Because we largely associate Disney movies with singing princesses and comedy animal sidekicks, it's sometimes easy to forget that the studio has created some of the most evil, twisted and over-powered villains in animation. From witches, to pirates, to predators and even gods, the House of Mouse sure likes to make things as hard as possible for its heroes and heroines. Great stories need great antagonists, and Disney's are among the most iconic in pop culture, something that the company has only recently been cashing in on with things like the Descendants, which sees the offspring of some of its most well-known baddies grappling with the legacies of their parents. There were even rumors of a scrapped plan to create a villain-themed park called "Disney Dark Kingdom."
We all have our favorites, but, as a certain magical mirror might put it: Who is the most powerful of them all? Out of the 50+ animated features, we've boiled down the list to the top 25, taking reputation, popularity and, of course, strength into consideration. By "raw power," we're talking physical, magical, occupational (i.e. Queen) and evilness, as well as how successful their diabolical plans are, how easy they are to defeat and what their weaknesses are. What you won't see on this list are characters from Disney animated TV shows like Aladdin's "Master Trickster" Chaos, or characters from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars or Once Upon A Time. Right, now let the power ranking commence!
25 CRUELLA DE VIL
As Roger sings to us over some jingly piano accompaniment, "If she doesn't scare you, no evil thing will," which is one of the most casually chilling introductions of any movie villain. Cruella De Vil is a rich heiress, and, with too much time and money on her bony hands, she becomes dangerously obsessed with stealing and skinning Roger and Anita's 101 dalmatians in the name of haute couture.
Puppy murder ranks quite high on the evil scale and Cruella's total lack of sympathy combined with her psychotic rages makes her far more of a threat than you'd think.
That terrifying glint in her eyes as she races her car -- her primary weapon -- is etched into many a kid's memory. Though she does pull off the impressive dog-napping feat, the fact that she's outwitted and out-maneuvered by a bunch of animals is pretty embarrassing for her.
24 GOVERNOR RATCLIFFE
If we wanted to go symbolic with this list, we'd say that colonialism was the real villain in Pocahontas, just like man is the real villain of Bambi. But, sticking with physical baddies, it's Governor Ratcliffe in the former. He's large and in charge, and he'll do anything to climb the British social hierarchy -- including invading a foreign land in search of hidden riches.
Ratcliffe isn't a hands-on villain but he doesn't need to be with a vessel of strapping soldiers under his command. To us, and Pocahontas' tribe, Ratcliffe is a cold, power-hungry and conniving villain, but, through Ratcliffe's eyes, it is the "savage" native peoples who're in the wrong and he who is in the right. His belief that his actions and racist attitude are justified is really what make him a threat. Luckily, his own men turn on him and he's shipped back home in chains.
23 MOTHER GOTHEL
Tangled's villain was inspired by Dame Gothel from the Brothers Grimm's Rapunzel on which the film is based. (Her appearance was inspired by pop icon Cher, which is... unrelated but fun to mention.) As far as Disney witches go, Gothel ranks pretty low. Her magic appears to only extend to controlling Rapunzel's magical hair by singing to it, and she's great at disappearing into the shadows.
Where her magic fails, however, her deception skills excel. Gothel is a master manipulator.
Like Frozen's Prince Hans, she wormed her way into the heroine's heart to emotionally control her, creating a bond that Rapunzel mistook for real love but was actually just years of grooming. That's truly evil. Once Rapunzel rebelled though, Gothel's years of subtle subjugation fell apart and it only took a haircut courtesy of Eugene to end her for good.
22 SHERE KHAN
If we were just ranking Disney villains on voice power alone, Shere Khan would appear much higher. The Jungle Books' unofficial "King" of the Indian jungles is a tiger, giving him all the strengths and skills of a, uh, tiger. In real life, these big cats can carry double their own body weight, run up to 40mph and one swipe of their paws can shatter skulls.
As well as his natural tiger attributes, Khan is immune to hypnosis -- perhaps proof of just how clever he is. But, not only is Khan incredibly intelligent, he totally knows it too, and his confident manner of speaking and the way he conducts himself projects enough authority to strike fear into every other animal. "You should know everyone runs from Shere Khan." Unfortunately, his strength and smarts leave him trapped inside a statue of... guess what? Yup, a tiger.
The Lion King villain is the brother of the royal ruler of Pride Rock, Mufasa, giving him high status and high enough levels of jealousy to plot and facilitate Mufasa's untimely death. If that wasn't bad enough, he also ensures his rise to power by putting the blame on his nephew, Simba, who runs into a self-imposed exile and spends his adolescence eating bugs.
As well as Hamlet, inspiration for Scar's character came from Adolf Hitler.
