Anime villains are a staple of the genre, bringing depth to the plot and helping protagonists develop while showcasing the core themes and concepts of the show. From cunning masterminds to ruthless killers, anime villains have captured the imaginations of fans around the world with their dark charisma and villainous deeds.
They seek world domination, revenge, or simply enjoy the thrill of chaos, but no matter their motivation, the best anime villains leave a lasting impression on viewers with their unforgettable personalities and compelling backstories.
In a medium where coming-of-age stories and action-adventure are the norms, villains are often the most memorable and celebrated characters. This article will explore the best anime villains of all time, breaking them down into three categories based on their personality and impact on the genre.
Whether you’re a fan of archetypal adversaries, existential antagonists, or quintessential sociopaths, this list has something for everyone. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the dark world of anime villains, and discover what makes them so unforgettable.
21. Ladd Russo (Baccano!)
Ladd Russo is a charismatic and sadistic hitman from the anime series Baccano! He is a member of the Russo family, a powerful mafia organization, and enjoys killing people for fun. Ladd is a ruthless killer who relishes in violence and chaos, making him a terrifying and unpredictable antagonist.
Despite his twisted nature, Ladd is also highly intelligent and strategic, often using his charisma to manipulate and control others. He is a skilled fighter and is not afraid to take on multiple opponents at once, using his speed and agility to dodge attacks while delivering lethal blows.
What makes Ladd such a compelling villain is his complete lack of empathy and his willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. He is a character that viewers love to hate, as his twisted personality and sadistic tendencies make him a true force to be reckoned with.
20. Satan (Ao no Exorcist)
Satan, also known as the King of Demons, serves as the main antagonist in the anime series “Ao no Exorcist”. He is a powerful demon who seeks to conquer the human world and merge it with Gehenna, the demon world. Despite his evil intentions, Satan possesses a charismatic and charming personality, which allows him to manipulate and deceive those around him. He is also shown to be intelligent and strategic, using his powers to create and control demons and human followers alike.
Satan’s presence in the series creates a sense of impending doom and adds a layer of complexity to the show’s themes of good versus evil. His character design, which features striking red skin and imposing horns, has become an iconic representation of demonic villains in anime.
19. Vicious (Cowboy Bebop: The Lost Session)
Vicious, the primary antagonist of Cowboy Bebop: The Lost Session, is a cold and calculated individual who has a history with the show’s protagonist, Spike. He is a master of the art of sword fighting and possesses extraordinary combat skills. Vicious is known for his ruthless nature and willingness to do anything to achieve his goals, including betraying those close to him. His backstory is shrouded in mystery, but it’s clear that he has a complex relationship with Spike and his actions throughout the series serve to drive the plot forward. With his striking appearance and memorable personality, Vicious has earned his place as one of the most iconic anime villains of all time.
18. Frieza (Dragon Ball z and Supar)
Frieza is one of the most iconic villains in the Dragon Ball franchise. He is a ruthless and cold-hearted tyrant who is known for his sadistic behavior and his desire to rule the entire universe. Frieza has a power level that is far beyond that of any other character in the Dragon Ball universe, and he is not afraid to use it to get what he wants.
Frieza’s backstory is revealed throughout the series, showing that he is a member of an alien race known as the Changelings, who have a natural ability to transform and increase their power levels. Frieza was born with an incredible level of power, which made him a natural leader among his people. He quickly became obsessed with power and began conquering other planets and enslaving their populations.
Frieza is a master of manipulation and is able to control those around him through fear and intimidation. He is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, even if it means sacrificing his own soldiers or destroying entire planets. His iconic design and personality have made him one of the most memorable villains in anime history, and he remains a fan favorite to this day.
17. Dio Brando (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Dio Brando is one of the most iconic and recognizable villains in anime history, known for his flamboyant personality and over-the-top antics. He is the main antagonist of the first two parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and the archenemy of the Joestar family. Dio is a megalomaniacal and sadistic character who delights in causing pain and suffering to others. He possesses the power of the “Stand” which allows him to manipulate reality and unleash devastating attacks.
Despite his evil nature, Dio is a charismatic and compelling villain, who has captured the hearts of fans worldwide with his memorable quotes and outrageous behavior. His iconic pose and catchphrase “Muda Muda Muda” have become synonymous with his character and cemented his place in anime villain history.
16. Gilgamesh (Fate Series)
Being one of the strongest servants summoned in the Holy Grail Wars and one of the primary villains in the Fate Series, Gilgamesh is quite possibly the most selfish and egocentric person in anime. He does not recognize any other person to be his equal and believes himself to be a king above all who is meant to rule over every person as a subject.
