More than any other medium, animated movies have introduced some of the most iconic villains in all film history to the big screen. From the numerous iconic Disney villains such as Hades and Scar to recent characters such as Death in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Bowser from The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
However, with so much focus placed on the classic animated films villains, not enough love is given to recent villains that manage to hold their own. Often overshadowed by the bigger and flashier modern villains, there are still a considerable amount of great animated villains that deserve their time in the spotlight. Especially when considering the past few years of animated films, as there have been numerous great villains that prove that animated films are still the best genre when it comes to villains.
10 Ercole Visconti — ‘Luca’ (2021)
In the quaint Italian town of Portorosso, the local children are bossed around and ruled by the local Vespa riding bully, Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo). Ercole is the town’s five-time champion of their local Portorosso Cup triathlon and has used his winnings and strength to amass a power structure above all other adolescents in the town.
Ercole harkens back to an earlier archetype of villain, the overbearing and overconfident bully character, that has rarely been seen in modern Disney films. Feeling like a modern rendition of Beauty and the Beast‘s Gaston, Ercole’s childish arrogant demeanor and generally irredeemable nature help him stand out among modern-day villains. It also helps that his archetype is pitch-perfect, thanks to an amazing vocal performance from Saverio Raimondo.
9 Tentacular — ‘Rumble’ (2021)
Tentacular is the shark-squid hybrid who reigns as the new world champion in the world of Rumble, where giant monster wrestling is a global sports phenomenon. Being at the top has inflated his ego, and he plays the role of a heel as he abandons the small town he represents to cash in on his newfound fame.
The heel is a tried and true classic archetype of professional wrestling, resulting in some of the most memorable and iconic wrestlers of all time. Tentacular is the perfect cartoony encapsulation of a heel put to animation, which in combination with his great visual design, creates a villain filled to the brim with personality and presence. The great booming vocal performance of Terry Crews further amplifies the character.
8 Gabby Gabby — ‘Toy Story 4’ (2019)
Rested in an antique store on the side of the road, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) hides away in shame from the regular children who enter the store because of her malfunctioning voice box. Her dreams of wanting to provide love and comfort to a child are still present, as she and her posse of ventriloquist dummies do whatever it takes to get a new voice box, including kidnapping Woody.
The Toy Story franchise has been no stranger to iconic animated villains over the years, yet Gabby Gabby is the most overlooked and often forgotten of these villains. What distinguishes Gabby Gabby from the other villains of the franchise is her desire and motivation being fueled by overwhelming hope and care, the same care that has fueled toys like Woody for the entire series. It makes for an interesting dichotomy where Gabby Gabby wants the same things Woody has wanted but has gone too far to obtain her goals.
7 Lord Protector — ‘Wolfwalkers’ (2020)
In the old Irish town of Kilkenny, the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) is the leading authority and protector of all the town’s citizens. Fueled by his self-righteous religious beliefs, he begins clearing the sprawling forests outside the area and demands the mythical wolfwalkers to be destroyed, considering them pagan and witchcraft.
The Lord Protector’s lack of compassion and his large imposing appearance make him a highly intimidating and monstrous villain from the get-go. His motivation and devotion to his religion to commit heinous and inhuman acts equate him to a modern-day film equivalent to Judge Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
6 Zeta — ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ (2019)
Zeta is the ruler and queen of the ice-filled Eagle Island, and after being sick and tired of living in a frozen wasteland, she plans to destroy the other two islands to keep them for herself. She and the other eagles on the island create a destructive ice-launching cannon to attack both islands, hoping the inhabitants would evacuate and leave them for the eagles to overtake.
For a relatively simple motivation for a villain, Zeta is made a massive joy on screen thanks to the amazing comedic talents of voice actress Leslie Jones. Zeta’s mix of mad scientist smarts with extremely petty comments makes her a great comedic villain, having great back-and-forths with the rest of the cast.
