Over the years, horror films have created some of the most lasting characters in entertainment through terrifying viewers to the point where they’ll never forget the figure behind the madness. Everyone who watches scary movies has one character who’s etched into their brain, but some are clearly worse than others.
Take a look below to see how we rank some of the most iconic horror villains.
27. The Babadook
The Babadook is a relatively new horror villain in comparison to others, but the humanoid is a chilling addition to the genre. The monster is creepy, ominous and capable of possessing people for the sole purpose of terrorizing whoever discovers its presence.
What started as a piece of creepy fiction writing turned into a cultural phenomena as Slenderman became a regularly discussed topic and, eventually, a horror villain. His abilities and powers have transformed a lot in the short time his mythology has been developing. A tall, faceless suit-wearing entity who makes people vanish is scary enough, even with the vague ideas of what he does with his victims.
25. Ghostface – Scream
There isn’t necessarily any one person who plays the part of Ghostface, which adds to the horror of the character. The infamous Scream mask has been donned by a multitude of killers throughout the series, but the taunting phone calls are a constant throughout that feel truly scary as it’s pretty realistic.
24. The Thing
The Thing is terrifying because if you don’t catch it before it shape-shifts into something else, you may not even know you’re with it. The alien creature’s ability to kill and replicate any living thing creates an untrustworthy situation between comrades. With fire being the only way to defeat it, there’s a whole other level of danger added in.
23. Samara Morgan – The Ring
The otherworldly little girl behind the creation of the videotape that causes people to die in seven days, Samara Morgan, is a creepy but sad spirit wreaking havoc on anyone tapping into her world. With the ability to spin a killer curse, she’s obviously dangerous. Her long, dark hair draped over her face while slowly and creepily crawling toward viewers adds an extra weirdness layer.
Candyman’s appearance is probably the most horrifying part of his character. The ghost presence’s bee-covered body is hard to look at, and his story is quite sad, but so long as you believe in the Candyman and don’t say his name in a mirror five times, you should be safe.
21. Evil Dead
With the sheer amount of incredible and horrifying demons in The Evil Dead series, it’s hard to settle on any one character to place as an all-time most terrifying horror villain. Collectively, the Evil Dead are capable of playing games with its victims’ minds while causing extreme violence, killing anyone in sight who opposes its calls to join them.
20. Chucky – Child’s Play
Human-looking dolls are really creepy, which makes the mere idea of Chucky one of the most terrifying horror villains. Not only does Chucky look creepy as hell while he’s trying to murder, but he’s cracking jokes throughout the Child’s Play series, too, adding to the surreal feeling of a killer doll.
19. Pazuzu (Regan MacNeil) – The Exorcist
Not only is Pazuzu utterly disgusting to look at with its deformed look following the demon taking over Regan’s body in The Exorcist, but he’s a master of mind tricks. For parents, there are few things as horrible as something wrong happening to their child, but dealing with a demonic presence taking their body captive and making them a violent, murderous creature is a whole other level of messed up.
18. The Pale Man – Pan’s Labyrinth
The Pale Man is about the most terrifying creature a kid could ever imagine. It’s a human-like, towering naked creature, with its eyes peeling from the palms of its hands, and feasting on children in its lair where Pan’s Labyrinth’s main character Ofelia has to go to retrieve a specific dagger.
17. Damien Thorn – The Omen
No one wants to think their child is bad, but Damien Thorn forced his family to believe it through violence brought on by supernatural powers. He’s literally the Antichrist, and few sights are as unnerving as his creepy smile made while knowing the damage he’s bringing on to people.
16. Captain Spaulding – House Of 1000 Corpses
Any member of the Firefly family could’ve made their way on to this list, but Captain Spaulding is the clear leader of being the worst of the bunch. The crusty-looking clown is pretty funny to listen to sometimes, but his penchant for murdering makes any humor unnerving as you can never really expect what he’s going to do.
15. The Grudge
The Grudge is a sad but fearful spirit in horror as the supernatural entity grows worse and worse with each victim it passes through. Everyone who encounters the Grudge dies with the curse of constantly being reborn and seeks out increasingly horrifying ways to affect its victims.
