The work of Stephen King forms not only a dense canon of horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories, but also a new form of American mythology. His stories have terrified readers and viewers for decades, and while his themes are full of existential dread, audiences truly connect with his villains. Stephen King villains fall into a few different varieties - there are inter-dimensional creatures who feed off fear, humans that are just straight-up mean, and traditional creatures like vampires and werewolves with a little twist.
It’s hard to decide on the best Stephen King villain - so many of them are memorable in such terrifying ways - but whether you prefer Randall Flagg from The Stand or Pennywise the Dancing Clown, it’s clear that not every Stephen King antagonist can stand toe to toe with one another. That’s where the battle royale comes in. The only way to determine which villain is the strongest is to have them compete in a stand-off that tests their powers, will, and mental fortitude - preferably in the middle of the night with no stars around.
Which Stephen King villain could win a battle royale?
Property: It (book, miniseries, and film adaptations)
Species: Pennywise is closer to an old god, or an inter-dimensional creature, than a member of a specific species. He exists in and out of the physical world, and is powered by the infamous "deadlights." His true form is closest to that of a giant, hairy creature made of orange light, according to those who have been unlucky enough to see it.
Special Abilities: Pennywise, or rather the nameless creature who takes on the guise of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, is one of the most powerful characters in Stephen King's universe. Aside from having psychic powers that allow him to know everything about his prey, he can also control their minds, create interactive illusions, shape-shift into their deepest fears, and regenerate. That’s on top of his ability to hypnotize people when they see his true form.
Preferred Method of Offense: Pennywise loves to scare children, filling them with dread until it "floods the body and salts the meat." He either convinces people to do his dirty work, or scares them so bad that they lose sight of all logic. He doesn't just stand in the shadows munching on arms - when he's cornered by the Loser's Club, Pennywise turns into a giant spider and fights back.
Weaknesses: Even though he's nearly invincible, he can be defeated through the power of friendship; however, it’s unclear if he can be permanently defeated or if any victory over him is only temporary.
Property: Insomnia, The Dark Tower series, Black House, The Stand, Low Men in Yellow Coats, Castle Rock
Species: Trans-dimensional demon/werespider
Special Abilities: As an eldritch wizard, the Crimson King has nearly limitless power: He can control the weather, shape-shift, and use dark magic to take out his enemies. He's also very intelligent and knows how to build a team of evil creatures around him, including Randall Flagg and Pennywise.
Preferred Method of Offense: The Crimson King prefers to work behind the scenes, and often employs his crew of creeps to do his dirty work for him. Whenever he does run into one of King's protagonists, he either appears as one of their greatest fears (similar to Pennywise) or as a withered old man with one large tooth and red eyes.
Weaknesses: Big Red is incredibly paranoid and wildly illogical. Everyone who gathers around him is eventually dispatched, and he's quite freaked out by a prophecy that says he'll be brought down by the barrels of the gunslinger, Roland.
Property: Salem’s Lot (book and miniseries), Wolves of the Calla (mention only)
Species: Master/Type One Vampire
Special Abilities: Barlow has all the abilities of a classic vampire, along with immense wealth and above-average intelligence, making him one of the most dangerous creatures in King's universe. Barlow is incredibly strong, can hypnotize his prey, sees in the dark, and works magic. His bite also has the power to rip through a person.
Preferred Method of Offense: The master vampire prefers to let his followers do his work for him. Specifically, he has his familiar carry out gruesome acts against anyone who opposes him. Barlow isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, however. He either uses his physical strength to conquer his prey, or he turns them into weaker vampires.
Weaknesses: Like every other vampire, Barlow is susceptible to crosses and religious iconography, but the faith has to be real. While it's hard to get close to him, if he's staked through the heart, it's curtains for Barlow.
Property: The Stand (book, miniseries, and film), The Dark Man, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Dark Tower (book series and film), Hearts in Atlantis, Gwendy’s Button Box, 11.22.63
Species: Flagg is a human, albeit one imbued with immense magical powers. In different incarnations, he's considered a wizard, the devil's henchman, or a quasi-immortal demon.
Special Abilities: Depending on which property he appears in, Flagg can do everything from raise the deceased to invade people's dreams. His most obvious power is the gift of gab, and he has the ability to talk anyone into doing what he needs them to do. Aside from his more destructive powers, Flagg can be wherever he wants, whenever he wants. He can also shape-shift when necessary, although it's usually into different aliases.
Preferred Method of Offense: Flagg would rather let his followers carry out his actions for him, and when he's faced with one-on-one combat, he prefers to use his mental abilities to control people. If his psychic powers don't work, he becomes physical.
Weaknesses: In The Stand, Flagg doesn't have complete control over his powers, and he can become physically weakened when he uses them. He's incredibly smart, but he's also full of himself, which makes him easy to read. Like many of King's most memorable villains, he has proven himself difficult to get rid of.