Every Harry Potter Villain Ranked Worst To Best

"What villains are these, that trespass upon my private lands!" — J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"

A hero's greatness is directly related to the villainy of his foes. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. Superman has Lex Luthor. Harry Potter has Lord Voldemort — and that's just the tip of the villainous iceberg. The Wizarding World is lousy with evil-doers, and we're ranking the lot of them. We're using "Harry Potter" as a blanket term for the Wizarding World. Thus, you'll find characters from the "Fantastic Beasts" movies included, though the banker that denied Jacob Kowalski's (Dan Fogler) loan application just missed the cut.

You won't see the basilisk, the troll, or the merpeople on this list, as they are more monsters than villains. Likewise, Crabbe, Goyle, and the Dursleys are antagonists, but they are largely played for jokes, and villains bring a special sort of menace. Severus Snape, memorably played by the late great Alan Rickman, is also excluded. Though he spent time with practically everyone on this list, the Head of Slytherin House is not one of them. He was a hero, "always."

16. Gilderoy Lockhart

Played with roguish buffoonery by Kenneth Branagh, Gilderoy Lockhart is almost more of a joke than anything dangerous. For one thing, he is completely inept as a wizard. Lockhart's spells have a habit of going disastrously awry, as Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers after Lockhart insists he can mend Potter's broken arm. Lockhart did rectify the problem — a bone can't be broken if it's liquified — but he only made things worse for poor Harry. Somehow, despite his wildly clumsy magic, Lockhart maintains a puffed-up assurance in himself, but it is all just an act, a clever bit of theater. The real Gilderoy Lockhart is a con man in wizard garb.

Lockhart takes off his mask and shows his true nature when Harry and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) enlist his help in rescuing Ron's sister from the Chamber of Secrets. That Lockhart is a coward is not really a surprise. The true revelation — and what makes him a villain — is that Lockhart is good with memory charms and built his fame upon the deeds of other, better wizards. Worse yet, Lockhart tries to leave Harry and Ron permanently addled so he can go on with his insidious business. That such an action would ensure Ginny Weasley's (Bonnie Wright) death is of no concern.

15. Lucius Malfoy

In some ways, Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) is the poster boy for the Death Eaters. He exudes the sort of casual maliciousness and general disregard that great wealth tends to engender. "Pure blood" tends to suggest a certain degree of inbreeding. Lucius looks like a man whose parents might've been related. Maybe it's just the long, stark blond hair talking (somewhere a Targaryen is nodding their head sagely). His tailored, all-black ensemble suggests comfort with a certain level of villainy. Lucius takes great pride in his appearance, which is in marked contrast to the rest of the Death Eaters, most of whom look like they correlate evil with dirt.

Beneath the poise and polish, Lucius Malfoy is a spineless bootlicker. His only power is over those that have none: Dobby, his son, and muggles. Lucius is a bully, and like all bullies, he cowers before true power. He is basically a Death Eater cosplayer. He puts on the uniform and attends the conventions and knows all the right things to say. The only thing genuine about his act is his sneer, which he's probably been using since his nursemaid changed his first diaper. To steal a phrase coaches use to describe athletes who lack a certain mental toughness, he just doesn't have that dog in him.

14. Professor Quirrell

Of all the people who served Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart) drew the shortest straw. He had to go around with Voldemort's face clinging to the back of his head, which is the ickiest thing we've seen since the stomach alien in 1990's "Total Recall." He was quite literally Voldemort's meat puppet, doing his bidding while Voldemort sipped Quirrell's life force like he was a Carpi Sun. That forced Quirrell to hunt unicorns and take nourishment from their blood (ah, the circle of life). Oh, and Quirrell had to wear a ridiculous turban the whole time to hide the evil face growing from the back of his head like a tumor. Hopefully, he was a side sleeper!

