Just in time for Halloween! This is another Disney List that’s been done before. But I decided to do a more all-encompassing list, so it’s not going to be a “top ten” thing. I’ve also realized that some of the most frequently-listed songs are not actually “villain” songs. So I’ll start by listing what qualifies a song for the category.
First, it has to tell us, at least in part, WHY the villain is a the villain. The song must give evidence of the villain’s intent to do bad. And/or advance the plot in some way, which usually involves telling their minions their wicked plans. Most villain songs will do both of these at the same time.
Second, the villain must be the primary singer. If it’s just a song about the villain, it isn’t the villain’s song. It’s someone else’s opinion about them, so it doesn’t actually show that they’re evil.
Be Prepared- First on the list of Disney villain songs is everyone’s number one, “Be Prepared” from Lion King. Sung by Scar and his hyena minions, this number tells of Scar’s plan to kill his brother the king and replace him. In the lyrics, he talks about how stupid the hyenas are, but that they’ll get the job done. He even bribes them with food. Voiced by Jeremy Irons and Jim Cummings, and accompanied by visuals of greenish hellfire and nazi armies, this is one of the darker moments in Disney’s legacy.
Poor Unfortunate Souls- Next in our list is as old as I am, and was greatly under-appreciated when I was younger. Everyone loves The Little Mermaid, but Poor Unfortunate Souls was often forgotten. It starts slow, but has as much character as the villainess who sings it. Ursula sweet-talks Ariel into signing a contract, which the princess doesn’t bother reading, and gives her legs in exchange for her voice. She even tells Ariel that she has a history of doing bad things! She doesn’t explain why she wants Ariel’s voice, but you can tell by watching her facial expressions throughout the song that it can’t be anything good. And the sea witch will say whatever she has to in order to get the naive princess to give in.
Trust In Me/I Wanna Be Like You- The Jungle Book has a couple of villains, but Kaa is the one whose song is considered the villain song. He literally hypnotizes poor Mowgli, all the while telling him to “trust in me, I’m your friend.” But the visuals are a lot scarier. In the introduction, the serpent pretends to have innocent intentions but physically prevents Mowgli from leaving, then proceeds to play on the boy’s hurt feelings. You then watch as the man-cub sleep-walks across branches, always about to teeter to his death on the jungle floor below. And Kaa just turns him around, manipulating the boy to go whatever way he pleases.
In similar manipulations, King Louie befriends Mowgli in order to use him. He desires power, and the man-cub is his golden ticket. All the while, Bagheera and Baloo are trying to rescue the poor misled boy. Is it any wonder Mowgli has trust issues?
Savages- This number from Pocahontas really digs into the darkness in humanity. While Radcliffe is antagonizing the hard feelings among his men, this song is exemplary of a mob mentality, and it illuminates the harsh distrust of that which we don’t understand. It’s not just about racial differences, though. It’s about fear of change and foreign concepts becoming hatred. And what is truly terrifying is that it’s not just the men of Jamestown singing–it’s the Powhatan tribesmen as well. Both have good men among their ranks who are trying to do what’s right, but are led astray by simple misunderstanding. (Or, in the case of the Englishmen, by a greedy buttface who doesn’t like being wrong.)
Friends on the Other Side- This may be the one song that has kept Princess and the Frog in the memory of the populace. Dr. Facilier is a wicked voodoo man with dark plans. He wants to be rich and in power, and has enlisted dark voodoo spirits who demand payment for their aid. This song is catchy, and is the moment when Lawrence becomes a secondary villain. You don’t normally get to see why the minions join up with such obvious baddies, which is something I really love about this song. With promises of dreams come true, the wicked doctor dupes poor Prince Naveen into giving his blood to a cursed talisman, then turns him into a frog. The voodoo masks in the background mock “you got what you wanted, but you lost what you had.” It’s a terrifying lesson in knowing what you’re getting yourself into before making any deals, and reminds us that we should be grateful for what we have.
Hellfire- Another favorite on everyone’s list is Hellfire from The Hunchback of Notre Dam. Everything Judge Frollo sings can actually be considered a villain song, but this is his big number. It begins with a beautiful and melodic chant from the monks of Notre Dam, and he ponders this unholy desire he feels for the gypsy woman Esmerelda. When his conscience appears in the form of the faceless jury of monks, he immediately blames the woman for tempting him, and even goes so far as to say that he can’t be held accountable because God made the Devil stronger than mankind. Then he begs the Virgin Mary to either take away the wicked desire or make Esmerelda his. That’s quite the jump, when you think about it. This is when he declares “she will be mine, or she will burn!” Frollo is the man responsible for burning Paris. And according to this song, it’s all because he lusted after a woman.
