The horror genre is filled with iconic villains that have been terrifying audiences for decades. Whether it’s Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, or Freddy Krueger, the genre is absolutely teeming with characters who have all-out invaded the pop culture zeitgeist, inspiring countless sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes. But who’s the deadliest of the deadly?
It’s hard to say for sure, since there’s only one crossover film to feature two of the icons actually squaring off (2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, which essentially ended in a tie), so logic dictates the only way to rank them is based on what they do best: killing.
For this list we excluded non-humanoid villains (so the Blob and the Thing didn’t make the cut), focused on villains who work alone (which eliminated Jigsaw, Ghostface, and the Cenobites), and did not include kills that occurred in television series, or those perpetrated by copycat killers. Remakes that closely followed the plot of the original (like 1998’s Psycho and 2013’s Carrie) were not factored into the totals. Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
That being said, here are the 15 Deadliest Horror Villains In Film, Ranked By Body Count.
15. Norman Bates (Psycho) – 17
Still heralded as one of the greatest films ever made more than fifty years after its original release, Psycho boasts the shocking death of one of its stars in the first act, an equally shocking twist at the end, and is held together by a beautifully subtle performance by Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Bates is the mild-mannered proprietor of the Bates Motel who spends a good amount of time caring for his elderly mother.
Throughout the film, audiences are led to believe Bates’ mother is the main villain only to find out that Bates himself is the killer, committing the crimes while dressed in his mother’s clothes. Compared to some of the other killers on this list, Bates is relatively tame, opting to use a kitchen knife in most of his killings. Still, seventeen kills over the course of just four films is enough for him to crack the top fifteen.
I Know What You Did Last Summer simply isn’t a good series of films. The first is underwhelming and centers around Willis seeking revenge on four teenagers who accidentally hit him with their car and try to cover up the crime by dumping his body in a river. Needless to say, Willis survives and hatches a ridiculously convoluted plot for revenge that includes waiting around for a year, sending the teens some notes, and cutting their hair while they sleep. Oh yeah, he also tries to kill them with a hook.
Willis is foiled after killing only two of the teens (and a bunch of innocent bystanders) and so he returns in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer to finish the job. This time, Willis literally sends one of the surviving teens from the first film on an all-inclusive vacation to the Bahamas (via his son posing as a radio DJ) so he too can travel to the island and kill her off. And let’s not even get into the dreadful I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. Willis may not be a master strategist, but he is adept with a hook, and that’s enough to earn him a place on the list.
Jeepers Creepers franchise and has the oddest backstory of any villain on the list by far. According to the film, every twenty-third spring for twenty-three days the Creeper gets to eat. There is no explanation as to why the Creeper wakes every twenty-three years or why it only has twenty-three days to eat, but who cares? The thing has wings and can literally smell fear, using the scent of its victims to choose which ones it wants to eat.
Although one character remarks that the Creeper has killed hundreds of times, we’re only counting the estimated 21 that occur over the course of the franchise’s two films. Using an ax, a knife, and throwing stars made from the discarded teeth of his former victims (not to mention his freaking wing, which he uses to decapitate one particularly unfortunate jock), the Creeper mows down a bunch of teenagers, cops, and prisoners on his way to accumulating the 13th highest kill total in horror film history.
Carrie finally starts to make friends toward the third act before a cruel prank finally pushes her over the edge. At her prom, having won a rigged vote to name her queen, Carrie is dowsed in pig’s blood from a bucket hanging above the stage. Carrie hallucinates that everyone in the gymnasium is laughing at her (when they are not) and uses her telekinesis (which she had been honing throughout the film) to unleash chaos.
Some students are crushed and others electrocuted before Carrie sets fire to the gym and makes her way outside, locking the doors behind her and leaving mostly everyone inside to burn. Once outside, Carrie kills two more bullies by flipping their car and causing it to explode. She then returns home where she kills her mother and then herself when her telekinesis causes her house to crumble on top of her. Sure Carrie is more of a victim than a villain, but her kill total more than warrants a place on this list.
Candyman. The son of a slave, Daniel Robitaille was an artist who grew up at the end of the 19th century. After falling in love and fathering a son with a white woman, Robitaille was put to death by a racist mob. They cut off his painting hand and replaced it with a hook, then smeared him with honey (earning him his nickname), and left him to be stung to death by bees before burning his corpse in a pyre. That’s enough to make anyone angry.
Robitaille would return from the grave under the moniker Candyman and seek his revenge on everyone brave (or rather, dumb) enough to stand in front of a mirror and call his name five times, appearing instantly and killing them with his hook. In the end, it turns out the Candyman is just trying to reunite with the reincarnation of his former lover, which makes him less a villain and more a hopeless romantic. He still makes the list though.
The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal finds increasingly terrifying ways of murdering his victims. The worst of the worst include decapitation via a rope attached to the back of a horse, a lobotomy performed on a live victim (during which the victim eats a piece of his own brain), and a particularly gruesome scene in which Lecter guts a man before throwing him from a balcony with a chord wrapped around his neck. When the victim is hanged, his insides spill out onto the sidewalk below. Gruesome.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and paving the way for slasher villains to follow. Loosely based on real life serial killer Ed Gein, Leatherface wears a mask made of human skin and his weapon of choice is a chain saw, though he has been known to impale a few of his victims on meat hooks on occasion.
