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The strongest horror movie villains, ranked

Horror movies are only as good as their villains, as they’re the main reason the protagonists and the audience get so terrified. As a result, the genre has been the host to some very powerful antagonists on the silver screen, from the freaks in Freaks to the sinister evil lurking in current horror hit Smile.

With ancient demons, evil apparitions, indestructible serial killers, and unfriendly aliens, horror has had a long and scary history of presenting a variety of formidable foes. Though there are many to choose from, here is the list of the strongest horror movie villains in cinema history.

16. The Overlook Hotel (The Shining)

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Having been the site of multiple deaths and murders and a Native American burial ground, the Overlook Hotel has become an evil entity controlling an army of sinister spirits. The Overlook torments the Torrance family during their weekslong stay in an attempt to steal Danny’s “shine,” eventually possessing his father, Jack, to do so. 

Though the ghosts are dangerous, it is only because of Danny’s power that they are eventually able to harm him and his family physically. Even after Danny and his mother fled halfway across the country, the ghosts continued to haunt him. Despite this, the spirits can be contained, as Danny was able to imprison them in boxes in his mind.

15. Bruce the shark (Jaws)

Roy Scheider fends off the shark in Jaws.

Named “Bruce” by the makers of Jaws, this great white shark painted the seas red with the blood of Amity Island’s citizens. During hisrampage, Bruce accomplished many feats of strength impossible even for a great white. It swam while pulling three floatation barrels underwater, yanked a pier out to sea, dragged Quint’s boat behind him, and busted through said boat, causing it to sink.

Calling Bruce a shark is like calling Godzilla a lizard or King Kong a gorilla. Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper accurately describes this beast as a “perfect engine,” an “eating machine,” and a “miracle of evolution,” and it’s a miracle that Brody managed to kill it at the end of the film.

14. Xenomorphs (The Alien franchise)

A Xenomorph in Alien Covenant.
20th Century Studios / 20th Century Studios

Time and time again, the Xenomorph has proven itself to be the perfect predator. This alien’s only goal is to eat, grow, and reproduce, and it is really good at what it does. Having incredible strength, speed, and climbing capabilities, a single one of these creatures is a challenge to hunt down.

The Xenomorph has also displayed a remarkable amount of intelligence by blending with its surroundings to evade and surprise its prey. Its acidic blood also acts as a strong defense, especially when it’s on board a ship in space, as a single drop could burn right through the hull and suck out all the oxygen.

13. Michael Myers/The Shape (Halloween)

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After killing his sister at the age of six, Michael Myers spent 15 years in a psychiatric hospital, silently waiting for the day of his escape so he could return to Haddonfield and start killing again. Michael doesn’t seem to feel any pain whatsoever, and this has allowed him to survive almost any attack thrown at him. Some films have made the source of Michael’s superhuman powers unknown, while others have made them originate from supernatural sources.

No matter what film he’s in, Michael is always a formidable force of nature that is almost impossible to defeat in the Halloween franchise. Even in his 60s, Michael remains a powerful adversary as he kills his way through multiple people in Haddonfield after suffering intense injuries that would kill a mere mortal man. But in the famous words of Dr. Loomis, Michael is no ordinary man; he’s “pure evil.”

12. Chucky (Child’s Play)

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Before his death, serial killer Charles Ray uses voodoo magic to possess a nearby doll, becoming the seemingly unstoppable plaything Chucky. While he is the size of a child, Chucky still has the strength and speed of an adult man, and his skills with using weapons and setting traps make him one of the most threatening serial killers ever put to film.

And like many other slasher villains before him, Chucky never seems to stay dead, as he has survived such grave injuries as being burned alive, shot, and blown up (not necessarily in that order), and has been able to transfer his soul to other dolls.

11. The Entity (It Follows)

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“It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.” This tagline for It Follows perfectly encapsulates the film’s shape-shifting antagonist. The entity of this movie slowly stalks and kills anyone who has been given its curse anywhere in the world. Jay finds herself being followed by this creature after receiving the curse from her boyfriend through a sexual encounter.

The entity is invisible to everyone who isn’t cursed, and it can survive a bullet to the head and quite possibly drowning. However, one of the most terrifying aspects of this entity is that it can take the form of anyone, including someone its target knows. Though the curse can be passed to someone else by having sex with them, the idea that it means dooming someone else makes the entity especially hard to evade.

10. Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th Parts II-X)

Paramount Pictures

Jason Voorhees famously drowned as a child at Camp Crystal Lake, only to return decades later as a hockey-masked murderer. Like Michael Myers, Jason is inhumanly strong and can withstand almost any injury, but while the former hasn’t explicitly been confirmed to be supernatural, Jason has literally come back from the dead (it has even been implied that he is one of the Deadites from The Evil Dead franchise; more on them coming up).

Jason thus gained true invulnerability and the ability to possess people with his demonic heart. And since Hollywood can’t seem to stop making films about him, nothing seems to keep Jason in the grave.

9. Jean Jacket (Nope)

Daniel Kaluuya rides away from a monstrous alien in a visual effects scene from Nope.
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Jordan Peele put a unique spin on the UFO subgenre with this colossal, angelic creature. Also known as “occulonimbus edoequus,” Jean Jacket is an enormous flying predator that marks Haywood Ranch as its territory, sucking up and devouring anything that looks at it with its tornado-like breath. It can also spit the inorganic matter it consumed onto those below it, which is dangerous given that a nickel it expelled shot through a character’s head, killing him.

