Since horror movies became popular in the late 1800s, the genre has seen a variety of horrifying characters and storylines with an interestingly wide range of depravity as much as the human mind could conjure. While there are other contributing factors, the most important one that makes a horror movie terrific is how much fear the main horror movie character is capable of inciting, not just on their victims but also on those watching. This article outlines in no particular order, 15 scariest villains and horror movie characters.
15 Scariest Villians To Play Horror Movie Characters
1. Michael Myers – Halloween (1978)
The character that has been the subject of people’s nightmares for over four decades, Halloween‘s Michael Myers has been killing since he was a child. He did not start killing because of a big life-altering event he experienced or because he got bullied in school but just because he felt like it, and his first kill was his own elder sister. With one of the highest kill counts in horror film history, the iconic chef knife-wielding Michael Myers is definitely one of the scariest horror movie character one will ever see in horror movies.
2. Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th (1980)
Watching a loved one die can take a toll on anyone, but the effect is much more if you watched them get killed. Jason Voorhees was a mama’s boy with a deformed face and some serious mental issues who became separated from the only person who loved him when he was just a boy. He starts his killing rampage after he watched his dear mother die and somehow went on to kill about 161 people to avenge her death. The scariest thing about this horror movie character wasn’t just his less than palatable facial appearance, it’s the fact that you would not even know he was there until it is too late, of course.
3. Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1976)
Leatherface, whose character was apparently inspired by the life of a real criminal, Ed Gein, does not only butcher his victims, he gets his satisfaction from wearing their face as a mask – hence the name- Leatherface. He is not just a murderer but also a cannibal – him and every other member of his deranged family. Basically, this horror movie character is not only the slaughterer, but he also delivers human flesh as meat and the entire family feasts on it. More so, it is not just Leatherface and his chainsaw that can be pretty scary, it’s his entire cannibal family whose insanity only seems to grow with every piece of human meat they feed on, that really chills the bone.
4. Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
With Freddy Krueger, your dreams come true and not in a good way. This scary, clawed ghost comes for you while you sleep and whatever he does to you happens in real life too. Freddy Krueger thrives on his victims’ fear, the more scared he made them, the better for him and honestly, what could be scarier and more disturbing than a killer who does not allow you rest? No matter what you do, if this horror movie character is after you, you can never have a peaceful sleep.
5. Regan MacNeil – The Exorcist (1973)
As far as exorcism horror movie characters go The Exorcist‘s Regan MacNeil is second to none. When a little girl gets possessed by a demon king, you know what to expect – or you don’t. There are really no limits to what Pazuzu would make this sweet girl do and she could do absolutely nothing about it. Nine people were reported dead on the set of The Exorcist and one of them was from a heart attack. The gripping fear this horror movie character is able to unleash is beyond intense.
6. The Alien (Xenomorph) – Alien (1979)
This monster does not just settle for living under your bed, it wants to live inside you and usually without your consent. The Xenomorphs are much like your every day termites and bees, truly social except that they are way larger and are trying to kill every other living thing in their path that does not look like them. The queen Alien infuses her victims with a baby Alien that develops in their belly, bursts rather violently out of their chest and then grows really fast to look for another host. The disconcerting thought that one is never totally safe from harm, not even in space, makes this horror movie character very scary.
7. Jigsaw – Saw (2004)
Jigsaw never actually killed anyone rather, he kidnaps people and sets them up to die in some of the most gruesome ways you’ve probably never thought of. He was a mastermind vigilante who took the law into his hands by setting up traps for his victims. He would give them instructions and hints which were usually embedded in the confession of their sins, forcing them to subject themselves to self-inflicted dismemberment in a desperate bid to free themselves from the trap he set before the timer runs out at which point, the traps were designed to end their lives in a very vivid and gory manner. Ironically, this horror movie character never actually killed anyone directly and this earns him even more villain points among his fans.
8. Norman Bates – Psycho (1960)
Norman Bates, the psycho killer, was a mentally ill and emotionally disturbed killer who lost half his mind after murdering his abusive mother. He later developed what was called a dissociative identity disorder and made multiple kills in the name of “Mother”. There was always something unsettling about the way this horror movie character smiles when he holds his signature knife and he doesn’t remember his kills afterward.
9. Pennywise the Dancing Clown – Stephen King’s IT (1990)
Stephen King’s IT is an ancient creature that has the ability to morph into whatever form it wants and manipulate people’s minds. Pennywise the Dancing Clown was its most preferred form because it got to perform in a circus and was closer to its targets that way. It can shape-shift into children’s loved ones or their biggest fears depending on whichever serves his purpose at the time. This horror movie character feeds on human flesh but prefers to eat children because apparently, eating innocent souls tastes better than the alternative.
10. Chucky – Child’s Play (1988)
Anything that can murder a person in cold blood is scary, but when a doll that is as strong as a fully grown human murderer takes a pair of scissors and kills an actual human being? That’s beyond scary. Chucky the creepy killer doll has taken over 70 lives altogether and has become something of a horror icon who made the killer doll sub-genre popular.
11. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a well-respected and intellectual psychiatrist who is also a sadistic, cannibalistic and sociopathic monster. A serial murderer who feels no remorse at all for his evil deeds. Hannibal started with torturing animals unprovoked as a child. He would prepare exotic meals out of some parts of his victims’ flesh and make unsuspecting people eat out of it. As a personal rule, this horror movie character mostly killed people with bad manners and maybe a few others who get in his way. The way Lecter describes his kills, especially his first is a further attestation to his sociopathy.
12. Candyman – Candyman (1982)
Candyman is a supernatural killer who appears when invoked by calling his name up to five times in front of a mirror – do not try this at home! Candyman is the ghost of a 19th-century black artist who was attacked for fathering a child with a white woman. His hand was severed, replaced with a hook and was smeared with honey close to a hive of hungry bees that eventually stung him to death. What this horror movie character does not like is someone trying to prove that he is not real, Candyman would go to any lengths to maintain his legend among the residents of Cabrini-Green even if it means killing a bunch of people.
13. Samara – The Ring (2002)
Like Candyman, Samara is the ghost of a vengeance-seeking little girl who had a sad life. But she is different because you don’t have to stand in front of a mirror and summon this one before she invites herself in. Imagine sitting in a dark room with a bowl of popcorn and the evil ghost character jumps out of the Television and comes at you, that’s definitely not something you’ll forget in a hurry – or ever. Additionally, this horror movie character’s weapon of choice is purely psychological rather than physical like most of the others on this list.
14. Ghost Face – Scream (1996)
The scariest thing about Ghost Face is his costume, that mask after which he was rightly named and his long black cloak that makes one think the grim reaper himself is coming for your soul. The mostly white mask depicts a face that is actually screaming in horror with an unending depth of darkness where the eyes should be. Ghost Face liked to agitate his victims, first, he would taunt them on phone and let that last a while before he finally ends them with a hunting knife.
15. Jack Torrance – The Shinning (1980)
Finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning the regular main character that made a slow descent into insanity by becoming one of the characters he had written in his own book and went berserk. Jack Nicholson was just the perfect man for the horror movie character- Jack Torrance because he really brought the character to life and he is loved for it.