One of the perks of being evil—you can dress however you like. From fine couture to outrageous false eyelashes, many villains express their freedom from wholesome heroics by creating wardrobes that match their inner diabolical divas. Here are some of the best dressed baddies from across genre.
Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians)
You could have an entire list of fashionable Disney villains easily—because they are animated, it makes sense to allow them more flamboyance than you would on a real live person. But if any Disney villain deserves a spot on this list over all the others, it’s Cruella, because she is the only villain who is expressly about fashion. Reprehensible fashion, yes, but fashion all the same. Give that woman the spotted coat and walk away, everyone. Her crazy face probably does more damage than any mystical weaponry.
Apophis (Stargate SG-1)
This major Stargate SG-1 baddie was so much marshmallow fluff in his execution; sure, he had lots of scary henchmen at his disposal, but was anyone watching ever actually afraid of Apophis? Who cares! He wears eyeliner better than anyone. And so much gold. He gives great reaction shots to the camera when his plans don’t pan out, and he rarely speaks. He is there for us to look on and adore. Bat those lined lids at us one more time.
Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
William the Bloody starts off his tenure on Buffy as a big bad fanged guy before revealing that he’s stuck on love in every possible way. But Spike’s exterior is important to him—he must peroxide his hair every other day to keep it that flawless episode to episode. The great Billy Idol recognized that the look was fabulous enough to be lifted as his rock’n’roll signature. And it’s no coincidence that when Spike needs to get back into fighting mode during season seven, he busts out that black leather duster. He knows what he needs to feel the part.
Mrs. Coulter (His Dark Materials)
Marisa Coulter is one of the best sorts of fashionable villains—her appearance helps to masks her unsavory intent. Always elegant and well put together, most of the people who meet Mrs. Coulter probably have no idea what lengths she is willing to go to get what she wants (including being cruel to her daughter Lyra). In the filmed version of The Golden Compass, black-haired Coulter was turned into a very blond Nicole Kidman, but author Philip Pullman claimed that he actually preferred her that way.
Trelane (Star Trek)
We all love Q, but his fashion sense is more of a costume sense; he breaks out the tunics or sombreros to embarrass humans, to make them uncomfortable. When Captain Kirk encountered Trelane on the other hand (the tie-in novels suggest that Trelane was actually a Q as well, which would make sense given his power set), the “Squire of Gothos” was utterly committed to the part, frock coat, cravat and all. If you’re going to duel a starship captain with a sword, you need the right billowing sleeves for the job.
Morgana had some truly fabulous dresses at the start of the show, but once she descended into true evil, she came off looking a bit more like Bellatrix Lestrange (which is certainly eye-catching, but not exactly fashionable). Her sister Morgause beat her in the vestments category by being versatile and knowing quality, from fancy gowns to armor and leather gauntlets. Morgause was a get-it-done sort of villain and her changeable wardrobe was an testament to that.
If your main bad guy is resplendent in imperial purple and looks something like a god, you are probably doing it right. Considering Ozy’s regal leanings and dramatics, it probably should have been obvious to us all from the beginning who was really pulling the strings behind the scenes. You don’t dress like Adrian Veidt unless you have master plans within master plans.
Catwoman is pretty fashion-minded in every incarnation, but Michelle Pfeiffer’s turn in Batman Returns sells that skintight ensemble better than anything. Selena Kyle’s descent into madness is both believable and smartly punctuated by her midnight sewing session, resulting in a patent-leather nightmare that is both sexy and entirely disturbing. Catwoman should give a master class in this stuff.
Zorg (The Fifth Element)
We can see that according to Luc Besson’s vision of the future, fashion is a very interesting beast in coming centuries. Leeloo’s rubber suspenders and Ruby Rhod’s enviable jumpsuits are enough evidence, and part of what makes The Fifth Element such a treat to watch—it’s eye candy in every sense. Gary Oldman’s Zorg lends a very particular flare to that world, with his half head of hair and shiny vinyl coats. You can only assume that this passes for “dressed to the nines” in the future. And that’s awesome.
The White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia)
The White Witch is a cold customer—both literally and figuratively. And if you’re going to bring winter anywhere, you better look amazing and stay warm at the same time. Tilda Swinton’s costume changes in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe film are practically art, combined with makeup that blends seamlessly into her clothes. Her final battle costume completed by Aslan’s mane is chilling. Those poor Pevensie kids—there’s no way you’d feel like you stood a chance against Tilda’s fierce runway look.
The original model for well-dressed villainy, so much of this tradition comes down from Dracula. Maybe you prefer Lestat’s look in Interview With A Vampire, but he would have never existed without Bela Legosi’s (and many others) particular combo from those early films. The cape, the slicked hair, the waistcoat—easy, classy, simple. Four for you, Dracula. You go, Dracula.
Saruman (The Lord of the Rings)
He’s all evil and color-coordinated! How long do you think he flat-irons his hair every morning? Look how well his staff goes with his robes! It helps that on screen he is Christopher Lee, who exudes style from his every pore. Sauron may have that big old eye, but it doesn’t really go with much. Saruman all the way.
The Master (Doctor Who)
First there was a love affair with Nehru jackets, then embroidered velvet, then leather and aviators. Honestly, while he may telegraph evil bit too much via his wardrobe (especially in the early days), the Master has always had a honed sense of personal fashion. Case in point—while the Master was running the planet with a tiny Doctor in a birdcage, he was dressed in Paul Smith suits. He probably saved the designer from the Toclafane and put him up on the Reliant as his personal tailor.
