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Science Fiction’s Ten Most Truly Evil Villains

by Craig "Wex" Wexler
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Science fiction is arguably the most popular genre for movies, TV, novels, and comic books. Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the early 19th century, readers and viewers have been fascinated with tales of time and space travel, technological wonders—both gruesome and awesome—and beings with superpowers.

Some of the most fearsome villains ever have come from the pages and screens of science fiction. Monstrous aliens and rouge androids have frightened and entertained us for over two centuries. Some of these villains have personified evil. Here, we list science fiction’s ten most truly evil villains.

Related: 10 Major Villains Whose Grand Plans Don’t Make Any Sense

10 Khan Noonien Singh: Star Trek

The Wrath of Khan (1982) “Introducing Khan Noonien Singh”

Khan was initially a Star Trek season one villain, a one-off bad guy no one expected to see again. Nonetheless, he returned in one of the most successful science fiction films ever, The Wrath of Khan. He and his genetically altered kin led Earth into the “Eugenics Wars” of the 1990s. In the aftermath, he and a dozen others were put into suspended animation, put on a shuttle, and shot into space.

In 2267, the crew of the Enterprise found the pods and revived them. Of course, Khan and his companions try to take over the ship but are thwarted by Captain Kirk and company. Kirk leaves them on a planet called Ceti Alpha V. That is where he is found roughly twenty years later. There is no act too violent for Khan. He tortures and kills and calls it mercy and all for vengeance. With Khan’s last breath, he quotes Moby Dick, as Kirk is his White Whale. Khan’s desperate need to beat Kirk is inevitably his undoing.[1]

9 Megatron: Transformers

Transformers (4K) Megatron Prison Release

The Transformers plot is simple: Two warring factions of giant alien robots from the planet Cybertron crash land on Earth. The benevolent Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, then protect the people of Earth from the evil Decepticons led by Megatron. The Decepticons plan to drain Earth’s natural resources to convert into “Energon,” leaving the planet an empty husk. From the original cartoon that premiered in 1984 to the current day, the Transformers have appeared in dozens of TV shows, movies, and comic books. In every incarnation, Megatron seems to get more and more evil.

He is a giant robot that turns into a gun; violence is in his nature. He guns down defenseless civilians, including Orion Pax in “War Dawn,” brainwashes peaceful architects and makes them blow up a nonviolent city, and executes wounded Autobots in Transformers: The Movie. Megatron is ruthless, uncompromising, and willing to murder countless billions to achieve his goals.[2]

8 Darth Vader: Star Wars

Perhaps the most famous villain in sci-fi history, Darth Vader, is renowned for force-choking his men to death whenever he is displeased. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Vader is seen as an ominous, nearly all-powerful bad guy until the end, when he switches sides and saves his son, Luke.

While this may seem like a redemption arc for the character, the prequel series shows viewers one of his first acts as the Sith Lord Vader years earlier. He murders a classroom full of children that he knew personally in cold blood. This act of pure evil nullifies his last-minute change of heart, which only came about because of the threat to his own son and not the entire galaxy.

Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace was a combination of fear and power lust. His fear of losing his loved ones led him toward the dark, and his desire for more power pushed him over the edge and into the form of Darth Vader. Vader has become a household name and is considered one of the greatest movie villains ever.[3]

7 Thanos: Marvel Comics and Films

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Clip – “Thanos vs Everybody” (2018) Marvel

In recent years, the name Thanos has become well-known to anyone who has ever seen an MCU movie or even knows someone who’s seen one. “The Mad Titan” first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1973 in issue #55 of The Invincible Iron Man. His famous “Infinity War” arrived in comic shops in 1992 and theaters in the late 2010s.

While the comic version is a bit more complex, with more characters and plot lines, the MCU version is easy to understand. He is the only survivor of the planet Titan. After his homeworld’s destruction, he plans to balance the universe by killing half of all life. He obtains the infinity stones, and with a snap of a finger, he completes his work dispassionately. Half of life across the universe simply ceases to exist.

However, he becomes angry when the Avengers use time travel to stop him. He summons the largest army in the galaxy to Earth and promises to enjoy shredding the planet down to its last atom. Thanos is responsible for the deaths of countless billions across the galaxy, both directly and indirectly.[4]

6 Agent Smith: The Matrix Series

What Makes Agent Smith One Of The Most Terrifying Villains In Film History

The Matrix is one of the most beloved sci-fi movie series ever. In this series, the human race is conquered by AI technology. While humans are born and bred in stasis pods and used to fuel the machines, they believe they are living normal lives in the 1990s. They are plugged into the matrix. A small group of rebels occasionally disconnect themselves and infiltrate the matrix to free others. Those rebels are hunted down by programs called agents.

Lead Agent Smith is a particularly obsessive program, and he genuinely despises humans. Smith manifests this by inhabiting and overwriting the simulated bodies of humans in the matrix, which seems very painful. Smith is the most dangerous assassin in the world. He can download any skill, but what makes him terrifying is that, in the end, he becomes obsessed with the human emotion of vengeance.

