Who are the best anime villains of all time?
There are a lot of memorable characters in anime, but it is often the heroes and villains that get the most attention.
Not only do villains serve as the catalyst for a hero’s journey, but many are also compelling in their own right.
Today we’re giving these devils their due and counting down the best villains that anime has to offer.
The 20 Best Anime Villains of All Time
To create this list, we’ve compared all manner of evil deeds as well as their overall popularity with fans.
While some of these villains stand out because of their deeds, others stand out because of their stories and impact on the fandom.
Here’s our list of the 20 best anime villains of all time:
Kicking off our list, we have one of the best Dragon Ball Z characters and one of the few villains to turn into a hero.
When fans first meet Vegeta, he is the prince of the Saiyan race and a proud egotistical warrior.
Initially, his goal is to destroy the Earth, being merciless in his killing like many Saiyans, though he gradually begins to change during the Namek Saga.
Whilst he once would kill without a second thought, his sparing of Krillin and Bulma’s lives marked a turning point in his character.
Vegeta has now become one of the most popular characters in Dragon Ball Z, with many fans praising his character development as the best in the series.
Once one of the most dangerous villains in the world, Vegeta now fights alongside the most powerful warriors to keep Earth safe.
The main antagonist of the Introduction and Jailbreak arcs in The Promised Neverland, Isabella, also known as Mama, is wholly terrifying.
Working at the Grace Field House taking care of orphans, she initially appears to be a caring, motherly figure.
However, her true nature couldn’t be further from caring if she tried.
A cold, ruthless, and manipulative woman, Isabella raises the children in the orphanage as livestock for demons.
She is willing to sacrifice anyone and can easily shift from her loving mother persona on a dime, violently threatening anyone who defies her.
Even after learning her backstory, it is hard to feel sympathetic toward Isabella as she perpetuates the cycle of abuse that made her so evil.
18. Shou Tucker
A seemingly bookish alchemist who lives alone with his daughter, Shou Tucker, is a one-off villain in Fullmetal Alchemist.
However, fans soon learn that two years prior to his appearance in the anime, he did something absolutely horrible.
With his yearly assessment test as a State Alchemist drawing closer, Shou’s superiors demanded results from his chimera hybrid research.
Ted and Alphonse learn that, in his desperation, Shou transmuted his daughter’s body and soul with that of the family dog.
Despite turning his four-year-old daughter into a human chimera, Shou shows no remorse, claiming that all progress has a price.
He may not be a villain bent on destroying the world, but Shou Tucker is certainly one of the most twisted and merciless characters in anime.
17. Johan Liebert
The main antagonist of the anime series Monster, Johan Liebert, is exceptionally charismatic and intelligent.
Johan is the product of a horrifying eugenics program intended to create a superior human who could lead the rest of the world.
While he appears soft-spoken, Johan is caught between two dissociative personalities; one highly empathetic and the other ruthlessly sadistic.
Even as a child, he was able to manipulate fifty children and their instructors at their orphanage to fight and kill each other.
What makes Johan so terrifying is that he has no superhuman abilities, only his intelligence.
His cold, calculating, and villainous nature demonstrates the worst of humanity, which is utterly terrifying.
Frieza is one of the best bald anime characters, as well as one of the stand-out villains in Dragon Ball Z.
Thanks to his cruel nature, Frieza is feared throughout the universe, and for good reason.
Not only does he possess immense power, but he is the leader of his own imperialist army.
Unlike Vegeta, Frieza has no redemption arc and instead remains one of Goku’s biggest enemies.
In fact, Frieza has even mercilessly tortured Vegeta by strangling him with his tail and repeatedly punching his spine.
He is also the most reoccurring villain in the series, and with the new Dragon Ball Super anime returning in 2023, we expect to see even more of him.
Undoubtedly one of the most vicious and sadistic villains in anime history, Frieza has definitely left a lasting impression on fans.
15. Majin Boo
The ultimate force of destruction in the Dragon Ball Z universe, Majin Boo, may look wacky, but he possesses endless strength.
With the ability to absorb other beings to become stronger, he is one of the most dangerous anime characters ever to exist.