Unlike many villains on the list who simply kill their victims and move on, Leatherface puts each of his victims to good use once they’re dead. In addition to using their skin to make masks, he also uses their bones to make furniture for his family’s home. (Considering how wasteful he is with gasoline for that chain saw, it’s good to know he recycles in other ways.) And while using a chain saw for murder is gruesome enough, there is one particularly gruesome scene where Leatherface hangs one of his victims from the ceiling before driving the chainsaw up between his legs, spilling his insides on the ground. Ouch.
A Nightmare on Elm Street films. Originally a child killer who was arrested and released on a technicality, Freddie was burned alive by the parents of his victims. He eventually returned as a spirit capable of stalking his victims in their dreams, thus allowing for some of the most creative deaths in the history of horror.
Some of Freddy’s more infamous kills include pulling out one victim’s veins and marching him around like a puppet on strings, giving another victim a hearing aid before scratching a chalkboard and causing the victim’s head to explode, sucking Johnny Depp into a bed and turning him into a geyser of blood, and, of course, placing a victim in a video game, controlling him with a Power Glove, and forcing him to trip down a flight of stairs and into a chasm. Keep up the good work, Fred.
Child’s Play films, despite being just two feet tall and, well, a doll. Charles Lee Ray is a serial killer who, after being fatally wounded in a shootout, was forced to transfer his soul into a Good Guy toy doll. Stuck inside the doll until he can transfer his soul into a boy named Andy– the first person to learn Chucky’s true identity– Chucky goes on a killing spree before ultimately being defeated by Andy, Andy’s mom, and a few others.
Then things got interesting. Chucky came back from the dead to once again try to swap souls with Andy. Then he turned his attention to a new kid, but was foiled by Andy a third time. Then he got a wife and had a kid of his own before returning to his roots, once again coming after Andy (played by the same actor 25 years later) in the franchise’s sixth installment. This time Andy was ready for him. After Chucky mails himself to Andy’s home, Andy pulls out a rifle and says “play with this,” before opening fire and bringing the series to a close. For now.
Leprechaun. In the film, a couple of painters come across a sack of gold at the end of a rainbow and decide to keep it. Lubin, the gold’s true owner, spends the rest of the film trying to retrieve it. The film is decent and its highlight has to be when Lubin tries to attack the main characters but becomes preoccupied when they throw shoes at him and he simply cannot control his urge to shine them.
Since the original film, Lubin has gone to Las Vegas, space, and “the hood” twice, racking up the kills along the way. Some of the series’ more infamous deaths include Lubin impaling a man with a bong, hacking a man to bits with a lightsaber, exploding out of a man’s penis, and, of course, that time he stomped a man to death with a pogo stick. When it comes to creative kills, Lubin is one of the best.
Sleepaway Camp (which boasts one of the best horror movie endings of all time), Angela attends Camp Arawak and kills the campers and camp counselors as revenge for bullying her. In the subsequent sequels, however, Angela assumes the role of camp counselor and kills for reasons ranging from missing curfew to being a snitch to talking too much.
The series has no shortage of horror Easter eggs as Angela kills with anything and everything at her disposal. She kills a camper who’s dressed up as Freddy Krueger with his own razor glove, and another dressed up as Jason Voorhees with a chain saw while she herself is dressed as Leatherface. The most shocking kill, however, occurs in the original film, where Angela’s weapon of choice is a hot curling iron. And while the action is implied and not actually seen, it’s enough to make even the most desensitized horror fan squirm.
Halloween films and is one of only two villains with more than one hundred kills to his name. After appearing in the first two films in the franchise (in which he murders his older sister, is sent to an insane asylum, escapes, returns to his childhood home to kill some more, and is burned alive), Michael was left out of the third entry as the series was supposed to take a new direction. Fan backlash, however, led to the character being brought back for the fourth film, and he’s been the series’ stalwart ever since.
Michael usually kills with a kitchen knife, but has been known to get creative when the occasion calls for it. Some of his more eccentric kills include impaling a cameraman with the leg of a tripod, embedding an ice skate in a man’s face, pinning a woman to a wall with a shotgun through her chest, and straight up pushing his thumb through an EMT’s forehead.
Friday the 13th film. Instead, it was his mother, Pamela Voorhees, who killed the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake as revenge for her son’s death by drowning while under their supervision. Jason would rise from the dead and become the main antagonist in the nine sequels that followed, the aforementioned crossover with Freddy Krueger, and 2009’s reboot.
Much like Angela Baker, Jason is not particular when it comes to his weapons. He has used knives, axes, machetes, meat cleavers, spear guns, bows and arrows, pitchforks, fireplace pokers, hacksaws, broken bottles, sauna rocks, his bare hands, and twice knocked characters’ heads off with a single punch. In terms of body count, he is by far the deadliest horror villain of all time, and has more than earned that title.
Are there any other horror villains who deserve a mention on our list? Let us know in the comments below.