The 10 Smartest Horror Movie Villains

5. Annie Wilkes – Misery (1990)


The list of great Stephen King adaptations is a pretty long one: from terrifying Brian De Palma’s Carrie and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to the heart-wrenching Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, the written works of this great author were widely made for the silver screen since the start of his writing career.

Almost every one of them was marked by a fantastic villain of above average wit, so it might come off as unfair that we only made room for one on this list. But, with all due respect to the great evil minds of King adaptations, Annie Wilkes takes the cake on this one.

She is a clear cut whacko, unable to pick on obvious hints of dislike and unconfortambleness, living in an unrealistic world of her literary fantasies, but she is also unbelievably, and wisely, committed to her lunatic daydreams.

Her intellect is also reflected in her pursuits unrelated to the plot: she seems to nurse the injured writer back to health fairly easily and is a lover of high quality literature, going as far as offering some serious advice to a seasoned man of written word.


4. John Kramer – Saw (2004)

When James Wan made his directing debut in 2004, he had no idea how big the film he envisioned would become. Saw became a hit in a heartbeat, and spanned numerous sequels, most quite a bit worse than the first one.

One thing that remained consistenly fine throughout the years, though, was the villain. John Kramer, possibly better known by his pseudonym, Jigsaw, was not only one of the most relatable and likable villains we ever saw, he was also among the smartest ones.

As we already said, he remains a cunning opponent throughout the franchise, but his wit especially came to light in the first installment. Although quite passive in his actions throughout the film, the consequences of his creations haunt the two heroes through and through.

While they are most definitely extremely sadistic in their nature, one cannot deny that all the traps and mazes Jigsaw makes for his victims are a work of an extraordinarily bright mind. The final twist is another eloquent, yet cruel, addition to the list of Kramer’s brilliant evil doings.


3. Dr. Victor Frankenstein – Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein is one of the earliest examples of a film that can rightfully be labeled horror. Made shortly before all the restrictions and regulations came into the movie world, it can still manage to shock and scare with everything it offers.

The subject of the true villain of the film has been a matter of a long and heated debate. The initial (and the obvious) villain seems to be the monster Dr. Frankenstein made: he’s big, he’s scary, he’s made of parts of corpses. The monster just ticked all the boxes.

But the doctor himself is far from innocent in the grand scheme of things. If it weren’t for his selfishness and needless curiosity, none of the events of the film would enfold, so we can rightfully label him a villain in his own right. And a hellishly smart one at that.

Needless to say, to reanimate a bunch of pieces of dead meat to life takes quite a bit of intelligence. His ideas of sealing the monster’s fate after it escapes and starts its rampage also show a sharp, if a bit cruel, mind at work.


2. The Thing – The Thing (1982)


John Carpenter was already a bit of a name in the film industry at the beginning of the eighties, especially in the circles of horror and science fiction fans. His glorious reputation on the rise was mercilessly torn up by a film that was openly panned by almost all important critics of the time: it was called The Thing.

In the meantime, the tides have significantly turned in favor of this film, with many now dubbing it the best work of the man who also directed Halloween, Assault on Prectinct 13 and Escape from New York.

Our heroes are a group of men isolated in a research station in the snowy desert of Antartica. Their nemesis is a creature they can’t fully comprehend or identify, and that’s what makes it so terrifying.

The titular thing shapeshifts, turning from a cute dog to a vicious man-eating monster to another one of the members of the crew on the station in a matter of hours. The men soon realize that in order to get rid of it, they will have to sacrifice more than they thought they could. Perhaps even their own lives, with the stake of losing being the collapse of humanity.


1. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs

Quite likely the best received horror film of all times, The Silence of the Lambs managed to snatch 5 Academy Awards at the 1992 ceremony, and 5 most important ones at that (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture).

The story of a young FBI agent cooperating with a deranged psychopath by the name of Hannibal Lecter in order to catch another psycho roaming free was an absolute hit, both among the critics and the viewers.

Almost every aspect of the film was widely praised, but performances and the characterization were held in especially high esteem by the film connosieurs of the time.

The primary antagonist of the film, Dr. Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, famously appeared on the screen for mere 16 minutes of about two hours of the film’s running time, yet he managed to evoke such a deep reaction in the viewers that he is almost universally cited as the strongest character in the entire motion picture and the best performance of Hopkins’ prolific acting career.