By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 28, 2021
The new live-action Disney film, Cruella, has finally arrived and it has us thinking about our favorite Disney villains. They are consistently cruel, self-serving, and maniacal, while, at the same time, wildly entertaining. We absolutely love to hate them. Here are ten of our favorites.
For many years, the only Dodie Smith book most US readers had heard of was The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which, of course, introduces the diabolical Cruella and became the basis for one of Disney's most successful animated films. The new film, starring Emma Stone, offers the villainess's origin story.
In 1994's The Lion King, Simba's scheming uncle will do anything to steal the throne of Pride Rock. Not only did he arrange for the death of his brother, he even convinced Simba that he was guilty of causing his father's death. Rotten to the core! Spinoffs include The Lion King II and 2019's photorealistic version.
Introduced in 1959's Sleeping Beauty, the self-described "Mistress of All Evil" is pretty magnificent. How many other villains have the ability to turn into an actual dragon? Of course we also love the live-action film starring Angelina Jolie. And then there's this YA retelling from the Villains Series by Serena Valentino.
The 1953 Peter Pan from Disney features a Hook who is a lot of blustery buffoonery, but he is still a threatening figure. Originally appearing in the J. M. Barrie classic, the notorious pirate has been featured in a number of other movies, like 1991's Hook and books like Peter and the Starcatchers.
"Off with their heads!" says the unhinged antagonist from Alice in Wonderland. Another who is perhaps more comical than frightening, Lewis Carroll's wildly vindictive monarch makes the cut as one of our favorites. In Tim Burton's 2010 live-action version she is marvelously played by Helena Bonham Carter.
The featured foe in Disney's animated Mulan and Mulan II is Shan Yu, the fearsome leader of the Hun Army, responsible for death and havoc across China. In the stellar 2020 live-action version, he is replaced by the even more menacing Böri Khan, a Rouran warlord bent on avenging his father.
The voluptuously vicious sea witch from The Little Mermaid is perhaps one of our fave Disney's creations. Ursula is awfully amusing as she connives to overthrow the undersea kingdom. Here's the YA novel about her. Based on the classic by Hans Christian Andersen, a live action version is in the works!
The slinky, sinister Bengal tiger from Rudyard Kipling's beloved The Jungle Book is fully fleshed out in Disney's animated adaptation. In the 2016 live-action/CGI hybrid film he is voiced by Idris Elba who said his character "terrorizes everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear." Truth!
Unlike the rest of these characters, the contemptible hunter from the 1991 Beauty and the Beast is entirely a Disney creation, absent from the original by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. In addition to the 2017 live-action version, we recommend this gorgeous retelling by Robin McKinley.
Disney's 1950 treatment of Cinderella introduces the cruel Lady Tremaine based on The Wicked Stepmother from Charles Perrault's fairy tale. There have, of course, been many menacing takes on this meanie, including Cate Blanchett in a 2015 live-action film and Anjelica Huston in Ever After.
These fabulously frightening Disney villains can be counted on to always choose the evil over the good. And, along the way, they're also pretty captivating. We can't wait to check out the newest depiction of the iconic Cruella.