This is evidenced by his ability to rally an army of hyenas and plunge the Pridelands into darkness. If Simba hadn't returned, Scar's reign would have continued, and he puts up a good fight to keep it -- right up until he makes the same error battling Simba as Anakin does against Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith.
Is there anything more manly than a guy who uses antlers in all of his decorating? Not according to Gaston and the citizens of Belle's town in Beauty and the Beast. If Gaston was writing this list, he'd put himself at number one, and while he may not be worthy of that, he is surprisingly strong. Apparently, eating five dozen eggs every morning enables you to lift three women one-handed and rip off parts of a stone castle.
Apart from being in great shape, Gaston also has pinpoint accuracy, out-stealths the Beast's senses and is even a decent strategist -- he deduces Belle's feelings for the Beast quickly and formulates a diabolical blackmail plan. He even weaponizes his high charisma, whipping the quiet townsfolk into a hate-fuelled siege on a "monster's" castle. Ultimately, it's only his own recklessness that finishes him.
19 CAPTAIN HOOK
Captain Hook spends a lot of time during Peter Pan getting taunted and degraded by a bunch of kids and a crocodile with a very niche palette. But, is Neverland's foremost pirate Captain really that much of a "codfish?" Like most in his line of work, Hook is a highly skilled swordsman and -- as we see during his harpsichord performances -- a highly skilled hook-user.
He's also a keen (and mean) tactician.
Peter may know how to push Hook's buttons but that works both ways. Hook not only kidnaps Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys to entrap Peter, but he drives a wedge between him and his closest ally: Tinkerbell. He also taunts Peter into not using his flying power to almost defeat him in close combat. And, let's not forget that Hook has no qualms about resorting to terrorist tactics by bombing his young adversary's home.
18 QUEEN OF HEARTS
As this is Alice in Wonderland we're talking about, it's hard to take anything in it that seriously. But, if we do put the Queen of Heart's personality and power under a realistic lens, she's definitely not a monarch to be trifled with. It's hard to find another character in her position in the Disney universe who has such a tight control over her subjects. She's feared so completely that her love of executions is never questioned by anyone besides Alice.
In fact, beheadings seem to be the punishment for even the smallest infractions in Wonderland. The Queen is also hardly a frail lady -- her physical strength is borders on the superhuman. But, the thing that makes her the most powerful is her irrationality. Of all Disney villains, she's the least likely to be swayed by reason because she's 100% unreasonable.
17 JUDGE CLAUDE FROLLO
The Disney canon is littered with self-righteous antagonists abusing positions of power, and no one fits that description better than The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Judge Claude Frollo. The religious extremist is also Paris' Minister of Justice, granting him tremendous political sway in the city, which he uses solely to oppress certain minority classes.
As well his ruthlessness and manipulative abilities, Frollo is empowered by his belief that every evil thing he does is for the "good" of the people.
Underneath it all though, Frollo is fuelled by self-hatred, demonstrated in his "Hellfire" number where he admits to having the hots for Esmerelda before sentencing her to be burnt at the stake for rejecting his advances. If Quasimodo hadn't found the courage to intervene, Frollo's stranglehold would have continued.
16 SHAN YU
With his hulking frame and yellow eyes, the leader of the Hun army in Mulan is terrifying to behold, and the film really drives home the dire straits that China is in because of him. Not only is Shan Yu clearly a great military leader but he's also a brilliant survivalist; even honing his senses to be able to detect the presence of unseen Imperial scouts close by.
Judging by how he's able to break through armoured doors, bust through rooftops and can slice through stone pillars like butter he might also have super strength. He's also super relentless in his goal -- sneaking into the Emperor's palace after surviving being trapped under an avalanche. China would have been doomed if it weren't for one, plucky crossdresser armed with a sword and a firework.
15 OOGIE BOOGIE
It really says something when a town populated by skeletons, ghosts and vampires still has its own Bogey Man. In The Nightmare Before Christmas' Halloween Town, that lurking presence is Oogie Boogie, the gambling, burlap sack with a face that's been haunting the holiday dreams of kids every year since 1994.
But, what are Oogie's actual powers?
He's got superhuman strength -- beyond any other spooky creature we meet -- and he has a super air-sucking ability with the equivalent strength to a jet engine. (Weird.) Other than his wits though, most of Oogie's power comes from his fearsome reputation. All you need to do is pull his sack off and he'll collapse into the mass of bugs he is underneath, which, as Santa Claus proves, can be squished like any other insect.
14 MADAM MIM
The Sword in the Stone gave us Disney's version of one of the most famous fictional wizards, Merlin. But, Merlin's not the only master of magic. His rival is the cranky witch, "Mad" Madam Mim, who is thought to have been based on Walt Disney's critics who didn't like the sentimentality of his films, which explains Mim's hatred of nice things like sunshine.
