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The Smartest Villains From Across The Horror Genre

Updated January 30, 2020 1.2k votes 173 voters 3.3k views15 items

List RulesVote up the most intelligent horror villains.

In the hierarchy of intelligence, the victims generally rank lower than the smart horror movie villains they face with very little deviation from that formula. Sure, there might be a final girl who figures out how to best the villain and end the movie, but the antagonist always tends to come back for more in the next installment. The smartest horror movie villains even manipulate their prey into helping them further their cause, as in the case of Samara Morgan in The Ring 2. Others perfectly set up their traps and narratives to span years of deadly games for a growing circle of targets, just like Jigsaw.

When these scoundrels step up their game from lumbering single-mindedly towards a randy teenager to instead playing mind games that leave both their opponents and the audience in awe, it's a triumph that should be celebrated and singled out. It's no coincidence that the most likable movie villains tend to be among the most erudite and cunning as well, especially since they both dazzle and horrify viewers with their sharp wits and weapons.

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  • Viewers may never know if Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) actually carried out the slayings depicted in American Psycho, but we do know if he did, the lawyer kept his transgressions hidden due to his intelligence. Bateman presents a facade of New York investment firm decadence and materialistic obsession to fit in with his peers, using their own vanity and pride against them to make them targets.

    He is also mistaken for other colleagues, using that to his advantage in gathering details about the disappearance of Paul Allen (Jared Leto), his supposed first victim, while staying under the radar of police and suspicion. 

    • Appears In: American Psycho
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    Mary Mason

    Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a surgical medical student turned extreme body-modification surgeon to earn extra money. Using her gifted abilities as a surgeon, Mary is able to become a wealthy purveyor of modification surgery in the underground world of extreme fetishes.

    She even uses her newfound skills to exact revenge on the mentors and teachers who sexually assaulted her at a party, using photos of their nonconsensual body modification surgeries to bolster her business. 

    • Appears In: American Mary
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  • Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) somehow overcomes his demise to exact revenge upon the town that ended his spree as the Springwood Slasher, a serial slayer targeting children. His supernatural presence is fueled by fear and the memories the townspeople still carry of the atrocities he committed, allowing him to pull more targets into the Dream World where he offs them.

    The smarts needed to twist the laws of life and the afterlife are fairly astronomical, not to mention his ability to use his targets' greatest fears to manipulate them into giving him exactly what he wants. Only a highly intelligent sociopath can look so deeply into the being of a person to extract that sort of information and use it to their advantage.

    • Appears In: A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise
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  • Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) slays his emotionally manipulative mother and her fiancé after the relationship triggers his jealousy and rage. Guilty about what he'd done, Bates digs up his mother and keeps her mummified corpse in their home beside Bates Motel for years without anyone realizing it.

    His dissociative rages where he lapses into his mother's personality to commit transgressions are like blackouts, but he is smart enough to hide evidence to protect "Mother" after the passing of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and other unknown targets.

    • Appears In: Psycho
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