For all that, Quirrell actually came rather close to fulfilling Voldemort's end: retrieving the Philosopher's Stone and using it to return the Dark Lord fully to life. If only it wasn't for those meddling kids. And for all his trouble and discomfort, Quirrell was burned to dust by a rather clueless 11-year-old Harry Potter. Crime doesn't pay and neither does acting as the host for the spirit of a vengeful dark wizard.

13. Credence Barebone

Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is the most unfortunate person on this list. No, not because of his terrible haircut. A product of abuse and neglect, Credence ends up with a dark, parasitic force inside of him called an Obscurus, which manifests as a malevolent black cloud with a particular hatred for roofs and windows. All of which is to say, Credence has reasons for eventually breaking bad, and they have nothing to do with a desire for personal power or wealth.

In a move from Emperor Palpatine's playbook, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp-Mads Mikkelsen) grooms Credence from the shadows as a weapon he can wield against Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). Believing Grindelwald is his only friend, Credence goes along with it. When Credence learns he's a Dumbledore, he has a change of heart. The drama is all very Shakespearean. Credence is never truly out-and-out villainous, but few on this list can match his sheer power.

12. Draco Malfoy

There is a fine line between villain and hero. For most of the "Harry Potter" films, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is an antagonist with sadistic tendencies. He's Harry Potter's dark reflection, and he takes a singular joy in making Potter's life as difficult as possible. Their rivalry mostly consists of insults and threats. It's adolescent — like Draco aggressively emphasizing the "P" in Potter or promising that his "father will hear of this." It's only really toward the end that things escalate. Once Draco swears allegiance to Lord Voldemort and joins the Death Eaters, he takes his first steps toward true villainy.

Even that path is taken to follow in the footsteps of his beloved parents. When he agrees to kill Albus Dumbledore, it is to redeem the Malfoy name after Lucius let Voldemort down. Draco never actually goes through with it, but he does enable the events that lead to Dumbledore's death. Draco idolizes his father and wants nothing more than to be like him. That is his motivation. It doesn't excuse his actions, but it does make them understandable.

11. Vinda Rosier

Every Dark Lord needs three things: breathtaking arrogance, a unique look, and a completely loyal henchman who's comfortable doing the dirty work. Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) are one such pairing from the Wizarding World, but "Star Wars" also provides a notable example. And though she isn't as well-known as Lestrange or Darth Vader, Linda Rosier (Poppy Corby-Tuech) is every bit as dependably vicious.

Rosier is all in on Gridelwald's anti-muggle crusade. If it were up to her, they would kill every last muggle. It's not clear where such hatred comes from, but it's not just an act. When Grindelwald sets up shop in a house in Paris, Rosier helps kill the muggles who live there, including a baby. (What is it with "Harry Potter" and violence against helpless babies?) She is also instrumental in recruiting other wizards and witches to the cause, including Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol). It's a lot easier to get other people to drink the Kool-Aid when you are gulping it down yourself.

10. Fenrir Greyback

Appearing briefly in only three of the later films, Fenrir Greyback (Dave Legeno) has the least amount of screen time of anyone on this list. Nonetheless, he draws the eye in every scene. It's not a performative, look-at-me sort of noticing like Michael J. Fox car surfing in "Teen Wolf." It's a horrified wariness that's more akin to the grotesque brutality of "An American Werewolf in London." You watch Fenrir to make sure he can't creep up on you for a bite.

Once he's back in the flesh, Lord Voldemort gathers an army of thugs and creatures that are more monster than man. Fenrir belongs to the latter category. He hunts "mudbloods" and their allies as one of the Snatchers. He also has a personal connection with several of the ancillary heroes in the films, having infected Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) with lycanthropy, scarred Bill Weasley's (Domhnall Gleeson) face, and killed Ron's ex-girlfriend, Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave).

9. Aragog

There's not much about your garden variety spider that isn't gross, what with all the legs and eyes and creepy-crawly. At least those can be dispatched with the bottom of a shoe. Aragog is another breed entirely, a hairy monster the size of an elephant that can talk and has a taste for human flesh. And apparently, he breeds like a rabbit, because he's got thousands of children, most of them likewise grotesquely oversized and all of them starving for a bite.

All of which is to say, Ron's reaction when he and Harry encounter Aragog in his den is entirely reasonable. What sane person willingly walks into that? The only thing more alarming about the whole ordeal is how calm Harry is — at least until the hordes of hungry spiders start chasing them.

Aragog isn't as maliciously villainous as most of the characters on this list, but he makes the cut simply based on his nightmare quotient and the indifference with which he condemns Ron and Harry to a gruesome fate. "My sons and daughters do not harm Hagrid on my command, but I cannot deny them fresh meat when it wanders so willingly into our midst." Shudder.

8. Peter Pettigrew

Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall) is an animagus who can turn into a rat. While Pettigrew may bear a striking resemblance to a rodent, and he certainly has the fearful aggression of one, he's really more of a cockroach: repulsive and impossibly resilient. He even survives Lord Voldemort's displeasure. Pettigrew is a sniffling sycophant who practically trips over himself to grovel — but he is useful. It is Pettigrew who aids in Voldemort's rebirth and even provides a significant piece of himself toward the ritual. And he kills poor Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson).

His villainous bona fides are legit, but what really turns the screws is the fact that Peter was once a good guy. He was friends with Harry's parents and initially fought with them against Voldemort, but in the end, he betrayed their trust by revealing their location to Voldemort. And while it's nowhere near that level of duplicity, after hiding for years as the Weasley's pet rat, Scabbers, Pettigrew betrayed Ron to rejoin Voldemort.

7. Nagini

This fearsome man-eater was once a beautiful, good-hearted woman, but a blood curse eventually left her permanently transformed into an enormous snake. That was enough to put her on Lord Voldemort's radar. He adopted Nagini, and she became his most trusted ally. Then, he decides to take things to the next level by bonding one-seventh of his soul to her (I guess so they would never be apart again). It'd almost be romantic if not for all the killing and maiming the pair are responsible for.

Nagini is far more than Voldemort's pet and the official Death Eater mascot. She's an infiltration specialist and has acted as Voldemort's eyes and ears (but not his nose!) on numerous occasions. Almost ridiculously, Nagini passes for Bathilda Bagshot, nesting inside the old woman's corpse and operating it like a meat suit, which is all very funny until you remember that Nagini bursts forth and tries to eat Harry Potter's face.

6. Barty Crouch Jr.

Most of the Death Eaters actually do very little to help Lord Voldemort's scheme. Sure, they look menacing in their masks, and they are intimidating when they apparate in a whoosh of black magic. But time and again, they are out-witted by teenagers who are still learning how to be wizards or witches while also being distracted by things like schoolwork and the allure of romance. It's little wonder Voldemort considers his followers dispensable. Most of them are largely useless. Good help is so hard to find.

Barty Crouch Jr. (David Tennant) is one of the most productive villains. He accomplishes what he sets out to do — a true rarity. He's barking mad, but somehow in that madness, Barty discovered a genius for villainy. Posing as Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Barty infiltrated Hogwarts and manipulated the Triwizard Tournament to ensure Harry Potter both entered the contest and won. And Potter's prize? A first-row seat for Voldemort's return. Without Barty's efforts, Voldemort may have been forever cursed to a half-life as a wayward spirit.

5. Dementors

The most unbelievable thing about "Harry Potter" is the Wizarding World's initial disbelief that the Dementors decided to join up with Lord Voldemort. What about these soul-sucking ghouls suggests they can be trusted? Their horrific, eyeless faces? Their specter-like appearance? How they leech warmth from the very air? Their hunger, which they can only sate by consuming souls? Any one of these is a cause for skepticism, but taken as a whole, the only surprise is that the Dementors stayed "loyal" as long as they did.

