Like most American children, Disney’s animated musicals were an essential part of my life growing up. I’m not sure how many times I watched movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid although I’m sure my parents would say it was too many. Having revisited many of these movies as an adult I can say I still enjoy them just as much as I did when I was a kid, but now I find the villains in these stories to be the more compelling characters. Most Disney villains are clearly motivated by some sort of major character flaw like greed, arrogance, or selfishness, and they often express that flaw through a catchy musical number. Some of these songs are better than others though, but luckily I’m here to tell you which ones are the best! Below you’ll see my definitive ranking of the five best Disney villain songs.
Pocahontas really has two villain songs. “Mine, Mine, Mine” comes much earlier in the film and it clearly illustrates the evil greed of Governor Ratcliffe, but “Savages” is just a better song with stunning animation. Of course, the depiction of Native Americans in Pocahontas is problematic throughout the film and that includes this song, but there are still positive messages that can be gleaned from this powerful musical number. Although the characters say that their opponent cannot be trusted due to their differences, the lyrics each side sings are nearly the same, showing that they aren’t really so different after all. The animation exemplifies this in its own way as well, with the firelight making the Englishmen’s faces appear red, and the moonlight casting a paler glow on the faces of the Natives. To be sure this is a far from perfect representation of Native Americans and their struggles when America was colonized, but the song still holds a certain power.
Like Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast (1991) sort of has two villain songs. “The Mob Song,” which comes later in the movie when Gaston encourages the town to form a mob to “kill the beast,” sounds much more villainous than the one I’ve chosen for this list, but “Gaston” is just simply the better song. It reveals much more about Gaston’s character than “The Mob Song” too. I mean it’s an entire song about how great he is. Most Disney villains tend to focus on their own insecurities, but Gaston’s fatal flaw is that he loves himself too much.
Another reason I love this song so much:
Ursula is my favorite Disney villain of all time. She’s a badass sea witch with strong powers and she callously manipulates people by preying on their weaknesses and using their own strengths against them. So what’s not to love? Ursula is pretty much a typical cold-hearted businessperson. She makes a clear agreement with Ariel, although it certainly isn’t an ethical arrangement. Ursula is always looking out for number one, so she’s sure to concoct a deal that pretty much guarantees she’ll get what she wants. Ursula is really one of the more honest Disney villain. She makes it clear that she’s been called a witch and the song tells us what will happen to Ariel if she can’t complete her side of the deal. That appearance of honest is partly why it’s not a surprise that Ariel falls for it and signs away her voice for a chance at living with legs on land.
Another greedy power hungry villain makes the list. This song shows Scar’s desperate need for power as he builds up his hyena army. However, it also hints at how terrible of a leader he will become. Scar leads through fear, which may work for now, but it doesn’t make for very happy subjects and as we all know that will be his downfall later. Once again color plays an important role in this song. Scar is surrounded by shades of green that emphasize his greed and hunger for power, then as his passion and anger rises the screen turns red and bursts of fire appear around him. This song is honestly when Scar is at his most powerful, and it’s one of the most classic Disney villain songs in that the characters actually proclaim that they are baring their ambitions.
Are you surprised to see this as number one? This is not a fun song. In fact, I find it downright terrifying. Frollo is perhaps one of the most human Disney villains, and I mean that in more ways than he’s literally a human. His song shows his evilness as he attempts to use his religion as justification to control and murder another person. He blames Esmeralda for his sin and prays for control over her. The fire imagery and the strange red hooded figures are terrifying and Frollo’s anger and lust come across clearly through these images and the lyrics. It’s hard to believe that this is a song in a children’s movie. In fact it’s hard to believe that Disney would’ve even made a children’s movie out of Victor Hugo’s tale, but it’s not the only questionable children’s movie Disney has released. But that’s a blog post for another time.
What do you think of my list? Did I forget something? Do you hate all of these songs? Yell at me about it in the comments, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong!