Best anime villains of all time — top 20 evil characters

You can’t have a great anime without a great villain, check out our top picks for the best anime villains who pushed the narrative to its limit.

To have a great hero, one must have a great villain, this is why many of the popular shonen anime are centered around the hero vs. villain trope. We cover a wide array of topics here at AnimeTide and if you’re interested in discovering some of the most amazing anime characters or shows check the top list sections of our website.

A true villain has something they strive for, those days have gone when villains were made purely evil. A true anime villains fight for their goal, much like the protagonist of the series, and doesn’t stop no matter how many obstacles are placed in their path. We often sympathize more with villains than heroes because of their tragic backstories and rational motives.

It’s nothing new for an anime villain to have an evil cat, It just adds more to his character, and gives him a little more evil aesthetic; see our top list of best anime cats and see which one you like. And if you’re looking for some old-school evil, see our list of top of some of the best 90s anime and movies and you’re sure to find plenty of villains.

Let’s go over some of the best evil villains of all time.

1. Griffith from Berserk

The prime example of a true anime villain will always be Griffith, the man was willing to give everything up for his dream. Most of the anime community is divided between those who believe that Griffith was evil and deserves to be punished for his actions and those who believe him to be a victim of causality.

Griffith was a beloved leader of the Band of the Hawk who fought countless battles and emerged victorious in all of them, finally landing himself a position in the kingdom of Midland. His determination and ambition toward his dream were almost terrifying to say the least.

Griffith is a man of focus, he is always thinking one step ahead and assuring the safety of his allies, he’s extremely kind toward his followers and considers them a great asset to his rise as a Nobel.

2. Yohan Lierbert from Monster

Many people consider Yohan to be the smartest and most well-written character of all time. Ever since Yohan was a young boy, he questioned the purpose and meaning of his life. He goes through so many chaotic and unstable moments in his life and comes to the conclusion that everyone is equal in death.

Yohan is the definition of evil, he is an extremely nihilistic person who wants nothing but to see the world burn before his eyes. His initial goal in life was to be the only one standing in the end, he didn’t care about race, religion, or color instead as he hated everyone equally.

Someone like Yohan who is able to make people kill themselves just by using his words is far scarier than any shonen antagonist with supernatural abilities. He is a man who will make you question your existence.

3. Askeladd from Vinland Saga

You know the series is going to be a blast when it is from the perspective of a villain instead of a hero. The show follows Askeladd or rather, Lucius Artorius Castus who is the cunning and enigmatic leader of a band of Viking pirates who roam the sea and loot cargo ships. And much like any other villain, Askeladd is focused on getting fame and power.

What makes Askeladd a better anime villain is his rationality, he will willingly slaughter an entire village and take their rations to keep himself and his group alive. He believes that everything he’s doing it for the greater good and someday he will be rewarded for his efforts.

Askeladd is a generally charismatic person, he is an excellent judge of character and a great leader, he’s able to adapt to the worst situations and strategize accordingly.

4. Meruem from Hunter x Hunter

Meruem is among the most well-written character of all time, he is the king of Chimera Ants whose power is unmatched even by the strongest hunter alive. While on the surface Meruem seems more evil than anything, he lacks empathy toward humans and feels as though he needs to reform the world.

Something that separates Meruem from any other anime villain is that he sees the world with fresh eyes, he plans to conquer the world and wipe out humanity because of their flawed system where humans without intelligence or talent are given the position of power solely due to their bloodline.

As someone who’s born significantly strong and more intelligent than most, Meruem wants to use this power to reform the world into a paradise, one that is beneficial to him.

5. Madara Uchiha from Naruto

There is hardly a villain in Naruto who can take on the legendary ghost of the Uchiha, his name alone is enough to shake the five nations to their core. He was the founder of Konohagakure alongside Hashirama Senju, the only one who could equal him in power. Long after he was considered dead, Madara returned to change the fate of the Shinobi world.

Seeing Madara singlehandedly defeating the leaders of the five nations and simultaneously fighting the tailed beasts is a sight to behold, he went above and beyond to see his vision come to life.

Much like any other anime villain, Madara wants to bring peace to this cursed land of Shinobi, he believes that there is no hope for this world and the only way to find true peace is to give up one’s freedom and live an eternal dream inside the Infinite Tsukuyomi.

6. Light Yagami from Death Note

Credit: Madhouse

Death Note is one of the most phenomenal anime to ever exist and what makes this show so amazing is Light Yagami, the protagonist of the series who is also considered one of the most well-written anime villains of all time.

You wouldn’t exactly call a person like Light Yagami to be evil, after all, he is protecting people from dangerous criminals. From the moment he realized the power of the death note, Light made it his goal to free the world from evil and become its god, he didn’t feel any remorse after killing hundreds or even thousands of people.

Light is a sly and manipulative person, his charismatic personality naturally makes others trust him and rely on him. He’s willing to do anything to achieve his goal.

