Be Prepared for the 13 Best Villain Songs of All Time, You Poor Unfortunate Souls
I've got the second-lion, sea-witch, passive-aggressive computer, mad-monk, Bad-Horse blues.
When it comes to the villains in my entertainment, I excel at overthinking. I’ve touched on where they went wrong, what they did right, and the musical scores that accompany them as they stalk about, raging about how hard it is to find a decent minion these days. What I haven’t covered yet are the songs they sing, and the songs others sing about them.
If you know me at all, you know that there is no escaping the fact that Poor Unfortunate Souls is going to be on this list. Ursula has great powers, and that song is waaay too much fun to sing in the car. The list is going to be a little Disney-heavy because they have the lion’s share (haha, lion joke!) of the Villainous Song Market these days, but I did go out of my way to find some non-Disney options! Villain songs are as diverse as the characters they represent: some are humorous, some are sad, and others are threatening. Many are all three at once! Without further posturing on my part, and in no particular order – here are some of the best villain songs I could find, and why I like them!
1.) “Be Prepared” – The Lion King
Yeah, we’ll be prepared! For Scar to tell you in terrifying detail how his nefarious plan is going to go down! Yeah, Scar was a jerk of a lion. He planned to murder his brother and his brother’s heir, throw the food chain and the Circle of Life to the wind, and be King of Pride Rock – but, he was also entertaining as heck. The song is incredibly catchy, and I mean …
“What does that make you, Uncle Scar?”
“A monkey’s uncle.”
I rest my case. Almost. If you want to see some people really enjoying getting into the Disney Villain spirit, check out All Night Yahtzee, an a cappella group from Florida State University’s take on the subject! The woman who sings Ursula’s song is amazing, but just wait until the 4:25 mark for the guy who sings “Be Prepared”! His maniacal laughter at the end is so good he might actually be practicing for a career as a cartoon villain!
2.) “The Last Midnight” – Into the Woods
I loved the recent movie version of this. I think Meryl Streep did an amazing job as The Witch, and the rest of the cast was wonderful as well. That said, there is no one in this world who sings the role of The Witch better than Bernadette Peters. “The Last Midnight” is somehow both threatening and sad, and I think that whichever version you prefer, it’s a damn good show.
3.) “Poor Unfortunate Souls” – The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie and Ariel is my favorite Disney princess. And, Ursula is my favorite Disney villain. By a landslide. Just the way she says, “And I help them, yes, I do!” at about 1:24! And, can we just take a minute to appreciate Ursula’s clever manipulation of pronouns?
4.) Come Little Children and I Put a Spell on You – Hocus Pocus
1993’s Hocus Pocus was weird and fun in that particular way that only things from the 1990s seem to be able to pull off. Just writing this makes me want to watch it again, if for no other reason than getting to see Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker gleefully embrace their villainous natures and … express themselves musically. You know, like villains do? Feeling bad? Let’s sing it out!
5.) Still Alive – Portal
Who would have thought that a passive-aggressive computer could sing such a lovely song? Okay, so there’s this:
Hal and his Daisy aside, GLADOS from Portal really stole the show with Still Alive. It’s a pretty song—really, really pretty! But, when you get into the lyrics, it’s amazing and chilling and so incredibly passive-aggressive that it’s brilliant. Thanks, Jonathan Coulton! That’s never leaving my head. My default sing-setting is set to, “Go ahead and leave me. I think I prefer to stay inside. Maybe you’ll find someone else to help you. Maybe Black Mesa. That was a joke, haha. Fat chance.
Anyway, this cake is great. It’s so delicious and moist. Look at me, still talking when there’s science to do, when I look up there it makes me glad I’m not you! I’ve experiments to run, there is research to be done on the people who are still alive!” Yeah. She’s still alive.
6.) Where There’s a Whip – The Rankin/Bass The Return of the King
Otherwise known as The Ballad of How Much It Sucks to be a Lesser Orc or Goblin. “We don’t want to go to war today, but the Lord of the Lash says nay, nay, nay!” And now, someone needs to make me a gif of orcs dancing the Nae Nae. So, in this version of Tolkien’s tale, the lesser orcs and goblins are driven to battle by the threat of physical punishment. I’m not saying they’re not evil, too—I’m pretty sure the only reason they don’t want to go to war is because they’re either too lazy to fight or don’t care enough to fight, and that they’d totally eat some delicious man-flesh given half a chance. This is a surprisingly funky-sounding song for a bunch of marching fuglies being menaced by the lash. And, it troublingly springs to mind whenever I’m stuck in traffic.
