The monstrous, ratlike stand-in for Count Dracula in FW Murnau's horror classic "Nosferatu" is one of the most iconic horror villains of all time. As played by Max Schreck, he's that rare villain who seems to be fundamentally inhuman in some subtle, mysterious way. Silent movies weren't all pies to the face and goofy cops, and this is one of the (terrifying) movies that prove it.
Peter Lorre's lovelorn antihero in "Mad Love" is pretty creepy at the beginning of the movie. He's got a shimmering, bald head, and there's something about him that just screams "do not let this person into your apartment." But by the end of the movie, he's gone completely insane, replaced a romantic rival's hands with those of a serial killer, and concocted a horrifying costume to make him look like a reconstructed decapitation victim.
Boris Karloff is a horror movie icon for his portrayal of famous movie monsters like Frankenstein's creature. But not all horror movie villains are supernatural monsters: Take George Sims, the cruel master of a mental asylum in the 1700s in the Val Lewton classic "Bedlam." Sims' cruel, inhuman methods of managing mental patients is just as chilling as a reanimated corpse, if not more so.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
Another iconic horror movie villain, this one known in some circles as "The Gill-Man." Even more than 50 years after the fact, there's still something undeniably creepy about his weirdly humanoid form, his bulging eyes, and his slashing fins. He's also at least partially bullet-proof, which is kind of scary.
William Castle is known for his goofy and gimmick-loaded horror films, but his attempt at an Edgar Allan Poe-like thriller "Mr. Sardonicus" is genuinely terrifying, thanks to the titular character and his ghastly permanent grin brought on by psychological nerve damage. His face is hidden through most of the movie, but when the reveal comes it's an incredibly scary and well-crafted horror movie moment.
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is one of the scariest films of all time. That's at least a little bit thanks to its most famous villain: Leatherface, proud member of a family of Texan cannibals who feast on some unlucky lost teenagers. It's pretty obvious what makes Leatherface so scary-his bizarre manner of movement for one, his giant chainsaw for two.
Jack Nicholson's iconic father-gone-mad in "The Shining" is one of the most famous horror movie characters of all time, and also one of the scariest. The way he transitions from pleasant-yet-weirdly-distant father to ax-wielding maniac is truly memorable, and the savagery with which he goes after his wife and son is pretty haunting, too.
Takashi Miike's cult horror classic "Audition" has a reputation as being one of the scariest and most grusome horror movies ever made. It's justified, with lots of scenes of gore and/or vomit consumption. And yet one of the most chilling parts of the movie is the villainess herself, played by Eihi Shiina as an outwardly-pretty but inwardly-demonic object of the main character's affection.
Johnny Depp's maniacal London barber was a conscious tribute to the horror villains of the past, but he brings a frightening vibe of his own to the table in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd." Depp is masterful and conveying Todd's singular and malignant need for revenge, and there's enough bright-red blood to satisfy any gorehound. Also scary: His singing.