Jean Jacket’s ability to hide in the clouds and disrupt electrical technology makes it difficult to find and document on film. This can also make the creature difficult to escape, as it can power down any electric vehicles in its vicinity. Spoiler alert: Though Em was able to take down Jean Jacket by having it choke on a giant balloon, if the studio does say “yes” to a Nope sequel, there is a chance that the people-eating beast survived.

8. Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Freddy Krueger from Friday the 13th, grimacing.
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After being brutally murdered by a mob of vigilante parents, this wicked serial killer returned from the dead as a Dream Demon hell-bent on wreaking havoc on the children of Springwood. Freddy Krueger famously wields the ability to murder people in their dreams. Once he’s inside a person’s dream, he is essentially all-powerful.

Krueger can transform into anything he sets his mind to in the dream world, and he doesn’t have to worry about dying while his target’s asleep. Even so, his first film showed that he can be forced out of someone’s dream. When he’s in the real world, he is stripped of nearly all his power, proving that he’s only as strong as people think he is.

7. Pinhead (Hellraiser)

Pinhead on the poster cover for Hellraiser
Image courtesy of New World Picture

Once a human known as Elliot Spencer, Pinhead lost his faith in humanity after witnessing the horrors of World War I, eventually receiving the Lament Configuration and becoming one of the Cenobites. With his forbidden magic, Pinhead is able to torture his victims in gruesome fashions, typically with hooks and chains. He can even brainwash people to carry out his dark bidding for him.

Since he can survive gunshot wounds, summon any object from thin air, and create explosions, Pinhead is a destructive force of nature that is almost unstoppable. But he can still be defeated by undoing the puzzle used to summon him and sending him back to Hell.

6. Mister Babadook (The Babadook)

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Amelia and her son, Samuel, find themselves haunted by this sharply dressed demon after reading a pop-up book that mysteriously appears in their house. The book warns them about Mister Babadook and how they can’t get rid of him, and after that, the beast was there to stay.

As a pure manifestation of their grief, the Babadook continuously torments Amelia and Samuel as it tries to tear them apart, and no matter how much Amelia denies it, her denial only makes the demon stronger. Eventually, the Babadook possesses Amelia and nearly gets her to murder Samuel. And though he was exorcised from her body and driven into the basement, the Badadook is still a dangerous and unkillable force that Amelia and Samuel are forced to live with.

5. The Thing (The Thing)

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This alien crash-landed in the Antarctic before being rediscovered thousands of years later. When the Thing comes across a compound full of researchers, a true cosmic horror is unleashed. This shape-shifting creature has the ability to assimilate any organism and take on any form based on its DNA, allowing it to transform into some large and grotesque creatures.

Every molecule of the Thing being has a mind of its own. Even a single drop of blood has the conscious desire to survive, so it only takes a tiny piece of the Thing to infect and completely take over a living thing. And no matter how small or how harmed it is, the Thing can regenerate and grow into a world-ending monstrosity as long as a single part of it lives.

4. Deadites (The Evil Dead)

The demonic woman under the floorboards from The Evil Dead
New Line Cinema / New Line Cinema

In director Sam Raimi’s breakout horror classic, Ash Williams and his friends accidentally unleash hell on Earth after playing a recording that recites a passage from the Book of the Dead. This summons an ancient Kandarian demon that stalks and possesses each member of the group, turning them into horrible Deadites.

Both living and nonliving things can be turned into Deadites, and they can infect humans simply by doing them bodily harm. Once a human being is turned into a Deadite, the best way to stop it is through bodily dismemberment, as it can still control the head and limbs no matter how damaged they are. Nevertheless, possessed humans can be turned back to normal when they’re exposed to sunlight or remember the love they once felt. But it still wouldn’t hurt to have a chain saw on-hand.

3. Pazuzu (The Exorcist)

Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.

This ancient demon famously possessed 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, transforming the innocent little girl into a rotting spawn of hell. Pazuzu displayed many supernatural powers, including moving objects with his mind and causing earthquakes. He is even able to withstand exorcisms to the point that he nearly killed Father Merrin during their first encounter. But whether or not he is exorcised, Pazuzu can never be killed, which has allowed him to return time and time again throughout The Exorcist franchise.

Not only is Pazuzu strong, but he is also a master manipulator. In the film, it is theorized that the demon possesses Regan to make those around him question their faith in God, which includes making it seem like Regan isn’t possessed at all. The fact that he calls himself the Devil and pretends to be scared of fake holy water to do so shows how skilled he is at deceiving people. As Keyser Söze once said, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

2. Pennywise the Dancing Clown (It)

Pennywise the clown in It Chapter Two
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This cosmic entity crash-landed on Earth in what would become Derry, Maine. It eventually took the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to hunt and consume children, staking its claim on the town as its greatest predator. Having remained in Derry for so long, Pennywise has influenced the minds of its citizens to have them all but ignore the atrocities it has caused in order to stay hidden.

This evil clown can shapeshift into anything it desires and craft illusions to exploit people’s greatest fears, which only makes it more powerful. But every one of these forms, including Pennywise, is just a mask. No human being can comprehend its true form, the Deadlights, which can drive a person insane or even kill them with a mere glance. Such a cosmic entity embodies the horror of the unknown, making it something that no human being should hope to see.

1. Death (Final Destination)

A scene from Final Destination 5.
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As the universal embodiment of, well, death, this invisible entity seeks only to kill people. Some characters in the franchise have had premonitions that allowed them to foil Death’s plans. However, Death always comes up with new and creative ways to kill those who have survived its previous attempts on their lives.

Appearing only as a gust of wind or a large shadow, Death controls the environment and causes seemingly freak accidents to kill its target. This Grim Reaper effectively conveys humanity’s fear of oblivion, how inescapable death is, and how it can come when it is least expected.

Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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