He also has several forms, all with their own personalities and goals, making him very unpredictable.
However, his pure form is known as Kid Buu, and while he may appear small, this is his most dangerous and unpredictable form.
As Kid Buu, he has no sanity and laughs manically at the destruction of entire worlds, and he’s even willing to destroy himself to decimate the Earth.
Majin Boo is a villain that all anime fans know means business, and he certainly is one of the best in the anime world.
The main antagonist of Demon Slayer, Muzan, is the Demon King and progenitor of all other demons.
Having been responsible for numerous atrocities in the series, Muzan is completely heartless and shows no remorse for any of his actions.
Even his own subordinates are treated as disposable, little more than trash to be discarded when their usefulness has run out.
Capable of using his blood to turn hapless humans into his mindless servants, Muzan is a terrifying character and a great anime villain.
Although his full power has yet to be shown in the anime, we expect to see it highlighted in future seasons.
13. The Major
Known only as The Major, this villain was a first lieutenant of the SS under Hitler during WWII, which already tells you a lot about him.
He was tasked with finding a way to create artificial vampires that could be used to ensure the Reich’s victory.
However, after facing defeat by Alucard and Walter, the Major escaped to South America, where he has managed to preserve his youth since.
Now functioning with his own goals in mind, the Major seeks to engulf the entire world in darkness by spreading war and chaos.
While he once served one of the evilest men in history, he now works for his own sick enjoyment, making him a truly vicious villain.
A homunculus that fits perfectly into one of the best action anime series of all time, this Fullmetal Alchemist villain is wholly evil.
The embodiment of his creator’s envy, this villain can assume the form of anyone and even modify his voice.
Envy exists purely to make others suffer, and he bears more resentment toward humanity than any other homunculus.
He is remorseless for his actions, having caused countless deaths, and does everything he can to sow chaos and destruction among humans.
As one of the most dangerous anime villains of all time, Envy is absolutely terrifying, especially since he is so unpredictable.
11. Shogo Makishima
The main antagonist of the first season of Psycho-Pass, Shogo, states that his goal is to liberate Japanese society.
However, his method for doing this involves turning humans into automatons incapable of independent thought.
Shogo embodies the worst characteristics of humanity and has no qualms about causing suffering for others.
He is also willing to kill anyone who gets in his way without remorse, though he will also kill anyone he grows tired of.
While he is eventually dealt with, the fact that he was willing to go to such lengths to achieve his goals makes him an unforgettable villain.
10. Yagami Light
The protagonist of Death Note, Light Yagami, is a fascinating villain, as he starts off with seemingly genuine intentions.
After coming into possession of the Death Note, he starts using it to rid the world of criminals.
However, his power soon corrupts him, causing him to start killing people who get in his way, such as FBI agent Raye Penber.
Light becomes obsessed with bringing forth his idea of a utopian society based on his twisted notion of justice.
Unfortunately for him, despite becoming one of the strongest anime characters, his hubris is ultimately his downfall.
That said, a Netflix Death Note reboot is in the works, so we may see Light return again in the near future.
9. Nagato Uzumaki
Nagato Uzumaki is one of the best Naruto characters and one that left a lasting impact on fans.
As the leader of the Akatsuki, Nagato, also known as Pain, sought to bring peace to the world using any means necessary.
While his origins make him sympathetic to fans, his methods are unquestionably villainous, as he gradually becomes colder and more wrathful.
He showed no hesitation when it came to obliterating the Leaf Village or attempting to kill Hinata Hyuga.
Although Naruto is eventually able to get him to believe in peace once again, the damage he has caused still remains.
The leader of the Band of the Hawk in Berserk, Griffith, was once responsible for bringing peace to the wartorn kingdom.
However, his desire for his own kingdom led him to sacrifice most of his comrades during the fifth eclipse.
This action turned him into the fifth member of the God Hand, Femto, a demonic twisted version of his human self.
Now with the power to raze entire cities to the ground, Griffith prioritizes his dreams over everything else.
He is willing to go to any lengths to achieve what he wants, undeterred by his former moral inhibitions.
The main antagonist of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Dio, is as manipulative and as domineering as they come.