He loves enjoying himself and finds pleasure in treasure more than anything else as we see his endless collection several times. Though he is a clever individual who is capable of foreseeing events, due to his pride, he does not see the need in taking action as he does not think anything is capable of fazing him.
15. Tsukasa Shishio (Dr. Stone)
As the antagonist of Dr. Stone, Tsukasa provided the opposing viewpoint in the anime, where he believed mankind shouldn’t be revived which was in contrast to what Senku was trying to achieve. Due to their differences, they ended up splitting while focusing on achieving their objectives and strengthening their forces for an inevitable fight. While he is an extremely violent individual, Tsukasa is not impulsive and is even quite clever.
He is also seen being kind and soft-spoken on many occasions and his motive of building a pure world without technology is surprisingly well-thought-out and understandable. Hence, he is more than deserving of being called one of the best villains in the new generation of anime.
14. Shou Tucker (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Undoubtedly being one of the most infamous names in anime, Shou Tucker is a universally hated villain who has earned the disgust and anger of every person who’s watched the series despite his extremely limited screen time. While initially, he seemed like a gentle and kind man who loved his family despite being wary of outsiders, his mask is soon removed as we see his true, twisted personality. In his desperation for results, he had become deluded and desperate while even going to the lengths of sacrificing his wife and even his own daughter. The sudden and unexpected turn of his character brought an unwelcome surprise to fans as they saw the horrors of his actions.
13. Mahito (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Mahito is one of the main antagonists in Jujutsu Kaisen while being allied with Geto and working towards the annihilation of humanity. He is a cursed spirit with the appearance of a human while having stitches all across his face. From the times we have seen him, Mahito is an immature and child-like person who is very sadistic and enjoys toying with people and their emotions.
While considering himself as the physical form of human hatred, he wishes for curses to rule the world. As we see him preying on the vulnerabilities of people as they trust and confide themselves in him, we can’t help but pity them and detest his character more and more.
12. Pain (Naruto)
Pain or the person behind the scenes, Nagato is one of the main villains in Naruto and arguably one of the most popular in animanga. While he had initially wanted a peaceful shinobi world along with his friends, following Yahiko’s death, he realized that wishing for it would not make it happen and started using more drastic measures which would force the world into peace.
As a sensitive child, Nagato was capable of feeling the pain more compared to others. After meeting his friends, however, he became cheery and placed others before himself. He later went on to become the leader of the Akatsuki but was a mere shell of his former self as he was consumed by rage and hatred due to the shinobi world having taken Yahiko.
11. Askeladd (Vinland Saga)
As the person who killed the protagonist’s father through a sneak attack, Askeladd quickly introduced himself as the dynamic and cunning rival of Thorfinn in the anime. While he was subject to hatred, he was also the only mentor figure in the series while also being the reason Thorfinn was able to survive that long. Despite not being an entirely evil person, he is still an undoubtedly bad individual who raided and pilfered people and villages while excelling in swordsmanship.
He was also an excellent leader who had the complete trust of his troops and it is not a stretch to say that the first season of Vinland Saga revolved around him more so than the protagonist.
10. Meruem (Hunter X Hunter)
With its plethora of well-written villains, it’s no surprise that Hunter X Hunter has its second appearance in this list of best villains. The second-best villain in anime is the king of the chimera ants, Meruem, who was the main antagonist in the chimera ant arc of the show. His journey was completely fascinating as we see him go from a cruel and violent leader who believes no one to be his equal to one who learns to see the good in everyone and understand the value of life.
He learns these with the help of a young Gungi player named Komugi who he forms a very wholesome bond. His character development as well as conclusion is bound to put a tear in everyone’s eyes.
9. Muzan Kibutsuji (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba)
Muzan Kibutsuji, the main antagonist of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, is one of the most powerful and fearsome villains in anime. As the progenitor of all demons, he is an extremely cunning and manipulative character who has been able to evade and outsmart his enemies for centuries. Muzan is ruthless and merciless, with no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way. He is also incredibly intelligent, able to anticipate and counter his opponents’ moves.
Despite his evil nature, Muzan has a tragic backstory that makes him a complex and intriguing character. His motivations for becoming a demon and his desire for power are rooted in his fear of death and his desire for immortality. Muzan’s presence in the anime is felt from the very beginning and his impact on the story is immeasurable, making him one of the best anime villains of all time.
