The Top Ten Most Terrifying Horror Movie Villains Ever!

"The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." - H.P. Lovecraft

In my opinion, the most effective, heart-stopping horror movies are those which cater to our fear of the unknown. The less we see the better, and the less we know just encourages our imagination to fill in the blanks with what personally terrifies us the most. Thankfully, the mindless, almost comedic slasher films that dominated the 90's are losing steam, being replaced by brilliant cinematic works that require our own speculation and curiosity in the process of that strange, unexplainable impulse to scare ourselves. Here then, is a list of the most horrifying movie antagonists ever to grace the silver screen. While there are a few exceptions (notably Leatherface), the common factor throughout most of these movies is their ability to employ subtlety to slowly build suspense, effectively torturing the viewer with the questions, "what next?" and "what if?"

Oh, be warned, there are SPOILERS!

10. Leatherface from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

This is a no-brainer. A fat guy with a strange penchant for athleticism who wields a chainsaw is scary enough, add to that the fact that he communicates in grunts and wears a mask made from human flesh and you have the stuff of nightmares. Leatherface's terrifying appeal (unlike other serial killer stereotypes) is that while he remains far from ordinary, he's just enough grounded in reality to remain a very real possibility. The fact is, a guy much like Leatherface could possibly grace your nightly news someday, and that makes for a frightening antagonist indeed.

Oh, and he wants to chop you up with a chainsaw and then eat you.

Trailer for the Original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

9. The Witch from "The Blair Witch Project"

While The Blair Witch Project seems to be a fairly ridiculed movie these days, when it first came out it was a groundbreaking concept. The realism defining the movie, which was executed in a simple, and extremely cheap manner, was the brilliant selling point which catapulted its creators from unknown film makers to millionaires practically overnight. With jerky, amateurish filming and a script based largely upon improvisational dialogue, The Blair Witch Project appealed to both our desire for realism and our fear of the unknown. Which is exactly why the movie's antagonist makes this list: You never even see her.  With progressively bizarre and violent actions being carried out by the witch paralleling an increasingly looser grip on reason for the young filmmakers, the movie rightly refrains from revealing its shadowy antagonist and instead reveals a complete loss of sanity in its victims. The less we know is often the better when it comes to horror, and what we know of the Blair witch is this:  She lives in an abandoned house in the woods, she's really old, she knows black magic, she likes to mess with people's minds, and she indiscriminately kills both children and adults.  Scary stuff. 

How the Blair Witch Project Should Have Ended

Open the garage door just a crack, and slimy, clawed tentacles will drag you outside into a gaping, salivating, mouth hole.
Open the garage door just a crack, and slimy, clawed tentacles will drag you outside into a gaping, salivating, mouth hole.

8. All the Monsters from "The Mist"

Based on the novella by Stephen King, "The Mist" is a movie about a trans-dimensional science project gone awry. A secretive army base, rumors of bizarre experiments, and an enveloping mist are all components of a movie that is terrifying in its implication that there exist other dimensions in which nightmarish creatures roam about with carnivorous intentions. While the movie's characters hole up in a less-than-secure grocery store, other-worldly beasts terrorize, poison, and eat them. From skull-faced spiders the size of terriers to a black, two-story monster resembling a praying mantis, the monsters of "The Mist" are not just horrific because they are monsters, they are horrific because they are unexplainable. When the final scene reveals a tentacled, lumbering creature as large as a skyscraper traversing the mist-covered remnants of their town, it is soon apparent that the surviving band of humans have lost all hope. The world belongs to the mist, and the monsters residing within it.

AMAZING Scene from The Mist

Between this guy and Edward, my money's on old black eyes here.
Between this guy and Edward, my money's on old black eyes here.

7. The Vampires from "30 Days of Night"

It seems that these days, vampires just aren't that scary anymore. While there's always existed a certain romantic allure to the vampire, even that handsome, Romanian prince Dracula lived in a foreboding Gothic castle and roamed the peasant countryside at night searching for terrified victims to murder. Enter the spectacular crapfest known as "Twilight," and vampires have become about as frightening as any number of kids wearing eyeliner and frequenting cemeteries while drinking lattes and reading Baudelaire. While once being but a small component of the vampire, mysterious sex-appeal has now fully defined them, and has hence overshadowed the fact that they are diseased old farts who sleep in dirt-filled coffins and drink human blood.

