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7 best Harry Potter villains, ranked

Death Eaters assemble on a mountain in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2.
Warner Bros.

Over the course of the story of Harry Potter, a number of genuinely engaging heroes were created. Alongside those heroes, though, were equally compelling villains that we simply loved to hate. Some of those villains were archetypal, while others came in more unexpected molds — and several even became some of the best villains in movie history.

Each one of them was terrifying in their own way, though, and Harry had to face each of them at least once over the course of his journey. While there are more than seven villains in the world of Harry Potter, we’ve narrowed this list down to the most sinister, at least from our perspective.

7. The Dursleys

The Dursleys pose for a family portrait.
Warner Bros.

The only non-magical entrant on this list, the Dursleys were not good to Harry. They never treated him as anything even vaguely resembling a son, and their behavior toward him bordered on abusive, especially in comparison to their own child. On top of all that, they didn’t want him to know that he was magical, and so he was dumbfounded by everything that happened in the first book.

Still, for as much psychological harm as they did to Harry, they didn’t actively try to harm him. The Dursleys were bad, for sure, but they didn’t start a wizarding war or anything.

6. Barty Crouch Jr.

David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr.
Warner Bros.

A die-hard Voldemort lover if ever there was one, Barty Crouch Jr. doesn’t get a whole lot of characterization, but he basically only does bad things. He’s instrumental in Voldemort’s ultimate return, he assists in the torture of Neville’s parents, and he kidnaps Mad-Eye Moody and confines him to a chest for an entire year so he can assume his identity.

As despicable as Barty Crouch Jr. is, though, he was also just a zealot to a higher power. He believed so wholeheartedly in what Voldemort was trying to achieve that he was willing to do anything to make it happen.

5. Gellert Grindelwald

Gellert Grindelwald aims his wand in Fantastic Beasts 3.
Warner Bros.

Albus Dumbledore’s oldest friend would likely be higher on this list if he was more fully developed. As it stands, though, we know that Grindelwald was the most powerful dark wizard in history until Voldemort came along, and that his goal was to bring the wizarding race out of hiding and allow them to dominate the muggles. Dumbledore initially aligned himself with that goal before ultimately changing his tune, and it was Dumbledore who ultimately defeated Grindelwald and locked him away, never to be seen again until Voldemort came looking for the Elder Wand.

4. Peter Pettigrew

Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew in The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Warner Bros.

A snide snitch who is attracted to power, Peter Pettigrew was instrumental in both Harry’s (brief) death and Voldemort’s return, and he did it all out of fear. He betrayed his best friends in the world and then fueled the return of an ultimate evil, all because he didn’t seem to have any idea what else to do.

Of course, he never got the respect or love that he seemed to so desperately crave, in large part because he never deserved anyone’s time or respect. He died in an attempt to show mercy, the one good act he commits in the books, and the one that ultimately leads to his death.

3. Dolores Umbridge

Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge.
Warner Bros.

A character many hate more than Voldemort himself, Dolores Umbridge is horrid in every way. A stickler for the rules who believes in both corporal punishment and manipulation, she slowly assumes control of Hogwarts and spends an entire year denying the return of Lord Voldemort on behalf of the Minister of Magic.

The only good thing about Umbridge is that, in the end, she gets what’s coming to her. She may have been fascistic about the rules, but the wildness of the world around her, in particular a group of angry centaurs, wins out.

2. Bellatrix Lestrange

Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange.
Warner Bros.

Voldemort’s most loyal right hand, and his most wicked servant, Bellatrix was not just evil because she believed in what her master was doing. She was a genuine sadist who enjoyed inflicting pain on her enemies, and took every opportunity she could to do so.

She was also instrumental in Neville’s parents torturing, and on top of that, she killed Sirius Black, a distinction that will allow her to live in infamy forever. It’s fitting, then, that Molly Weasley was ultimately the one to defeat her. A mother who knows all about love defeating someone who only loved the pain of others was expecially poetic.

1. Lord Voldemort

Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort.
Warner Bros.

You knew this was coming, right? Voldemort is the ultimate big bad, not just because he is the one who incited the war between wizards, but also because he believed so firmly in the ideology of pure blood. On top of that, he didn’t care at all about human life, and his ignorance about love and kindness were ultimately the things that led to his downfall.

Voldemort was, after all, just a man, and like any man, he was capable of weakness and failure. He may have been a skilled wizard, but it was the things he never cared to understand that ultimately brought him to his end.

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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