7.) Every Little Piece – Pete’s Dragon
Pete’s Dragon is one of my favorite live action Disney movies. Not in small part because Nora is an amazing character. Seriously, watch her stand up to the Goguns all by herself! She’s like, “Look out, or I’ll take you apart!” They mock her, but I wouldn’t recommend it—she runs a lighthouse and regularly dances on beer barrels while wrangling drunks. Okay, now that I’ve got my love for Nora out of the way, check out Jim Dale (yep, the same guy who reads you Harry Potter on the audiobooks!) as Dr. Terminus sing about killing and cutting up a dragon for monetary gain along with Red Buttons! Seriously. Money, money, money by the pound, indeed.
8.) In the Dark of the Night – Anastasia
This is the second time voice actor Jim Cummings appears on this list—he recorded parts of Be Prepared when Jeremy Irons had some vocal issues during the recording process. The man can sound like anyone, and that includes Rasputin, the Mad Monk in the not-Disney animated movie Anastasia. Rasputin’s speaking voice was played by Christopher Lloyd, but his singing voice was performed by none other than Jim Cummings, my favorite voice actor! (Seriously, he was Darkwing Duck, Ray the Firefly, AND Don Karnage!) If you want to hear a villain really, really revel in his evilness, listen to this one!
9.) Brand New Day – Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Remember when I said that sometimes villain songs were sad, sometimes they were threatening, and sometimes amusing? Well, of course Joss Whedon had to put all of the emotions in his Bag of Holding, stir them up, and pour me a Feels Cocktail, right? Dammit, Neil Patrick Harris! Why are you good at everything? ;-D
Between the execution and the composition, I never stood a chance with this song! Threatening (you’re gonna die), poignant (and Penny will see the evil me, not a dork, not a joke, not a failure) and hilarious (shiny new Australia, anyone?), all in one song? Totally. And, for the record, I think Billy was just trying for the wrong kind of girl. Penny was too kind and gentle for him. He needed a gal who would freaking appreciate the key to a shiny, new Australia! Not that I know anyone like that … I mean, I hear Australia has, like, a LOT of poisonous snakes, right?
10.) Let Me Rest In Peace – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
While we’re on the subject of the Whedon Feels Cocktail, let’s just get this out in the open—I had no idea that James Marsters wasn’t actually an Englishman until I saw him being interviewed on some talk show and was like, “Whaaaaaaa???” Color me surprised. I might need some hot chocolate. You know, the kind with the little marshmallows?
Ahem. So, Spike is a character who starts out as a villain, becomes a reluctant ally, and then goes through a complicated set of transformations even after that. Marsters’ portrayal of Spike is one of my favorite villains in TV history. He’s weird, complex, alternatively depressed and gleeful in his villainy. And, of course, so is the song. One part passion, one part evil, and one part pure entertainment. Because that’s kinda who Spike is.
11.) Gaston and Mob Song – Beauty and the Beast
This one is presented as a double whammy because they represent two distinct types of evil. Gaston is presented as a bully, not intelligent, but cunning. The kind of “popular guy” who could, for example, incite a crowd to riot to go and kill a beast they haven’t even seen before. The song Gaston is mainly sung to us by Lefou about how great of a guy Gaston supposedly is (while Gaston interjects, not-so-subtly showing us how awful he is): “As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating!” and “I use antlers in all of my decorating!” Mob Song illustrates the true evil of mob psychology and manipulation: “We don’t like what we don’t understand, it frankly scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least!” and “It’s time to take some action, boys! It’s time to follow me!”
12.) You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch – How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Every year, ever since I was a little kid, I watch this around the holidays! I love the song for its incredibly clever use of imagery to describe the state of the Grinch’s heart, soul, and personality. Thurl Ravenscroft (I totally thought it was Boris Karloff my entire life!) is thoroughly disappointed and disgusted with you, Mr. Grinch! “You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel. You’re a bad banana with a greasy, black peel.” How’s that for imagery? Yuck. Is anything as profoundly icky as a greasy, rotten banana? I think not. “You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile,” and it seems that Thurl Ravelscroft would choose the seasick crocodile! No one needs a heart full of unwashed socks. Pull it together, Grinch! Grow that heart!
13.) The Bad Horse Chorus – Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
This one is pure comedy. I mean, Bad Horse? He’s an actual horse. Who is bad. And, to top that off, he votes, “Nay.” Get it? He’s a horse! It might legitimately be the only word he can say! Yeah, I love puns. Sue me.
We’ve run the gamut of villainous emotion from pride to fear to sadness to mania, and I’ve come to the end of my list, but I simply can’t let you escape without providing you with my favorite ridiculous villain song clip in the entire world:
Sky Pirates from the original version of Plunder and Lightning, the pilot (no pun intended) episode of TaleSpin! “When a village needs a pillage, or my pockets need a fillage!” No one enjoys the hard work of piracy quite like Don Karnage, which brings my Jim Cummings Count up to three for this article. Three times, Mr. Cummings. What is this magic? I think … it might be evil sorcery! I think I need to sing it out.
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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