This is why "30 Days of Night" was so, umm...refreshing. Gone was the fashionable twenty-something with a brooding, mysterious sort of animal magnetism. Instead, viewers were given a taste of the real thing: A black-eyed, rage-filled bloodaholic who would bite the face off any human so brash as to try to kiss it. There's no denying it, these vampires are ugly. With black, pointy teeth, misshapen faces, and a skin color resembling a corpse (that is, after all, essentially what they are), the only priority of the villains in "30 Days of Night" is to eat as many humans as possible. Additionally, a strange guttural language used by the vampires furthers one's sense that these are creatures ancient, sinister, and unsettlingly, not romantically, mysterious.

"We've Really Tamed Vampires"

6. Michael Myers from "Halloween"

With the exception of Leatherface, slasher film serial killers are absent from this list, and for good reason. The idea of the self-regenerating humanoid who murders out of either revenge of for the sheer enjoyment of it is a horror stereotype so overused it has been effectively stripped of all fearfulness. In most cases, we're not even giving a valid reason for the killer's seeming invincibility, or their ability to suddenly appear out of nowhere, even though just one scene ago we saw them slowly walking towards the victim over half a mile away, in the woods, in the dark. After a while, it just gets ridiculous, boring, and old. Granted, Michael Myers and the Halloween series did indeed walk down this path of predictability and absurdity, but his appearances in Halloween 1 and 2 were original, creative, groundbreaking, and really scary.

The best part about Michael Myers, which was merely alluded to throughout the first two movies, is that his murderous intentions, his superhuman abilities, and his robotic, calculating nature are the products of an ancient curse that had been passed through his bloodline- the curse of the Thorn. Described as "a switch" by Dr. Sam Loomis, this curse first kicked in when Myers was just a child. After murdering his older sister on Halloween night, Michael was committed to a sanitarium, and there he waited for fifteen years, growing in strength and stature, all the while patiently planning his escape and the murder of all remaining members of his family.

(Oh, and just to be clear, I'm not even remotely referring to Rob Zombie's ridiculously pointless remake. For one, why? And two, he removed the coolest part of the Michael Myers- he supernatural- and instead made him some genetic freak who was just ticked off at his parents! So LAME).


5. Papa Justify from "The Skeleton Key"

"The Skeleton Key," I believe, is one of those movies that sort of fell through the cracks. I've yet to meet anyone who has seen it, let alone heard of it, but for all its inconspicuousness, this is one hair-bender of a horror flick. Set in the deep South (see, it's already scary), the movie relates the story of a young hospice worker hired to take care of an ill and elderly man living within a mansion located on an isolated plantation. As things begin to get stranger and stranger, the young nurse discovers the plantation's extremely dark past, and is increasingly intrigued by the mystery surrounding the now-deceased "Papa Justify," a cult leader and practitioner of a sort of black magic known as "Hoodoo."

Long story short, "Papa Justify" was one freaky dude, and when our heroine plays his vinyl recording "Conjure of Sacrifice" on a turntable, men such as Jim Jones and Charles Manson will inevitably come to mind. The idea of voodoo magic is a frightening one, and when cults, brainwashed followers, bodily possession and revenge are thrown in the mix, you've got the equation for one successfully terrifying horror movie villain.

"The Skeleton Key" Trailer

4. Hannibal Lecter from "The Silence of the Lambs"

Brilliant, calculating, and cannibalistic, Hannibal Lecter is one of the few villains on this list grounded wholly in reality, and yet just as terrifying as a cursed super-human or a mist-enshrouded tentacle. The truly unsettling thing about Dr. Lecter is his ability to remain completely unpredictable. Whether brushing up on his Epicurean philosophy or relaxing to the soothing sounds of Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre, you can rest assured that Lecter is devising a plan to escape from prison and/or murder and eat someone. Despite all that education, the one thing that makes Hannibal truly happy is to consume another human's flesh.