Melisandre (Game of Thrones)
She’s dressed in red all the time and her eyes match. Enough said. If you’re going to be converting high-ranking political figures to your religion, it’s pretty important to look as impressive as what you’re trying to sell. Also, heat emanates from her body. Can you imagine how many fashion designers would kill to have models that could pull off tricks like that? Runway shows would never be the same.
Dolores Umbridge/Lucius Malfoy (Harry Potter)
Everything that Dolores Umbridge wears is hideous. But here’s the kicker—she doesn’t think it is. And more importantly, it projects exactly what she needs it to. So while she’s not fashionable, she does know how to employ fashion for her own ends. On the other hand, when it you wonder who in the wizarding world probably keeps a house elf on hand to do nothing but manage hair care products, there is only one choice—Lucius Malfoy, the gorgeous creature. That cane of his is functional, but also designed with beauty in mind. Creepy beauty.
She’s a knight of hell, but when viewers first set eyes on her, she was dressed as a fifties glamour girl (possessing humans make one hard-pressed for choices). Then she got a pass to the future and immediately changed out her wardrobe for something slightly edgier, but still tasteful. Abaddon knows that image is everything, and knows just how to manipulate it. Which just makes her more threatening. It also makes her far too much fun to watch.
Jim Moriarty (Sherlock)
It makes sense for a Napoleon of Crime to be well-dressed, and the consulting criminal pulls this off with seemingly zero effort. More importantly, he takes his brands very seriously; his irritation with John over mussing his Westwood suit says all. That coat in his final scene rivals Sherlock’s in terms of class, and that’s not an easy feat. Plus, you should see him in a crown.
Okay, so sometimes she’s not wearing anything, but that’s part of Saffron’s mastery where couture is concerned—she’s exacting about what she needs to wear in any given situation. She knows what makes her look incredible, what is functional, and what she likes. So no matter what she’s in, she looks flawless. And that makes her dangerous. It’s just a shame that we didn’t get to see more of YoSaffBridge, so that we could observe more of that fine-tuned sense in action.
I mean, he’s decked out in magenta/red and violet half the time. That might be the very definition of badassery. But really, in terms of theatrics, Magneto knows where it’s at. Your eye is instantly drawn to him, a potent combination of presence and appearance. And that’s just his fighting garments—combine it with Fassbender’s turtlenecks during First Class, and… just give up. It’s over. He’s going to beat you at chess anyhow.
Envy (Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World)
Ramona has a line of evil exes that run the gamut when it comes to fashion sense, but none of them really come close to Scott’s singular evil ex, Envy. She’s busy being a rock star, and rock’n’roll is all about having a persona, often an attractive one. As a result, she looks incredible every time she shows up. Not that we don’t all want Scott to grow up in a hurry, but when you look at Envy sometimes it’s easy to understand why he’s having such a hard time letting go.
Captain Hook (Peter Pan, Hook)
This guy. This guy right here. No matter what incarnation you drum him up from, saying that Captain Hook has his taste geared toward the flamboyant is something of an understatement. It’s only fair if your nemesis is a little boy in green tights. While every version of Hook is fun to stare at, I have to give special props to Dustin Hoffman in Hook. Those eyebrows. The variety of hooks. The wig. He’s the heavyweight champion of pirate fashion.
I’ve already thought about Loki’s particular mode of dress at length, but apart from those ruminations, he’s just got a perfect wardrobe. It’s leather, it’s gold, there’s a helmet (there should always be a helmet for evil), there are careful flourishes all about. And those horns get more prominent the more crazy he goes, so he’s subliminally in control of his appearance? It alters depending on his mood and activity? Everything about this is perfect. We all only wish our wardrobes were that easy to manage.
Head Six (Battlestar Galactica)
Tricia Helfer is all around gorgeous, but it’s when Six is roving around in Gaius Baltar’s mind that she gets super particular about how she’s dressed. Which leads to some very memorable dress and heel ensembles. It also makes her one of the few characters on the show who doesn’t dress according to some sort of uniform, which in turns makes her the most fashion-saavy person on the show. Gotta love President Roslin’s power suits and Starbuck’s party dress, but if anyone needed advice on what to wear in that universe, it was probably best to just track down Baltar and ask if you could have a chat with his special cylon figment.
Patent leather bodysuit with tails. That sound you hear is a mike dropping from all the way over in the Uncharted Territories. Next to Scorpius, everyone’s black leather trousers and flowy robes look tame and sad. Even Grayza’s plunging necklines can’t compete when he’s taking stage. Appearance is dearly important to the hybrid commander, being told throughout his entire upbringing that he was a weak, disgusting abomination by the Scarrans who held him captive. Controlling that appearance helped to make him stronger, more powerful, to gain a foothold in the Peacekeeper hierarchy. In the game of “the clothes make the man,” Scorpius makes everyone else look like amateurs.
Regina (Once Upon A Time)
This is how you dress if you’re an evil queen. Full stop. No matter what world Regina resides in she always looks show-stoppingly sinister. It’s all jewel tones and headpieces and well-cut coats and big skirts. What’s fun about Regina is how much she looks like enjoys what she wears—how could you not when every dress is more outrageous than the last one? When every shade of lipstick seems to match her mood? If you’re going to be royalty, you might as enjoy reminding people of it every time you step out of a carriage.
The Goblin King probably has more fun dressing himself in the morning than most people do after eating their weight in ice cream and pizza. Who knew a combination of mullet, glitter, tights, and high-collared capes would be so unforgettable? Sarah, how could you reject his offer? He probably would have let you raid his closet whenever you wanted!
Those are the top picks, but there are so many more—who are your favorites?
This article originally appeared on Tor.com on November 6, 2013 as part of our salute to Magnificent Bastards.