Welcome to The Pulse, your lifeline on media and pop culture. Today’s Top 10 is one near and dear to my heart. We all love Disney movies, they are cherished and beloved classics that have spanned generations of fans. And what Disney movie would be complete without an iconic Disney villain? More importantly, what Disney villain would be complete without an even more iconic Disney villain song? Join me as we count down the top 10 Disney villain songs on this edition of The Pulse.
Honorable Mention: Let It Go – Elsa (Frozen)
Note: Now, normally we don’t do honorable mentions here on The Pulse (because honorable mentions are a cop-out), but I will make an exception in this instance due to the nature of this entry.
So we are kicking things off with a bit of a controversial pick here. Now as much as I would like to actually include this song on the top 10 proper, I fear the wrath of vengeful fanboys and fangirls far too much to outright include the smash hit on a list of villain songs so it gets stuck here instead. Now as tiring as it got hearing this song multiple times a day, every day for several months after the release of Disney’s mega-hit Frozen, ya gotta admit that it’s a pretty good tune. It’s catchy, empowering, sung beautifully and..also totally about not caring about freezing everyone to death. Ya see, Let it Go is a remnant from the original draft of Frozen where Elsa was indeed the villain of the story (whereas now she’s more an unfortunate antagonist). Now while the Frozen we have today is a far different film from the one we were originally going to get, Let it Go actually made it through entirely unchanged. So yes, Let it Go is in fact a villain song. Deal with it.
10. Prince Ali (Reprise) – Jafar (Aladdin)
I love Jafar. Were this a ranking of Disney villains he would probably be, well, let’s save that for another list shall we? Disney’s Aladdin is full of iconic and memorable songs. From the flashy and expressive “Friends Like Me” performed by the late and great Robin Williams (oh how I miss that man, rest in peace brother and thank you for making my childhood) to the beautiful love ballad “A Whole New World”, and of course the high energy, bombastic “Prince Ali”. It is only fitting then that in outing Aladdin as nothing more than a dirty street rat, Jafar taunts and mocks him with a shameful reprisal of the boastful tune. It’s a great deconstruction of the original song, Johnathan Freeman’s Jafar absolutely sells it, but it’s relatively short length and just not quite being “Jafar’s song” means that I can’t in good conscience place it any higher than 10th.
9. Cruella De Vil – Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmations)
I’d argue it’s probably pretty hard to name a more iconic tune when it comes to classic Disney villains. Performed by John Wright as Roger, the song is a catchy little jingle that perfectly sums up the devil in a fur coat herself. Fantastic use of metaphor and visual imagery, a toe tapping beat, Cruella De Vil’s namesake song is one you’re sure to find yourself humming even days after last hearing it.
8. Mother Knows Best – Mother Gothel (Tangled)
In an era where both Disney has fallen heavily into the “surprise twist” villain trope (seriously, look through their recent catalog of films and count just how many have some sort of “twist” villain) it certainly is nice to have one where the big bad is clear and obvious from the damn opening of the film. Mother Gothel is easily the best villain of Disney’s recent efforts, by far. I mean, she’s no Maleficent or Hades or Frollo or Scar or Ursula or, ok I’m not helping my point, but comparing her to Hans or..Assistant Mayor Bellweather? Come on. She was clever, manipulative, cruel and Mother Knows Best has this sort of disturbing quality to it, someone that is, so far as you know, supposed to be looking out for you and your best interests is actually just using you and taking advantage of you and manipulating you into basically being your prisoner for all of eternity it’s, it’s pretty messed up. That message underscores and otherwise upbeat and catchy song that gives it this sort of menace that elevates it above the pack.
7. Friends on the Other Side – Doctor Facilier/The Shadow Man (The Princess and the Frog)
The last of a dying era, Disney’s last hurrah for traditionally animated films. Sadly The Princess and the Frog underperformed and we’ve never had another like it since. While one can argue the actual quality of the film itself (it’s far from the worst Disney princess film, but I wouldn’t hold it among the greats either), Doctor Facilier, the Shadow Man himself was a fantastic villain that was horribly underutilized in the film. He makes a damn memorable first impression though as Friends on the Other Side stands out among a film mostly held up on its soundtrack. It’s biggest flaw is just how much it relies on its visuals and watching the movie itself along with it, while the actual song portions are great, they’re spaced apart by spoken dialogue and moments designed to push the movie’s plot into motion so it’s harder to really listen to and enjoy as a song all on its own, more than most others on this list, which is a shame because it really does just paint The Shadow Man is a very menacing and well connected adversary. There’s a great throwback to the song at the film’s climax as we find out why you don’t cross your friends on the other side. Now, while I do think the song being hard to separate from the film itself is a bit of a weakness, it’s a gorgeous spectacle when you actually do watch it in context, Princess and the Frog was a beautiful movie and shame on you all for not seeing it!