Artwork by Jeff Remmer
Artwork by Jeff Remmer

3. Dagon from "Dagon"

Admittedly, this villain choice is rooted in bias, as H.P. Lovecraft, the writer whose story this movie is based off of, is one of my very favorites. But still, this is a really creepy and bizarre movie that makes you wonder just what may be living, and possibly thriving, at the bottom of the ocean. Dagon, the title creature, is a fish-like entity who lives in a massive underwater city and who happens to love religious adoration and human sacrifice. The Deep Ones are the inhabitants of this ocean-bottom mecca, and begin to cohabitate with the human villagers of a coastal town in Spain, resulting in extremely gross-looking fish/human offsrping who wear drab, woolen coats and whose amphibious appendages prevent them from land movement that doesn't appear clumsy, stilted, and painful.

While Dagon never technically makes an appearance (we merely see his tentacles reach up and snatch a sacrificial young woman), the mere idea of some malignant, oceanic demigod residing miles below the surface in an extremely ancient and undiscovered city is a fairly distressing notion. Furthermore, Dagon requires human sacrifice, and rewards the villagers who worship him with the option of becoming immortal frog-looking sea dwellers. I don't know about you, but that is a storyline that flat-out disturbs me. The most disturbing part of all, however, is the way in which both Lovecraft and the director of Dagon make living under the ocean with these things seem strangely appealing. There is an undercurrent of compelling, hypnotic beauty in this movie that will make you angry at yourself for rooting for the girl with tentacles for legs, and that will leave you shaking your head for feeling the slightest tinge of allegiance to Dagon and his bloodthirsty cohorts. And that, dear reader, is the sign of a creepy, and effective, villain.

The Story from which the Movie is Based

Dagon
Dagon | Source

2. Any Fast-Moving Zombie

Zombies have always been scary.  I still remember watching the original black-and-white "Night of the Living Dead" as a child, and wow, when that old farmhouse gets surrounded by scores of the undead, you can't blame the humans for getting a little "cranky" with each other.  But as was noted by one of the terrified defenders of that quaint country home, the zombies were, "so slow," and while reanimated corpses are horrific, a brisk walk is all it would take to effectively escape them all.  

Today, the rules have changed, and in movies like "28 Days Later" and 2004's brilliant remake of "Dawn of the Dead," not only can zombies run, but they can probably run faster than you.  What more needs to be said?  In any given modern zombie movie, a horde of mindless, dead humanoids who want to eat humans are running at full clip in their victim's direction and screaming gutturally while covered in blood and guts.  Yikes. 

Best Intro to a Zombie Movie EVER!

1. The Demon from "Paranormal Activity"

I don't care what you believe, seeing a screaming woman being dragged out of bed by an invisible entity is absolutely mortifying, and so is this entire movie. Like "The Blair Witch Project," "Paranormal Activity" greatly increases it's realism by relying wholly on "found" footage shot by a now missing, presumably dead victim. Fortunately, and unlike "The Blair Witch Project," the camera isn't jerking around giving you headaches as the victims run around screaming. Rather, a good portion of the movie takes place in the main character's bedroom, being shot from a camera atop a steady, stable, tripod.

The genius of this movie lay in it's ability to slowly build the suspense, and to slowly unveil just how dangerous the "entity" really is. While the "activity" begins innocently enough -doors opening and closing, footsteps and odd sounds- it soon increases in both frequency and violence. The demon in this movie has evidently taken quite a fancy to the female lead, and as her idiotically curious boyfriend feeds it more and more power through general interest and Ouija board experimentation, it becomes increasingly brash, and psychologically tortures both the tormented couple, and the viewer. This was quite possibly the creepiest movie I've ever seen in my life.  If you value a good night's sleep, you may want to skip this one.  

The Scariest Part of this Video is the Fact that Someone would Actually Wear Sunglasses in a Dark Movie Theater (1:10).

Who is the Scariest Movie Villain Ever?

  • Michael Myers
  • Dagon
  • Demon from "P.A."
  • The Blair Witch
  • Hannibal Lecter
  • Leatherface
  • Zombies
  • Someone else
See results without voting

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Comments 29 comments

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Great Hub. I particularly was intrigued with the vampires from 30 Days of Night. Loved that movie with them having their own language and all. Rated up!


sam3m profile image

sam3m 5 years ago from New York

terrific hub. really imaginative piece of work. seeing the audience reaction was really interesting.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks suziecat! I was happy that they'd brought vampires back to their nasty selves with that movie, and after I watched that clip above, it seems the film makers were going for that exact same thing. Very cool movie.

