Content Warning: The following article contains spoilers.In the world of animation, there have been few instances of rapid success like the rise of DreamWorks. Formed in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, the studio helped to cement the rise of CGI animated films with the release of Shrek, which became the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The Shrek franchise has also become the second highest-grossing animated franchise behind Despicable Me.
One of the reasons for DreamWorks’ success is their ability to mix drama and comedy so effectively in their stories. This can be seen in their villains, which range from funny idiots to scheming masterminds. The best DreamWorks villains prove to be effective foils to the heroes and even rival the best antagonists produced by Disney in their Renaissance.
Updated on July 27, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
All DreamWorks villains bring something unique to the table, whether that’s wit, charm, or gut-busting comedy. The best among them manage to be just as fascinating (or even outshine) the films’ protagonists. With all the anticipation building around Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (premiering on December 2023), it’s the perfect time to revisit and go beyond the top 10 DreamWorks villains of all time.
15 General Mandible
As the very first DreamWorks villain for their first full-length animated feature film, Antz, it’s understandable that General Mandible is rough around the edges. A fierce defender of the Queen’s army, the frightening antagonist clings to values that align with a dictatorship, and makes it his mission to take control of his colony.
There’s not much beyond that arc, and he isn’t a complex villain at all, but General Mandible is undeniably terrifying, if only because the prototype presented through him is true to life.
14 Captain Chantel Shannon DuBois
‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ (2012)
An animal control agent based in France, Captain DuBois prides herself on her skill to track and capture any animal. The only thing missing from her repertoire in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a lion. When she learns that Alex the lion and his friends were spotted on their way back to New York City, she starts a one-woman crusade to complete her collection.
DuBois is probably DreamWorks’ funniest antagonist to date, despite not having as much depth. Not even international borders can stop her once she sets her sight on a goal, which she pursues with an unnatural drive akin to a Terminator. Adding to her comedic value is a lovely hammy and intimidating performance by Frances McDormand.
13 Professor Poopypants
‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ (2017)
Nick Kroll voices the hilariously nefarious Professor Pee-Pee Diahreeahstein Poopypants Esquire in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Professor P. is a talented scientist who despises his humiliating name, which brings him shame wherever he goes. When his supposed proud moment for claiming the Nobel Prize turns into an embarrassing one, he vows to invent technology that can shrink the part of the human brain that signals laughter.
Playing into the mad scientist trope in an exaggerated way, Kroll’s brilliant voice acting brings the gut-busting antagonist to life. He may be a tad one note throughout the film, but it’s one he plays well.
‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ (2016)
While everyone loves Master Oogway as the enlightened kung-fu master, five hundred years ago, he fought alongside a warlord named Kai. They loved one another like brothers, but when Kai attempted to steal the chi of a panda village that healed Oogway, they fought and Kai was banished to the spirit world. Eventually, he captured Oogway’s chi and escaped to destroy Oogway’s legacy.
While not as well-written as Tai Lung or Shen, Kai is an amazing villain in terms of presentation in Kung Fu Panda 3. His design and jade color theme sell him as an unnatural being, and his personal music samples the song “I’m So Sorry,” from Imagine Dragons. Finally, his ability to steal chi and turn his victims into jade zombies encapsulates the movie’s themes on the differences between sharing knowledge and hoarding it.
11 Mrs. Melisha Tweedy
‘Chicken Run’ (2000)
Chicken Run may be a beloved comedy film, but Mrs. Tweedy, its main antagonist, is actually mostly terrifying. One of the scariest DreamWorks villains to ever grace kids’ screens, Mrs. Tweedy’s backstory sets the sinister foundation for her horrible motivations. Stuck in a horrible marriage on a financially failing farm in England, Mrs. Tweedy is cold and calculating, unmoved by the chickens’ horrified faces. Her goal to turn her farm into a meat factory is scarily realistic.
She may not be magical, verbose, or unforgettable, but anyone who’s reminded of Mrs. Tweedy will likely remember her pale uncaring face and villainous plot. She served as an excellent and horrific inspiration for the chickens to run.
10 Grimmel the Grisly
‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ (2019)
While Hiccup leads the Vikings of Berk into an era of peace and cooperation with dragons, Grimmel makes his business hunting the majestic beasts in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This has made him a hero among the other Viking clans, who still view dragons as their enemies. His greatest feat was hunting the powerful Nightfuries to near-extinction.
Grimmel views dragons as vermin to be exterminated, which fills him with a sense of righteousness. To him, his actions are a just and noble cause, which Hiccup insults by preaching dragon friendship. Thanks to his use of gadgetry and extensive knowledge of dragons, he serves as a dark mirror of what Hiccup could have become if he’d killed Toothless, and an unfortunately realistic depiction of a cruel individual.
9 Pitch Black
‘Rise of the Guardians’ (2012)
Also known as the Boogeyman or the Nightmare King, Pitch Black is a personification of humanity’s fears and ruled the world in an uncontested reign of terror. However, the Man in the Moon created guardians to give humanity hope, wonder, memories and dreams, which stripped Pitch of his powers. After centuries of being forgotten, he returns to make children lose belief in their guardians.
Pitch presents himself as a sympathetic person who wants the same attention as the guardians. However, he doesn’t want to be loved, but feared, and delights in turning the dreams of children into nightmares. As Pitch targets each of the guardians, he makes sure to taunt them as they weaken due to lack of belief, which stings even harder thanks to Jude Law‘s spiteful performance in Rise of the Guardians.