Mob Song/Gaston Reprise- Most people consider “Gaston” to be the villain song for Beauty and the Beast. While it is about the main villain, it doesn’t give any indication of his villain status. LeFou is the main singer, and he’s just trying to lift his boss’s spirits. Because he’s so popular, the whole tavern joins in. And Lefou succeeds in cheering up Gaston, getting him to praise himself. (Which isn’t too difficult, since he’s a people-pleaser and in love with himself.) That’s all they do in the song, really.** But the mob song near the end, often called “Kill the Beast”, is where you get to see why Gaston is the villain of the show. When Belle shows him the mirror, he declares in jealousy that beasts are vicious and evil and must be slain. Seeing that the townspeople are listening, he goes on, spreading lies about how he’ll kill people and steal their children, adding fuel to the fire. As the rumors spread, his eyes fill with wicked glee, and he leads the charge to kill the nasty beast. In a matter of moments, he realizes that he won’t get Belle and decides to get revenge instead. Something is in his way? Kill it.
**Though there is one verse that is usually cut out when “Gaston” is shared, whether on youtube or a Disney cd. It’s after Belle’s father bursts in, raving about the beast that’s got his daughter. After Gaston throws him out, LeFou chuckles “crazy old Maurice.” And the little hamster in Gaston’s head finally starts running on his wheel. This is the moment when Gaston changes from a narcissistic nuisance into a true villain. Just look at the lyrics.
Gaston: LeFou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking.
LeFou: A dangerous past-time–
Gaston: I know!
But that wacky old coot is Belle’s father,
and his sanity’s only so-so.
Now the wheels in my head have been turning
since I looked at that loony old man.
See, I promised myself I’d be married to Belle
and right now I’m evolving a plan!
Then Gaston whispers his plan to LeFou, and they sing about how Gaston is the best at making plots, taking cheap shots, and persecuting harmless crackpots. Everyone assumes that the wedding is back on, and totally ignores the fact that what Gaston is planning to do is highly immoral. He’s the big, strong, awesome guy, so who cares what he does? (So, why not counted? Because it’s only one verse of a vanity song.)
The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind- This elegant number is sung by Ratigan, the villain of The Great Mouse Detective, and is even voiced by the brilliantly dark Vincent Price. While the minions are singing the chorus, Ratigan himself leads with the verses and bridge. They sing of thefts, drowning orphans, and plots being foiled by Basil, the Sherlock Holmes of the mouse world. Ratigan even foreshadows his plan to overthrow the Queen when he declares that all will bow before him. And then one of his minions, drunk on the free wine he’s provided, calls him a rat. (Which he is, but don’t let him hear you say it.) He stops the entire number to take the offender outside, where he feeds the poor buffoon to his pet cat, with all the rest of his crew watching. He then goes back to singing as though nothing had happened.
The Elegant Captain Hook- This song is often overlooked in Disney’s vast musical library, as many Peter Pan songs are. Partially because it’s so old. But this song is great. It is under-appreciated, evil brilliance. Captain Hook and his crew make no pretense; they are proud of their wicked ways! While Smee is a little silly with his bit about “the crock is after Captain Hook”, the villain himself tells the Darling children and the Lost Boys that if they don’t join his pirate crew, they can walk the plank. But if they join, they get free tattoos! While incredibly short, the song makes the pirates’ intent to do wrong very clear. Ah, I love simplicity…
Mother Knows Best- I love this song. Tangled has some really brilliant musical numbers, and this is certainly no exception. Rapunzel’s “Mother” explains to her why she can’t ever leave the tower, and like any good Disney villain, she sings it. But most of Gothel’s reasons are ridiculous, and some are incredibly insulting. Men with pointy teeth? Cannibals? “Sorry, sweetie, but you’re under-dressed, and you’re putting on weight, so you can’t go outside ever.” The whole time, she’s pretending to be concerned for the safety of the girl she’s raised, but she’s leaving all these hints that she doesn’t really care about Rapunzel. When she gives the line about stay here where it’s “safe and sound”, she’s caressing the magic hair. She’s just manipulating the poor naive girl to use her powers.
Mad Madam Mim- Yet another villain song that doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves. Madam Mim, one of several bad guys from Sword in the Stone, is very open about her love of being a wicked witch. She declares in a lovely soprano that she can wither a flower, or make herself uglier, and giggles like a little girl when she scares the feathers off of poor Arthur. The purpose? To prove to the lad that she is much better with magic than Merlin, or anyone else, for that matter. She loves being mad, ugly, and creepy. And when Arthur tries to leave, she shuts the windows and turns into a cat, trying to kill him as part of a warped game. Why? Just because Merlin sees something good in the boy.
Prince Ali Reprise- Now this is a sneaky one. Even shorter than “The Elegant Captain Hook”, this catchy tune is just a reprise. And this is also the only time the bad guys get musical in the original Aladdin movie. Jafar is already mad with his genie-given power, and decides that he’s going rub salt in the wounds of the captured hero and heroine by revealing Aladdin’s true identity as a street urchin. Without missing a single beat, both literally and metaphorically, the grand vizier sends the boy all the way to what looks like Siberia–and squeals with glee as he does it. He even hints that he’s sending the hero to his death. (“So his prospects take a terminal dip.”) While not a typical villain song, it does show us how much pleasure he takes in causing others pain, and reveal to what lengths he will go to get rid of a small hindrance. And he follows through with his disposal of said hindrance, which is the only motive he really has left to achieve at this point. All others are achieved without a single note from Jafar(or Iago), which is why this song often goes unnoticed.
