There’s not much more terrifying than that image. The full list is older (image borrowed from there), but worth a gander.
Choosing the worst of the worst is HARD. Because Voldemort is bad, no doubt, but Umbridge may be worse. Sauron is pure evil. Hannibal is not only a cannibal, but a snob! There is so much potential here, I don’t want to get it wrong*.
The Shark (Jaws by Peter Benchley). If you want to talk about pop culture influence on a generation, this is a prime example. I’m sure people were always scared of sharks, but that movie causes a visceral reaction at the mere sight of a fin.
Randall Flagg (The Stand by Stephen King). Because there’s needs to be at least one Stephen King character on a list on villains.
Annie Wilkes (Misery by Stephen King). And in this case, there are two. The axe…
Pennywise (IT by Stephen King). Okay, so there’s three, but I couldn’t NOT include a hideously scary clown/spider/entity.
Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray). On one hands, she really gets shit done. On the other… My goodness, have a heart.
Corrine Dollanganger (Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews). Because she really is quite awful. She was supposed to take care of them!
Cathy Ames (East of Eden by John Steinbeck). She’s just ghastly.
Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte). You cannot use love to excuse all your bad behavior, so Heathcliff makes the list too (being vicious and devious and all).
Mrs. Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl). Calling her the meanest school principal ever is a bit of an understatement.
And the list would not be complete without an Austen villian, because nothing screams scary like a good cad. So I give you Henry Crawford** (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen).
Which villains terrify you? Are literary characters even capable of scaring you? Find more of the worst villains here.
*I suffer from the idea that if I can’t do something well, I shouldn’t do something at all. It’s terrible and untrue, but no one fails to ignore my sage advice more than me.
**I find the older I get, the less tolerance I have for truly evil villains (like in American Psycho or The Wasp Factory or Blood Meridian), horror movies, and the like. Apparently I scare easily these days. I did just finish watching A Quiet Place though, and I didn’t have to avert my eyes once!