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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Horror Movie Villains

Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jack Torrence and your other favorite terrifying movie bad guys

Anthony Hopkins as

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in 'The Silence of the Lambs,'1991.

Orion/Courtesy Everett Collection

Hollywood has been churning out horror movies for nearly 100 years, and all the way back to the silent film era some of the most popular recurring characters have been villains from horror flicks. In the early days it was Dracula and the Wolfman, and by the 1970s more demented creatures like Michael Myers and Leatherface came onto the scene. Today, audiences have to deal with stomach-churning monsters like Jigsaw from the Saw pictures. In honor of Halloween, we asked our readers to select their favorite horror movie villains. Here are the results. 

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10

Candyman

Whatever you do, don't look into a mirror and say "Candyman" five times. That summons an extremely pissed-off 19th century son of a slave with a hook for a hand and a very bad attitude. He first appeared in the 1992 film Candyman, an unusually well-made and extremely freaky film about a graduate student that summons Candyman while doing research about the urban legend. She proved that he exists with pretty horrific results. They burn his body at the end, but every horror fan that does nothing but piss off the bad guy even more. Oddly enough, there hasn't been a new Candyman movie since 1999. Seems like it's time for a reboot…

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9

Norman Bates

Unlike most people on this list, Norman Bates isn't some demon from hell or a demented, uncontrollable killing machine. He's just a deeply disturbed manager of a tiny motel with severe mommy issues. He was introduced in Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho and immortalized onscreen the following year in Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece. Actor Anthony Perkins revived the character in three sequels, and the new TV show Bates Motel is a prequel to the whole sordid affair. 

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8

Pennywise

About 30 years ago, Stephen King was walking over a bridge on his way to a car repair shop when he began thinking about trolls that live under bridges. It sparked an 1,142 page book, It, about a demented clown that lives in the sewers of a small town in Maine and kills little children. One group of kids in the 1950s comes together to battle the creature, and they reunite 30 years later to finish the job. It was turned into a 1990 TV movie starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. It obviously wasn't as great as the book, but it still did more to create a widespread fear of clowns than maybe anything else in history. 

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7

Jack Torrence

Stephen King has hated Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining ever since the first time he saw it back in 1980. The Jack Torrence of King's novel 1977 novel is a recovering alcoholic desperately trying to preserve his family, but is unable to overcome the demons that possess the Overlook hotel. Jack Nicholson, in the eyes of King, played the part like Torrence was insane from the very first frame. There's not a single moment of warmth between him and his wife and son. Also, the ghosts in the book are clearly real, while in the movie Kubrick implies they are fake by having them only appear when Jack is by a mirror. Most people that didn't write the book, however, recognize Kubrick's Shining as a brilliantly tense film. 

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6

Leatherface

You gotta feel just a little bad for Leatherface. He's the product of an extremely messed up family of that eats human flesh and uses their bones to build houses. A former butcher at a meat factory, Leatherface kills extremely unlikely visitors to his Texas house with a chainsaw. If that wasn't freaky enough, he does it while wearing a mask of human skin. In the 1974 low-budget The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface is presented as a somewhat frightened man that kills out of fear and devotion to his family. In the many sequels, that became increasingly unclear. 

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5

Pinhead

In many ways, aliens are the freakiest villains horror movie villains. Deep down, we all know that creatures like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger could never exist. But there's probably aliens out there, and we have no idea what they look like or what they'll do to us if they ever come to Earth. Pinhead, first introduced in a 1986 Clive Barker novella and brought onto the big screen in eight separate Hellraiser films, is an alien that travels to earth to harvest human souls. The humans fight back, but Pinhead is pretty crafty and he manages to return again and again and again.

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4

Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist that occasionally eats his patients and unlucky census workers, was introduced in Thomas Harris' 1981 book Red Dragon. Brian Cox played the character in the 1986 movie adaptation of the book, but the character didn't become truly iconic until Anthony Hopkins took over the role in 1991's Silence of the Lambs. Despite his limited screen time, Hopkins won an Oscar for the role and has people making jokes about fava beans all these years later.  He returned in 2001's disappointing Hannibal and the following year in Red Dragon. NBC gave Dr. Lecter another shot in 2012 with the TV show Hannibal. 

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3

Jason Voorhees

Quick, who is the bad guy in the original Friday the 13th movie? If you said Jason Voorhees, you are incorrect. It’s actually Jason’s mother, a cook at Camp Crystal Lake that avenges her son Jason’s death by killing random teenagers at the camp. It’s not until the sequel that Jason himsel takes over his mother’s work. He came back again and again in increasingly crappy sequels, eventually going to space 445 years into the future and then battling Freddy Krueger in 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason. The whole series was rebooted in 2009. 

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2

Freddy Krueger

The sequels have long since turned Freddy Krueger into a cartoon character, but if you go back and watch the original Nightmare on Elm Street it's very easy to understand what made the character so terrifying when he first appeared. We're at our most vulnerable when we sleep, and the notion of someone hunting and killing is in our dreams is horrifying on an almost primal level. The franchise was rebooted in 2010, but critics lambasted it and so far there hasn't been a follow-up. It might seem like Freddy is finally dead, but he has a tendency to come back when you least expect it. 

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1

Michael Myers

Before Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, there was Michael Myers. He first appeared in 1978's Halloween, where he stalked his sister in a white William Shatner mask. The original Halloween holds up remarkably well, and it paves the way for every slasher film that followed. He seemingly died for good at the end of Halloween 2 and didn't appear in third flick, but when that one failed at the box office he re-appeared in the fourth movie and has been around ever since. Rob Zombie successfully re-booted the franchise in 2007 and he returned for the inevitable sequel two years later. 

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