Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten despicable bad guys in fiction

TTT autumn 2_bsf

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is all about villains — fictional bad guys, TV bad guys, villains we secretly love, or any other spin on the topic.

I’m focusing on really awful fictional villains. Not the “love to hate” kind — there’s no secret love here. I just straight up despise all of these characters — no shades of gray or redeeming characteristics or hidden hearts of gold.


My 10 most hideous, despicable villains fall into two categories — the “real” people, as in, those who inhabit our world and are merely human, albeit terrible humans, and the fantasy/otherworldy villains; who are more easily classified as evil due to their superhuman or supernatural powers.

In the non-fantasy category:

1) Black Jack Randall (Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon): A sadist who delights in inflicting terror, pain, and psychological damage.

2) Stephen Bonnet (Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon): A pirate who’s casually cruel just because. He causes so much harm to beloved characters without even blinking an eye.

3) Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling): I include Dolores Umbridge in the real-world section of my list because what makes her so terrible is not her magic, but her mundane cruelty. She’s a despotic bureaucrat who enjoys using her power to make others suffer, not through charms or hexes, but by wielding her authoritarian control.

It’s a lot easier, in some ways, to come up with a list of horrible villains from fantasy worlds:

4) Voldemort (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling): He Who Must Not Be Named. You Know Who. The Dark Lord. Tom Riddle. I don’t think I need to explain this one, do I?

5) Charles Manx (NOS4A2 by Joe Hill): One of the scariest horror novels I’ve ever read features one of the scariest bad guys in fiction. Wow. It gives me the shivers to think about this book too much.

6) The Beast (The Magicians series by Lev Grossman): The Beast is a thing of horror who used to be a person, and I won’t give away more than that — but the horror caused by the Beast is really awful.

7) Sauron (Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien): As with Voldemort, I’m not sure someone who represents ultimate evil needs an explanation!

8) Queen Levana (The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Mayer): Even though Fairest offers a glimpse into Levana’s childhood and seems to provide a teeny grasp at sympathy for her, Levana is such a cruel psycho that she remains an thoroughly villainous character.

9) Joffrey Baratheon (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin): Horrible little shit.

10) Walder Frey (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin): Worst host ever, basically.

(Dis)honorable mention (because I ran out of room):

  • From the world of Fables, the amazing graphic novel series by Bill Willingham, come two terrible bad guys who pretty much tear worlds apart: The Adversary and Mister Dark. And because The Adversary’s true identity is a secret for quite a while, I’ll avoid spoilers and not say any more about this character.

What villains made your lists this week? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly features, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!





36 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten despicable bad guys in fiction

  1. Sauron, definitely. I think he’s so scary because we never really see him, but he represents the world ending basically if he wins. Yikes.

    You could fill up a post w/ Game of Thrones villains! Joffrey is a great pick, he was just so awful. And Walder frey- ugh.

    • I agree – when it comes to Game of Thrones, there’s no end to villains! I suppose that could have been its own top 10 list… and then I could have included Cersei, the Mountain, and more.

  2. Great list! We share Umbridge, Voldemort and Sauron this week. But I still need to read Outlander, The Lunar Chronicles and A Song of Ice and Fire so your choices might eventually be my choices too! Haha!

    My TTT

  3. When I glanced over your list at first I saw The Beast and thought you meant out of Beauty and the Beast and was like WHAAAAAAAT?! Haha 🙂
    I have seen both Voldemort and Umbridge on so many lists this week, including my own, glad to see we all agree! I think that Umbridge is probably worst than Voldemort, and I like that you included her in your non-fantasy section, because you’re totally right, it’s not her magic that makes her bad it’s just her and her cruelty!
    My TTT

    • Oh no, I love Beauty’s Beast! (Is it wrong to have a crush on a cartoon character??) I figured Voldemort would be on ALL the lists this week. 🙂

  4. Walder Frey was a good choice! I didn’t even think of him! Joffrey made my list too though. As much as I hated him, he was an excellent villain. Great list!

  5. I read the Outlander series as a young teen, and I remember thinking (at first) that Bonnet was dashing. Now, as a woman and a mother, he scares the shit out of me. Great list!

    • Yes, I can see how Bonnet presents the dashing sea captain image — until you scratch the surface and realize he’s a total sociopath. I get what you mean about views changing as an adult woman and mother!

  6. I really like how you broke up your list. I completely forgot about Umbridge but you are so right! She really is scarier than Voldemort in some ways because she is so cruel. And I forgot about Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles–perfect choice!

    Thanks for stopping by my TTT earlier 🙂

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