As Halloween was last Wednesday I decided it is time for me to count down my Top 10 horror villains or antagonists. Now horror is not always my favourite genre, but there some characters that stand out among the most iconic in all of film history. Unlike most genres a lot of the protagonists aren’t as strong (although there are some notable exceptions) instead it’s the villains that stay with you. So I want to explore some of my favourites from all those great antagonists. As always this list is just my opinion, and I would love to hear your favourite horror antagonists in the comments.
10) Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) – I’m not the biggest fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise (only really Tobe Hooper’s original), but Leatherface is such a cool iconic design. He might not be in charge, taking orders from the elder members of his family, but with his mask made of human skin and wielding a chainsaw it’s not hard to see why he was the character that struck a chord with people and was subsequently pushed to the fore of the franchise.
9) Bruce the Shark (Jaws) – Many horror antagonists often represent or are the embodiment of evil, the shark from Jaws however is more a representation of the ferocity of nature. Bruce (as he is widely known) is intelligent, fast, and incredibly strong capable of taking on shark experts in the relative safety of a boat. The problems that Spielberg had with the dummy shark actually led to Bruce being such an icon, because he wasn’t on screen. It was that unknown, coupled with John Williams sublime yet simplistic score, that made him so terrifying.
8) Ghostface (Scream) – Ghostface is unique amongst the classic slasher killers because he is not just a single killer. Even within some of the individual films Ghostface is multiple people, and this works both for him and against him in an iconic list. It’s hard for him to have the name recognition of a Freddy, Jason or even a Chucky or Pinhead. However the truly terrifying thing about Ghostface is that he could be anyone. A random person, a friend, a loved one, and even if you stop Ghostface there is nothing to stop someone else taking up the mantle.
7) Xenomorph (Alien) – As far as a creature or group of creatures goes the Xenomorph is certainly queen. A beautifully designed creature from H. R. Giger, there is probably no fictional alien that has looked as sleek and cool as the Xenomorph does. Essentially the perfect killing machine even one Xenomorph is enough to reek havoc and death upon any group. The intelligence, speed, and array of natural weapons the Xenomorphs have at their disposal put them far above any other horror ‘creature’ and into a high position on my list.
6) Michael Myers (Halloween) – ‘The Shape’ as Michael Myers is often known shaped horror for the considerable future after his first appearance in 1978’s Halloween. Even when the Halloween franchise tried to move away from telling stories about Myers in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch his popularity led to people rejecting this. His influence can be seen on the horror genre through the rise of the slasher and character such as Freddy, Jason, Chucky, and more. Despite being maybe the most iconic it’s hard for me to put Myers any higher just because of how bad, and how stupid, the later films in the original run of the franchise are when the druid cult and curses comes in.
5) Norman Bates (Psycho) – Alfred Hitchcock is mostly known for thrillers (and he has many truly great ones) but his one really foray into horror with Psycho gave us one of the absolute greatest horror villains. Brilliantly brought to life by Anthony Perkins, Norman is a awkward, broken man who takes on a whole other psychotic personality. It was Hitchcock’s decision to change the character slightly from Robert Bloch’s novel to make his more sympathetic to the audience, which lulls you into believe that he’s not the killer and it truly is his ‘mother’. And that performance by Perkins in the final scene of the film really cements Norman Bates as one of the greatest villains ever.
4) Pennywise/It (It) – Pennywise is the primarily seen form of the of the strange inter-dimensional being that plagues the town of Derry every 27 years or so feasting upon the children of the town. It can take the form of any of the children’s worst fears, however Pennywise the dancing clown is It’s preferred form, and the most popular amongst fans. Tim Curry’s performance in the TV miniseries is fantastic (as Tim Curry always is) but Bill Skarsgård does a brilliant job of playing up the terrifying and alien nature of It. Now we’re still waiting for It: Chapter 2 which may go in the backstory of It and it’s enemy the Turtle or Maturin, which could see the character go off the rails incredibly, but with what we have this far Pennywise or It is my favourite horror antagonist that we’ve seen in the 21st century.
3) Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street) – Freddy vs Jason is a huge debate in horror circles, and has been for years (even driving a crossover film). However for me it’s an easy argument, Freddy Krueger is an incredible horror villain (whilst Jason is stuck in a franchise that has never produced a good film as far as I’m concerned). Freddy however is such a brilliant villain in Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare On Elm Street, because whilst you can run from a real human killer what you cannot escape is the need to sleep, and that is where Freddy will get you. Robert England’s(?) performance is absolutely perfect, and his design is so iconic that even in the weaker instalments of the franchise (and there are plenty) Freddy is a great antagonist.
2) Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) – Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal the Cannibal in Silence of the Lambs was is not only the greatest acting performance in any horror movie, but one of the greatest in all of film history. The true testament to that is that Hannibal isn’t even the primary antagonist in the film, that honour goes to the also terrific Buffalo Bill, and yet it is Hopkins as Hannibal who steals every scene of the film that he’s in, and managed to snag a Best Actor Oscar despite only having 16 minutes of screen time. As with many horror films the sequels haven’t lived up to that first appearance for Hannibal, but it is impossible to overlook what Hopkins did in that first film.
1) Count Dracula (Dracula) – Dracula is the only old school horror monster that has made my list, and that is because to me he’s the most interesting, yet is still such a cool character. We do often see Dracula just portrayed as an evil one dimensional villain, but there have been numerous more well rounded and rich portrayal of the quintessential vampire. There have been numerous interpretations of the Count throughout the year from Max Schreck’s Nosferatu, to Bela Lugosi in the 30s, to Christopher Lee in the 60s and 70s, and Gary Oldman’s wonderful turn in 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are still great adaptations being made today, such as in Netflix’s Castlevania TV series. Dracula is truly the original horror icon.