8 Tai Lung
‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008)
Since he was a boy, Tai Lung was raised to believe that he was destined to claim the dragon scroll and become the Dragon Warrior. When he was denied the scroll by Master Oogway, he unleashed his fury upon the Valley of Peace and tried to take it by force. Though he was defeated, he returns twenty years later when he hears that Oogway chose someone else.
Tai Lung’s story in Kung Fu Panda shows the dangers of pushing someone to success, and falling victim to pride. Had Tai Lung accepted his loss, he might have been able to find purpose in his life thanks to the skills he had developed. Instead, because he had been told he would be the best, he tied that to his identity and unleashed his full fury against his adopted father, Shi Fu, in one of DreamWorks’ most emotional fights.
7 Big Jack Horner
‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (2022)
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish introduced more than one fantastic villain when it premiered. One unforgettable antagonist is “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney), whose lack of powers motivates him to rid the world of any magic. He doesn’t care who he (literally) crushes or hurts along the way, as he races against the protagonists to get the last wish.
A power-hungry villain, Big Jack is rotten to his core. He’ll stop at nothing to become the most powerful individual on the planet, and certainly has the despicable attitude and zero morals to go along with that detestable goal. He’s not too complex, but he’s the big baddie the 2022 movie needed to go alongside its more complicated villains like Death (Wagner Moura) and the Three Bears Crime Family.
6 Lord Farquaad
A recognizable DreamWorks villain for any fan of the franchise, Lord Maximus Farquaad (John Lithgow) was a legendary part of Shrek. Quite ready to admit that he’s willing to sacrifice anyone for his own goals, the lowly lord has big ambitions. Farquaad wants to be part of true royalty, but must find a princess willing to marry him in order to do so.
One of the funniest movie villains ever, Farquaad is easily the target of several jokes in the film, with his height obviously made fun of by the way he overcompensated by ensuring that Duloc is unnecessarily tall. His small stature doesn’t stop him from affected large populations of magical characters, though, who are forced out of the kingdom because of Farquaad.
5 Fairy Godmother
‘Shrek 2’ (2004)
In the fairytale kingdom of Far Far Away, the Fairy Godmother is the number one distributor of charms, potions, and enchantments to give princes and princesses their happily ever after. As such, she is not happy to learn that Princess Fiona has married the ogre, Shrek. Along with Fiona being promised to her son, Prince Charming, she refuses to let an ogre get a happy ending because that’s now how it goes.
While Lord Farquaad was a fun caricature of the CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner,Fairy Godmother allows for more clever jokes satirizing the fairytale genre in Shrek 2. Along with taking one of the strongest symbols of charity and turning her into a petty villain, her cottage home is actually a factory full of disgruntled workers. Her personality is able to flip on a dime, going from spiteful and vindictive to charming and supportive.
4 Lord Shen
‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ (2011)
In his youth, Shen experimented with his family’s fireworks and discovered they could be turned into weapons. When he overheard a prophecy that a warrior of black and white would defeat him, Shen exterminated a panda village. For this, he was banished and stripped of his inheritance, so he swore to claim all of China in vengeance.
Kung Fu Panda 2‘s Shen is certainly among the best villains DreamWorks has produced. Alongside his striking design and fantastic voice work by Gary Oldman, there is a real sense of tragedy to him. All Shen wants is to find happiness, but he is too proud and scarred by the past to move past it, which places him in a perfect dichotomy with Po.
In an attempt to inject purpose back into his life, Megamind concocts a plan to infuse a human with the powers of his defeated foe, Metroman. An accident results in Hal Stewart, a cameraman, getting the powers, but Megamind decides to mold him into the hero, Titan. Unfortunately, Hal wants to use his powers for personal gain and to get with his co-worker, Roxanne Ritchi.
What makes Titan so threatening is how real he feels in Megamind. There are many selfish people in the world who feel entitled to the time and attention of others simply because they act nice to them. The movie does a wonderful job contrasting Titan’s actions with Megamind’s, which showcases the differences between being nice and being good.
‘The Prince of Egypt’ (1998)
As the eldest son of the pharaoh, Rameses is next to inherit the Egyptian empire. In his youth, however, all he wants is to have fun alongside his adopted brother, Moses. Unfortunately, when Moses learns about his heritage and Rameses rises to his father’s throne, it sets the two brothers up to become bitter enemies.
The Prince of Egypt is one of DreamWorks’ most underrated masterpieces from when they tried to challenge Disney, and Rameses is one of the film’s strongest elements. Despite his love for Moses, he refuses to show weakness, as he believes it will spell the end of his family dynasty. With stellar hand-drawn animation and Ralph Fiennes‘ outstanding performance, all of Rameses’ emotions are laid bare, showing audiences how much this feud kills him inside.
1 The Wolf / Death
‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (2022)
DreamWorks’ newest villain is already being heralded as their best one yet. Initially introducing himself as The Wolf in an obvious reference to Little Red Riding Hood, the antagonist is eerily excited about fighting with the lovable protagonist, Puss, who’s down to his last life. It’s later revealed that The Wolf is the actual incarnation of Death, who has come to take Puss’ last life as revenge for the way the protagonist has been squandering his previous ones.
With an unforgettable design, a spine-chilling voice (played masterfully by Narcos star Wagner Moura), and a wonderfully complex characterization, Death will go down in history among the best animated villains ever made. What’s especially terrifying about the antagonist in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is that he’s not entirely evil, he just wants what he’s owed because Puss didn’t live his other lives to the fullest – it’s something that can prompt some existential dread in fans who consider Death’s message.
NEXT: The Best Protagonists in DreamWorks Animated Movies, Ranked