The line between good and evil often gets blurred in horror, and we find ourselves inexplicably rooting for the villains — or the antiheroes.
When considering horror films, you may not always think of the final girl first. If you’re anything like me, you likely think first of the villains — the monsters, masked madmen, psychopaths, supernatural spooks, and damaged death dealers. But since these bad boys (and girls) are so loved, perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to them as the “antiheroes” of horror.
In no particular order, let’s look at my personal top 10 favorite antiheroes of horror.
1. Carrie White
Carrie White’s tragic tale of a girl that wanted nothing more than to be accepted is one that I have always found myself connected to. Carrie is seriously such a strong, badass character, which makes her life and tragic end even more heartbreaking. While it is sad that we didn’t get to see more of Carrie on the big screen, her legacy lives on and reminds us all that we should never bully the “weird girl” in school.
2. Freddy Krueger
Freddy Krueger is definitely one of the first wise-cracking horror villains, and I love him for that. He is scary looking and definitely knows how to make an entrance. I even love that in later films, even while still terrifying his victims, he manages to be comedic. Although some may find his ascension to pun-loving psycho to be a bit ridiculous, it’s hard to deny how iconic Krueger is. And his penchant for creative kills makes him as much of a showman as a slasher.
3. John Kramer (Jigsaw)
Growing up, I absolutely loved the Saw movies, and it was largely due to the character John Kramer. I know we probably aren’t supposed to be rooting for him. But despite being a psychopath and terrorizing his victims in horrible traps, there is a strange charm to him I can’t quite articulate. His traps are so well thought out and meticulously created. And even though he’s a madman, there’s a method to his madness. John Kramer is a tortured genius who believes he’s doing important work, sacrificing some for the greater good. I don’t think anyone could ever top Tobin Bell’s portrayal of this character.
4. Michael Myers
Michael Myers is definitely one of the most iconic horror characters of all time, and I would not be doing this article justice if I were to exclude him. As much as I absolutely love Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the Halloween franchise, Michael Myers will always hold a special place in my heart. We have been watching this horrifying character on the screen since 1978, when he helped usher in a new era of horror. And although we may never see him in another film (slight spoiler for Halloween Ends… sorry), his legacy will live on forever. He truly is the “Boogeyman,” and it is hard to think of anyone that can top the enduring fear he elicits while silently stalking and slashing his victims.
5. Eric Northman
True Blood‘s virile vampire, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), is a character that is a complete asshole. And at first, the audience hates him for it. However, after season one, he turns into a lovable asshole. He may not always do the right things throughout the show, but we still love him, even with all of his flaws. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you shipped him with Sookie over Bill (honestly, they should have been endgame in the show).
6. Hannibal Lecter
Ah, Hannibal… what can I say about this guy? If I’m being completely honest, The Silence of the Lambs was what really made me fall in love with horror. And I owe my future obsessions due to the incredible Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). His screen presence is haunting yet charming at the same time. Undoubtedly, the strong and capable Clarice Starling is a force of nature. But Hannibal steals the show. This character never fails to captivate, as proven by the Hannibal TV series, where Mads Mikkelsen brought the devious doctor to life. Hopefully, we’ll get to see this cunning cannibal back on the big screen one day.
7. Nancy Downs
When you think of The Craft, chances are the first character that comes to mind is the one and only Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk). Nancy absolutely takes center stage in this girl-powered film. And although she is pretty scary and unhinged, there is a part of us that thinks she is just so badass. It’s hard not to appreciate a powerful and fearless woman wreaking havoc. I do wish she would have found peace and not been consumed by the quest for power. But this iconic character would not have been as memorable if she had taken a less chaotic path.
8. Jason Voorhees
Michael may be one of the ultimate horror icons, but our next baddie gives him a run for his money. Despite his tragic backstory, Jason doesn’t remain sympathetic for long. He takes his anger out on anyone that gets in his way in intensely brutal ways. He is supernaturally strong and has taken so many different forms over the years, yet he always manages to come back and slay another day. Plus, he delivers some of the coolest kills I’ve ever seen in horror films (say what you will about Jason X, but that dry-ice kill is amazing). I will always love and even empathize with this horrific slasher.
9. Charles Lee Ray (Chucky)
I contemplated whether or not to include Chucky on this list. If I’m being honest, the stupid little doll kind of annoys me. But even though I want to pun the little rat, it’s hard to deny his iconic status. I think that his being so annoying and intolerable is part of the reason so many horror fans love him so much. Like Freddy, he’s got a sick sense of humor, and he also got campier and more outrageous as the Child’s Play series went on. Plus, he does look pretty creepy and awesome with all the bloody scars.
10. Art the Clown
I thought I’d end this list with one of the newest horror icons. Though a relative newcomer, Terrifier‘s Art seems to be loved by a vast majority of the horror community (myself included). Played by the very talented David Howard Thornton, Art really has such a strong screen presence. As funny as he is ferocious, Thornton delivers a performance fitting the film’s title; it truly is terrifying.