Modern-Day Horror Villains, Ranked

The genre of horror has a plethora of villains. Of course, legends like Chucky (Child’s Play), Michael Myers (Halloween), Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Ghostface (Scream) rule the horror genre. We don’t have to go back to see how their influence impacts pop culture today.

However, no one can deny the equally strong impact of new villains. They hack, slash, and scare their way into the hearts of horror enthusiasts who can’t help but want more. So, check out our ranking of the best modern-day horror villains in movies:

Lipstick Demon

Insidious
Image Credit: FilmDistrict.

It doesn’t beat a red-faced demon who creeps into corners and scares the daylights out of children. The Lipstick Demon (Joseph Bishara) earns a place on the list for its terrifying work in James Wan’s 2010 movie Insidious. This demon has left even the most die-hard horror fans quaking in their boots by standing in a corner and pointing.

The Lipstick Demon’s inhuman strength and cunning always leave it a step ahead of the Lambert family. Kidnapping their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) into its lair in the spiritual realm of The Further, for example. No wonder it’s one of the best modern-day villains.

M3GAN

Jenna Davis, Allison Williams, and Amie Donald in M3gan (2022)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

What happens when a virtual assistant turns into a living nightmare? We get M3GAN (portrayed by Amie Donald, voiced by Jenna Davis) and her thirst for chaos. In 2022, Gerard Johnstone set out to make a horror movie about a sweet-faced doll that wakes up with a passion for murder.

Fans knew from the trailer alone that M3GAN would join the pantheon of great modern-day horror movies. After all, only the best of the best can dance in a hallway before reigning down terror at a tech startup. This life-sized American doll looks like a total sweetheart, making her the villain no one expects.

Art The Clown

Art the Clown waiting for his next victim.
Image Credit: Epic Pictures Group.

Critics often classify a lot of modern-day horror movies as ‘elevated.’ The Terrifier series reminds fans there’s still room for lowbrow villains like Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton). He looks like a creepy mime and moves like one, too.

Art doesn’t say much. He’s more of the silent but deadly type. He shows up and smiles like he’s got a secret, then proceeds to violently murder anyone in his path with the type of glee most people reserve for opening birthday presents. Fans also voted him the villain most likely to make a balloon animal from someone’s organs. Yikes!

Bughuul

Ethan Hawke and Nicholas King in Sinister (2012)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

An audience can sometimes spot the villain of a horror movie from miles away. Meanwhile, Scott Derrickson’s Sinister doesn’t show the audience who’s behind all the spine-chilling bumps in the night until much later in the 2012 movie. The first introduction to Bughuul aka Mr. Boogie (Nick King) still raises the hairs on the arms.

Even worse, Bughuul lurks in the shadows and preys on children. By the time he turns true-crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) into a paranoid mess, he already has his eyes on the next kid. This makes Bughuul a modern-day Pied Piper, just with less flute and way more jump scares.

The Horde

Split Movie
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Ignoring for a moment that the Horde (James McAvoy) plays on tired stereotypes of dissociative identity disorder, M. Night Shyamalan’s Split presents a character worthy of night terrors. Kevin Wendell Crumb may be the face of the Horde, but The Beast represents the horrid underbelly.

The Horde consists of 24 personalities. At any moment, other characters can get the more docile personas or find their heads bashed in by The Beast. The scariest part of all? His ability to climb up walls and break out of locked cells.

Pearl

Pearl (2022) Mia Goth
Image Credit: A24.

Pearl (Mia Goth) antagonizes innocent bystanders in not one but two movies from Ti West in 2022. She’s the weird old lady in X and she’s the sweet-faced girl in Pearl. Don't let looks be deceiving, though, because she also stands out as one of the best modern-day horror villains for a reason.

Pearl murders helpless animals and friends alike. There’s a scene with a scarecrow that doesn’t need to be discussed. Then there’s what she did to her side piece (David Corenswet) when he realized how unhinged she could truly be.

Annabelle

Annabelle (2014)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Not a lot needs to be said about Annabelle. Scary dolls have ruled horror movies since that one Good Guy doll gone terribly wrong. The Conjuring movies first introduced her in her natural habitat of playing heinous tricks. John R. Leonetti later brought her into her own series with the Annabelle movies.

Annabelle found a strong footing in 2014 and continues to amaze audiences who love feeling scared out of their wits. Annabelle matches the size of a toddler. Still, she gets around when it comes to causing mayhem and has caught enough bodies to secure her place as one of the best modern-day horror villains.

Red

Lupita Nyong'o in Us (2019)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Jordan Peele’s commercial success as a horror director came out of nowhere. By the time he released Us in 2019, though, he had the world's full attention. Adelaide “Addy” Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), like any other protagonist in a horror film, saw herself getting away for a good time. Then, her life took a turn for the unsettling.

Turns out, her evil doppelgänger (also known as the tethered) had plotted on her for years before finally making a move. Addy’s tether, Red (Nyong’o), suffered for so long unseen. They take revenge against their topside doppelgänger by conducting gruesome murders as a treat along the way.

The Old Woman

Philip Friedman in Insidious (2010)
Image Credit: FilmDistrict.

While horror fans remember the Lipstick Demon of Insidious, the Old Woman (Philip Friedman) still has them in awe. Audiences didn’t understand her dark capabilities until her possession of Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) led to her using him to kill the psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).

Something about creepy older women manages to frighten just as much as dolls. Still, the Old Woman continuously leaves the audience to guess her next unpredictable move. Will she kill? Will she threaten? No one knows until she emerges from the shadows.

Valak

Bonnie Aarons and Taissa Farmiga in The Nun 2 (2023)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Valak the Demon Nun (Bonnie Aarons) isn’t just terrifying to look at with her deathly pale face and wicked sharp teeth. Any demon bold enough to possess a woman of the cloth and hang around churches demands attention. Valak easily earns a spot among the best modern-day horror villains for that alone.

By the time Valak starred in The Nun, horror fans could see her dark potential as a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. James Wan continued to pull no punches by having her fly around the room, lurk in shadows, and pop up behind unsuspecting victims in The Nun 2.

Esther

Orphan (2009) Isabelle Fuhrman
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Regarding modern-day horror villains, no conversation can exclude Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She looks like a child and dresses like she belongs to a school for gifted protégés. According to The Orphan and Orphan: First Kill, however, she’s a little less “special child” and a lot more “evil adult.”

Knowing that Jaume Collet-Sara found real-life inspiration for The Orphan gets the heart pumping in fear. This child-sized woman knows what she wants, and what she wants to maim her way into seduction. Too bad an innocent family gets in the way of her having a good time.

The Babadook

The Babadook
Image Credit: Umbrella Entertainment.

When grief gets involved in horror movies, something special happens. The Babadook does more than provide an example of this in modern-day horror movies; it set the rule itself. The movie follows Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) as she navigates parenthood after her husband dies.

The Babadook (Tim Purcell) harasses his victim as a dark void shaped into a vicious spirit. He appears as a simple children’s book, then comes to live to wreak havoc on Amelia and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The Babadook preys on Samuel’s anger issues while haunting him and his mom from the shadows.