s premise even exists. But his partnership alongside the title hero creates a first for Disney, making it so that the would-be antagonist actually serves as dual protagonist. But that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have an antagonist at all. And no, we’re not talking about Te Fiti either; she had every right to be mad about having her heart stolen. The unsuspecting baddie in this flick is that crafty crustacean abomination we know as Tamatoa. Just listen closely to the lyrics of his witty, albeit wicked song in which he illustrates so perfectly his greedy nature and ill intentions.
12. Bill Sykes
Anyone familiar with the Dickens classic Oliver Twist ought to know the role that this replicated character in Disney’s animated 1988 hit Oliver & Company plays in the overall plot. While most of the characters are animals, Bill Sykes is a vulgar fiend of a human, and arguably one of Disney’s darkest, although overlooked, villains to date. He has reportedly performed loads of cruel acts, including having committed murder. Furthermore, he is even involved in myriad malicious acts on-screen, which we as the audience get to witness firsthand.
11. Prince John
Scar from The Lion King isn’t the only disgruntled lion brother to vilify a Disney movie. Just think back to Disney’s sometimes overlooked all-animal animated presentation of Robin Hood from 1973 and you may recall the character of Prince John. Serving as head villain here, Prince John is an unjust ruler (in his temporal role as such), punishing, berating, and altogether abusing his subjects in the absence of his brother King Richard.
The Great Mouse Detective from 1986 frequently gets overshadowed by other Disney animated classics. All the same, it was in this film that we were introduced to Professor Ratigan, a notorious dark crime lord and nemesis to our titular hero. From his shifty attire, complete with top hat and cape, to his overall sinister intent, he is among the most vile villains that Disney has ever doled out for viewers.
9. Governor Ratcliffe
This grotesque governor from the 1995 animated film Pocahontas has all the obvious makings of a cold-hearted villain, yet he often gets overlooked. While not traditionally wicked in the way that most antagonists are presented into a movie premise, his bias, arrogance, and ill talk do well to unravel his ruthless nature even before any of the film’s climactic events are set in motion.
Clayton is on the same page of severity in presentation as the aforementioned Governor Ratcliffe: this antagonist from Disney’s 1999 animated version of Tarzan often gets ignored as well. But there’s never any question about his cruelty, as evidenced by his active attempts at poaching and his total disregard for the life of others in general, human or otherwise.
This evil sorceress and one-time advisor to the Emperor in the 2000 animated film The Emperor’s New Groove has all the makings of a classic Disney villain. There’s no denying that she is one wicked woman, considering her obsession with killing the Emperor and ultimately assuming the throne. Think of Scar and Jafar rolled into one, with two parts Maleficent and Evil Queen, and you pretty much have her pegged. But despite her very impressive potential for infamy, her would-be portal into popularity was an admittedly very unpopular movie. Therefore, she is forced to resign herself to the ranks of underrated Disney villains, along with so many others.
6. Madame Min
Disney’s 1963 animated take on The Sword and the Stone is another Disney movie in the feature film collection that goes largely unnoticed in hindsight. Therefore, this crafty and conniving witch, who rejoices in the turmoil and suffering of others, barely gets any recognition as a Disney villain. She is a hideous, purely evil being and serves as a total antithesis to the film’s positive wizard mentor Merlin.
5. Madame Medusa
How can someone with the name Medusa be anything but evil? She certainly is, and she doesn’t hold back on showing her true colors in Disney’s animated classic The Rescuers from 1977. Running a corrupt pawnshop operation is minuscule on her very lengthy list of indiscretions as a human being. She’s mutually cruel to all living things, from innocent children to little nice mice. And just like her namesake in Greek mythology, when she stares with that evil gaze of hers, she appears to possess a temporal power that petrifies any recipient of her ire. While The Rescuers isn’t one of Disney’s altogether forgotten films, per se, it doesn’t rank very highly on the list of popular picks that one usually considers. That is why we don’t hear about Madame Medusa as often as we do other Disney villains.
4. Mother Gothel
Our decision to include this “Mother” who thinks that she knows best may leave you scratching your head. Not only is her status as a story arc villain obvious to us from the start of her movie, but Disney’s computer-animated release of Tangled in 2010 was also a box office hit. So why are we calling this conniving, kidnapping evil woman an “underrated” Disney villain? It’s her deceptiveness (not to the audience this time, but to the film’s primary protagonist all throughout the film) that earns her this mark. And let’s be real honest in admitting that even though we knew her ulterior motives all along, her kindness to Rapunzel all the same (aside from the fact that she stole the Disney princess away from her family and royal title) is in fact doting and never abusive by traditional standards.
3. Shan Yu
In all fairness, there were many villains in both installments of Disney’s Mulan. There was an entire army of them, in fact. But this most wicked leader of the Huns from the 1998 animated version is also the lead in villainy as far as Mulan’s story goes, without a doubt. Not only does he possess gruesomely-grotesque outward features that seem to peer soullessly through all those who fall under his harsh glare, but his black-hearted, internal ugliness spills out wherever he treads. He is beyond a doubt one of the creepiest products of concept art representing a cartoon human in Disney, not unlike the lesser Monsieur D’Arque character featured in the 1993 animated version of Beauty and the Beast.
2. The Horned King
Disney’s 1985 presentation of The Black Cauldron is almost forgotten these days. But when it came out, it presented thematic elements that were so shocking by the standards of the day, it’s hard to believe that this is even a Disney film. Among the dark content the movie boasts is the representation of a truly chilling antagonist who succeeds at frightening both those on-screen as well as the viewing audience. A truly vile, disgusting display of animation, the Horned King has the sinister objective to find the title reference and then use it to unleash a vast army of demonic warriors. As a villain, there’s no doubt that he can best some of Disney’s more popular claims, but being bound to the shadows of this largely ignored film is his ultimate hindrance in getting the recognition that he deserves.
While most Disney fans of today have at least minimum awareness about Disney’s classic Fantasia film from 1940, many have only just that—a patchwork of scenes and songs to reflect back on, like Mickey as the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and its accompanying music. Thanks to Disney parade fame and the largely recognized Night On Bald Mountain featured here, as well as the Kingdom Keepers series, Fantasia‘s sinister villain Chernabog isn’t entirely exempt from receiving a much-deserved evil ranking. In fact, this dark demon creature, who notoriously emerges from the peak of Bald Mountain in a dramatic display, may very well be the absolute most hideous invent from the minds of Disney animators ever. Not even Disney’s more famous fiends can hold a candle to the truly terrifying portrayal of Chernabog.
From the more obvious Disney villains we previously highlighted to a vast remaining number of underrated nemeses we still haven’t covered, we acknowledge that the option to expand our in-depth scrutiny could continue on infinitely. But as long as Disney keeps making movies, spinning out all-new protagonists, you can guarantee that equally new antagonists will be appearing opposite them as well. So watch your back, for you never know when the next unsuspecting Disney villain will sneak up on you.