Melinda Lavine column: Top villains of horror become fast fan favorites

Movies to celebrate the Halloween season depend on the bad guys.

Top Villains.jpg
(Promotional photos)

Unlike any other genre, a horror movie's success hinges on the villain. Their superhuman powers, their odd motivations and even their sinister one-liners and delivery can make or break a franchise. Here's my list of the best, most terrorizing villains, psychos and homicidal killers of horror.

MORE: Not to be overlooked, a Top 10 list of underrated movie villains

The Thing.jpg
You're never sure what you're looking at with The Thing. (Universal Pictures)


10. The Thing

FIRST SIGHTING: "The Thing" (1982)

Director John Carpenter's shape-shifting alien flaunts the ability to take the form of its prey. Scientists are stuck in the arctic, their colleagues are dropping like flies and it all culminates with the most pivotal blood test ever.

Frank Booth.jpg
Frank Booth loves his nitrous oxide as much as his loves sadism. (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group)

9. Frank Booth

FIRST SIGHTING: "Blue Velvet" (1986)

Dennis Hopper brings the pain as a fabric-sucking, nitrous-oxide-sniffing sadist. His performance changed my feelings of Roy Orbison and Pabst Blue Ribbon forever, and it also earned him a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. He was straight vicious.

"Alien" makes a case for following protocol. (Brandywine Productions)


8. Xenomorphs

FIRST SIGHTING: "Alien" (1979)

These mucous-y, creepy and kind of sexual creations spawned four movies, two crossovers and one spin-off in 2012's "Prometheus." It's fair to gauge a villain's influence on the number of sequels, and that rings truest with xenomorphs.

Michael Myers.jpg
Michael Myers takes family drama to new levels. (Compass International Pictures)

7. Michael Myers

FIRST SIGHTING: "Halloween" (1978)

The strong, silent type, Michael Myers is always game for pain and torture, notably to his own family members. This is another franchise that continued on, maybe too long, and this year marks its 35th anniversary. The "Halloween" theme music is immortal, but I like a little more oomph from my bad guys.

Norman Bates.jpg
Norman Bates make a generation afraid to take a shower. (Shamley Productions)


6. Norman Bates

FIRST SIGHTING: "Psycho" (1960)

This "Psycho" brought drag to the forefront before RuPaul, and Anthony Perkins plays the duality of a shy, young man and a twisted killer with mommy issues to a tee.

Pennywise from Stephen King's 'It'.jpg
Pennywise from Stephen King's "It" opts for terrorizing children as opposed to making them smile. (New Line Cinema)

5. Pennywise


From Stephen King's "It," this killer clown opts for murdering children vs. building them a balloon puppet. He has the ability to channel your worst fears and he also has a gnarly set of chops.

Hannibal Lecter.jpg
Always check the pantry when dining at Hannibal Lecter's pad. (Orion Pictures)

4. Hannibal Lecter

FIRST SIGHTING: "Silence of the Lambs" (1991)

Less than 16 minutes was all Anthony Hopkins needed to steal the show in "Silence of the Lambs." His performance as a brilliant, homicidal man-eater earned him a Best Leading Actor win. Ferocious and sometimes soft-spoken, this character will remain as one of the most potent in horror movie history.

Freddy Krueger.jpg
Freddy Krueger will attack you in your sleep. (New Line Cinema)

3. Freddy Krueger

FIRST SIGHTING: "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)

Freddy's slicing, dicing and dream-terrorizing left little sympathy for third-degree burns. Wes Craven dreamed up this truly fearful killer who attacks you in your sleep. Freddy will stay at the top of my list for all of these reasons. That, and he made me fear waterbeds.

Jaws ranks in the top 5 horror movie villains of all time. Mostly because of his smile. (Universal Pictures)

2. Jaws

FIRST SIGHTING: "Jaws" (1975)

In two very distinct musical notes, ba da, there lives a horror movie legacy in this blood-thirsty shark. And it's a legacy powerful enough to make children (and grown women) fear the touch of seaweed in dark bodies of water.

Leatherface isn't game for suspense. (Vortex)

1. Leatherface

FIRST SIGHTING: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)

He's big, he's a family man and he wields power tools for kicks. The murderous villain of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" broke the mold in horror movie slayers. Unlike Michael Myers or Jaws, Leatherface isn't game for suspense. Like a real psychopath, he doesn't creep up on his prey. He slams open the door and chases them in broad daylight. That's one of the many reasons why Leatherface ranks No. 1 on my list of the top 10 horror villains of all time. He also knows how to mod podge flesh. And that's really terrorizing.

Stay Puft.jpg
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (Columbia Pictures)

Cutest villain: Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, "Ghostbusters" (1984). He's looks so snuggly and appetizing.

Pinhead (New World Pictures)

Most level-headed villain: Pinhead, "Hellraiser" (1987). Sometimes willing to negotiate your fate, he stays true to what's right when measuring flesh and bone.

Did I miss something?

What makes your list? Write to me at

Melinda Lavine col sig.jpg
Melinda Lavine is a features reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Write to her at

Melinda Lavine wrote this for the Grand Forks Herald in 2013.

Related Topics: MOVIES
What To Read Next
The lauded Korean American writer, author of "The Evening Hero," will participate in an Olga Walker Awards conversation moderated by Linda LeGarde Grover.
From Champ to Rhubarbara, Duluth's mascots are best at their most offbeat. There is such a thing as too offbeat, though, as an ill-fated baseball head learned the hard way.
Other films vying for best picture include "Avatar: The Way of Water," "Top Gun: Maverick," "Elvis," and "The Fabelmans," among others.
Find something to do this week in the Northland.