THE 10 SCARIEST VILLAINS
(FROM MY CHILDHOOD!)
Jack Torrance, The Shining (1980)
Annie Wilkes, Misery (1990)
These two are together mainly because they are both from two of Stephen King's most popular books. But growing up, Jack Nicholson's face through that door at a terrified Shelley Duvall and Kathy Bates (in her Oscar-winning role) hobbling a bedridden James Caan were frighteningly crazy.
The Skeksis, The Dark Crystal (1982)
As a kid, these brilliant creations by Muppet mastermind Jim Henson did exactly what they were supposed to do: frighten the children in the audience into not liking them. Their evil, opportunistic world was dark and scary enough for the children to be wowed by the film's ultimate conclusion.
Monstro, Pinocchio (1940)
The Great White Shark, Jaws (1975)
These two go together as they are my "Villains of the Deep" (so to speak!). Of course I saw Pinocchio before I saw Jaws (as most kids probably did!). Monstro was one of the most frightening of Disney's villains (at least to me!) and when I saw Steven Spielberg's blockbuster, I was reminded of the scare I had watching the Disney classic.
The Devil, The Exorcist (1973)
Who knew that sweet little Linda Blair had such a nasty mouth on her? If you see this film as a kid (and you're raised with Catholic conceptions of Hell and damnation!), you worry that you will end up like Linda Blair and spew bile and spin your head and say horrible vile things to people. With the latter, this film handed me a ready-made excuse!
Norman Bates, Psycho (1960)
My father always tells the story of how his uncle took him to see this film when it first came out. My father was only 12 at the time. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of terror and my father learned halfway through this film how good at his job he was. So good in fact my father ran screaming out of the theater when "Norman's mother" attacked investigator Martin Balsam.
Mola Ram, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
I was very young when I saw this movie and well the video below should be explanation enough. (I mean, I still can't watch this scene all the way through!)
The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
These days (thanks in part to a certain musical!) the lady with the green skin is not as frightening. But when you're a little kid seeing this cackling flying woman threatening sweet Judy Garland (and her little dog too!), you can't help but be terrified.
Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
Darth Vader was an imposing figure enough in the first film (with that booming intimidating voice of James Earl Jones!). By the third film, we learned he was Luke's father and was turned by an evil Dark lord. And then we meet this Dark lord, the Emperor himself. And boy is he a piece of work! I mean, if it takes Vader to kill him, then you know he has to be bad!
The Alien Queen, Aliens (1986)
In James Cameron's really well-done sequel to Ridley Scott's brilliantly terrifying 1979 sci-fi classic, we learn that the Alien from that first film was one of many. A colony of Aliens run by a predatory and vicious Queen. The terrifying actions of this monstrous "bitch" (as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley succinctly puts it!) were so frightening to me as a kid. To me, the Alien Queen is the scariest female villain (or "villainess") of all-time. As for the men, see below.
Freddy Kreuger, Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
More than Jason or Michael Myers or Leatherface or any of the other villains listed above, Freddy was truly the stuff of Nightmares. Wes Craven cemented his master of horror/slasher film status with Robert Englund's terrifying interpretation of a deformed man who kills teens in their dreams. He was menacing, gory and all kinds of scary. I mean he even killed a young Johnny Depp!