34 Horror Movie Villains Who Will Haunt You for the Rest of Your Scaredy-Cat Life

Hunter Levitan, Eliza Thompson, Alex Brady
·11-min read
Photo credit: Khadija Horton
Photo credit: Khadija Horton

From Cosmopolitan

BrEaKiNg NeWs: It's officially spooky szn, y'all!!! October really just popped up outta nowhere and said, "Boo, b*tches, I'm back!" I know, I know, as if 2020 could get any more terrifying.

In the fall, scary stuff hits differently. Temps are chilly and the sun peaces out earlier and earlier each day. I become convinced that scary-movie villains are hiding around every corner waiting to jump out and kill me. I have Halloween on the brain constantly; it pretty much seeps into every nook and cranny of my psyche. I'm never not sourcing inspo for my costume, TBH.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of summery feel-good beach movies. But I like to fully embrace seasonal change, which also includes switching up my go-to movie genres. Fall, my friends, is for classic horror flicks.

And who better to get ya feeling freaky for fall than a horror movie villain? I don't know about you but watching a deranged serial killer run, walk, slink, or crawl across my screen sounds like the perfect way to get in the autumnal mood. Here are the scariest horror movie villains to terrorize the big screen/serve as your Halloween costume vision board.

1. Mama, Mama

Photo credit: Youtube
Photo credit: Youtube

A possessed, demonic, and spidery creature, this controlling mother is none too pleased when her two young daughters are adopted—even though she abandoned them in the woods for, um, five years. So she does what any mother would do: she terrorizes and tortures everyone, including her! own! children!

2. Dean, Missy, and Jeremy Armitage, Get Out

Photo credit: Get Out
Photo credit: Get Out

The entire Armitage family in Get Out is terrifying and freaking psychotic. They possess the kind of passive, manipulative creepiness that absolutely f*cks with your head and sends shivers through your whole body. That, and the fact that they embody the insidious racism that our country was built on.

3. Carrie White, Carrie

Photo credit: New York Times
Photo credit: New York Times

You could argue that Carrie White is actually the victim in this story. But just because her murdering rampage is kinda warranted doesn't mean it's not also horrifying as hell.

4. The Thing, The Thing

Photo credit: Machine Mean
Photo credit: Machine Mean

No one knows exactly what the Thing is in John Carpenter's 1982 classic sci-fi horror film. Because there's really no better name for a slimy conglomeration of limbs and hands and teeth than the Thing.

5. Seth Brundle, The Fly

Photo credit: Bloody Disgusting
Photo credit: Bloody Disgusting

Seth Brundle was just your typical crazy mad scientist trying to impress a girl with a supposed breakthrough invention. Until the experiment took a very different course...one that involves Brundle slowly morphing into a human-sized fly creature that's just as gross as it sounds.

6. Henry, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Photo credit: Filmmaker Magazine
Photo credit: Filmmaker Magazine

Michael Rooker's harrowing performance as serial killer Henry Lee Lucas is deeply, deeply disturbing. You know this is based on a true story of a real-life murderer, right? Do not, I repeat, do *not* watch this alone at night.

7. Anna Ivers, The Uninvited

Photo credit: Tumblr
Photo credit: Tumblr

I don't want to give away too much butttttt the movie revolves around Anna, who has been in a psych ward for nearly a year following the death of her terminally ill mother. In this psychological thriller, it's unclear what's real and what's a hallucination until the very, very end—at which point, one last twist awaits you.

8. Brahms, The Boy

Photo credit: Bloody Disgusting
Photo credit: Bloody Disgusting

Why do we let little kids play with dolls and pretend like they aren't the scariest things ever?!?!? Brahms is a creepy, life-like doll who terrorizes anyone who comes in contact with him. Thanks Hollywood, but I don't need another reason to harbor ridiculous paranoia about dolls!

9. Esther, Orphan

Photo credit: Deadline
Photo credit: Deadline

Listen, obviously little kids can be super cute and adorable, but they can also be freaking PSYCHO. Exhibit A: Esther, from Orphan. Esther epitomizes Evil Child Syndrome, which is a real thing, apparently.

