Of all the villains in the animation genre, it’s the wicked stepmothers that seem to get the most attention. Though they’ve fallen out of fashion in recent years, evil stepmothers remain the most fearsome and memorable baddies in the animation canon – with the following five standing out as the best (or is that worst?):
1. The Queen ('Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs')
As the first full-length animated film from the Walt Disney Studio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs immediately established many of the conventions and clichés that viewers now associate with the animation genre – including the brutal and seemingly heartless villain. The Queen is a wicked witch who forces Snow White to perform a series of menial tasks and chores, and after learning that Snow White has become the fairest in the land, The Queen commands that Snow White be taken into the woods by a reluctant huntsman and murdered.
Claim to Infamy: Not only does The Queen order Snow White killed, but she demands that the assassin bring back her heart as proof that the deed has been done. Harsh.
2. Lady Tremaine ('Cinderella')
Lady Tremaine is a nasty, mean-spirited old woman who forces Cinderella to perform back-breaking chores and duties, and even encourages her own daughters, Drizella and Anastasia, to tease and mock the kind-hearted girl at every occasion. Lady Tremaine is so evil, in fact, that even her cat, Lucifer, comes off as a vicious and reprehensible figure.
Claim to Infamy: In a last ditch effort at preventing Prince Charming from discovering Cinderella’s true identity, Lady Tremaine trips the man carrying the glass slipper that perfectly fits Cinderella’s foot, which results in it breaking into a million little pieces. (Luckily Cinderella kept the other slipper.)
Mother Gothel isn’t, strictly speaking, a full-fledged stepmother. The character kidnaps Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) from her parents when she’s just a baby, and spends the next seventeen years raising her as if she were her own child. Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) pretends to have Rapunzel’s best interests at heart, but her only real reason for keeping the girl alive and healthy is so that she can exploit the fountain-of-youth qualities of her magical hair. If Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) hadn’t stumbled on the tower, Mother Gothel would have kept Rapunzel to herself forever.
Claim to Infamy: Well, Mother Gothel does keep Rapunzel locked away from the world in a remote tower for the entirety of her childhood and adolescence. That’s pretty evil.
Frieda is actually just a variation on Lady Tremaine from Cinderella, as the character is the stepmother to a character known as Ella (Sarah Michelle Gellar). As voiced by Sigourney Weaver, Frieda becomes a frightening, surprisingly vicious figure who convinces the villains and monsters in Fairy Tale Land to team up and wreak havoc. Frieda eventually winds up torturing and attempting to kill Ella, though she eventually receives her comeuppance after she’s pushed into a portal that traps her in the arctic.
Claim to Infamy: After gaining access to a Wizard’s special room, Frieda fixes it so that several well-known fairy tales end on an unhappy note. (For example, Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf.)
5. Stepmother ('Twelve Months')
Twelve Months is one of those super obscure animated movies that few people are familiar with, although the film is actually quite well regarded among animation buffs. (This is probably due to it having been produced by Toei Animation, the company that gave Hayao Miyazaki his start.) The movie, which is based on a Russian fairy tale, follows a young orphaned girl named Anya as she’s sent into a snowstorm by her evil stepmother to collect a rare flower for the Queen, with the girl’s life saved after the Spirit of the Twelve Months changes the weather to a beautiful spring day. It's a simple story that features a truly reprehensible stepmother.
Claim to Infamy: The heartless stepmother was willing to risk Anya’s life for some reward money.