14. Annabelle – The Conjuring
Where Chucky takes the cake for hilariously terrifying killer dolls, Annabelle comes in for a more serious take on the doll trope. Loosely based on a real-life raggedy doll, Annabelle seems to wreak havoc on anyone in her presence, and through the power of demonic spirits, it’s not as easy to get rid of her as you would think.
13. Jigsaw – Saw
Jigsaw is a master of making you feel conflicted about the pain he puts others through. Sure, it’s extremely messed up to force people to mutilate themselves in the oddly creative fashions he devises, but at the same time, he’s picking people who have done wrong themselves and is trying to teach lessons. Even so, he’s still a terrifying presence you wouldn’t want to meet.
12. Dr. Heiter – The Human Centipede
If you’ve ever had a fear of going to see a doctor, The Human Centipede is probably the last movie you’ll want to watch. Dr. Heiter doesn’t just look terrifying as hell— his creepy fascination with joining humans together, ass to mouth like a human pet, is utterly disgusting and deranged.
11. Pluto – The Hills Have Eyes
Pretty much any of the cannibalistic mutants in The Hills Have Eyes could be picked, but Pluto takes the top spot in the film’s murderous family. His imposing stature and extreme deformations compared to the rest of his messed-up family members are made even more horrible by his willingness to act out and push the violence in the films further.
10. Annie Wilkes – Misery
The most notable “Angel Of Mercy” of all time, Annie Wilkes brought the notion of a deranged nurse who’s looking to hurt her patients to the mainstream. Being an extreme fan of something isn’t necessarily creepy on its own, but her obsession— leading to forcing her favorite author to write a book for her or face violent consequences—is tense to watch play out on screen from beginning to end.
9. Jason Voorhees – Friday The 13th
Summer camp is meant to be a fun time for both kids and teenagers, but after Jason Voorhees became an enigma of horror through the Friday The 13th series, spending nights in a cabin will never quite look the same. The hockey mask-clad, machete-wielding murderer is a blank slate who says no words, focusing only on killing, which makes him more terrifying than most murderers imaginable.
8. Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare On Elm Street
Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic horror villains to exist, and his disfigured, burnt appearance is, fittingly, what nightmares are made of. The child killer turned nightmare invader is disgusting to look at, and it’s hard to picture worse ways to die than being slashed up with his iconic bladed-claw glove.
7. Pinhead – Hellraiser
Pinhead’s sole goal is to harvest human souls, and his demonic appearance doesn’t help at all in making him less scary. With spikes jetting out of every spot on his head, his high intelligence and the ability to mutilate people by summoning whips and chains, it’s hard not to feel fearful of Pinhead.
6. Norman Bates – Psycho
Norman Bates is the villain behind pushing the boundaries for violence in horror movies, earning a spot as one of the scariest characters in the genre. His creepy obsession with his mother feels unsettlingly realistic to today’s serial killers, and watching Psycho will make you reflect on some of the weirdos living among the rest of society.
5. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs
There’s something truly horrifying about a serial killer who’s smart, and Hannibal Lecter checks that box as a cannibalistic doctor. He’s an unsettling presence with his calm demeanor, which only adds to how scary he is given that we all know what the character is capable of.
4. Michael Myers – Halloween
Michael Myers is one of the all-time best villains, helping build the slasher subgenre into the monstrosity it is today. Not only is he terrifying for his massive size and near impossibility of being hurt, but he doesn’t say a single word, making that creepy blank stare from his mask all the worse as he murders his victims.
3. Jack Torrance – The Shining
Even before his mind deteriorates later in the film, Jack Torrance is a pretty crappy person from the onset of The Shining. Once he starts frequently experiencing the haunted past of the hotel he and his family are taking care of, though, he becomes an absolute monster hellbent on killing his own family, and while the hauntings seem less realistic, it’s terrifying picturing a man trying to kill the people he’s supposed to be closest with.
2. Pennywise – It
There truly is no clown as terrifying as Pennywise. Even if clowns aren’t something you’re scared of, he has the ability to transform into your deepest fear. It’s damn near impossible to stop him from not only terrorizing you but also murdering you.
1. Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Leatherface is by far the most terrifying horror villain to ever exist. He’s a deranged hillbilly who hacks people up with a chainsaw and fashions furniture, masks and dishes from their bodies. Worse than that, there really is no way to slow him down by reasoning with him as he appears mostly noncommunicative and only pays attention to his equally deranged family.