10. Griffin, The Invisible Man

Photo credit: Universal
Photo credit: Universal

This 2020 retelling of H. G. Wells’ classic novel of the same name modernizes the evil Dr. Griffin by making him a super-possessive ex-boyfriend/inventor who fakes his own death and makes a techy suit that turns him invisible so he can terrorize his ex-girlfriend Cecilia. His hobbies include sneaking into Cecilia’s room and pulling off the bed covers while she's sleeping and tackling her from behind, ya know, just stuff that makes everyone around Cecilia question her sanity.

11. The Shark, Jaws

Photo credit: mptvimages
Photo credit: mptvimages

This circa 1970 shark might look kind of fake, sure. But if you’ve ever been afraid of the deep blue sea, this massive great white villain—with his rows of razor-sharp teeth, hankering for human flesh, and a not an ounce of remorse—will only confirm your fears. You’ll definitely want to say “no thanks” to any cruise or boat trip opportunities forever.

12. Pelle, Midsommar

Photo credit: Gabor Kotschy
Photo credit: Gabor Kotschy

Incoming *controversial* take! Can we just talk about the fact that Pelle—as good as he thinks his intentions might be—literally took all his new “friends” on this trip to Sweden to visit his ~cute~ cult family and subjected those same “friends” to human sacrifice, bad shroom trips, and general gory chaos. Like? IDK? Sounds pretty villainous to me. Also, he is just waaay too ready to comfort Dani. And his smile? It’s creepy.

13. Ghostface, Scream

Fact: Ghostface is terrifying. I get that most people, at this point, associate Ghostface with things like their little brother’s Halloween costume or Scary Movie and maybe don’t find him that scary. But no. Literally, LOOK at that mask. The eyes are too empty and the mouth is way, way too long to be natural.

14. The Xenomorph, Alien

There are countless iterations of this parasitic and murderous alien monster, but there’s nothing quite like the OG Xenomorph from the first Alien movie. This guy comes out as a weird carb-like creature that pops out of an even weirder fleshy egg that latches on to your face and falls off before a little demon-alien baby (think: Bella’s vampire child but scarier) bursts out of your stomach and grows into a human-size killing machine with an extra jaw. Need I say more?

15. Michael Myers, Halloween

Photo credit: Dimension Films/Getty Images
Photo credit: Dimension Films/Getty Images

Ruining Jamie Lee Curtis’s trick-or-treating and otherwise harmless sheet masks since 1978. You might want to hide all your sharp knives after this one.

16. The Entity, It Follows

Photo credit: Dimension
Photo credit: Dimension

If you haven’t seen It Follows, allow me to explain the setup: You have sex with someone infected by the entity. The entity, which can take the shape of anyone, including people you know, starts following you. The entity follows you until it kills you or you pass it on to someone else through sex. If the entity kills that person, it comes back for you. You can never go anywhere with only one exit, you can never trust anyone, and you can never sleep again. Basically, you are fucked for all eternity. Good luck! (Bonus: For a good three or four days after watching this movie, you will believe every single person you see is a sex demon coming to murder you.)

17. Annabelle, The Conjuring and Annabelle

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Annabelle certainly isn’t the first villain to prove that dolls are horrible and should never be allowed in the hands of human children, but she does hold the distinct honor of being based on an IRL doll believed to be responsible for the death of at least one person. Having met that doll, I can confirm that she is just as scary in real life as she is onscreen, if not more so.

18. Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Jason wants revenge for getting drowned in a lake, and I get that. I really do. But did he have to drag his mother into it? The only thing worse than a serial killer hell-bent on destruction is one who has to get his mother to do it for him. Does he ask her to wash his underwear too?

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

19. Minnie Castevet, Rosemary’s Baby

Photo credit: Paramount
Photo credit: Paramount

In Minnie’s defense, she’s not the only resident of the Bramford who conspired to get Rosemary knocked up with Lil Satan, but she’s definitely the one you’d least expect—and that’s what makes her terrifying. She might look like an innocent elderly neighbor who just wants to help calm your pregnancy nerves (for the love of god, don’t take the herbs!), but in reality, she’s a devil worshipper determined to make sure your newborn ends up in a black bassinet designed for a hell spawn. He has his father’s eyes!


