Since everyone and their brother was doing a review of scary movies for Halloween, I decided to do something a little different and list my favorite villain songs. I’ve always been inordinately interested in the villains, even when I was a kid. I think I had picked my favorite villain in a Disney movie before I picked my favorite princess (it was Ursula, naturally). I’ve also been a huge fan of music, so villain songs are something I’ve thought about a lot. This list is a result of that thought, but also completely based on my own preferences and no real objective criteria.
So, without further ado, the list:
10. Madam Mim’s “Mad Madam Mim’s”
Madam Mim is volatile, arrogant, and has more than one screw loose. Her song encapsulates that personality as she feels compelled to show off all her awesome transformations even though she fully intends to eat poor Arthur in the end. I love this song because it makes me laugh and for Mim reveling in both her evilness and being “an ugly old witch.” Plus, I think this is the villain I would be if I were a Disney villain. She’s more silly than devious and she turns into a DRAGON. Done and done.
9. Rasputin’s “In the Dark of the Night”
Despite it’s historical inaccuracies, Anastasia is a wonderful movie on all counts, but Rasputin’s song is a stand out. The song style is appropriately creepy, building to an epic crescendo as Rasputin leaves purgatory to complete his curse on the Romanov family. As with other Don Bluth movies, there are elements that make this scene in a kid’s movie actually scary (what with the human skeletons forming the pillars of Rasputin’s cave and him summoning actual demons). Still, my favorite thing about this song are the little touches like the deep voiced beetle providing the “Find her” echoes toward the end and Rasputin putting on the Anastasia wig. Also, Jim Cummings is amazing as evidenced by the fact that he sang this song and also plays the voice of Tigger. Talk about versatile.
8. Professor Ratigan’s “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”
Ok, full disclosure, my ACTUAL favorite song from this movie is actually from this scene:
but I felt like it was a stretch to call that a “villain song.” I mean, it’s essentially background music the whole time (isn’t it a WONDERFUL touch, though?). So, poor Ratigan gets pushed down to #8 with “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind.”
The song expresses so much about the character’s personality, his insecurities, his relationship with his henchmen, and his history while maintaining a delightfully jaunty tune. Through this song, it’s clear that Ratigan is the kind of villain who likes to boost his ego and I enjoy the thought that he makes his henchmen do this whole musical routine whenever he’s getting ready to pull off another big crime. Plus, I’m pretty sure one of those henchmen is the lizard from Alice and Wonderland:
7. Darla Dimple’s “Big and Loud” (plus reprise)
One of my favorite non-Disney movies as a kid was Cats Don’t Dance. At the time, I just really liked the jazzy songs and the cute cats dancing together. It was only when I got older that I thought maybe the whole animals-discriminated-against-in-Hollywood was an allegory for how minorities are discriminated against in Hollywood. I still haven’t made up my mind on that.
Darla Dimple, though, I do have an opinion on. I love villains who can act like they aren’t villains and no one does that better than the darling of stage and screen, lover of children and animals, Darla Dimple. Not only does she actually hate animals, she’s also a demanding diva on stage with a 20-foot tall bruiser on her payroll. “Big and Loud” is, therefore, the perfect song for her. It encapsulates her public persona and the reprise captures the evil side lurking beneath those golden ringlets. The whole plan she cooks up, too, is really pretty brilliant. It ruins the protagonist’s dreams in a way that is both big and loud.
Also, because I can’t talk about this movie and not point this out, Natalie Cole (as in Nat King Cole’s daughter) does one of the best songs in any animated film.
6. Sweet’s “What you Feel”
This is the only song on this list that is not from an animated film, but it definitely deserves its place. In case you don’t recognize it, the song is from the musical episode of Buffy entitled “Once More with Feeling.” I’ve seen musical episodes crop up a lot since I first saw this one (How I Met Your Mother and Psych, for instance), but this is my favorite version. It manages to both fit perfectly with the narrative, provide a good explanation for all the singing in a non-musical show, and manages to actually move the plot forward at the same time.
As for Sweet’s song, I love the jazzy tune, I love Sweet’s voice, which has that demonic feel without really trying, and the awesome tap dancing. Meanwhile, like the episode itself, the song reveals important plot points, like why Sweet came to town in the first place and what’s so bad about a demon who brings spontaneous singing. Also, by the end of the song, we have our final confrontation set up. In case you can’t tell, I like a song that’s not just good, but actually does something in the narrative and this one does a lot.
5. Scar’s “Be Prepared”
No list of villain songs would be truly complete without this masterwork. Some say it’s the gold standard for villain songs and it’s certainly a well-deserved reputation. It’s in this song that Scar removes his disgruntled-uncle mask and reveals his master plan to take over Pride Rock with the hyenas. We learn what his relationship with the hyenas is and we find out that he just wants to straight-up kill his brother AND his nephew. Meanwhile, the song itself is pretty terrifying with all the wailing among the music.
Beyond that, there are some spectacular visuals. The hyenas actually goose-step like Nazis! Scar is lifted by a rock out of the bowels of Hell! And did you see his hyena army? All of it appropriately scary for a villain planning fratricide.
4. Oogie Boogie’s “The Oogie Boogie Song”
If you don’t think Oogie Boogie, the actual evil in a town full of Halloween characters, is creepy then I would check for a pulse right now. I mean it, check your wrist for a pulse. I’ll wait.
