Pop-Culture’s Most Charismatically Evil Leaders

Alenna, the main character in The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse, is just your average sixteen-year-old girl. Except, you know, for the fact that she lives in the UNA, a military state that used to be Canada, the US, and Mexico. Oh, and her parents were kidnapped and killed for opposing the government. And we can’t forget to mention that she’s being sent to a prison island called The Wheel because a personality test shows she’s a potential criminal. You know, totally average.

Once on The Wheel, Alenna meets a mysterious, charismatic leader called The Monk. He has a huge following of people called Drones and he controls most of the island. But there’s definitely something strange about him. Is he just a particularly good leader? Or does he have a sinister side?

Inspired by The Forsaken, here are our picks for pop culture’s most charismatically evil leaders. Which one do you think has the most sinister charm?

The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia
There’s no doubt the White Witch is evil—she extends winter forever and outlaws Christmas. But she has candy! And through a deadly combination of charisma and Turkish Delight, she almost gets Edmund to betray his whole family. Edmund doesn’t even realize she’s evil until she tries to kill him (which tends to be sort of a dead giveaway, no matter how charming you are).

Palpatine from Star Wars
On the outside, Palpatine seems to be a modest, loyal ruler who claims to love democracy. But on the inside, he’s actually a super evil Sith lord. With his manipulative ways, he tries to convince everyone that he’s just a harmless old man. And it works! He gains political power, influences Anakin, and destroys the Republic. What a jerk.

Lex Luthor from Superman
Even though Lex Luthor has been trying to kill America’s favorite superhero since 1940, he’s so charming that he’s elected President of the United States. Now, you’d think that going on killing sprees and building an army of supervillains would disqualify someone from being the leader of the free world, but it doesn’t stop Lex. If you could charm someone to death, Lex probably would’ve defeated Superman half a century ago.

Tom Riddle from Harry Potter
Before Voldemort gets all creepy and nose-less, he is the astonishingly charismatic and handsome Tom Riddle. Riddle can charm anything out of anyone, and he doesn’t always need to use magic. From important information to priceless possessions, nothing is safe from Riddle’s powers of persuasion. It’s no wonder he gained so many followers (although the Imperius Curse tends to help, too).

Alma Coin from The Hunger Games
At first glance, Alma Coin seems pretty perfect, from her flawless appearance to her support of the rebellion. Even though the charismatic president is technically on Katniss’s side, she’s not the nicest person. But hey, she’s got to be better than the current regime, right? Well, not exactly. Underneath it all, she’s just as power-hungry and murderous as President Snow.

So which evil leader do you think has the most sinister brand of charisma? And which rulers did we miss? Vote below!

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77 thoughts on “Pop-Culture’s Most Charismatically Evil Leaders

    • I agree! And if he’s too blatantly evil, at least they should have put Saruman or Gollum. I am happy they included the White Whitch, because most people forget about Narnia, but Sauron is sooooo evil!

      • Agree completely! Saruman is the one with the wizard powers of words/charm anyway! Wormtongue might have even fit here XD

    • Sauron is a great bad guy, but he’s not exactly charismatic…he never appears in the books at all, so he doesn’t exactly have the oppurtunity. 🙂

      • True, he doesn’t exactly appear in the books as anything but the all seeing eye. Though in the Silmarillion we learned that he was very charismatic and could even change his appearence so that he was always pleasing to the eyes. And in the movies he did have enough power to whisper to everyone through the ring though he wasn’t very successful; however, he did manage to cloud Boromir’s mind for awhile.

  1. Amazing website, I will be posting soon,finishing some new short stories :). Any fiction lovers? Oxox

  2. I think Figment should make a list of the coolest/ smartest villains! I nominate “The Joker” from The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger is fantastic in that movie.

    • While I agree that Joker is an amazing villain, the actor who portrays him by far the best is Mark Hamil. The Nolan movies are good they just are not good Batman movies. Mark Hamil’s portrayal of the Joker for over a decade is not only true to the comics, but simply amazing when it comes to showing his “mood swings”. So how about the Joker just in general?

      • It’s Hamill! There are two “L”‘s!
        Jesus, get the name right!

        Sorry, I get pissy when people spell the name wrong.

    • I know, huh?! At first she’s just a cute little pixie who makes Foaly foam at the mouth with nerdrage. No one suspects the pixie… That is, until it’s completely obvious that it’s her.

    • YES! Opal definitely beats all those characters when it comes to charisma! She is pretty and if you didn’t know her she’d just look like an innocent pixie. I mean, she had a huge corporation and made half of Haven’s and Atlantis’s weapons and transportation. Plus, Pixies normally can’t really use magic. 🙂 But she can! And Opal is definitely cunning.