20. Mister Babadook, The Babadook

Photo credit: IFC
Photo credit: IFC

As was established with Samara in The Ring, children are terrifying, but they’re even worse when they start hallucinating a character from a kid’s book and crafting homemade weapons to defend themselves from said character. It also doesn’t help that the Babadook looks like your childhood vision of the bogeyman as drawn by a crack addict holding a pencil between his teeth.

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

21. Pinhead, Hellraiser

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

I mean, hello. Look at him.

22. Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street

Photo credit: New Line/Getty
Photo credit: New Line/Getty

Everyone’s had nightmares, and everyone knows they’re awful. Freddy Krueger is what happens when those nightmares come alive and actually start killing you. Sweet dreams, suckers!

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

23. Annie Wilkes, Misery

Photo credit: Columbia Pictures
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

Before she was killing it on American Horror Story as formidable villains Delphine (Coven) and the Butcher (Roanoke), Kathy Bates ruined lives as Annie Wilkes, a psychopath who takes the word “superfan” just a little bit too far. She’s the single reason Harry Styles doesn’t respond to your daily Twitter mentions.

24. Candyman, Candyman

Photo credit: TriStar
Photo credit: TriStar

Pour one out for all the ’90s kids who saw this at the video store and mistook it for a sequel to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. If this guy offers you an Everlasting Gobstopper, do not take it under any circumstances.

25. Samara Morgan, The Ring

Photo credit: Dreamworks
Photo credit: Dreamworks

Actually, forget what I said about "super cute and adorable." Children are terrifying. This is a fact. Even in real life, they talk to people who aren’t there, they think a fairy comes to their rooms at night and hands over money in exchange for lost teeth, and they could accidentally kill themselves at any moment.

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

But no child, real or imagined, is more terrifying than Samara Morgan, a monster so nightmare-inducing that after I first saw The Ring, my mom offered to take my television out of my bedroom lest Samara crawl out of it and strangle me. May Samara fall down that well one more time and never slink out of it again.

26. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

He could have just been a serial killer with a talent for uncomfortably compelling conversation. But nooo, he had to be a cannibal too. Have the lambs stopped screaming, Clarice? No, Hannibal, and they never will as long as your face is visible on cable 40 times a month.

27. Jack Torrance, The Shining

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

No matter how many times you see The Shining, the image of Jack Nicholson’s face popping through that door after he bashes it in with an ax will never stop being bury-your-face-in-the-couch terrifying. Side note: This movie makes a great case for never marrying a writer.

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

28. Norman Bates, Psycho

If a boy tells you his best friend is his mother, run.

Photo credit: Archive Photos - Getty Images
Photo credit: Archive Photos - Getty Images

29. Pennywise, It

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

As Carrie Bradshaw so wisely said, “Nothing’s scarier than a clown,” and no clown is scarier than Pennywise, who’s not even really a clown but an evil otherworldly entity that just takes the form of a clown so he can more easily murder children. (TBT to the infamous clown epidemic of 2016!)

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

30. Pazuzu, The Exorcist

What, you thought it was gonna be Regan MacNeil on this list? You can’t blame her for all that green vomit and floor pee! It was all Pazuzu’s fault. (Although, technically, none of this would have happened if she hadn’t been playing with that Ouija board in the first place.)

Photo credit: Warner Brothers
Photo credit: Warner Brothers

31. Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Photo credit: Dark Sky Films
Photo credit: Dark Sky Films

Spoiler alert: That’s not really leather.

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

32. Dr. Heiter, The Human Centipede

Photo credit: IFC
Photo credit: IFC

This dude gets off on sewing people’s mouths to other people’s buttholes. What else could you possibly need to know?

33. The Nun, The Nun

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The only thing scarier than the Nun is the fact that she’s based on an IRL nightmare of a true story.

34. Black Phillip, The Witch

Photo credit: A24
Photo credit: A24

Who wouldn’t want a talking pet goat, right?!

Photo credit: Giphy
Photo credit: Giphy

That is, unless you’re all alone in the middle of nowhere with your family and that goat is actually Satan. Then, I guess, no one?

You Might Also Like