Thank you sam3m! Yes, I tried to not just have movie trailers, but vids that would be more interesting. I love that one, it's hilarious, and it makes me think how silly I must have looked when I was watching that movie.


Miss Info profile image

Miss Info 5 years ago from New York City

Whatever on earth it was on Paranormal Activity was the scariest - hands down!!!


orangecountyjill profile image

orangecountyjill 5 years ago from Orange County, California

Chuckie! Great topic, and good article!


myi4u profile image

myi4u 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I vote for monsters from the Mist! I woud also like to add the flesh eating monster from the Descent. In fact, there are so many horror movies to choose from and it's great that you have list your top ten with short clips!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Very well presented and informed.

I really enjoyed this one and vote up.

Take care

Eiddwen.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

@Miss Info- Agreed!

@orangecounty and Eiddwen- thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment! Glad you enjoyed it.

@myi4u- Thanks for the comment! I've never seen Descent, but I do remember the trailer. I'll have to check that one out, thanks for the tip!


AntonOfTheNorth profile image

AntonOfTheNorth 5 years ago from The Land Up Over

Hey jreuter,

Some horror movies I hadn't seen so more to check out.

Great article. I agree vampires have been 'defanged' by modern hollywood and the romantic notion. (We don't go out in the day because we're 'sparkley' ???? Naafff!)

What many people seem to forget is that Dracula was a Victorian era novel, so the sexuality of the vampire as depicted there would have been mortifying, not attractive. Imagine lusting after someone so much that you would be willing to give up your social and moral instincts, particularly knowing that it means at least your death, your soul, and possibly being undead for eternity. That wasn't attractive. That was both compelling and terrifying.

I liked the Mist Novella better than the movie, the imagination thing you mention here.

Thanks! This was entertaining!

cheers


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Hey Anton,

thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I first read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" when I was in high school, and though that was many years ago, I specifically remember that the word "sexy" did not come to mind, rather "perverse" and "creepy," and I also remember his sleeping in a coffin of earth, so not only was Dracula creepy, he was a bit nasty as well.

I've been meaning to get to the Mist novella for quite some time, as I'm sure I will agree that it trumps the movie (most books do).

Anyways, glad you were entertained, and thanks for the comment!


gryphin423 profile image

gryphin423 5 years ago from Florida

Voted up and I agree the demon from PA was the scariest. I refuse to see the two sequels, I enjoy sleeping WAY too much. Good list!


Lone Ranger 4 years ago

J.R.:

Entertaining post! Thank You.

I didn't think the Twilight movies were about vampires. I never saw any fangs or coffins so I just assumed the frightening component of the movie was raising a teenage daughter who never smiles; never listens to her parents; hangs around creepy friends, and who consistently and catagorically uses bad judgment. After seeing "Bella", I couldn't sleep for days. Thank God I never had any daughters!

In other news, I wholeheartedly agree that "30 Days of Night" was rather intense and well worth the $1.99 I forked out to see it. This breed of vampire was different than most, so it was a refreshing twist.

Never really cared much for the Michael Meyer, Freddy Krueger, Jason or Chucky franchises. And, I refuse to watch anything that is ghostly or demonic. I just won't even go there.

You know who made warm, honey-nectar run down my pant leg was that creepy little Damian character from the Omen. That boy was in serious need of a spanking and an exorcism!

All in all, I think most movies have been dumbed-down to fit the intellect of the general public, same as the comedies. Overall, there really is little entertainment value out there and even less substance.

Best wishes - L.R.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Gryphin, and agreed! The first was more than enough.

Thanks to you as well L.R.! And a very astute comment about Twilight I must say, I think you've nailed the true horror of that movie!


Domenick Dicce 4 years ago

Great list.

I have to admit that I am one of those individuals who love cheesy monster movies as well as a good straight up horror film.

I would not have put Paranormal Activity on the list but to have Hannibal Lector included was brilliant.


Thief12 profile image

Thief12 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Nice hub. I disagree with some, and haven't seen others; but you have some good choices there. Particularly Leatherface, since Texas Chainsaw Massacre is easily my favorite horror film.


