A collage featuring some of the best horror movie villains (clockwise from top left): Annie Wilkes in 'Misery,' Candyman in 'Candyman,' Margaret White in 'Carrie,' and Pennywise in 'It'

The Most Terrifying Horror Movie Villains of All Time

So you want to be a horror movie villain, huh? I get it. You’re tired of living like a goodie goodie. In this godless, lawless, meaningless world, it seems like villains are the ones who have all the fun. Unbound by petty notions of morality, they can say and do anything they want with impunity.

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Horror movie villains are exemplary when it comes to spreading misery and bloodshed. The very sight of some of the fiends on this list is enough to drive your Average Joe into gibbering hysterics. If you’re looking to take your villainy to the next level and move on from identity fraud or taking candy from children, these horror movie villains are noteworthy. Literally—take notes.

Pazuzu, The Exorcist

Regan's scary eye in the darkness in The Exorcist.
(Warner Bros.)

A demon of Babylonian mythology, Pazuzu was engaging in ruinous deeds before most most of the other reprobates on this list learned to say “boo.” Like all demons, Pazuzu was formerly an angel, but decided to walk away from the delights of heaven to sow seeds of discord across the face of the earth. In The Exorcist, Pazuzu sets its infernal eyes on the most innocent of all victims: a little girl. The demon tortures the poor kid, making her head spin a full 360 degrees, vomit pea soup, and perform a certain act with a crucifix that I can’t repeat in print.

The Xenomorph, the Alien franchise

Ripley and a snarling xenomorph in 'Alien 3'
(20th Century Studios)

Some villains are created, other villains are born. The Xenomorph is the latter of the two. (And also the former, if we’re taking the recent Alien films into account.) A genetically perfect killing machine, the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise is a practically indestructible force of evil. It has a tough exoskeleton, acidic blood, sharp claws, a barbed tail, and a mouth INSIDE its mouth that it uses to separate people’s brains from their skulls. And don’t even get me started on this monster’s nasty life cycle. The Xenomorph starts its existence as a tentacled horror that lays eggs in the bodies of its victims through their mouths, and then those eggs hatch and explode out of the victim’s chest. Disgusting.

Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise

Leatherface in 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' 2022 sequel: A large man is seen in silhouette holding a chainsaw
(Netflix)

Unlike some villains who are ruled by sadistic desires, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Leatherface engages in a life of depravity for one simple reason: he’s a growing boy. Leatherface is HUNGRY, and the only thing that can sate his appetite is human flesh. So what does he do? He waits for teenagers to go traipsing around his home, beats them with a sledgehammer, and then impales them on meathooks. He also enjoys going to town on unsuspecting victims with a chainsaw. Aside from his dining preferences, he also enjoys engaging in the art of modern dance … while waving a chainsaw around.

Pennywise / It, It

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) the evil clown in 'It: Chapter One'
(Warner Bros.)

From the twisted mind of Stephen King comes the titular antagonist of It. While It is able to shapeshift into many forms, it prefers to manifest as something that gives most of humanity the heebie jeebies: a clown. The entity makes its home in the sewers beneath the small town of Derry, Maine and awakens every 27 years to feed before returning to sleep. What’s its favorite meal? Children. While it appears corporeal in nature, it is actually an interdimensional cosmic horror that feeds on fear. It prefers to eat children because children are much more easily frightened than adults. What an asshole.

Annie Wilkes, Misery

Kathy Bates holding a sledgehammer in 'Misery'.
(Columbia Pictures)

Ol’ Steve King strikes again! Inspired by King’s novel of the same name, Misery is about a popular novelist who gets into a car accident in rural America, and is rescued and nursed back to health by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). After Annie finds out that that novelist intends to kill off her favorite book character, she asks him to write a new novel in which the character returns from the dead. When the author refuses, she hobbles him with a sledgehammer. Annie Wilkes is the perfect representation of all the modern problems with toxic fandoms. What do you do when your target audience is comprised of a bunch of psychopaths? Maybe take up a different medium.

Candyman, Candyman

The ghostly Candyman (Tony Todd) wields a hook hand covered in blood in "Candyman"
(TriStar Pictures)

Of all the villains on this list, Candyman (Tony Todd) is the easiest to avoid. He won’t bother you unless you say his name five times in a mirror, at which point he will appear and slaughter your silly ass with his hook-hand. Seriously, just don’t say his name! It’s so simple! Unlike some of his “born bad” villain contemporaries, Candyman was once an upstanding guy. Daniel Robitaille was born in the 1800s to a former enslaved man and grew up to become a well-known painter. After falling in love with and impregnating a white woman, her racist father and his friends cut off Daniel’s hand and smeared him in honey; he was stung to death by bees. Now he’s back from the dead to seek revenge. Like honey, vengeance is sweet.

Dracula, Dracula

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in Dracula (1931)
(Universal Pictures)

It doesn’t get much more classic than Dracula. Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the titular ghoul in Dracula is among the most iconic in movie history. Suave and spooky, Dracula has inspired countless horror homages, and shaped the vampire genre as we know it. Without his influence, there would be no vampire classics like Let the Right One In or A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Gotta give credit where credit is due.

Art the Clown, the Terrifier series

Art the Clown in Terrifier 2
(Bloody Disgusting)

It goes without saying that a horror movie monster must be sadistic, but Art the Clown is just a total asshole. The Terrifier series has made a name for itself for its brutally over-the-top kills, including a particularly drawn out murder in the sequel that had viewers fainting and vomiting in theaters. While most slashers are content to simply stab people, Art the Clown revels in torture. He saws naked women in half, gouges out eyes, and pours salt on his victim’s wounds. Literally. Why does he do it? For the yucks. That’s it. The clown simply gets a kick out of torturing and murdering people in the most depraved ways possible.

Margaret White, Carrie

Piper Laurie hugs Sissy Spacek with one hand while wielding a knife in the other in 'Carrie'.
(United Artists)

Carrie White did nothing wrong. She is a shy, sweet girl who is ostracized and bullied by her classmates in the most hideous ways. After she gets her first period in the school shower, her bitchy classmates pelt her with tampons. Vile. She receives the worst treatment of all from her own mother, Margaret (played by the late Piper Laurie), who uses her fundamentalist Christian beliefs to justify abusing her daughter in order to root out “sin.” Margaret’s idea of protecting her daughter from impurity involve locking her in a closet and making her beg for God’s forgiveness. After Carrie’s telekinetic powers are made manifest, Margaret believes that her daughter has become possessed by the devil and attempts to murder her with a kitchen knife. Margaret White proves that you don’t need to have ghostly powers or a hook-hand in order to be a villain—human beings are perfectly capable of evil without supernatural help.

(featured image: Columbia Pictures / TriStar Pictures / United Artists / Warner Bros.)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.