Of course, since their loyalty can be bought by whoever provides the best buffet — literal soul food — there is little wonder they rush to Voldemort's side, as wanton killing is sort of his brand. At Azkaban, the Dementors were limited to snacking on prisoners — snacking, but never outright gorging themselves. Once they fled the Ministry's employ, it was open season. Dementors don't speak, but if they could, they probably would've said something like, "Meat's back on the menu, boys!"

4. Dolores Umbridge

Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) is a cross between a stereotypical grandmother and Annie Wilkes from "Misery." Outwardly, she seems like a gentle old woman, adorned in pink pastel, her voice impossibly saccharine. However, beneath the quiet polish is an unflinching determination to impose order and a cold willingness to crush any that oppose her. 

All great villains have a lair, and Umbridge is no exception. Aggressively pink and outfitted by an evil Bed, Bath, and Beyond, her office is a bona fide torture chamber. We know about her blood quill and those hideous cat plates, and we can only assume she has scented candles like "tears of a hungry baby" and "heartbreak of a spurned lover."

In some ways, Umbridge is the most terrifying "Harry Potter" villain because she's the most real. She's a woman for whom passive aggression is a full-contact sport, a sociopath that only sees others as things to organize and order.

3. Gellert Grindelwald

Gellert Grindelwald is sort of a "Mad Men" corporate executive sort of Dark Lord. He's polished and sophisticated, well-dressed and well-mannered. Grindelwald is the type of man who might sit in a cafe reading the newspaper, idly kill someone for blocking the light or laughing too loud, and then go on drinking his coffee as though nothing has happened. While Lord Voldemort's evil is more obviously in-your-face (looking like a snake will do that), Grindelwald affects an air of culture and contemplation uncommon in villains. 

Since comparing the two Dark Lords is inescapable, and we're here already, Voldemort might simply execute a follower who failed him, while Grindelwald would monologue about how disappointed he is, offer a glimmer of hope, and then execute the follower without a hint of emotion. Voldemort burns hot, and Grindelwald is ice cold. Both envision a world with themselves at its head. Megalomania is sort of an occupational hazard when it comes to Dark Lords. There's never enough.

2. Bellatrix Lestrange

In terms of body count and general destruction, few villains can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). And it's not just nameless faces or defenseless muggles she kills. Lestrange doesn't hesitate to kill Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) or Tonks (Natalie Tena), both of whom she is related to, and of course, she kills Dobby. Lestrange is the source of a lot of heartache.

Nutty, dangerous, and utterly devoted to the Dark Lord, Lestrange is the ideal Death Eater. Lucius Malfoy may look the part, but he is too soft, too afraid. Nothing short of death will stop Lestrange from pursuing Voldemort's ends. 

Peter Pettigrew serves Voldemort out of fear, Lucius because he wants power. Barty Crouch Jr. has daddy issues. Lestrange is in it for love — love for Voldemort, love of chaos, and love of killing. In some ways, she's more dangerous than Voldemort because she's so wildly unpredictable.

1. Lord Voldemort

Obi-Wan Kenobi once said Darth Vader was "more machine than man, twisted and evil." Substitute "snake" for "machine" and the same could be said of Lord Voldemort. Like Vader, Voldemort willingly sacrificed his own identity in pursuit of absolute power. The comparisons mostly end there. Vader smothered Anakin Skywalker but never actually killed him. By splitting his soul seven times to ensure his immortality, Voldemort completely obliterated Tom Riddle. Ego death has never been more brutally complete.

There is little wonder why Voldemort is so wildly inhuman. Without the ego, the only thing left is his base, animalistic nature. This manifests outwardly in his appearance but is just as recognizable in his behavior. Voldemort is violent and impatient. He's casually cruel and places no value on life. His closest companions are little more than tools who are one misstep away from being destroyed and discarded. The only time he demonstrates anything close to affection is toward Nagini, which may be nothing more than an expression of their kinship as cold-blooded killers. Game recognizes game. While he is clever, he has the low cunning of the predator. All of his efforts are bent toward two ends: taking his rightful place atop the Wizarding World and killing Harry Potter. Nothing else matters.