6. The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind – Rattigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Probably gonna raise a few eyebrows with this one, sort of my sleeper pick for the list, but The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind is a *ahem* criminally overlooked and underrated song. While I’m not the biggest fan of The Great Mouse Detective, it’s a fine movie I’m just not overly in love with, there’s something to be said of Rattigan and his self aggrandizing that would make our next entry proud (oh no, spoilers). Rattigan, a very suave and almost charming mastermind of crime that slowly devolves into a more and more feral state by the film’s climax, makes a huge impression in this elegant sort of drinking shanty celebrating his many feats and just how great a villain he is. It’s incredibly catchy and raises the villain up to a level of grandeur truly befitting the world’s greatest criminal mind.
5. Gaston – Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
No one outshines Rattigan like Gaston! The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind may have been boastful, but Gaston’s ego trip in song form takes the cake and puts it to shame. Gaston is so absolutely full of himself that it takes an entire tavern of drunks and wenches singing his praises to cheer him up and remind him of just how much better he is than everyone else, how much everyone wants to either be him or be with him. This song is just a ton of fun, it has so many memorable and quotable lines, Gaston is just so smug and arrogant with this air of self confidence that you can’t help but love hating him as you sing along.
4. Poor Unfortunate Souls – Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Who doesn’t love Ursula? She absolutely oozes with personality from the moment she comes on screen and Poor Unfortunate Souls is a big, loud and powerful song that matches her equally loud personality. It is the ultimate buyer beware story as Ursula lays out the rules of the contract plainly for Ariel, even warning her ahead of time of the risks and, well..be careful what you wish for. This song is so iconic and boisterous, matching its corresponding villain so perfectly, you’d have a good argument for placing this almost anywhere you wanted on this list, it’s top tier material.
3. The Oogie Boogie Song – Oogie Boogie (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Well well, what have we here? A top 10 list, oooooh I’m really scared. So The Pulse is what everyone’s talking about? Hahahaha. Joking aside, if you caught my list of top 10 movies to watch for Halloween you’ll know that I’ve a bit of a soft spot for the now somewhat overexposed The Nightmare Before Christmas. The movie was a big part of my childhood and beyond the fantastic visuals one of the reasons for that is Danny Elfman’s brilliant soundtrack. There’s probably not a person (ok, maybe at least one or two) that doesn’t know This is Halloween or Kidnap the Sandy Clause or What’s This?, the music perfectly blends two holidays into one and is some of Elfman’s finest work, and given his discography that’s pretty impressive. Oogie Boogie, the boogie man himself, is a villain that spends much of the film working from the shadows and doesn’t truly come into play until the film’s very final act. I’d almost say he’s somewhat of an unnecessary element if I didn’t like him so much, he pretty much just serves to give the film some sort of external conflict towards the end of the movie, but I digress. With lyrics full of mockery, a sense of smugness and a great sorta jazzy/brassy sound to it, The Oogie Boogie Song combines elements of previous songs on this list and mixes them together into something truly special. Again, the visuals certainly help, but this is one that can certainly be enjoyed on its own merits and takes an otherwise kinda throwaway villain and pumps him full of personality.
2. Be Prepared – Scar (The Lion King)
Not many Disney villains are more iconic than Scar, portrayed by the brilliant Jeremy Irons, from the massively successful Kimba the White Lion…King. This call to arms by the conniving and resourceful usurper of Pride Rock perfectly underscores the brains over brawn that defines Scar as a villain, pitting the long oppressed hyenas against their oppressors. Irons gives such a rousing and powerful performance, drawing from rather obvious sources, to the point that his voice gave out while recording and Jim Cummings had to step in to finish the song for him (you can actually pinpoint the moment in the song this happens, it’s right after my favorite line in fact, right after Scar says “you won’t get a sniff without me”). Cummings does a damn good Irons impression so it’s a bit hard to tell at first, but once you know you definitely can start to hear it. I really don’t know what more I can say, Be Prepared is borderline THE Disney villain song, it’s hard to find any other as iconic or impactful, it more or less speaks for itself. If it wasn’t for the actual number one, this would have topped the list easily, nothing else even comes close to it. Also, as a side note, the less said about the live action adaptation’s take on Be Prepared the better, that could hardly be called a song and it cut out, well, all the good stuff and just left us with a ho-hum sorta speech that lacked the gravitas of the original.
1. Hellfire – Judge Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
While the movie itself can be a bit hit or miss, given the source material this was always going to be a difficult adaptation for Disney to pull off honestly, something that was unarguably and unequivocally a hit in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was the villain, Judge Claude Frollo. A tortured and conflicted man torn between his lustful desires and his faith to the cross, his inner torment is brought to life in the musical masterpiece that is Hellfire. A haunting, beautiful and orchestral song with a booming choir, a brilliant performance by Tony Jay as Frollo that invokes images of lust, corruption, sin and of course the fires of Hell themselves. It is an incredibly mature song touching on very adult themes, the music and vocals leave you with chills. Coupled with the incredible visuals from the film, Hellfire is not only the best Disney’s villain song, it ranks among the best songs of any Disney film.