While this immortal vampire can be incredibly charming, it is all a ruse to further progress his goals.
All Dio wants is to become stronger at any cost, and he won’t tolerate anyone who could potentially stand against him.
As one of the strongest villains in the series, Dio has vampiric powers and is one of the only characters to possess two Stands.
He even eventually gains the ability to manipulate time, making him even more dangerous in combat.
6. All For One
The overarching antagonist of My Hero Academia, All For One, is the founder of the League of Villains.
As the arch-nemesis of All Might and one of Japan’s most legendary villains, All For One is completely focused on destroying the wielder of One For All.
Sadistic and malevolent, this villain enjoys ruling from the shadows and using people for his own gain.
With an extreme god complex, All For One is virtually immortal and has the ability to steal other people’s quirks.
Thanks to this ability, he can be completely unpredictable and difficult to counter, which has allowed him to take out many powerful heroes.
The major antagonist of the War arc in Vinland Saga, Askeladd, is a Welsh-Danish Viking and commander of his own mercenary band.
Not only is he responsible for killing Thors, one of the best fighters in the series, but Askeladd is extremely calculating.
While he is an excellent swordsman, it is his cunning and charisma that has helped make him a force to be reckoned with.
Askeladd uses violence to further his goals and has no qualms about murdering anyone who gets in his way.
He even ordered the massacre of an entire village, beheaded King Sweyn, and killed dozens of soldiers in a fit of madness before meeting his end.
4. Donquixote Doflamingo
A talented fighter who can use all three forms of Haki, Donquixote Doflamingo is a flamboyant villain from One Piece.
The leader of the Donquixote Pirates, Doflamingo, is a major antagonist in the Jaya and Sabaody Archipelago arcs.
Before being defeated by Luffy, Doflamingo was a sadistic villain who loved to find ways to cause as much pain as possible to his enemies.
He is even shown smiling after cutting off Law’s arm and watching him writhe in pain on the ground.
A dangerous villain, Doflamingo stands out as one of the cruelest figures in the entire series.
Aizen is a former Gotei 13 captain in Bleach, and his betrayal of the Soul Society was incredibly painful.
Using his charisma and intelligence, Aizen can easily manipulate people around him to further his own goals.
While he can easily outmaneuver most opponents as a master tactician, he can also use his Kyoka Suigetsu to control people’s senses.
Since he can virtually hypnotize anyone he wants, Aizen is incredibly dangerous, even to Ichigo Kurosaki.
Even his mere presence can be monstrously overwhelming, something that makes him one of the single best anime villains.
The most powerful offspring of the Chimera Ant Queen, Meruem, is the main antagonist of the Chimera Ant arc in Hunter x Hunter.
A cruel and violent leader, Meruem considers himself superior to all other life forms, even killing his mother after birth.
He only views humans as a food source and even devours a child soon after his birth, only to spit out its flesh and call it disgusting.
Meruem kills without remorse in brutal ways, mocking the weakness of humans as he tears through them.
While he does undergo a drastic character shift after meeting Komugi, his change of heart does little to make up for the countless deaths he’s caused.
The same anime that gave us one of the best bearded anime characters has also given us the greatest villain.
A veteran of the Titan War and member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, Vicious definitely lives up to his name.
As a sadistic, ruthless, and bloodthirsty man, Vicious causes no shortage of trouble for the main characters.
He will ruthlessly sacrifice anyone to get what he wants and has no respect for anything unless it will further his goals.
Vicious is willing to kill anyone without remorse, and while Spike Spiegel ended his reign of terror, he remains one of the best anime villains of all time.
Anime is filled with amazing villains, but these characters stand out the most from the rest.
Each of these villains has terrified, unsettled, and enthralled viewers with their horrifying deeds.
It’s safe to say that they are the best anime has to offer, and we just can’t get enough of them.
Here’s a quick recap of the 20 best anime villains of all time:
- Donquixote Doflamingo
- All For One
- Nagato Uzumaki
- Yagami Light
- Shogo Makishima
- The Major
- Majin Boo
- Johan Liebert
- Shou Tucker
What’s your favorite anime villain? Leave a comment below.
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