7. Ainz Ooal Gown from Overlord

Ainz Ooal Gown is by far the most fan-favorite anime villain protagonist from this list, his transition from being a loveable skeleton who was sympathetic toward humans to a merciless overlord who will annihilate anything that stands in his way is the most chilling and satisfying thing of all time, especially considering how awful are the humans of this world.

Ainz is considered the strongest among the forty-one Supreme Beings, he is worshipped by all the NPC who live to serve him, and he is also the current overseer of the Great Tomb of Nazarick. Everything he does is for the sake of Nazarick as it is the home of his beloved followers.

Ainz is a cautious person, always planning ahead to avoid any careless actions that may harm Nazarick, he will lie, deceive and even kill for the sake of his kingdom.

8. Danzo Shimura from Naruto

Danzo is another candidate who takes the top spot for being one of the most well-written and evil villains, the man was willing to sacrifice everything and everyone around him to achieve his goals; constantly believing that he is doing this for the betterment of the village while deep down he was only trying to satisfy his thirst for power.

Danzo was the leader of the Anbu, he was also referred to as the Shinobi of Darkness because he personified everything dirty and awful a Shinobi has to do to complete their job, even if it means sacrificing his own people.

Above everything else, Danzo truly believed that he could achieve peace among the five nations if he was appointed Hokage. Thus, he took immortal actions believing that the end will justify the means.

9. Izaya Orihara from Durarara!!

The true essence of an anime villain is that they’re cunning, manipulative, and look out for their own interests, and Izaya is a prime example of that. Izaya is a major antagonist of the series whose somehow connected to whatever goes on in the city. He is an information broker who treats everyone like pieces on a chessboard.

Izaya openly expresses his love for humans as he finds them interesting, he loves to see how people react when put under extreme conditions, especially when their life is on the line. Izaya considers himself to be an excellent judge of character and someone who understands humans better than anyone.

Izaya claims to like all humans except Shizuo Heiwajima as he is someone who doesn’t act on fear; he sees Shizuo as an unpredictable monster.

10. Tsukasa Shishiou from Dr. Stone

Shishiou Tsukasa is the main antagonist of the series Dr. Stone, his only goal is to create a new world, one which will only consist of youth and without modern technology. He believes that the petrification process is nature’s way of taking back what initially belonged to it; while some agree with his sentiment, others want to return the world to the way it was.

Tsukasa’s motives aren’t evil in the slightest, but it is the path he is taking to achieve those goals; Tsukasa kills petrified humans without hesitation, believing that what he’s doing is for the betterment of humanity. Tsukasa soon creates his own kingdom, comprised of strong warriors who will further help him in his cause.

11. Frieza from Dragon Ball Z

Freiza, the main antagonist during the prime of Dragon Ball Z deserves to be on this for the sole reason of being the most iconic anime villain of our childhood. Frieza is well-known and feared throughout the universe as a ruthless overlord who conquers and destroys planets. He is considered the Goku’s arch-nemesis ever since their fight on Namek planet.

Frieza has gotten quite friendlier compared to when he was originally introduced in Dragon Ball Z as a destroyer of planets; however, at his core, Frieza is still a sadistic person who enjoys lording over others, he relishes control, dominance, and destruction. He is one of the most nihilistic people who show no sympathy toward others.

12. Tomura Shigaraki from My Hero Academia

Credit: Bones

Much like the protagonist of the series, Tomura has gone through so much in order to stand where he is now. He is the main antagonist of the series, and also a recurring anime villain who harbors great hatred for the world of heroes, his ultimate goal is to destroy the hero society and reform the world where no person has to suppress their meta abilities.

Tomura was the leader of the notorious League of Villains, although he soon merged with the Meta Liberation Front and became its grand commander. Tomura has faced defeat a number of times which has made him a strong and dangerous adversary.

If circumstances were different, there might’ve been a future where Tomura was a hero rather than a villain. But he was someone who the heroes were unable to protect and let him succumb to the darkness that is All For One.

13. Garou from One Punch Man

Garou is a villain of the series One Punch Man, he’s a martial art prodigy and the self-proclaimed Hero Hunter. Garou is considered a threat to both the Hero Association and Monster Association alike as he isn’t, particularly on either side; his only goal is to defeat the so-called pro heroes. He is considered a grave threat despite being a human.

Garou is considered a villain and deemed evil by most, he has fought against many pro heroes and has managed to defeat most of them unharmed; he did it in a way without killing them since he only wants to make a name for himself as the hero hunter.

Garou is a brooding and confident person who believes himself to be above heroes, he hates being looked down on by anyone, especially by a hero.

14. Shougo Makishima from Psycho-Pass

As an antagonist, Shougo Makishim is the most interesting character in the Psycho-Pass series, he’s among the few criminally asymptomatic people which means that the Sibyl System is unable to judge them which indeed makes them free from the law. He uses his ability to fight against the Sibyl system and hopes to return the civilization back to human thinking instead of being machine-dependent.