  3. Little Alex (Malcolm MacDowell played the character in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation) from “A Clockwork Orange” seems scarier and more familiar to me, but they’re all really just variations on a theme.

  4. The Witch Witch from favorite book ever! That’s the only thing that brought me here! So glad they included her.

  5. So sad that Palpatine didn’t get many votes. I mean, look at how he treated Anakin. (I don’t want to hear it, prequel-haters.)

    • That is so true! I’ve don’t know about you, but I’d always known there was a dark side in Dumbledore. He should have been on here too!

      • Indeed. Dumbledore kind of bugged me. Voldemort I felt sorry for more than anything, but Umbridge…. gah… I wanted to murder her!!

      • Joker all the way, baby! Heath ledger ROCKED, but no matter who plays him, the Joker will always be one of the most epic villains in superhero world.

        Oh, and Alma Coin was pretty cold hearted to. But I voted for VOLDEMORT if only because he’s just so smooth 🙂

  6. I am seriously pissed off that the Master is not here. He has both jelly babies, and enough charm (and satellite networks) to be elected Prime Minister, and in earlier generations, a twiddling moustache of evil!

  7. I think that historically, Professor James Moriarty of the Sherlock Holmes stories deserves a spot here. Not only is he nasty and heartless, but he is considered by many to be the world’s first super-villain.

    • I very much agree. Moriarty is the Napoleon of crime because he’s an incredibly well-respected and well-known professor of mathematics, he is best buds with the Prime Minister and all these other governmental (stress on mental) people who all think he’s perfectly good. But in actuality, he runs the world’s largest, most successful organized crime-ring. How is that not charismatically evil?

      P.S. Loki is my second choice. He’s so smooth with his words and can turn people against their friends. Can we say evil?

  8. Tom is–despite his evilness, hate of muggles, and hunger for power–completely charismatic. When he’s still Tom(actually, even when he’s Voldemort), there is something about him that is attractive, that appeals to our darker sides.

    Though I must argue that the most charismatic evil villain I have ever encountered is Valentine Morgenstern, from The Mortal Instruments. He’s evil and somewhat vile, but he’s charming, handsome, charismatic(as mentioned above. There’s something about him that draws you in, despite the fact that you hate him for everything he’s done.

  9. Palpatine had this one in the bag. Tom Riddle only had the Death Eaters and everyone hated him. Palpatine not only had the Repubilic in his hands, but also the Confederacy. He had both sides of the war in the palm of his hand. If that’s not charisma, then what is???

  10. Hey! What about The Master(Doctor Who)? He managed to go from nothing and influence the whole of Britian to elect him as Prime Minister from where he then made “first contact” with the “toclafame” and then wiped out 1/3 of humanity and enslaved the rest of the world.

    • Maybe it’s because they didn’t count him as a book character because he’s in comics and two movies…..

      But then again, they have Palpatine…

      • Star wars has books…
        Graphic novels though not *technically* comics count as books so I think comics should count and we should have Loki. Yup.

  11. NYRA FROM GUARDIANS OF GA HOOLE!!!!!!! okay – just re-read one of the books where she “shatters” Egglantine. I’m thinking she fits well here XD

  12. definitely valentine morgenstern, he even got Jace evil! (well, almost 😉 and if we are also counting characters from comics and stuff, I add the homunculi from full metal alchemist: they’d kill everyone for their cost, had everything that happened in hand, and could get almost anyone to do what they wanted them to do: that is some charism! or blackmail, differs from the situation 😉

    then, not to forget; Galbatorix, from the inheritance cycle.He could make everything sound logic, as if he was the lands savior, and not there doom, and in the mean time making you forget that he was responsible for killing [to his idea] all the dragons + eggs, and wanting to kill all the urgals. that’s pretty evil and charismatic to me.

  13. Um…no Jareth? When David Bowie tells you to dance while wearing that much eye glitter, you’re going to dance. That’s what I call ‘charming’.

  14. I mean… White Witch. Seriously. She’s so evil. She just kills people for no reason, and Tom Riddle was an abandoned child. At least he had a reason.

  15. I, too, say Moriarty. But I’m particularly thinking of Andrew Scott’s version in the BBC show Sherlock. Talk about a creep…he’s one of the best bad guys I’ve ever seen. He totally OWNS whatever screentime he gets.

  16. i think that cronus from percy jackson should have been put in there. i know that the movies didn’t go very far bu the books keep on going.

  17. Why is Moriarty not on this list!? Specifically–Jim Moriarty from BBC’s Sherlock! He’s like the greatest villain of all time; hands down.

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