Mim is capable of vanishing, changing her size and -- like a typical witch -- broomstick flight. She also claims to be Merlin's superior, prompting their "Wizard's Duel" where the pair show off their metamorphosis skills. For a while, Mim's claim seems to be true as she bests him with every beast she chooses, including (illegally) a dragon. Merlin's clever transformation into a germ eventually puts her in her place.
You're probably wondering how a talking rat in a top hat could rank so highly among a list of powerful witches and lions. The Mouse Detective villain may be small but he's still mighty -- intellectually mighty, that is. As a clear cipher for Professor Moriaty, Ratigan is perhaps the only Disney antagonist to be a certified genius. (Though he's not exactly a weakling either.)
As well as cunning schemes, the Crime Lord channels his intelligence into being highly manipulative and charming, and commands a group of loyal minions.
Like most self-absorbed baddies, Ratigan has anger problems, but he can control it. Basil calls him the hated "R" word (rat) twice and both times, his nemesis manages to begrudgingly keep his cool and stick to his plan.
Yzma began life in Kingdom of the Sun as a straight up evil sorceress. Then, as the project morphed into the more light-hearted Emperor's New Groove she turned into a comedic "mad scientist" character instead. This lessened her scare-factor but Yzma still managed to boot the idiotic Emperor out of his throne and take over his kingdom with little resistance.
Her main thing is transfiguration potions (making her more of an alchemist than a scientist) though she's not averse to resorting to getting more physically violent with a dagger. Though we spend most of the movie laughing at her, Yzma's desperation and anger only adds to her cold-bloodedness. For an older lady, she's also remarkably spritely. Maybe her alchemy skills extend to life-enhancing elixirs?
11 THE EVIL QUEEN
As the first of her kind, this blackhearted ruler set the bar for all Disney villains thereafter. To the outside world, her main power is in her position. After her husband died, she claimed the throne and became keen to keep it by ordering the assassination of her stepdaughter, who she was also driven mad with jealousy by.
Her heartlessness gave her affinity with black magic.
Not only does she possess a magic mirror in her mystical arsenal, but she's capable of brewing instant death-dealing potions like the "Sleeping Death" poison she delivers to Snow White. She also (infamously) has transformational powers, able to disguise herself as an old crone -- which seems to just make her more evil. Eighty years later, her cackling still gives us the creeps.
Yokai is the villainous alter ego of Big Hero 6's Professor Robert Callaghan, and as such, he's pretty brainy -- particularly when it comes to advanced technology. Like most comic book supervillains, Callaghan operates under the guise of being a friendly brainiac by day and a shadowy figure by night. As the Kabuki-inspired Yokai (Japanese for "ghost") he's sneaky, fast and strong.
Once he gets control of Hiro's Microbots, he's near-unstoppable. Using a hidden transmitter, he can expertly command them in creative ways -- like transporting himself across different terrains -- and to exact brute force, like throwing concrete blocks and cars at his enemies. His master plan was foolproof too, stopped only at the last second by Baymax's sacrificial heroism.
9 QUEEN NARISSA
Queen Narissa is the only character on this list to have both animated and live-action forms within her own film. Enchanted is Disney's self-referential parody of its own tropes but that doesn't mean it doesn't uphold plenty of them too. Narissa has similar origins to the Evil Queen and similar powers to Maleficent -- a sorceress of dark magic and a power-hungry Queen with an axe to grind against a fair maiden.
By uttering the magic words, "Speciousus, formosus, praeclarus!" she can transfigure herself and others.
She can also brew deadly potions, communicate through liquids, control electricity and her scream can shatter glass. Oh, and she can do the standard dragon transformation. As far as evil Queens go, Narissa is the whole package. But, she's still defeated by Giselle just waving a sword at her.
8 THE HORNED KING
If we were going by fear-factor alone for this list, The Black Cauldron's Horned King would have most villains beat. After all, it's hard to argue against an enchanted skeleton in a robe. Measuring his power level is much harder to do. In terms of what he is, our best guess is that he's a Lich -- an undead, skeletal user of dark magic.
His sorcery skills are demonstrated only by his ability to teleport and when he calls upon the Cauldron's spirit, which he also has the power to use. He's really strong too, as we see when he attacks Taran near the end of the film. As a king, he controls an undead squadron of minions who are loyal to their master. But, everything else about him is a little vague, which makes him all the more creepy.
7 DOCTOR FACILIER
The Princess and the Frog's Voodoo Bokor has one of the most diverse power sets of any Disney villain. As a practitioner of "Petro Voodoo" he has command of shadow magic and as a Tarot card reader he can see into people's pasts and desires in order to control them. Like any skilled conjurer, he can pull things from nowhere and relies on sleight of hand trickery.
