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Classic Movie Villains Who Made Children (and Some Grown Ups) Scream

Photo Credit: 1. madColl / MovieStillsDB 2. CaptainOT / United Artists / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 1. madColl / MovieStillsDB 2. CaptainOT / United Artists / MovieStillsDB

Everyone has their favorite movie villain and, for a lot of viewers, that character scared them stiff as children! What’s more, some are so scary that they even give adults the creeps. This left us wondering just who, exactly, are the top movie villains… You better brace yourself for this rotten rundown of the worst of the worst.

Judge Doom – Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. (Photo Credit: Timothy2 / Walt Disney Pictures / Touchstone Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) caused a commotion with its incredible FX, blending live-action and animation. Arguably, however, the best effect was human, in the form of Roger’s eerie enemy, Judge Doom.

Christopher Lloyd jangled children’s spines as the black-clad justice dispenser, who was eventually unmasked as a “toon” himself. A versatile character actor, Lloyd also portrayed Doc Brown in the Back To The Future franchise, not that most audiences would have recognized him here.

Doom’s fright factor was ramped up even further by an inspired creative decision from Lloyd. “They’re not human, so I just felt Judge Doom should never blink,” he revealed in an interview with the streaming service, Disney+. “It makes him even more ominous, more scary, if he’s just looking like that. It wasn’t really difficult, I’d just keep my eyes open as long as I could, try to time it out with the next take and all that. It was cool.”

Chilling more like…

Medusa – Clash of the Titans (1981)

Still from 'Clash of the Titans'
Clash of the Titans, 1981. (Photo Credit: Hope72 / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / MovieStillsDB)

Clash of the Titans (1981) was the final big-screen movie project by legendary animator, Ray Harryhausen. The stop-motion maestro delivered a doozy of an opponent for the hero of Greek myth, Perseus (Harry Hamlin), to tackle in his quest.

Toward the end of the movie, Perseus comes face to face with the snake-headed Medusa… Or, rather, he didn’t, as the creature turned her victims to stone if looked at directly. Perseus slayed his skin-crawling opponent by studying her movements in the reflection of his shield.

Medusa may have lost her head, but the scary sequence gave many young viewers (and maybe a few older ones) sleepless nights.

Grand High Witch – The Witches (1990)

Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch in 'The Witches'
The Witches, 1990. (Photo Credit: jasonhart / MovieStillsDB)

Director Nicolas Roeg was known for his surreal and brain-frying imagery. The ending of the 1973 horror classic Don’t Look Now is one of the most jarring curveballs in movie history. When a 1990 movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel The Witches arrived in cinemas, Roeg was at the helm – the little ones didn’t know what hit them!

Anjelica Huston cut a glamorous figure in her early scenes as Miss Eva Ernst. It was when she dropped her disguise and became the Grand High Witch that people started screaming. The actor donned nightmarish makeup for the switch, looking like a cross between a bald bird and a melting candle.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit director Robert Zemeckis released a new adaptation in 2020, with Anne Hathaway as the ultimate witchy woman.

Jaws – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Richard Kiel as Jaws in 'The Spy Who Loved Me'
The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists / MovieStillsDB)

For some, Jaws is a big rubber shark that terrorized Amity Island. For others, he’ll will always be the terrifying James Bond villain – big as a house and sporting frightening metal teeth. He debuted in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), opposite Roger Moore’s 007. The terrifying scene where Jaws slays an unfortunate investigator among the pyramids is burned into the memory of viewers of a certain age!

Richard Kiel was the man behind the molars. Ironically, he had his own dental problems in his early life! The original plan was to kill the character off, but producers soon realized they were onto something special. His powerful presence led to Jaws returning for 1979’s Moonraker.

“I had convinced the producer that Jaws should have some characteristics that were human to counteract the steel teeth,” Kiel told Den of Geek in 2009. “I guess I overdid it – I became too likeable to kill off!”

Skeksis – The Dark Crystal (1982)

Still from 'The Dark Crystal'
The Dark Crystal, 1982. (Photo Credit: ash595 / Universal Studios / MovieStillsDB)

Muppets creator Jim Henson took audiences into the magical world of The Dark Crystal in 1982. Those expecting cute frogs and karate-chopping pigs were in for a surprise. The movie was dark, challenging and very, very scary!

Wizened creations the Skeksis were key to haunting children’s dreams. The scheming beakmeisters were more like something from a Stephen King novel than a kids’ puppet show. They were devised by Henson and conceptualized by fantasy artist, Brian Froud.

The figure of the Chamberlain was particularly memorable, for his repeated and unsettling use of the word, “Mmmmm”! Played by Miss Piggy’s Frank Oz and voice artist Barry Dennen, he became a tragic figure who, in a truly shocking sequence, is viciously pecked at by his Skeksis brethren.

Netflix prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019) brought the Muppet-fueled monsters back to frighten a new generation…

Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'
A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984. (Photo Credit: jeffw616 / New Line Cinema / MovieStillsDB)

Though not intended as a children’s character, Freddy Krueger went mainstream after his debut in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The gooey-faced ghoul and dream invader with blades on his fingers is everyone’s idea of a boogeyman. No doubt young people got their hands on the video release to check out the gory sights for themselves, and they likely wished they hadn’t once it was time for bed!

Robert Englund played Freddy in multiple movies and TV appearances. He saw the character as striking a deep chord in budding imaginations, telling This Bird’s Day in 2013, “There is nothing more private than your dreams. It’s like your secret diary or your drawer in your desk […] the fact that somebody can get in there and mess around with your own fears […] I think that’s really unnerving to adolescents.

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

Evil Queen – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Still from 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937. (Photo Credit: Komond / Walt Disney Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made history in 1937 as Disney’s first animated feature film. Why is it so well remembered? The beautifully drawn characters and timeless songs, of course, but also the Evil Queen! Voiced by Lucille La Verne, the villain managed to scare children even more by transforming into an old crone.

This memory has scarred millions of childhood cinema trips – and the frights didn’t stop in the 1930s, as the film was re-released in theaters in 1983.

Child Catcher – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Still from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968. (Photo Credit: murraymomo / United Artists / MovieStillsDB)

What could be scarier than a sinister figure who swipes up kiddies in a net? Nothing, that’s what. Famed actor and dancer Robert Helpmann’s performance as the appalling Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) is still liable to get youngsters hiding under furniture, even after all these years.

More from us: 11 Interesting Facts About ‘Willy Wonka’ Actor Gene Wilder

Helpmann received a jolt of his own, however, when rehearsing a scene for the movie with the Catcher’s cart and horses. As he rounded the corner, something went very wrong and it flipped over, according to co-star Dick Van Dyke. It takes more than that to stop the Child Catcher, however, as Van Dyke discovered to his astonishment.