Now that we’ve all established we are among the living, Oogie Boogie bases whether you live on a roll of his (weighted) die and he’s nothing but a burlap sack containing a million bugs. He has a snake for a tongue. Spiders come out of his EYES. He is super creepy, even in a movie that has a skeleton as its main character.
But he also has an amazing singing voice and knows how to put together a tune. I love this song for Oogie’s relentless sarcasm and the back-and-forth between Oogie and Santa. I also love Oogie’s total disregard for Santa’s threats. The ultraviolet light and neon colors are a great choice to give the scene a more sinister feel considering that the rest of the movie used up most of the traditional “scary” color schemes. And here’s a fun fact: Ken Page, who does Oogie’s voice, also voices King Gator from All Dogs Go to Heaven.
3. Mother Goethel’s “Mother Knows Best”
For my top three, there will be a theme: pretend-niceness from villains. Also, the top three are all so close to each other that their order may change depending on my mood. Right now, “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled occupies the number 3 spot. When Mother Goethel sings this song, we already know that she’s evil and that Rapunzel is a princess stolen from her royal parents because of her magical hair. What we don’t know is how Mother Goethel has kept Rapunzel from leaving the tower all these years when Rapunzel clearly wants to do just that.
And that’s the purpose the song serves: to establish how Goethel emotionally manipulates Rapunzel. Throughout the song, Goethel is actively trying to terrify Rapunzel (extinguishing candles as Rapunzel lights them, the painted face of the man with pointy teeth) and regaling her with the dangers of the outside world. Yet Goethel also positions herself as the loving mother who’s only concerned for her daughter’s safety. The combination makes Rapunzel cling to Mother Goethel for comfort by the end of the song rather than recognizing the manipulation and running far, far away. Alan Menken’s musical genius scored this song perfectly, too, even adding a plaintive, music-box tune in the moment when Goethel leaves Rapunzel standing in the circle of light just to underscore that Goethel is definitely not in this for Rapunzel’s well-being.
2. Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls”
For the longest time, “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was my absolute favorite villain song. None of the others even came close. I love when a villain shows up and I can see why the main character fell into whatever trap was set. Ursula’s manipulation of Ariel is a prime example of that, culminating in this single, amazing song.
The slinky, false-nice tone of the song is brilliant, especially building as it does into Ursula’s frantic insistence that Ariel should give up her voice. You can both see and hear Ursula losing her veneer as Ariel continues to (understandably) hesitate to agree to the deal. Alan Menken’s genius is again at work in this song, making that struggle for composure apparent. I also love the timpani parts accompanying Ursula’s awesome sashaying around the screen. Pat Carrol’s voice is also amazing. She manages to put so much feeling and meaning into the lyrics while still qualifying as a singing voice. The song would have been so different with someone who was less talented at portraying the nuances of the song and the character (as evidenced by the truly horrific performance on the Broadway soundtrack). There’s a reason The Little Mermaid is and always will be a Disney classic, and this song is one of the reasons why.
1. Dr. Facilier’s “Friends on the Other Side”
Ok, I recognize that this might be a controversial decision, but I firmly stand by it. I saw this movie at 10pm on the night it came out, in an empty theater (because who goes to see an animate movie at 10 at night?). I had already memorized all the songs because the soundtrack came out first and I was SO READY for this movie. I love jazz like crazy and ALL OF THE SONGS WERE JAZZ-BASED. I couldn’t wait to see what images had been put to the songs I was already in love with.
When it came time for Dr. Facilier’s big moment, I was nervous. I loved “Friends on the Other Side” from the moment I heard it and I was hoping so hard that the visuals would live up to the melody. And holy shit did they ever. This is one of those songs, actually, where watching the actual scene with the movie makes a great song into a masterpiece.
Let’s start with why the song is amazing. First of all, it’s jazz and I love jazz. I think it makes a great base for a villain song, too, because it can be made to sound so jaunty and yet sinister at the same time. Again we have the false-niceness and a good reason for Naveen to fall for Facilier’s trick. I, too, would assume that getting my fortune read was some harmless fun, not going to turn me into a frog. The song reveals Facilier’s modus operandi for his scams, vital information about two other characters’ motivations and history, and also is the point that kicks off the entire movie. It even throws in Facilier’s “button” with the moment at the beginning where he gets legitimately angry at the idea of Lawrence disrespecting him.
Then, we turn to the scene that accompanies this fantastic song. First, the contrast between Facilier the person and Facilier the shadow acts a visual representation of Facilier’s hidden motivations. Facilier is a fantastic dancer (and throws in a Michael Jackson reference!). The pictures on the cards are works of art in themselves. The way Facilier hides his deal with Lawrence from Naveen gives vital information to how the lyrics are playing out.
And then, after Naveen and Lawrence shake Facilier’s hands, the entire scene changes. Facilier gets a super creepy voodoo mask, some creepy dolls start playing drums, everything is neon and glowing, including Facilier’s face. Finally, it abruptly ends with everything going dark except Facilier’s mask framing glowing eyes. It gives me chills every time I see it both with how amazing it is as a work of art and also how legitimately creepy it is. All of this is later repeated in a totally different scenario for the reprise of this song, where Facilier is no longer in charge and instead is literally dragged to Hell.
So, for being the scariest of all the villain songs, “Friends on the Other Side” is my favorite.
If I haven’t listed your favorites here or you disagree with my ranking, post a comment!