From 1989 through 1999, Disney had its own revolution, which has since been named the Disney Renaissance. In each year (except for 1993), Disney released a new movie every year. Nearly every one of these movies is beloved by most, and they showcase some pretty amazing villains, but who is the biggest bad of all?
What makes for a good villain? Though not all these villains have great songs, that is something that I do consider. Most of the Disney Renaissance films feature a whole lot of music and some incredible songs by the villains. Outside of that I’ll be considering how evil they are, specifically what it is they are trying to accomplish. The last thing I’ll consider is just how interesting of a villain they are. To use an example from a non-Disney film, I don’t consider Cortez a very good villain in The Road to El Dorado (the priest in there is a much better villain).
Here is a list of the movies that I will be including the villains from: The Little Mermaid (1989), The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999). Also, I cheated a little bit with some of the songs, borrowing from the Broadway musical adaptations.
10. Shan Yu (Mulan)
The leader of the Huns, Shan Yu is a bit of an underwhelming villain for me. I think it’s mostly because Mulan as a film doesn’t really focus as much on the conflict between the main protagonist and antagonist. He’s arrogant and ruthless, but still doesn’t seem to underestimate Mulan before being defeated by her.
9. William Clayton (Tarzan)
Clayton is the first of two poachers to make an appearance on the list, and while he’s a bad dude, he’s not as bad as the other poacher. Clayton joins Jane and her father on their trek through Africa as an excuse to hunt gorillas to sell on the black market. He shoots Tarzan and kills Kerchak before falling through some vines, snapping his neck.
8. Governor Ratcliffe (Pocahontas)
Best Song: Mine, Mine, Mine
I’ll be perfectly honest. I really don’t like Pocahontas. I think it’s just really boring. Most of the music is pretty solid, but outside of that, it really just falls flat for me. Governor Ratcliffe is one of the high points of the film, though. More than anything, he cares about the gold he can find in the new world, and he doesn’t care what he has to do to get it. He will throw every single person under the bus to get what he wants. And I like that in a villain. He also carries a pug around with him, and I think that’s just awesome.
7. Jafar (Aladdin)
Best Song: Diamond in the Rough (from the Broadway musical)
As the Royal Vizier of Agrabah, Jafar was already a pretty powerful dude, but that wasn’t enough for him. He decided that he wanted to harness the power of an all-powerful Genie and become all-powerful himself. He also uses his fancy snake staff to hypnotize the Sultan to do his bidding. Along with his pet Iago, these two are pretty great.
6. Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Best Song: Me (from the Broadway musical)
Gaston is an interesting villain to me. Other than being a bit of a chauvinistic narcissist, he’s not a horrible guy. He didn’t poach animals. He doesn’t really try to kill anyone (except for the Beast). He really just wants to get married to Belle, though he only wants to get married to her because she’s the smartest, most beautiful girl there and thinks he’s the best thing in the world.
5. Percival C. McLeach (The Rescuers Down Under)
The Rescuers Down Under is one of the movies I watched in preparation for making this article because I haven’t seen it since I was in the sixth grade and I remembered nothing about it. The story itself is pretty boring, but they nailed the villain in Percival C. McLeach. He is just a bad dude. Aside from his career as a poacher (the second one on this list), he also kidnaps young Cody, practices his knife-throwing by throwing his knives AT CODY, and also dips Cody INTO CROCODILE-INFESTED WATERS!!! Like, this is a kids movie, dang. Luckily he meets his end falling down a waterfall.
4. Hades (Hercules)
Hades is just a lot of fun! He’s got a temper and some issues with his older brother Zeus, and he spends the whole movie on fire. He’s also got his goals set pretty high, wanting to defeat the gods on Mt. Olympus, using the power of the Titans. Why? Because he doesn’t like his job being in charge of the underworld. Honestly, can’t say I blame him. He’s just trying to move up in the world.
3. Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Best Song: Poor Unfortunate Souls
Man what a freaking queen! Ursula is just stinking awesome! She gets one of the greatest villain songs in all of Disney, and she’s just fun to watch. She plots to grant Ariel her wish in an effort to overthrow Triton, King of the Seas. And she does it! Everything goes almost completely perfectly according to her plan. And then she dies gloriously by getting stabbed with a boat and struck by lightning.
2. Scar (The Lion King)
Best Song: Be Prepared
Voiced by the ever-wonderful Jeremy Irons, Scar plots to kill not only his brother and king Mufasa, but his nephew and the heir to the throne Simba. When his plan doesn’t quite succeed all the way, he runs Simba off by blaming him for Mufasa’s death, allowing Scar to take the throne.
During his reign, he allows the Hyenas to come into the Kingdom, drastically reducing food supplies, which coincidentally comes right at the same time as a horrible drought, decimating the land until Simba’s return. Though weakened from the drought, he still puts up an incredible fight before being defeated by Simba and ultimately killed by the Hyenas that he’s been using the whole time.
1. Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Best Song: Hellfire
Judge Claude Frollo is the epitome of evil. Not only is he a horrible dude, but he completely believes that he is perfectly in the right in every single thing he does. That is shown perfectly through the greatest Disney villain song of all time, Hellfire. He has let his lust for Esmeralda completely take him over to the point where if he can’t have her for himself, she should be burnt at the stake. And instead of taking responsibility for his own actions, he blames God for “making Satan so much stronger than a man.”
Other than his lust for Esmeralda he also kills Quasimodo’s mother and begrudgingly taking Quasimodo in just to treat him like a slave and make him think that he’s nothing more than a hideous monster. He is literally the worst dude. He doesn’t want to be any kind of ruler or anything; he just believes himself to be the most perfect being in existence.
Who do you think is the best villain from the Disney Renaissance?