What does it take to be considered a great horror movie villain? If you go all the way back to the silent film era some of the most popular reoccurring characters have been horror movie villains. Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster, these bad guys are synonymous with the genre and have had longevity that’s incomparable to most. Still, just because a villain has multiple iterations or a long running franchise to keep bringing them back for more it doesn’t necessarily generate success; quality over quantity. A truly great horror movie villain must evoke terror and strike fear into viewers, in my opinion it’s this quality that makes them truly memorable. With that in mind, here are my top 10 most memorable horror movie villains.
10 – Candyman
“They will say that I have shed innocent blood… What’s blood for, if not for shedding?”
As with Clive Barker’s earlier slasher icon, Pinhead, the character of Candyman was intentionally designed to be very charismatic and articulate, his main source of fear being derived from his warped sense of reasoning.
Although a brutal killer and a vengeful spirit, Candyman has an especially tragic past compared to most horror icons, which arguably made him more sympathetic – though he was nevertheless just as dangerous and deadly as any other slasher movie antagonist.
09 – Jigsaw (Saw)
“I want to play a game”
The Jigsaw Killer, whose real name is John Kramer, is the main antagonist of the Saw franchise.
Knowing that he would die soon from terminal cancer, he became irritated by the fact that most people don’t appreciate the life they are living. He never encouraged the name Jigsaw or used it himself, but was given the nickname since he always cut a jigsaw shape into the bodies of his victims to symbolize that a piece of their soul was missing. Jigsaw is incredibly knowledgeable and cunning, he gives his victims a second gruesome chance, thinking that everybody deserves a chance to live. Jigsaw puts people in elaborate death traps out of materials he finds (being a skilled engineer) and considers the survivors rehabilitated.
08 – Chucky
“Think about it, what’s so great about being human anyway? You get sick, you get old, and you can’t get it up anymore. I’m not looking forward to that! As a doll, I’m fucking infamous! I’m one of the most notorious slashers in history! And I don’t wanna give that up. I am Chucky, the killer doll! And I dig it!”
Chucky is thrill-seeking, sadistic, foul-mouthed and has a very short temper. He also holds grudges, and never forgets when someone has crossed him. He is a relentless hunter of victims, but if the hunting of a certain victim is slow going, he will divert his attention and kill others, sometimes if they threaten to expose him, or sometimes just for fun. He even has a tendency to kill people who try to help him, proving he is irredeemably evil, and cannot be reasoned with.
07 – Pennywise the Dancing Clown (IT)
“I’LL KILL YOU ALL! Ha-ha! I’ll drive you crazy, and I’ll kill you all! I’m every nightmare you’ve ever had! I am your worst dream come true! I’m everything you ever were afraid of”
Unlike many horror monsters before him, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is never against killing children; in fact, he actually prefers to kill children as they are an easier target. This is probably why he chooses the form of a clown, a figure that both entertains and terrifies many young children.
06 – Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
Leatherface is one of the biggest horror icons of all time, but unlike most of them, is not supernatural in any way. His main weapons are a chainsaw and sledgehammer. He is also extremely mentally disabled. He does not talk, though he does make vocal sounds. He wears a mask made from a person’s skin, which he uses to express a personality. It is also notable that director Tobe Hooper has stated that Leatherface kills out of fear, not malice. He wears masks made of human skin (hence his name) and engages in murder and cannibalism alongside his inbred family.
05 – Hannibal Lecter
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
Hannibal is an extremely brilliant but psychopathic, cannibalistic serial killer. In film, he was most frequently portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. In television, he was portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen.
04 – Pinhead (Hellraiser)
“Trick us and we shall tear your soul apart!”
Pinhead is the main antagonist of the Hellraiser film series. Aside from the iron pins jabbed in his skull, Pinhead is renowned in the slasher movie genre for being one of the very few villains who is eloquent and highly intelligent. He usually kills his victims by means of tearing them apart with hooked chains, but has also commanded an arsenal of demonic powers and is a master of torture who often prefers to drag his victims into an eternity of suffering rather than outright death. While in the first film he was largely neutral, Pinhead, as the series progressed, became a more standard horror villain and murdered more frequently.
3 – Jason Voorhees (Friday The 13th)
“Some have even tried to stop him… No one can. People forget he’s down there, waiting…”
The easiest way to describe Jason is that he’s a hockey-masked, immortal, zombified, undead serial killer. He goes around killing people with a machete, but also uses any other weapons or methods of killing that he can find. He has one of the highest body counts in slasher history and is among the most famous, in that he has gone the entire series without ever speaking a single word.
02 – Michael Myers (Halloween)
“I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”
Myers is a legendary serial killer and the main antagonist of the 1978 classic horror film Halloween and its many sequels (except for Halloween III: Season of the Witch) and its modern remakes.
Michael Myers was a little 6 year old boy who murdered his older sister, Judith, on Halloween night. For 15 years, he was kept in a Sanatorium, under the care of Dr. Loomis, who understood that he was actually pure evil. Michael escapes to seek vengeance and began his new intention of putting an end to his family; Michael seems to like playing games on his victims by sadistically stalking and terrifying them before brutally killing them.
01 – Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street)
“The children still feared me and their fear gave me the power to invade their dreams. And that’s when the fun REALLY began.”
Freddy Krueger is a legendary serial killer and the main antagonist of the 1984 classic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street and its many sequels, as well as its 2010 remake.
He was a sadistic child murderer in his life, and when vengeful parents found out, they burned him alive in his boiler room hideout. Little did they know, Freddy made a deal with three “Dream Demons” and was resurrected as a malevolent spirit, seeking revenge on the parents of Springwood, Ohio by killing their children in the one place where they could never protect them; in their dreams, usually with his signature clawed glove.
So there you have it! What horror movie villains did I leave out?