Facilier's powers are rooted in a mystical talisman he received from "the other side" that also lets him store his victim's blood and take on their appearance.
His "friends" from this shadow realm are dark spirits that can cause havoc in the physical world. This means Facilier's considerable strength has a major weakness: he's indebted to even eviler forces than him -- which ends up being his undoing.
Sleeping Beauty's dark fairy is a villain who really enjoys her work. She didn't get an invite to Princess Aurora's christening, but that didn't stop her crashing the party anyway and "gifting" the baby with a killer curse that none of the Three Good Fairies could shift. She also knows how to make a super dramatic entrance.
Maleficent describes her magic as being "all the powers of hell," and she can certainly back it up. Her staff allows her to project lightning, teleport, fly, hypnotize people, seek hidden knowledge and -- her party trick -- turn into a dragon. Merryweather also hints that she can create frost storms. It takes all three fairies and a persevering Prince to take her down.
The only sorceress more powerful than Maleficent is The Little Mermaid's voluptuous sea witch, Ursula. The tentacled diva can whip up potions, alter her size, change her appearance and even summon huge storms and command lightning without something like King Triton's trident. Her main thing, however, is deal-making.
She's spent years condemning merfolk to life as shrivelled polyps, preying on people like Ariel who are desperately unhappy.
The contracts she persuades these poor unfortunate souls into signing are magically binding and not even the King of the Seas can break them. Ursula can also fend off Triton's attacks by absorbing his power into her poisoned ink clouds. The only way to save her victims is by killing her, which Prince Eric only manages by getting a lucky shot in with the sharpened front of his ship.
Just like in Greek mythology, Disney's Hades is the brother of Zeus, King of the Gods on Mount Olympus, charged with ruling over the place where souls cross into the afterlife. Being a god, Hades is immortal, feared and very hard to defeat -- unless you're Hercules and that's what the Fates dictate you do. Hades can fast-talk like any skilled conman and he's equally as slimy.
As well as having teleportation, creature summoning and pyrokinetic powers, Hercules's Hades is a crossroads demon -- striking bargains in exchange for souls and/or superpowers. He also gains enough juice from the planetary alignment to free the Titans, seize Mount Olympus and capture all of the other gods -- even Zeus. Hercules has to take an extremely risky plunge into the River of Styx and re-deify himself just to beat him.
Throughout most of Aladdin, the Sultan's Royal Vizier's real power lay in his hypnotic cobra staff and his silver-tongue. Jafar had the ear of the most powerful man in Agrabah and secretly wielded respectable power with it. Other than that, his alchemy, Seeing skills and disguises were his only magical abilities.
Like any aspiring tyrant, Jafar yearned for more.
After he finally got his hands on the Genie's lamp, he wished himself to become "the most powerful sorcerer in the world," gaining fire-breathing, shapeshifting, levitation and object-summoning powers. He also snatched the seat of power and had the Genie at his beck and call. Then, Aladdin tricked him into becoming a Genie himself, and Jafar briefly became one of the strongest beings in the Disney universe. The only hitch was the "itty bitty living space."
The Chernabog -- otherwise known as that giant demon at the end of Fantasia -- is Disney's purest personification of evil, as he has no motive other than just causing havoc and destruction. Based on the Slavic "God of Night" and the Christian devil, this winged and fanged behemoth emerges on the Witches' Sabbath from Bald Mountain (Mount Triglav in Slovenia) to plague the town below with demons and hellfire.
As well as his sheer size, he has a corrupting influence on those in his presence, can raise the dead, control fire and is immortal. His power is thought to be "unlimited," which you'd think would put him top of the ranking. But, the Chernabog has two major weaknesses: sunlight and the ringing of church bells. At the end of his suite when morning breaks, he's forced to slink back into the mountain... until the next Sabbath.
1 THE FIREBIRD
Fantasia 2000 might not be the superior Fantasia movie but the Firebird is arguably a superior threat to the Chernabog. As its name implies, it takes the form of a humungous phoenix made from lava, and is awakened by the curious Spring Sprite from inside a volcano.
Because it's a an elemental "Spirit of Destruction," some argue that the Firebird isn't a villain, but rather, an amoral natural force.
But, given that its goal is to wipe out an entire forest, we can also view it as antagonistic -- to us, at least. While its pyro power isn't thought to be as "unlimited" as the Chernabog's, the Firebird has the edge by having no demonstrable weaknesses. It's also never actually defeated. There's nothing the Sprite can do but hide and wait until the bird's reign of fire is over and it goes back to sleep. Now that's true power.