I was having an interesting conversation about Disney villains with my mom last night. I asked her what her favorite Disney villain was. She gave me an interesting answer: the hunter from Bambi.
The hunter who killed Bambi’s mom isn’t what I would have thought about. We never even see the hunter. But the truth is that this unseen hunter does what very few other Disney villains actually accomplish. He actually killed a characters.
So that got me thinking, how many Disney villains have actually killed. I looked it up, and the answer is interesting.
Before I give you the full list, I want to explain how I’m choosing these. I’m going off of this list from Wikipedia of only animated movies from Disney Animation Studios. I’ll admit I haven’t seen all of these, so I may miss one or two, but this list is the closest I can get right now.
I’m only looking at Disney movies, so villains like Syndrome from Pixar’s The Incredibles aren’t going to be on this list. I’m only going to count villains who killed someone in their movie (so villains like Cruella de Vil and Shere Khan, who almost certainly killed outside of the movies won’t count). I’m also not counting villains who managed to kill their victims, but the victims got revived somehow. I’ll list them as honorable mentions at the end.
That said, in chronological order, here are all the Disney villains who actually managed kill someone.
1. The hunter from Bambi (1942)
This was a traumatic moment in the lives of many children for generations. We thought we were watching a cute little movie about an adorable baby deer. And then, BANG, childhood over. I feel like everyone who saw this movie as a kid grew up a little the moment that shot rang out.
2. Scar from The Lion King (1994)
Scar is probably my second favorite Disney Renaissance villain and also the owner of what I believe to be the second best Disney villain song. I actually never saw The Lion King as a kid, so I missed out on the essential emotional trauma from seeing this villain kill Mufasa. Still, even watching it for the first time as a teen, it got me a little bit.
3. Thomas from Pocahontas (1995)
I almost didn’t put Thomas on this list. I don’t really think he’s a villain in the traditional sense. He’s not evil, and he only killed Kocoum to save his friend. Still, he’s a force of antagonism, in the sense that he makes things harder for the heroes. So I think he counts.
4. Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Frollo is my favorite Disney villain and the owner of the best Disney villain song of all time. He’s just sooo slimy and conniving and just… evil. He kills not only Quasimodo’s mother at the beginning of the movie, but he undoubtedly killed dozens of others by setting fire to half of Paris in his attempt to find Esmeralda. He definitely earns his place on this list.
5. Shan Yu and the Huns from Mulan (1998)
This movie has arguably the highest body count on this list. It’s not shown directly, but the massacre of Shang’s father’s troops did happen during the film, so Shan Yu and the Huns definitely count. It’s a surprisingly somber scene for an otherwise fun movie about a cross-dressing female Chinese soldier.
6 & 7. Clayton and Sabor the leopard from Tarzan (1999)
Clayton isn’t really one of most competent villains in Disney history, especially considering the downright dumb way he died. However, he does manage to kill the leader of Tarzan’s gorilla pack, Kerchak, at the end of the movie.
The one I didn’t immediately think about was Sabor, the leopard that killed Tarzan’s parents. She isn’t a major villain in the movie, but she’s still one of the few Disney villains who’s killed. Actually, she’s one of the few on this list who killed more than one person. Also, how many of you actually knew the leopard’s name? I didn’t until I researched it for this article.
8. Commander Rourke from Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
I would say that Atlantis is my favorite Disney Renaissance movie, but that era only lasted from 1989 to 1999, so Atlantis falls right outside of it. However, it’s still one of the best and most underrated Disney movies ever made. It also happens to have a murderous villain.
Lyle Tiberius Rourke is the suave, charismatic and desperately greedy leader of the expedition to find Atlantis. He kills the king at the near the end of the movie, making Kida one of the few Disney princesses to become a queen. It’s not explicitly stated, but Rourke’s actions probably also caused the deaths of many other Atlantians in the battle to rescue Kida.
9. Scroop from Treasure Planet (2002)
I actually had to be reminded of this one from a friend because the Wikipedia article doesn’t explain what happened very well. But Scroop does kill Mr. Arrow by sabotaging his lifeline, allowing him to float into a black hole. It’s safe to say he belongs on this list.
Now for the honorable mentions.
If you count the sleep from Snow White (1937) and Sleeping Beauty (1959) as “death,” then the evil queen and Maleficent both get an honorable mention. I’m pretty sure the Beast was dead before being turned into Adam, so Gaston from Beauty and the Beast (1991) also debatably belongs on this list. Mother Gothel from Tangled kills Flynn quite definitely, so she gets an honorable mention. Finally, I believe Elsa from Frozen also deserves an honorable mention.
I feel like I should explain that last one. There are two different ways of viewing Frozen. You could think about it as a movie with two protagonists, Anna and Elsa. But I think a better argument can be made that there’s only one protagonist, Anna.
If Anna is the protagonist, then I think Elsa counts as a force of antagonism, just like Thomas from Pocahontas. If I count one, then I have to count the other. Since Elsa did freeze Anna solid, whether she meant to or not, she still counts as an antagonist who killed someone. Thankfully, she only gets an honorable mention.
And that’s it. As far as I know (and correct me in the comments if I’m wrong), this is the full list of Disney villains who have actually killed someone. There are dozens of Disney movies, but only nine killers in them. There are five additional villains who only temporarily killed someone.
Apparently the 1990s and the early 2000s were a dark time for Disney animators, as all except for one of the murderous villains were from this time period. There have been two recent honorable mentions, but so far, none of the newer Disney villains have managed to get the job done. It’s possible we may see another 52-year gap before we see another Disney murderer.
Finally, before I go, it’s worth pointing out something that I realized while researching for this article. Namely, that the list of Disney heroes who killed someone would be a lot longer than this one. Food for thought.