Oogie Boogie- This jive from Nightmare Before Christmas is pretty obvious. Oogie Boogie sings of torturing poor “Sandy Claws” and of his gambling vice. He mocks the jolly fat man, laughing all the while. He gets giddy at the thought of risking someone else’s life in various roulettes. And when you remember that he’s just a sack of glow-in-the-dark bugs, it’s a lot more disturbing. Singing and swinging, the boogie man never stops moving, and his sadistic grin never leaves his face as he sings. He hints more than once that Santa will not survive long, exposition-ing all over his lair. Oogie Boogie is one of the most psycopathic of all Disney villains, and this song is all the evidence you need.
Ballad of the Headless Horseman- Now, this is one that I had forgotten a long time ago, but it’s a favorite of my husband. And this one is a doozy. In the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane tries to woo the town beauty. But his rival for her hand, Bram, discovers that the school teacher is incredibly superstitious. So at the dance, he begins crooning about ghouls and spooks coming out after dark, then goes into the tale of the notorious Headless Horseman. The song is bursting with exposition, telling the audience everything we need to know about the Headless Horseman mythology. How is this a villain song? The Headless Horseman can’t sing! No, he can’t. He’s headless. But he’s also not the villain. Storyteller Bram is. There is no evidence that the horseman was real. Bram could easily have dressed up to terrify his rival. But even if that isn’t the case(there’s no proof either way), the whole point of the song is to scare off Ichabod so he can have the girl for himself. Bram is manipulating him to be terrified. While not openly declaring his intent, he makes it clear in his movements both before and during the song.
Love Is An Open Door- I know, this is considered a couples’ duet. But it’s actually the villain song in disguise! Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen Frozen, you should probably stop reading now. Those of us who have seen Frozen know that the true villain of the story is the handsome and gentlemanly Hans. When Anna returns home, her heart slowly turning to ice, she tells her would-be fiance that an act of true love (such as true love’s kiss) will save her. He goes in for the kiss and smirks. Because he’s a douche. The second time through the movie, I was watching “Love Is An Open Door” and it hit me that Hans is lying to Anna the whole song! That’s right, he’s lying. While Anna thinks she’s in love, the handsome prince is saying whatever he has to in order to get what he wants–to be a king. The line that really struck me was when Hans says “we finish each others’–” and you totally expect to hear “sentences”. But instead, the adorkable Anna says “sandwiches”! Hans enthusiastically replies “That’s what I was gonna say!” Really, Hans? You were gonna say “we finish each others’ sandwiches”? You’ve known her for a few hours. I’m pretty sure that there weren’t sandwiches at the coronation party. I consider this song the most brilliant of the Disney villain songs, because it’s so subtle and manipulative.
There are a few songs that are sung by or about villains that I’ve left off of this list on purpose. “Gaston” was mentioned earlier, and explained. But there are a few others that often get added onto Villain Song playlists and top tens that aren’t actually Villain Songs.
-Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations is one of the most well known of these. But the song is not sung by the villainess herself. It’s sung by Roger, as he makes fun of her to his wife. A good portion of the song isn’t even true. While she is clearly a monster, she considers herself a wonderful person.
-Mine from Pocahontas is another that’s very well known. And the villain, Gov. Radcliffe, sings the lead! He’s not shy, either. He tells the men to dig ’til they drop, and speaks treason against the king of England. But it’s all about him getting wealth and popularity. It’s a vanity song with a little bit of exposition. And this song is actually two songs in one. The bridge is John Smith singing about his love of exploring.
-Kidnap the Sandy Claws from Nightmare Before Christmas has everything a Villain Song should. So why is it left off the list? It’s sung by the trick-or-treating trio, Lock, Shock, and Barrel, hooligan minions of Oogie Boogie. That’s right, those three dreadful children are not villains.
-Les Poissons from Little Mermaid is a favorite of mine. It’s really messed up, especially for a movie about fish. The royal chef at Prince Eric’s castle loves his job. Louie sings, half in French, about the process of turning raw fishes into a good meal–all while Sebastian looks on in horror. Sick, but the chef is also not a villain. Nor does the song help move the story along. It’s just kind of funny. (Or scary, if you’re a crab.)
-Court of Miracles from Hunchback of Notre Dam is one that I considered for a while. It’s really dark, and the gypsies gleefully threaten (and nearly kill) Quasimodo and Pheobus, before they’re stopped by Esmerelda. I had to take this one off the list when I realized that the gypsies are good guys, so I can’t count this as a Villain Song. You should still add it to your Halloween playlist, though. It’s brilliant.
-The last one is Gospel Truth II from Hercules. A lot of you are probably thinking “What the heck is this song?” So I will provide a link. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U8EBrLloHo) Everyone knows that the Muses sing most of the songs in Hercules, and The Gospel Truth is split up throughout much of the film. This verse is about Hades, and his evil plan. But again, not sung by the villain.
I hope y’all enjoyed the list! If there are any dark, villain-ish Disney songs that I’ve missed, let me know! (I didn’t include any of the sequels on purpose, because most of them get rather silly.) Have a safe and happy Halloween!