Smith no longer cares about the matrix or order and chaos. His only reason for going on is to kill Neo; he is, in fact, genuinely evil. Although he turns his destructive force toward “the analyst” in the most recent sequel, Smith is Neo’s nemesis and an insidious virus plaguing the matrix.[5]

5 Daleks: Dr. Who

The HISTORY of the Daleks (‘Genesis’ to ‘The Time War’ to ‘Resolution’ – 1963-2020)

Dr. Who is one of the most beloved and longest-running TV shows ever. Since 1963, viewers have tuned in to see the Doctor’s “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” adventures. The Daleks are some of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest foes. Although seemingly robotic, the Daleks are a race of mutants inside a type of armor. All of their emotions, except for hate, were genetically removed.

The Doctor first encountered the Daleks on the radiation-soaked planet of Skaro, waging war with the peaceful Thals. The Daleks were the mangled and mutated remains of the Kaled people, placed in metal war machines by the Kaled’s chief scientist, Davros.

The Daleks continue to pursue the Doctor over space and time, seeking his annihilation. They seek to conquer and destroy. The Daleks use various weapons, but their signature gun-stick, which sprays devastating energy beams that cause a body to flare with an unearthly light, is their favorite. Without any feelings but hate, it’s easy to see how truly evil they are.[6]

4 The Borg: Star Trek

A History of the Borg

Among the myriad of evil beings discovered in the Star Trek universe, none compare to the singleminded and destructive force of the Borg. They are a cybernetically enhanced race. The Borg assimilate everything and anything of value and destroy anything else. Billions of Borg drones operate as a hive mind controlled by a Borg Queen.

Their technology is far more advanced than that of most known species in the galaxy. They are ruthless, without remorse or emotion, and do not compromise. Assimilation, in many ways, is worse than death. They live as mindless automatons serving those who took their lives to do the same to others and on and on.

The Borg are comprised of every species they encounter. No one knows where they originated or if they were made or evolved naturally. They travel in massive, cube-shaped starships, which contain assimilation chambers, among other horrors. They are pure evil, and “resistance is futile.”[7]

3 General Zod: DC Comics and Films

General Zod Origins – This Genocidal Kryptonian Military General Is Superman’s Most Vicious Enemy

From Superman’s homeworld of Krypton, General Zod wants nothing less than world domination. Zod was the leader of Krypton’s military, and when the planet faced an extinction-level event, he attempted a coup. He was thwarted and sentenced to the Phantom Zone (an extradimensional hellscape). While in “the zone,” he avoided the destruction of Krypton and eventually escaped.

Now bent on killing his adversary Jor El’s son Kal, aka Clark Kent, aka Superman, he turns his sights to Earth. Once on Earth, this military-minded Zod and his cohorts enjoy all the same powers as Superman. He kills without remorse anyone in his way and many that aren’t even in his way. He is a megalomaniac, egomaniac, narcissist, power-hungry madman with delusions of grandeur. If left unchecked, Zod would terraform planet after planet into new Kryptons with him as supreme leader.[8]

2 Emperor Palpatine: Star Wars

Why Palpatine Is The Greatest Movie Villain Ever

Can you imagine how genuinely evil the guy pulling Darth Vader’s strings was? Well, imagine no longer. Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious, was an absolute madman and an evil genius. Not only is Palpatine a mighty Sith Lord able to defeat multiple Jedi Masters at once, but his power of forethought is unrivaled. Being a Sith, Palpatine has only one Knight, unlike the thousands of Jedi serving justice throughout the galaxy.

He buys his way into the senate, cons his way into the Chancellor’s seat, creates a clone army behind everyone’s back, and starts a war. All this was done to eliminate the Jedi and seize control of the Galactic Senate, which he then turned into his Empire. Palpatine wields his lightsaber like a berserker and unleashes force lightning on his victims with giddy pleasure. His goal is nothing short of absolute power; he is completely consumed with the Dark Side and is pure evil.[9]

1 Sylar: Heroes

Sylar and Claire’s Final Face-Off | Heroes

While he may be obscure, Sylar is the most lethal and evil villain in science fiction history. Heroes ran for four seasons; the main villain throughout that run was Zachary Quinto’s “Sylar.” At the dawn of Heroes, dozens of people worldwide suddenly develop superpowers.

Gabriel Gray is approached by a professor who is trying to find these people. Initially, it seems Gabriel is just an ordinary watchmaker. However, the typically shy Gray becomes enraged at the professor and kills him. His first murder leads to another, and he discovers he can obtain superpowers from other people. At that moment, he ceases to be Gabriel Gray and becomes Sylar. He then proceeds to murder his way to the most incredible collection of superpowers any one person has ever possessed.

When he finds someone with a power, he cuts out the part of their brain that operates the powers and eats it, therefore gaining the ability. At the end of season one, Sylar has telekinesis, telepathy, healing, electrokinesis, shadow mimicry, and transmutation—and the list continues. His original power was understanding how things work, which led him to discover how to consume others’ powers. Sylar genuinely enjoys killing and consuming, giving him the number-one spot in evil sci-fi villains.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen