The 1980s was by far the single greatest decade for kids television. You may call us biased, as this was the formative era for many of us here at Two Beard, but there simply is no comparison between the kind of stuff we used to watch with our breakfast cereals on a Saturday morning and everything that came after.
For many of us, the villains of these shows were the real highlight. These were proper bad guys with nothing but evil on their minds, and they didn’t worry a bit about who they upset in the process. But which of these dastardly devils was the greatest? That’s a good question.
In fact, it’s such a good question that we’ve racked our brains for an eternity to come up with what we believe to be the definitive ranking of our favourite animated 80’s villains. So what are you waiting for? You don’t need a formal invitation. Skip the intro and get to scrolling!
Honourable Mentions: Zeus (Ulysses 31), Duke Sigmund Igthorn (Gummy Bears), Mother Brain (Captain N), Samhain (The Real Ghostbusters). and Zarkon (Voltron).
18. GARGAMEL – THE SMURFS
Despite appearing in one of the most kiddy-centric cartoons ever made, Gargamel was one nasty son of a bitch. Clad in his dark, Satanic robes, he would devote 100% of his day to capturing the titular blue creatures so that he can throw them into a boiling pot and turn them into gold. That’s pretty dark for a kids show, you’ll agree?
Gargamel ranks as number 18 on our list because he was such a bumbling idiot, despite his nasty side. He was constantly bested by diminutive little men and was never truly scary enough to give kids nightmares whenever he came on screen.
17. CYRIL SNEER – THE RACCOONS
We’re not even sure what Cyril Sneer is, but we do know he’s one miserable, angry, vindictive son of a bitch. He’s also a nudist, although we figure he’s meant to be some kind of animal so I guess clothes weren’t essential – although come to think of it the Raccoons all wore jumpers and stuff, so maybe he was an angry nudist?
(A quick look on Wikipedia revealed that Cyril is actually an Aardvark. We guess that explains the nose?)
16. TEX HEX – BRAVESTARR
If you remember Tex Hex and didn’t skip past this one thinking “Who?”, then you were obviously one of the cool kids that enjoyed an episode of BraveStarr with your Corn Flakes.
BraveStarr seldom gets the love it deserves, but it was one of Filmation’s most interesting properties. Set on the Wild West planet of New Texas, it’s a show about a white-meat lawman, his ass-kicking deputy (a horse named Thirty/Thirty) and their adventures bringing law and morality to a barren wasteland of a world. But just as He-Man has Skeletor, Marshall BraveStarr had the despicable Tex Hex, a purple-faced villain who might be the only name on this list to have ever killed someone in their original 1980s run. This would usually qualify someone to be higher in the rankings, but sadly ol’ Tex is just too forgettable for many to place higher.
15. DR. CLAW – INSPECTOR GADGET
Growing up as kids it was easy to assume that Dr. Claw was nothing more than a disembodied arm that liked cats. For the entire run of the Inspector Gadget TV show we never once got to see any more of the villain than that. The only other things we knew about him was that he was a devilish mad man, and he really hated Inspector Gadget, even though Gadget was useless and it was actually his niece Penny and her pet dog Brain who solved every mystery.
An absolute abomination of an action figure would eventually be released showing Dr. Claw in all his underwhelming, embarrassingly bad glory – but as far as we’re concerned it isn’t canon and can f*** right off.
14. BARON SILAS GREENBACK – DANGER MOUSE
Baron Silas Greenback is one nasty little toad, bent on world domination. With his wheezy voice, and pet … er … caterpillar (?), Greenback spends his time trying to blow shit up, take shit over or kill the shit out of his arch nemesis Danger Mouse. Greenback is an iconic 1980s villain, but like so many of the names in this list, he is about as deadly as a hiccup.
13. ROWDY RODDY PIPER – HULK HOGAN’S ROCK ‘N’ WRESTLING
Rowdy Roddy Piper was one of wrestling’s greatest villains back in the 1980s, so it only made sense that when his rival Hulk Hogan got his own animated TV show, that the Hot Rod would join him as the chief villain. Flanked by the likes of the Iron Shiek and Mr. Fuji, this was the greatest stable of villains ever assembled in the world of professional wrestling, and perhaps in the history of television.
We don’t remember Roddy ever smashing a coconut over anyone’s head in the TV show though.
12. MILES MAYHEM – M.A.S.K.
Miles ‘Mayhem’ Manheim was a hero once, but he cashed in his medals for mirth to become the leader of V.E.N.O.M., a terrorist organisation bent on world domination and the destruction of M.A.S.K.
This dude can spit acid. He also murdered a dude once. That’s a pretty nasty dude right there.
11. VENGER – DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Venger might be remembered best as the black-winged, horned, horse-riding villain from the classic Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, but his most evil trait has to be preventing the children who find themselves trapped inside the terrifying world of the beloved RPG from ever finding a way home. Ever. They’re still inside the game now. That’s if they’re not dead. That’s dark, bro.
10. HORDAK – SHE-RA: PRINCESS OF POWER
There’s no way around it, She-Ra Princess of Power was inferior to He-Man in almost every way. But even as second best even the most hardcore fan can’t knock how cool some of the villains in the sister show were – especially Hordak, ruler of the planet Etheria and all-around nasty git.
In many ways, Hordak was nastier and more evil than Skeletor but the former Keldor pips him in our list on name recognition and his fan-favourite status. Hats off to the Evil Horde leader for not selling out and appearing in insurance adverts in the UK though.
9. SHREDDER – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
The placing of Oroku Saki in this list is as disappointing to us as it may be surprising to you. Let’s be honest, Shredder is one of the all-time great villains in the history of everything, but we’re only looking at the 1980’s animated series here – and quite frankly, Shredder was a bumbling idiot who failed at every step. If it hadn’t been for Bebop and Rocksteady, Shredder may simply have been the comic relief in such a kid-friendly show. He had some truly villainous ideas though, so he at least earns his spot in the middle of the pack.
8. MUMM-RA – THUNDERCATS
There was a time in the 1980s when you would be asked in the playground which TV show you preferred – He-Man or ThunderCats. For the most part, people answered with the former, but occasionally a few of us actually spoke our truth and opted for ThunderCats. Now, looking back we were obviously wrong because let’s face it Masters of the Universe was superior in every way, except maybe for one – its villain.
Before you start to throw things at your laptop, hear us out. We’re not suggesting that Mumm-Ra, the undead evil sorcerer, was in any way more iconic than Skeletor, but whereas the sworn enemy of He-Man was a bit of a clown, Mumm-Ra was a walking, talking nightmare that scared the bejesus out of us. He was also way smarter than Skeletor, even going so far as to convince the ThunderCats team that it would be a good idea to throw him into a lake of resurrection when they try to end him for good. That’s a pretty dumb move by the heroes, but a damn clever one by the villain.
7. ZELDA – TERRAHAWKS
So not technically an animated villain, but certainly not a live-action portrayal, Zelda was the terrifying would-be conqueror of Earth in Gerry Anderson’s often overlooked – and damn right terrifying – classic series Terrahawks.
She was scary enough to give Freddy Krueger nightmares!
6. COBRA COMMANDER – G.I. JOE
Ask anybody who grew up watching Saturday morning TV in the 80s which villains were their all-time favourites and we’d bet the house that most of them would include Cobra Commander on their list.
The leader of the malevolent group known only as Cobra, Cobra Commander was a fanatical leader who ruled his forces with an iron fist. An unrelenting villain with a murderous streak a mile long, he is responsible for the troubles in the Middle East, as well as other acts of terror, and also hides a snake-like facade beneath his mask and clothes, really living the whole Cobra gimmick.
5. SAW BOSS – JAYCE AND THE WHEELED WARRIORS
As far as 80s animated villains go, Saw Boss is by far one of the most successful. A genetically engineered root monster, Saw Boss not only manages to hatch schemes to take over the universe, but he also has a ton of success at it, capturing and enslaving scientist from across the universe, and creating his own hive mind of evil henchmen known as the Monster Minds. In fact, Saw Boss would probably have spread his demonic roots to every corner of the universe if it wasn’t for Jayce and his band of meddling Wheeled Warriors.
4. PICCOLO DAIMO – DRAGON BALL
The Great Demon King Piccolo who murders pretty much anyone and everyone that stands in his way in the classic Dragon Ball anime. He would eventually be defeated by Goku, and spawn a much more chilled successor in Piccolo Jr., but for much of this iconic series early years he was the big bad and one of the nastiest creations committed to celluloid. Not to be confused with The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones
3. KRANG/KRAANG – TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Krang has gone through a few changes throughout the years, but his original appearance in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series is by far the best. Originally a decorated war criminal from Dimension X, Krang (or Kraang) finds himself banished to Earth, where he quickly falls foul of the sewer-dwelling heroes.
Krang always felt like a much nastier villain than Shredder, and no one ever questioned who was working for who on the side of the villains. Although Shredder could be a nasty prick at times, he was still human and made mistakes. Krang, on the other hand, was a warmongering cretin with no regard for human (or amphibian) life, and a blood lust he seemingly could not quench. Unfortunately for Krang though, hanging around with Shredder and Bebop and Rocksteady would often rub off on him and he’d find himself on the losing side.
2. SKELETOR – HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
When you think of 1980s villains one name almost always springs to mind – Skeletor. With his blue skin and glowing yellow ‘face’, Skeletor was the main antagonist on the planet Eternia, constantly trying to find ways to kill his mortal enemy He-Man, and seize the throne he feels is rightfully his.
But Skeletor is a terrible judge of character, and largely associates himself with bumbling idiots and buffoons that fail at every hurdle when it comes to delivering his dastardly machinations. This is a common trait in a lot of characters on our list, but unlike so many of the kids in the 80s genuinely believed that one day the man formerly known as Keldor would succeed and bring the mighty He-Man to his knees.
1. MEGATRON – TRANSFORMERS
The one and only leader of the Decepticons is our number one 1980s villain for a number of reasons. However, there is no need to list any of them because the only crime we’ll ever need to talk about is the one he committed back in 1986, when, without warning, he ripped the heart and souls out of a generation of innocent children by defeating and murdering the one and only Optimus Prime in cold blood.
There has never been an act so treacherous, so memorable or so impactful in any kids TV show since Megatron committed murder, and the only thing that has maybe even come close is Game of Thrones – that’s just how barbaric this moment was for so many of us.
Megatron scarred an entire generation to the point that 33 years later we’re still not over it, and for this reason, we must swallow our pride, bite our lip and admit that despite being an evil son of a bitch he’s the greatest 1980s animated villain ever committed to screen.
Who was your favourite 1980s animated villain? Did they make the list? Who did we miss that you think should have made an appearance? Sound off in the comments section below, or over at our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.