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The 30 cruelest horror movie villains. They will find you...

Hannibal Lecter - The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

The Cruel Villain: The great thing about Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is that he’s fully aware of just how messed up he is because he’s as a super-smart psychiatrist. He’s also super dangerous, having been banged up in a maximum security prison because, as his nickname suggests, he likes to eat people…

Nastiest Moment: Hannibal punishes fellow prisoner Miggs for doing something nasty to Clarice (Jodie Foster) – off-screen, he taunts Miggs into swallowing his own tongue. Naturally, he dies…

Killer Quote: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Ghostface - Scream (1996)

The Cruel Villain: A masked menace who revels in horror movie trivia, Ghostface terrorises the small community of Woodsboro, where every teenager (and even a few non-teenagers) is fodder fit for killing (in imaginative and violent ways). The worst part? He gives his victims false hope by playing horror trivia that the victim can’t possibly win…

Nastiest Moment: Gutting poor Casey (Drew Barrymore) and stringing her up in a tree for her parents to discover.

Killer Quote: “What’s your favourite scary movie?”

Sadako - Ringu (1998)

The Cruel Villain: When Sadako was alive, she possessed strange supernatural powers. When she was murdered and dumped in a well, her vengeful spirit possessed a VHS tape. If you watch the tape, she comes and gets you after seven days…

Nastiest Moment: Crawling out of the television set and scaring her victim to death. If that doesn’t do it, nothing will.

Killer Quote: [creepy creepy creep]

Pennywise - It (1990)

The Cruel Villain: An ancient evil residing in Derry, Maine, this despicable villain takes the form of Pennywise the Clown in order to terrorise a group of young teenagers. He’s particularly adept at taunting people with their own fears.

Nastiest Moment: Pennywise’s first kill is pretty horrific – he lures a six-year-old boy into a storm drain when the kid’s paper boat falls in. Nightmares all round…

Killer Quote: “They ALL float down here. When you're down here with us, you'll float too!”

Leatherface - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Cruel Villain: Likes wearing other peoples’ faces, which just about says it all about Leatherface, who belongs to a family of flesh-eating cannibals. Though the rest of his brood’s pretty messed up, it’s Leatherface who does most of the killing on screen.

Nastiest Moment: Leaving one of his victims to dangle on a meat hook while she’s still alive. You don’t see any gore, but when things are this nasty, you don’t need to. 

Killer Quote: [vroom vroooooooooom]

Death - Final Destination (2000)

The Cruel Villain: Alright, Death can be seen as both a villain and a necessity, but the gory demises that claim the grave-dodging characters in Final Destination are so horrific that you can’t help thinking Death’s enjoying himself a little bit too much.

Nastiest Moment: Take your pick, though the bus smoosh is a great jump scare. 

Killer Quote: [Bludworth on Death] “In death there are no accidents, no coincidences, no mishaps, and no escapes.”

Asami Yamazaki - Audition (1999)

The Cruel Villain: A woman with a mysterious past, Asami begins dating widower Aoyama. Growing jealous of his dead wife, though, she uses a paralysing agent to subdue him, and then gets to work humiliating and torturing him.

Nastiest Moment: Two words – piano wire. Nope, we’re definitely never dating again. 

Killer Quote: “This wire can cut through meat and bone easily.”

Jigsaw - Saw (2004)

The Cruel Villain: The Jigsaw Killer (real name John Kramer) uses murder to test the moral fibre of ordinary people. He does that by selecting individuals he deems to be wasting their lives and putting them into literal death traps that they have to fight to escape.

Nastiest Moment: Though the rest of the Saw films get progressively nastier, in the excellent first film, Jigsaw’s plan is deviously simple – chain a guy up and let him decide if he wants to saw off his own foot to get free and save his family…

Killer Quote: “I want to play a game.”

Freddy Krueger - A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

The Cruel Villain: Burned, scarred and equipped with his very own handy torture device, serial killer Freddy Krueger only became more powerful when he was murdered by vengeful Elm Street parents – he transformed into a hack-n-slash dream stalker. How’s this for cruel – Freddy brings peoples’ nightmares to life and uses them to kill them. We’ll never sleep again… 

Nastiest Moment: Freddy commits his nastiest moment off-screen. Having killed most of Nancy’s friends, he targets her boyfriend (Johnny Depp), dragging him into a hole in his bed and unleashing a torrent of the red stuff. 

Killer Quote: “Come to Freddy…”

Pinhead Hellraiser (1987)

The Cruel Villain: The leader of the cenobites. Pinhead is so-called because, well, just look at him. An “explorer” of experience, he/it takes pleasure in other peoples’ pain, appearing to anybody who solves the Chinese puzzle box…

Nastiest Moment: Frank (Sean Chapman) is strung up in the attic, hook-ended chains attached to his body. Then he’s literally ripped apart. Bloody mess if you ask us. 

Killer Quote: “We'll tear your soul apart!”

Joshua Winning

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.