8. Tomura Shigaraki (My Hero Academia)
As the main antagonist of My Hero Academia, Tomura is a uniquely written villain who could be considered a protagonist in his own right. We see him grow from a small-time villain with laughable powers to a foe who has shaken up hero society as a whole through several struggles and battles. He can essentially be considered as an evil version of Izuku due to his affiliation and upbringing with All For One. Tomura was similar to a child in the first half of the series as he curses and complains about his lack of skills for the majority of the time while constantly making unfair demands. After AFO gets captured by the heroes, Tomura is forced to mature as becomes the leader of the villains and strives to increase the organization’s power.
7. Shogo Makishima (Psycho-Pass)
Shogo Makishima is the main antagonist of the first season of Psycho-Pass and desires to save society from the system that runs it as he believes it is taking away the independence and thinking capability of humans. He is a charismatic and approachable person who often uses these features to manipulate people into doing his bidding. He is very intelligent and determined in his cause of saving society. While he shares several similarities with Aizen from Bleach, he is a more “human” version of Aizen while questioning himself and being deep in thought constantly.
6. Madara Uchiha (Naruto)
Being a powerhouse name in the world of anime, Madara was the fearsome leader of the Uchiha clan who went from friendship to rivalry with the First Hokage, Hashirama. He was later revived by Obito and commenced his plan of casting an Infinite Tsukuyomi over the entire world. Madara was a relatively normal child despite being plagued by the harsh world. Following the death of his brother, he became bitter while giving in to the hatred his clan was known for. Madara was more merciless and focused on power compared to everything else. He had immense intellect in battle and showed respect to powerful opponents.
5. Sosuke Aizen (Bleach)
Aizen is the primary antagonist of the Bleach anime, who used to be captain of the 5th division in the Gotei 13 before tricking everyone and leaving Soul Society to execute his nefarious scheme. While on introduction he was a kind and soft-spoken individual who seemed to show care and respect for everyone, following his betrayal, his true conceited personality is revealed. Aizen is an extremely uncaring individual who believes that there is no one worthy of his respect or on his level. He is very clever and manipulative and his powers only amplify this. He is very dedicated to achieving his goals and does not mind sacrificing anyone in order to achieve them.
4. Donquixote Doflamingo (One Piece)
The most influential broker in the underworld and member of the Seven Warlords of the Sea was the main antagonist of the Dressrosa arc in One Piece. He is seen to be carefree for the majority of the time as he does not take anything seriously and reacts to the most exciting proceedings with his characteristic smile. However, he has a hatred running deep inside due to the abuse he suffered as a child for being a Celestial Dragon. He does not show empathy to anyone and is not loyal to even his own crew. His consistently evil attitude with no care of redemption is what made him win fans over.
3. Hisoka (Hunter X Hunter)
Hunter X Hunter has a vast assembly of unique and memorable antagonists. However, among these, Hisoka still manages to set himself apart from viewers. With his extravagant design and eccentric attitude, he manages to steal the show whenever he pops up in the series. While his goals and aspirations are ambiguous, he is a selfish individual who only lives to serve himself while indulging in anything he finds curious. In addition to being manipulative and sadistic, he is also a murderer who shows a disturbing liking towards Gon and Killua throughout the series which never fails to make us uncomfortable.
2. Johan Liebert (Monster)
Johan Liebert is the chilling and fearsome antagonist of Monster while being the titular “monster” himself. He is extremely likable on the outside with a charismatic and well-mannered personality, however, he uses these in manipulating individuals while taking hold of their flaws. He delivers catastrophe wherever he goes and holds a very hopeless view of humanity. He is psychopathic and makes his victims suffer in terrible ways by killing their loved ones rather than the person themselves.
1. Griffith (Berserk)
The leader of the Band of the Falcon and commander of the Midland regular army is the main antagonist of Berserk and is the best villain of all time. He is well-mannered and behaves like a noble almost all the time. His presence gives light to all those around him and they have all been captivated by him and his ambitions.
He is an extremely logical individual who would place the greater good above all else. While all these seem like the makings of a decent person, The Eclipse, considered by many as the greatest twist in fiction is more than enough to solidify him as the evilest and most despicable villain ever.
As we see him sacrifice all his comrades in a demonic ceremony in order to gain unimaginable power, we can only look on in horror as we see the vile and cruel nature of it as well as the man. In complete contrast to his elegance, Griffith leaves gruesome destruction wherever he sets foot while making others fall under the illusion that he is their savior. We believe that there is no one more fitting to being the number 1 villain.
In conclusion, the 20 best anime villains listed above have left a lasting impact on viewers with their unforgettable personalities, compelling backstories, and villainous deeds. But what is it about these villains that make them so intriguing? Is it their tragic pasts, their charismatic personalities, or their unwavering dedication to their goals? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these elements that makes them so compelling.
We want to hear from you! Who is your favorite anime villain and why? Let us know in the comments below.