Whether it is an animated movie or a musical adaptation, we have to admit that villain songs are essential. In recent years it seems that Disney or new musical movies have forgotten how crucial the villainy motif is, with favourites such as Frozen and The Greatest Showman forgoing them altogether.
Still, if you ask anyone, they will tell you that villain songs are often the best in the entire film. But what are the best?
Happily, we’ve plunged into the dark heart of musical numbers from the world of film. Mwahahaha.
10) Mother Knows Best – Tangled
Tangled has a perfect example of emotional abuse and that culminates in Mother Knows Best. Rapunzel is a young woman kidnapped as a child by the evil Mother Gothel and imprisoned in a secluded tower. When Rapunzel wishes to go outside, Gothel convinces her that the world is truly horrendous in a song about ruffians and fires and more. It is a jolly affair and great but really, Mother Knows Best is best utilised in the Broadway-like reprise. The click of the fingers, the raise of the arms, the note-hold – it’s this shadowy return that earns the song a Top 10 spot.
9) Epiphany – Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
A lot of the characters in Sweeny Todd are villainous. There are great numbers here sung by insidious people who should, really, wind up on the wrong side of Todd’s razors. Tim Burton’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s fictional fiend is a Gothic romp. With no hesitation to pour the red stuff upon the screen. Johnny Depp’s vocal performance may not be as great as when Michael Ball took to the stage but it is wonderful in Epiphany. The number sees Todd turn from disgruntled singular revenge against Judge Turpin to murderous monster, hell-bent on killing anyone who dare sit in his chair.
8) Be Prepared – The Lion King
Let’s start this entry by saying it is absolutely criminal that The Lion King “live” remake last year decided to cut this song halfway through it. Why? To make Scar more sinister? No. Scar is at his best when he is crooning his plan to his hyena minions in a greatly camp way. Sung by Jeremy Irons, this beast of a number has everything in it: foolish jibes by his sidekicks, heavy fascist allegories, and, altogether now, sensational news. A magnificent movie composition and perhaps one of Disney’s greatest numbers.
7) Open Up Your Eyes – My Little Pony: The Movie
A couple of years ago, we wrote about how Open Up Your Eyes has been the only villain song in recent years and how that was wrong. However, Open Up Your Eyes by villain Tempest Shadow, is a so, so right. With vocals from Emily Blunt, Open Up Your Eyes is a tremendous number about how a person scorned could easily turned to the dark side. It has everything a villain song needs: A tragic backstory, a great use of plot, and all the greatest taunts towards hero Twilight Sparkle.
6) Feed Me (Git It) – The Little Shop of Horrors
The Little Shop of Horrors is the only film on this list that has two entries. It was difficult to choose between Dentist and this number so why not have both? We could not leave out blood-sucking plant Audrey II’s melody about being hungry all the time. The only thing that could sate his unusual palette is the blood of man. Taunting naïve Seymour to feed him bodies, Audrey II finally manages to convince the poor sap to serve him up some body parts. Another highlight in the movie is Suppertime, also worth a villainous listen.
5) The Mob Song – Beauty and the Beast
Yes, we could have put the Gaston Song on here but that’s too easy. Plus, it’s only the reprise that feels most like a villain song. After all, Gaston’s number is sung by sycophant La Fou and, whilst it’s a celebrated number, there is something more concerning about The Mob Song. One because it is sung by villagers who are convinced that they are in the right. Secondly, because it utilises this wicked themes of the movie. As the villagers charge forward to murder The Beast, they sing about how they don’t like what they don’t understand. And the whole affair sends a shiver down your spine.
4) In The Dark of the Night – Anastasia
When Anastasia was updated for Broadway, they cut this outstanding bop and the entire character of Rasputin. Who knows why? In The Dark of the Night is such a tune that it is remiss to forget about it. Whilst Rasputin is voiced by Christopher Lloyd, his singing voice is the superb Disney icon Jim Cummings. As Rasputin sings and body parts fall about, he calls upon his creepy, crawly minions in order to hunt down the Princess Anastasia and to complete the curse he cast many years ago. Bouncy and fun, this is a romp of a villain song.
3) Sweet Transvestite – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
All hail Tim Curry, King of the Villain Songs. Name one villain, nay one character, who has as great of an entrance as Curry does as Dr. Frank’N’Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The movie has become a cult classic for many good reasons and one of them is this saucy song sung by this sweet transvestite. As Frank’N’Furter frolics around the screen, talking about his endeavours to a shocked Janet and Brad, you cannot help but fall immediately in love with the character, the chorus, and Curry. We’d do the “anticipation joke” but we’re too impatient so here is the number.
2) Poor Unfortunate Souls – The Little Mermaid
Ursula is a truly tremendous movie villain. The sea witch will do anything to get her hands (and tentacles) on King Triton’s crown which includes using his youngest and most gullible daughter Arial. What is great about Poor Unfortunate Souls is that Ursula pretty much explains her villainous plan to The Little Mermaid, but Arial still goes along with it anyway! I mean, she does it in a manner that makes her seem like a decent character but still -singing about how she punishes everyone who cannot pay the price, and even saying that she’s been a nasty witch before is a bit of a giveaway. Of course, the best thing about Ursula’s song is Pat Caroll’s bombastic vocals including an impeccable delivery of the term body language.
1) Hellfire – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tony Jay featured in Beauty and the Beast as the creepy Asylum owner who tries to take Belle’s father Maurice away. He impressed producers so much that they decided to cast him as the honourable Judge Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of the Notre Dame. And boy, what a great decision that was. Hunchback is not everyone’s go to film of Disney’s renaissance era but it has absolutely indelible music by Alan Menken including Out There and the Bells of Notre Dame.
However, they are all exceeded by this infamous and exceptional villain song. Frollo, in front of his fireplace, talks to the holy spirit about his pains. With the belief that he is a virtuous and righteous man, Frollo struggles with his new desire for female protagonist Esmerelda. This haunting number is the best villain song because it feels the most real. As Frollo threatens to burn down the entirety of Paris is Esmerelda scorns his advances, this creepy, sinister number takes an uneasy turn. Memorable and spine-chilling, as the imagined chorus kicks in, you cannot help but admire every aspect of this number.
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