Shougo Makishima plays around with the set Sibyl System and commits crimes, he feels no remorse over causing someone harm. He is a charismatic person who is able to manipulate others to do his dirty work.

While his actions are purely evil, his intention is only to make people aware of their surroundings and to make them stop relying on the Sibyl System; he believes that his actions will force people to see the error of relying on a flawed system.

15. Hisoka Morrow from Hunter x Hunter

Only in an anime can there be a creepy clown who gets aroused by the thought of fighting strong opponents be the main antagonist of a show. Hisoka is considered one of the deadliest nen users, he’s a sadist who enjoys seeing others fall to their knees. As a member of the Phantom Troupe, Hisoka goes along with whatever they have planned; however, his only goal is to fight the leader of the Phantom Troupe.

Hisoka is a unique individual, he is always searching for strong opponents to fight, and he goes all out if someone challenges him; Hisoka is a trickster who’s able to outsmart his foes and defeat them quite easily.

If he sees potential in someone, he will spare them so they can get stronger for him to fight again.

16. Orochimaru from Naruto

Orochimaru is one of the Legendary Sannin of Konohagakure. He was treated as the antagonist of the series in the first half, his lifelong goal is to acquire immortality so that he lives long enough to uncover the secrets of the Shinobi world. He is notorious for doing unethical experiments on humans for the sake of his research.

After acquiring the formula for immortality, Orochimaru was fascinated with searching for strong host bodies which led him to join the Akatsuki where he met Itachi Uchiha; he tried to steal his body to gain the powers of the Sharingan but he was easily defeated and forced to escape the Akatsuki.

Orochimaru is greedy as he is selfish which is often the cause of his downfall; he has given up his life as a criminal and now lives as an upstanding scientist for Konohagakure.

17. Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan

Credit: Wit Studio

Eren Yeager has become one of the greatest anime protagonists of all time, his desire to free the people living inside the wall has pushed him to become a villain. His actions can be considered villainous, seeing how he chose to annihilate and eradicate his foes instead of looking for a better solution; however, Eren is only a victim of a plan that was set in motion 2000 years ago.

Ever since he was a kid, Eren questioned their way of living inside these like cattle waiting to die; his hatred grew much deeper after the attack on Shiganshina, he realize that the only way to protect those he cares about is to annihilate and destroy those who oppose their existence.

Much like any other well-written villain, Eren is fighting to protect what is precious to him. He is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and he will not stop until he fulfills his purpose.

18. Ryomen Sakuna from Jujutsu Kaisen

The origins of the King of Curses are well known throughout the world of Jujutsu Kaisen, his name alone is enough to shake many Sorcerers and Curses to their core. He is one of the main antagonists of the series who occasionally makes an appearance whenever he feels like it.

Despite not gaining his full power, Sukuna is shown to be an extremely strong individual, able to take down an S-rated cursed spirit with little to no effort. He often tries to take control of Yuji’s body but he’s unable to because he’s not strong enough; however, he gets stronger each time Yuji consumes one of Sukuna’s fingers.

Sukuna is shown to be a complete sadist, he enjoys seeing others suffers and cares very little about the consequences. And even though he seems to not care about Yuji, he does keep him safe from strong Curses because if Yuji dies, he will also cease to live.

19. Nagato from Naruto

There have been many villains in the Naturo universe but Nagato is hands down the best-written villain among all of them, he is the only person who was able to bring Naruto to his knees with only his words. Nagato harbors hatred toward the hidden leaf Shinobi who used his village as a battleground for war against other nations.

His initial attack on the Hidden Leaf was one of the most chilling scenes ever shown in anime, the entire village flattened within seconds, and people got massacred all around which made sense because Nagato was only returning the pain he suffered.

Nagato wishes to create true peace and bring about justice to the cursed world of Shinobi, and he’s willing to do anything for it

20. Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan

Reiner Braun as an anime villain is so incredibly well-written and no one will argue otherwise, he’s constantly conflicted by his actions that he wants nothing more than to disappear; he desperately wants to believe that everything he has done until now has been for a good cause.

Reiner or more commonly known as the Armored Titan was sent to the Island of Paradise to retrieve the Founding Titan. His initial attack on Wall Maria killed hundreds of innocent people and soldiers alike; one of whom was Eren’s mother.

Earlier in the series, Reiner had developed dual personalities, one where he was a soldier sent by the Marleyan army and the other as the reliable big brother figure toward his friends as a member of the 104th cadet corp.

We hope you are satisfied with our top picks for the best anime villains, each character is equally admired for their brilliance and hated for their actions which is the true essence of a villain. Now you must be in the mood for watching some slice-of-life romantic comedy and even if you aren’t, check out our top list for some of the most adored romance anime that will melt your heart.