EJ Lambert profile image

EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

I'm surprised you excluded the possessing demon from The Exorcist, Damien from The Omen and Freddy Kruger before he became a franchise. This is a good list but those three just seem like locks given their followings and obvious creepy levels.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for your comment EJ, I guess I never found Freddy Krueger all that terrifying. Like Jason Voorhees, he became so much of a cartoon that I forgot he'd ever been scary at all. Same goes for Damien, the idea of a little kid being very frightening has always been a tough pill for me to swallow. And, to my shame, I've actually yet to see The Exorcist. yikes.


EJ Lambert profile image

EJ Lambert 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

I understand not fearing the later versions of Freddy and Jason, but the original Nightmare on Elm Street had that creepy edge to it the later movies lacked. Same goes for the Fridays. As to Damien, it wasn't the child himself that made you fear him, it was what you knew was protecting him. It all added to that aura of terror. However, I understand everybody is creeped out by something different.

That said, find an open space of two hours and put in The Exorcist. You'll be glad you did.


LuckyBreaks profile image

LuckyBreaks 3 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

I love that you added Papa Justify, The Skeleton Key is such a great movie! And if you don't mind me asking, how did you get your pix to the top right of each new hub? I haven't been able to do that and I hate putting them at the bottom of each. Thanks! :)


jreuter profile image

jreuter 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Lucky, I agree, that movie is very underrated. And as far as getting the pic in the top right, it's a piece of cake, just click on the edit button, and click on the arrow option that says "float right." That should do it!


Ericajean profile image

Ericajean 3 years ago

I think the monsters in "The Mist" got me thinking really hard: What were they really? And you're right, we didn't get to see how the big monsters really looked-so subtle, but I do remember the tentacles, the spider things and the giant wasps(?). Even in the end it keeps you guessing: What dimension were they from? Planet?

Also, zombies seem to be the most scariest monsters out there. Especially fast moving ones! Zombies, in my opinion pose more of a problem because a region can become riddled with them and infection is likely to happen. No one is safe.

Great hub!


LuckyBreaks profile image

LuckyBreaks 3 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

Awesome, thanks!


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

Great hub and very good list. I couldn't agree more with Lovecraft's quote. I would also add movies such as 'The Omen' and 'The Entity' as they are personal favorites.


adecourv profile image

adecourv 3 years ago

Hannibal Lecter is my favorite from these.


BigJulesMags profile image

BigJulesMags 3 years ago from Queens, New York City

"The Brundlefly" from The Fly is absolutely horrifyingly disgusting. Also, if you've ever seen a David Lynch movie called Mulholland Drive, there's a really creepy monster that chills behind dumpsters. Finally, you have to make a case for two other villains because of how much they scare others: the clown "It" and the new internet monster "SlenderMan."


jreuter profile image

jreuter 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Ericajean, LuckyBreaks and adecoury! Yes on all counts BigJulesMags, those are all really horrifying monsters, especially Slenderman. I haven't seen all of Mulholland Drive yet, but if I remember right the first few minutes are freakin' creepy.


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 2 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

Great Hub jreuter! I opted for Lecter because I tend to find things that are more real and that could genuinely happen to be the most terrifying. That being said, those vampires are no joke either.

As a child my scariest was Chucky the doll! But I've since gotten over that fear, thankfully


Nancy Jandorf profile image

Nancy Jandorf 2 years ago from Lancaster County, USA

That's an interesting list, but I have to say with the exception of the scariest villain, Michael Myers, I can't say I agree with your list. I'm not afraid of zombies, although there are some real life viruses out there that can cause 'zombie-like' symptoms. I think the more real villains scare me. Serial killers. What scares me is the 'Unexpected Possible'. The evil that lives in every man's heart and takes over it like a hungry hoard of scarab beetles, that scares me. Oh, and Jason Vorhees. Camp Crystal lake has a striking resemblance to Locust Lake State Park in Pennsylvania. I went camping there right after I saw the premiere of Friday the 13th. I did enjoy reading this. Thanks for sharing.


Yali 23 months ago

说道:I enjoyed riedang your very informative article content. It seems we think a lot alike. I am very impressed with your well-written content. You must truly enjoy being a writer.

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