Pixar has had a lot of villains through the years, and while they typically aren’t as melodramatic as their Disney counterparts, they still offer some surprisingly intense arcs for the main characters. While power is often not talked about in regard to Pixar villains, it’s surprising how powerful—and intelligent—some of them can be.
Pixar’s gallery of rogues offers a lot of variety in terms of skillset, personality, and intimidation factor. Some Pixar villains are more intimidating and dangerous than others, but the very smartest can be tough for their heroic counterparts to contend with and overcome.
Updated on January 19th, 2023 by Stacie Rook: Pixar’s next feature film, Elemental, is set for release on June 16th, and while there have been no hints about the movie’s villain yet, the teaser trailer (via YouTube) has established its setting, Element City, and protagonists, Ember and Wade.
Stinky Pete – Toy Story 2 (1999)
Stinky Pete might not really bring to mind an intelligent character, but he is certainly a cunning and manipulative villain. Stinky Pete tricks both Woody and the audience that his persona of a lovable old grandpa is the truth. However, the moment his plans of being in a museum are threatened, he drops the act and comes very close to succeeding in his disruptive mission.
As far as Toy Story villains go, he’s one of the most emotional, and his intelligence lies more in his ability to manipulate the lonely people around him into finding some meaning in their lives. He might even genuinely mean it, but his selfishness gives audiences little sympathy for his fate as an art toy.
Hopper – A Bug’s Life (1998)
Hopper is a bully in every sense of the word, using his much bigger physique to scare ants into submission. However, he’s also sharp enough to realize that he needs to command the fear of the ants as well, since they vastly outnumbered the grasshoppers.
He can subjugate an entire species through intimidation and threats, which is something that requires a lot of intelligence and brawn (something he has in ample supply). Hopper may be no inventor, but he was succeeding in his plot at the movie’s outset, before later succumbing to one of the grimmest fates for a Pixar villain.
Gabby Gabby – Toy Story 4 (2019)
While Gabby is one of the more tragic Pixar villains, whose intentions are surprisingly pure, she is still a threatening presence to the cast. Her kidnapping of Forky might have ended in friendship, but she still used the information she got from Forky to manipulate Woody’s insecurities.
By comparing her troubles with Woody’s and appealing to his better nature, she manages to convince Woody to give her what she wants. By all accounts, she’s one of the few villains to actually accomplish her plans in the Pixar movies, even though those plans end in heartbreak for her.
Lotso – Toy Story 3 (2010)
Lotso is the most menacing of the Toy Story villains. His manipulative nature far outshines that of Stinky Pete’s and there’s little sympathy for his selfish actions. He even manages to trick Woody and his friends into becoming “punch bags” for the kids, before his jaw-dropping betrayal.
Being able to single-handedly organize all the other daycare toys into this abusive hierarchy is also impressive for a stuffed bear. The efficiency with which he runs his empire of broken toys is incredibly dark as far as Pixar movies go, and his fate is well-deserved by the end of the movie.
Ernesto De La Cruz – Coco (2017)
Ernesto De La Cruz is an incredibly effective twist villain because of how his plan came about after subtly building in the background. Many people equate intelligence with academics and the like, but as many Pixar villains have proved, being able to manipulate those around you can be enough to prove their genius.
In fact, he gets really far, and if Miguel had never visited the Land of the Dead, his secret would have never come to light. Ernesto’s censorship of Hector’s legacy is incredibly thorough, and his rise through the ranks in the Land of the Dead shows a very smart and ruthless business-like approach to fame.
Henry J. Waternoose – Monsters, Inc. (2001)
A manipulative villain who seems friendly at first, before revealing his ruthless businessman persona, Henry J. Waternoose is a character who has put his intelligence towards the betterment of monster-kind. Unfortunately, while completely practical, his plans involve kidnapping children.
Intelligence can, unfortunately, manifest in the evilest ways, and Waternoose’s hidden schemes to solve the energy crisis through kidnapping children are extremely horrific (even for other monsters). His high-ranking position in society also suggests a level of intelligence, or at least cunning.
AUTO – WALL-E (2008)
AUTO, from one of the best movies with little to no dialogue, WALL-E, adopts the super-intelligence common to pretty much any AI villain. AUTO essentially knows everything there is to know about humanity, its history, its people, and most importantly, its downfall. AUTO is the horrifying will of humanity’s corporate evils made manifest.
As often happens with AI in movies, AUTO goes over the heads of the humans he’s supposed to follow in favor of what he believes to be the greater good, or at the very least, what the humans of centuries prior believed was best for humanity.
Charles Muntz – Up (2009)
Charles Muntz is a brilliant inventor and his advanced age has not dulled his creative spirit. Besides the fact that Muntz created technology that lets dogs talk, he also somehow managed to train them to fly planes.
Featured in one of the saddest Pixar movies, the revelation that Muntz is a villain is also heartbreaking, as he was someone Carl and Ellie looked up to. Muntz is a man whose mind is only rivaled by his pride, and hurting it led to him dedicating all his intelligence towards his petty goal.
Evelyn Deavor – Incredibles 2 (2018)
Evelyn Deavor, the twist villain of The Incredibles 2, is one of the most successful Pixar villains, and her intelligence is on par with the likes of other ‘fanatical’ inventors. However, her seemingly chill exterior hides an incredibly manipulative person.
Evelyn was able to mind control pretty much every single one of the known adult heroes in the movie, and use them for her personal gain. Her attempts to destroy the reputation of all heroes came scary close to coming to fruition, and the only reason it failed was due to elements she had no way of foreseeing.
Syndrome – The Incredibles (2004)
Syndrome is the most intelligent of all Pixar villains. Going from wannabe superhero to multi-billionaire supervillain, complete with a secret volcano lair, in fifteen years? That’s a feat no other Pixar villain can claim. His raw intelligence as an inventor also leveled the playing field against supers.
Leveling is actually underselling it, considering he basically murdered most of the heroes with his inventions. If he had not let his ego and pride get in the way of his machinations, Syndrome would have never been found out. Much like the likes of comic book villains Lex Luthor and Doctor Doom, his petty hatred against his “nemesis,” Mr. Incredible, becomes the cause of his downfall. Still, his achievements beforehand are incredibly impressive.