The world of Harry Potter has many great characters including some of the best villains in modern literature and film. Some stand out because of their despicable nature, others are more prominent as iconic pieces to the story of Harry and the Wizarding World. Regardless it’s safe to say that on paper or on film fans have grown to love and appreciate the villains that challenged the Boy Who Lived and his allies time and time again and even those who came before Harry’s time. This weekend we receive a movie centered around one of those villains in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” and having been a fan of the “Harry Potter” series myself over the years I wanted to honor the baddies that made this series so entertaining from the start. So in honor of the new movie this weekend I picked my favorite villains from the series, at least the ones that impacted the films. These are my picks for the Top 10 “Harry Potter” Movie Villains.
Lists like this are a rarity for me because the “Harry Potter” book series has such a large fanbase and this blog is specifically geared towards films, not the books. So, for this list I didn’t focus on the impact these villains had in the novels, even if they were a bigger part of the story than the films showed. This list focuses specifically on the villains that impacted the Wizarding World in the films only. These aren’t just iconic villains. These are villains that proved to be despicable and/or terrifying in the “Harry Potter” universe through their actions or interactions with the main characters. In my opinion these are the most vile, evil, interesting and/or fun evil characters to occupy J.K. Rowling’s now legendary world. Now, these villains didn’t have to be just murderers or Death Eaters, they just had to embody a despicable personality or embrace evil intent in a way that left a mark on the viewers.
The exception is I did not include any magical beasts so things like dementors and werewolves won’t be seen here. These had to be human characters. Also I did not include any characters that were fully redeemed so if you follow the series you know why a certain Potions teacher is not on this list.
Who is your favorite villain from the cinematic world of Harry Potter? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list. Also look for my review of “The Crime of Grindelwald” this weekend.
10. Professor Quirinus Quirrell
The first major villain of the “Harry Potter” series in both the books and the movies, Professor Quirrell is one of many Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers of Hogwarts throughout the series. In the first film, “The Philosopher’s Stone”, he’s portrayed as an innocent stuttering man with a nervous disposition. He’s basically a simple surprise villain as small hints of his evil are seen throughout the movie in hindsight. He tries to curse Harry’s broom and seeks out the hidden titular stone within the basement of Hogwarts and even allows a troll to enter the school. It’s not until the finale that we learn that Quirrell is not the stuttering man we all were presented. He’s actually very smart and well spoken and has been putting on an act to fool everyone at Hogwarts into overlooking him as a threat. Meanwhile he has formed a physical bond with Voldemort, the overall villain of the franchise, who has latched on to the back of Quirrell’s head to seek the Philosopher’s Stone to try and obtain immortality. Quirrell is easily defeated by Harry by nothing more than his touch, something hinted at when Quirrell refused to shake Harry’s hand earlier in the film, but this duplicitous professor still proved to be a worthy first villain for the Boy Who Lived.
9. Rita Skeeter
Probably the only entry on this list simply for being a bad person rather than a truly evil individual, Rita Skeeter is a journalist in the Wizarding World, but she has earned an infamous reputation for printing exaggerated or even false stories to sell copies rather than tell the truth. This is on display most in “The Goblet of Fire” where moviegoers were introduced to Skeeter as she interviewed Harry as a participant in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Skeeter asks leading questions to try and get answers from Harry that would sell a good story and adapts these interviews into outrageous write-ups reminiscent of real-world tabloid news. I remember reading the books and wanting to punch Skeeter through the page and her portrayal in the film was just as effective. She may have a small part but she serves it well by adding extra drama to the plot and adding tor Harry’s frustration as he begins to grow into a young adult. She may not be a murderer or a Death Eater, but Skeeter is a despicable person nonetheless with minimal moral integrity and a penitent for sensationalizing her stories proving that such crimes are not limited to the Muggle world.
8. Draco Malfoy
Harry Potter’s main rival throughout both the book and film series, Draco would have made it higher on this list but he’s not really among the film’s most vile villains. He’s just annoying, pretentious and stuck up which makes him the Wizarding World’s version of a good old-fashioned school yard bully. Malfoy comes from a well-off family of pure-blood wizards with his father and mother being followers of Lord Voldemort. Draco has no qualms with flaunting his family’s money or influence and thus walks the halls of Hogwarts like he owns the place often choosing to make Harry and his friends the main objects of his wrath. In the end though Draco is nothing more than a wannabe badass reneging on a mission to kill one of the world’s most powerful wizards for Voldemort and finding himself in fear of the Dark Lord more than prideful of his service and his family’s legacy as Death Eaters. While it’s never made clear if Harry or Draco bury the hatchet, by the end of the series Draco Malfoy proves to be a flawed villain that we can relate to on some level making him one of the series’ more complex baddies at least in terms of his humanity.
7. Barty Crouch, Jr.
Barty Crouch, Jr. is the main antagonist of “The Goblet of Fire” and is certainly one of the most cunning and committed of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Throughout the film Crouch single-handedly alters events to try and force Harry Potter into the Tri-Wizard Tournament and eventually to a port key that leads Harry to a graveyard where he becomes part of a ritual that brings Voldemort back to life. He does it all disguised as notable wizard Alastor Moody who had been hired as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Crouch actually gets some decent development in the movie as Harry’s journey in the Pensieve to view memories of Albus Dumbledore reveal that Crouch is the son of eventual Ministry of Magic official Barty Crouch. The junior Crouch even kills his father in the film after he was disowned and sent to Azkaban as an accused Death Eater. Crouch comes closer than most Death Eaters to actually killing Harry Potter in the Dark Lord’s name and possesses an undying devotion to Voldemort that skews his personality and makes him a cunning and vile villain directly responsible for the Dark Lord’s return.
6. Peter Pettigrew
Peter Pettigrew’s story is well known to fans of the “Harry Potter” series as he was directly responsible for the death of Harry’s parents. Originally a member of Harry’s father’s group of friends called the Marauders, Pettigrew was the Secret-Keeper for Harry’s parents when they went into hiding and betrayed them by turning to Lord Voldemort’s side leading the Dark Lord to set the events of the entire series in motion. Pettigrew’s villainy didn’t stop there. He also framed another friend, Harry’s Godfather Sirius Black, and faked his own death before living for years as Ron Weasley’s pet mouse Scabbers until he is found out and revealed in the third movie “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. Pettigrew continues to be Voldemort’s right-hand man throughout the series, including sacrificing his own hand in “The Goblet of Fire” to revive his master, but is unceremoniously done away with offscreen in the final films whereas his fate is much more brutal in the books. Despite this Pettigrew remains not only one of Harry Potter’s most famous villains, but also one of the biggest contributors to the entire story.
5. Lucius Malfoy
Draco may be Harry Potter’s rival but the elder Malfoy, Lucius, was more than a thorn in Harry Potter’s side. Lucius uses that influence to get his way in politics and embraces old fashioned wizarding lifestyles that are considered either outdated or inappropriate in the modern world of the films. Lucius always carries a scowl or a smirk on his face that shows his belief in his superiority over pretty much everyone in his presence but the one person he fears from the bottom of his heart is the Dark Lord Voldemort who he serves passionately as one of his most trusted Death Eaters. Lucius even plays a part in several of Voldemort’s plans in the films including planting Tom Riddle’s diary with Ginny Weasley, taking part in the attack on the encampment at the Quidditch World Cup, assisting in the revival of Voldemort in the cemetery, and leads the effort to retrieve a prophecy for the Dark Lord. Lucius is one of the most prominent villains in the entire series and never fails to show his disdain for Harry Potter while also possessing a certain effective charm. Also, he tried to use the killing curse on his former house elf Dobby…IN HOGWARTS!!! That is truly evil stuff right there.
4. Gellert Grindelwald
While the new prequel films of the “Harry Potter” series might be delving more into Gellert Grindelwald’s story this villain made an impact on the series long before “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. Grindelwald was first introduced to film viewers in the final two movies where it’s revealed that he was sort of a precursor to Voldemort in terms of wizarding villainy. Grindelwald sought limitless power as a revolutionary leading to his possession of the Elder Wand, one of the Deathly Hollows, and his eventual defeat by Dumbledore before Voldemort killed him seeking information on the Elder Wand. Fans got to see Grindelwald in full action for the first time in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” as he disguised himself as Percival Graves, an auror in the Magical Congress of the United States of America, where he used his influence to progress his goals of anarchy and revolution. This eventually leads to him discovering and Obscurial and setting it loose on New York City threatening countless lives in his missions to terrorize both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds. While Grendewald’s story still leaves much to be told he’s already done more than enough in the context of the “Harry Potter” films to prove himself one of the most dangerous Dark Wizards that ever lived, second only to someone who I’ll get to later on this list.
3. Bellatrix Lestrange
Peter Pettigrew may have been Voldemort’s right-hand man as his servant, but Bellatrix was by far the Dark Lord’s most devoted follower. The movie version of Bellatrix Lestrange perfectly captures the insanity and evil of this talented witch. A fanatically loyal follower of Voldemort she is perhaps his most dangerous and despicable Death Eater responsible for numerous famous crimes including torturing the Longbottoms and killing Sirius Black, her cousin and Harry’s godfather. Even without reading the book we just knew she was going to be an entertaining villainess to watch as we heard her cackling laugh during the mass breakout of Azkaban in “Order of the Phoenix”. Bellatrix was powerful enough to last most of the Battle of Hogwarts before her demise but established herself as a truly vile master of dark magic well before her death. She was unafraid to kill, in fact taking joy in it, and believed herself and her fellow Death Eaters to be superior to the rest of the world in every way. She let everyone know it too, usually in violent fashion. Bellatrix is one of those villains whose name lives in infamy for all the right and wrong reasons and fans love to hate her for it.
2. Delores Umbridge
Speaking of villainesses that fans love to hate let’s talk about Delores Umbridge. By far one of the most delightfully hated characters in all of the “Harry Potter” lore, both on the page and the screen, Umbridge takes up the mantel of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in “Order of the Phoenix” and immediately shows herself to be one of the most egotistic and power-hungry human beings Harry and company ever come across. In the film she is inserted into Hogwarts by the Minister of Magic as retaliation for Dumbledore’s warning about the return of Voldemort, which the Minister refuses to believe. This leads Umbridge to eventually force the removal of Dumbledore as Headmaster and take control herself utilizing a dictatorial approach to her teaching methods. Even her punishment for those in detention is absolutely evil as she forces Harry to write that he shall not tell lies with a special pen that carves the words into his skin over and over again as he writes. If her villainy was ever in doubt Umbridge’s place in history as one of the series’ most vile baddies is solidified in the final two movies as Voldemort trusts Umbridge to guard one of his Horcruxes and serve to persecute Mudbloods (wizards born to non-magical parents), a position she takes great pleasure in embracing.
1. Lord Voldemort/Tom Riddle
The obvious number one for this list. Seriously did you really think it would be anyone else? Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle, is the main villain of the entire “Harry Potter” series and the most legendary and feared Dark Wizard in the history of the Wizarding World. Voldemort certainly earned his name as the Dark Lord becoming an expert at killing even taking seven lives in order to perform a dark magic ritual that split his existence in pieces, essentially making him immortal. He then proceeded to form a group of followers called the Death Eaters, several of which made this list, and strike fear into the hearts of countless wizards and witches leading to the First Wizarding War and his initial defeat, but not before hunting down and killing the parents of Harry Potter, a boy prophesied to defeat him. He is eventually resurrected and continues his pursuit of Harry which is the entire basis of the seven books and eight films in the original series. Voldemort is not only cunning and charming in his own special way, he’s legitimately threatening and unafraid to kill friends or foes to reach a goals. His reign of terror earned him the title of the most infamous Dark Wizard of all time while his perfect portrayal in the movies by Ralph Fiennes has made him one of the most iconic movie villains of the 21st Century.