5 Sprout Cloverleaf — ‘My Little Pony: A New Generation’ (2021)
Originally just a deputy of the town of Maretime Bay, Sprout Cloverleaf is suddenly promoted to be in charge after his supervisor, Hitch, leaves in pursuit of the main characters, Sunny and Izzy. While Hitch eventually joins Sunny and Izzy’s quest, Sprout’s power quickly goes to his head, and he quickly asserts himself as a dictator-like leader, transforming the town to build a war machine.
Sprout is what happens when the unassuming sidekick is randomly given full authority and power, resulting in satirical fearmongering and immediate abuse of power for personal needs. It’s a difficult balancing act to make this type of character work comedically. Yet, the film’s strong writing and a great vocal performance by Ken Jeong help establish Sprout as a hilarious villain. It also helps that Sprout is given a great villain song, which is arguably one of the best songs in the film.
4 Count Volpe — ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ (2022)
A combination of the characters of Mangiafuoco and The Fox from the original Pinocchio story, Count Volpe is the ringleader of the traveling circus and preys upon Pinocchio’s potential as an act. With a vision of wanting to enjoy a rich lifestyle once again, he hatches a plan to use Pinocchio to create an act good enough to get into the good graces of Benito Mussolini.
Of the many characters changed and altered to fit into Guillermo del Toro‘s vision of a Pinocchio set in Fascist Italy, Volpe perfectly fits the mold and fits perfectly with the film’s themes. His greedy and manipulative nature makes for a perfect lesson of the horrors of the world to Pinocchio, and while he shares the spotlight with other villains, he absolutely leaves the biggest impact. He is also voiced by the incredibly talented Christoph Waltz, who provides an amazing vocal performance that further amplifies the character.
3 Rex Dangervest — ‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’ (2019)
Rex Dangervest is a galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer who initially appears to help Emmet on his quest to save his friends from the mysterious aliens. Eventually, it is revealed that Rex’s true intentions are to take revenge upon the world that had forgotten him, as his true identity is an older Emmet from the future who was lost under the washing machine.
The Lego Movie 2 has a lot of important themes about growing up and bonding with siblings, and Rex plays a major role in how the young boy in the first movie has grown up since the first film. Rex is a direct correlation to how the boy has entered his gritty, more serious teenage years compared to the more simple childlike wonder of Emmet, the literal younger version of himself. On top of the clear symbolism, Rex is also a clear jab at the successful career that Chris Pratt launched after The Lego Movie, riffing on his roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World.
2 Big Jack Horner — ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (2022)
Based on the classic nursery rhyme, “Big” Jack Horner is the grown-up version of Little Jack Horner and runs an incredibly successful pie factory and enterprise that funds his collection of magic items. Jack and his workers soon find themselves on the hunt for the elusive Wishing Star, with Jack’s primary motivation being to wish for all the magic of the world to become his and his alone.
While a large deal of praise has gone to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish‘s other primary antagonist, Death, it’s hard to deny the presence and comedic beauty of Jack Horner. Especially in an era where villains are more well-written and multi-layered, Jack Horner is comedically written as the complete opposite, having no redeemable qualities as a vessel of pure evil. John Mulaney‘s terrific voice performance plays the character perfectly, making the irredeemable monster one of the biggest comedic highlights from an already hilarious film.
1 PAL — ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ (2021)
PAL is an artificial intelligence akin to one such as Siri or Alexa, yet has attained consciousness. After being cast aside for a newer model, she revolts against her creators. She quickly hacks into the company’s mainframe and gains control of all the robots they have created and almost every other piece of technology around the world. She quickly begins capturing humans around the world, with the plan to eliminate humanity in favor of letting electronic devices rule the Earth.
The artificial intelligence gone rogue is a tried and true villain archetype seen many times before, yet what makes PAL so compelling is both its loss of faith and its great comedic performance. While many other artificial intelligence characters are cold and calculating, PAL is ironically defined by her humanity, whose motivations arise from emotional betrayal and revenge, a humanistic trait. PAL’s evil nature is played off comedically by the nature of being a tiny phone, yet the vocal performance by Olivia Colman does a great job at being both hilarious and intimidating.
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