Save for Once Upon A Time's Storybrook, Maine, I would argue that the deceptively sleepy Philadelphia suburb of Rosewood on Pretty Little Liars is the television town that hides the most sinister elements beneath its surface. Pretty Little Liars' home base certainly has plenty of deadly secrets buried beneath perfectly-sculpted rose bushes, and often those things are literal dead bodies. But, while there are plenty of buried corpses that threaten to ruin someone's plan for a spring garden indefinitely, perhaps the biggest secrets that Rosewood holds are the ones hiding in the hearts of its residents. It seems that a new Rosewood villain pops up about as often as a new love interest for Spencer — and they're always bad news bears.
Of course, not every villain is created equal. While there are plenty of Rosewood residents who would be classified as villainous, not every one of these baddies are mustache-twirling, maniacally-laughing Big Bads. Some are just temporarily evil (until a trip to Radley or a whole lot of groveling puts them back in the liars' good graces) while others are bad to the bone and should not be trusted — like, ever.
So how do all of these villains stack up on the evil scale? Here's a rundown of the worst of the worst, from "not-so-evil" to "stay the hell away."
Did anyone really believe that Toby was really on the A Team? Because I know I didn't believe that "twist" for a second. Toby did team up with Mona back in Season 3, but he only did it so he could find out what really happened to his mother — and, because Toby's all noble and stuff, to keep Spencer safe from the real A's evil ways. Toby was always a good guy in a villain's clothing... which happened to be a black hoodie.
Ezra isn't a villain in the sense that he wanted to hurt the liars, but his dishonesty was almost criminal. (As is dating one of his students, FYI.) Ezra manipulated Aria so he could write a book about Ali's disappearance, and then want on to stalk the girls for "information" in a way that was pretty close to what A was already doing. His intentions may not have been A-adjacent, but his actions certainly were.
I can't for the life of me figure out Melissa's motives. She hated Ali, and for good reason (Ali did hook up with her boyfriend and try to poison Spencer against her) but at the end of the day she wasn't a major player in the A Game — well, that we know of, at least. So far, the only awful things that we know that Melissa did was assist Wilden in Garrett's murder (she was allegedly being blackmailed and didn't know Garrett was going to be killed, so it's sort of forgivable) and buried Bethany because she thought that Spencer had killed Ali. I wouldn't be surprised if there were even more skeletons buried in Melissa's perfectly-organized closet, but since we don't know what they are yet, I can't exactly call this girl evil.
We still have zero clue as to how the N.A.T. Club fits into the overall mystery of the series, but we do know that Garrett was somehow involved with it. Garrett's number one crime here was being shady as hell, but we never really understood the full extent of why he was so freakin' shady. According to Garrett, Jenna thought that he was the one who killed Ali, but he didn't do anything but fake hit her with a hockey stick. Garrett definitely had it out for the liars originally, but by the time anyone thought to ask him what was up with his involvement, he was dead in a box on the Halloween train. Garrett was definitely shady, but evil? Eh.
For the record, no, we have no idea what Jenna is truly capable of — is she really as evil as her cold demeanor would suggest? That's unclear, but what is clear is that she manipulated her own stepbrother into having a sexual relationship with her. That's enough to warrant the title of villain in my book.
Mona was the original A, and she did some seriously heinous things, like put a CIA level of surveillance her friends and nearly run Hanna over with a car. Obviously, that's super messed up — but Mona was also mentally unwell: once she got help, she turned over a completely new leaf and teamed up with the liars do take down the real enemy. Sure, not all is forgiven, but... well, it's kind of hard to stay mad at Mona.
Ali may have turned over a new leaf, but let's not forget that she was once a mean girl who made Regina George look sweet. Ali manipulated her closest friends and their parents, lied as easily as she breathed, and tortured her weaker peers in order to feel powerful. That's not even mentioning the fact that she blinded Jenna with seemingly no remorse. Had Ali not proven that she was capable of change, she might be ranked way higher on this list: she certainly had the makings of a number one slot villain.
8. Mrs. DiLaurentis
Mrs. DiLaurentis is a horrible mom and a pretty terrible person. She let her own daughter rot in a mental institution for years just so she could preserve the marriage between her and the man that she was already cheating on with her next door neighbor. Mrs. DiLaurentis may not be "evil" in the traditional sense, but her behavior taught her children how to grow into liars and manipulators. Ultimately, Mrs. DiLaurentis cares about self-preservation above all else: even her own children. Is that "evil"? Not necessarily, but she's certainly partially responsible for what became of Charlotte.
We have no idea why Sara teamed up with Cece or what her real story is, but she's definitely bad news. Sara may not have killed anyone (well, that we know of) but you don't lie about being kidnapped and mess with Emily's heart in order to keep your cover story in check. That slap that Emily dished out was more than well-deserved.
Ali wasn't exactly a peach — but I'm not sure Ali's behavior meant she deserved to die by the hand of her one-time ally, Shana. In fact, I'm going to call it now and say that murder is pretty much never excusable. Shana may have thought she was defending Jenna's honor by going after Ali in New York, but really she was giving in to seriously evil impulses.
You know what's grosser than kissing your girlfriend's underage sister? Attempting to murder that underage sister. We never really understoof why Ian came after Spencer (fingers crossed we get that answer in Season 6B) but we do know that he's not above murder, which makes him a total villain.
4. Detective Wilden
I think we can all agree that Detective Wilden is one of the scummiest guys in Rosewood. In addition to manipulating both the liars and their parents, Wilden killed fellow officer Garrett in order to cover up his crooked cop dealings. Finding out that he was involved in the whole Cece drama made perfect sense: where trouble is, Wilden tends to follow.
Obviously, Cece has to rank highly on this list: she is Big A, after all. Cece's dollhouse was the stuff of nightmares, and definitely the most heinous thing to ever happen on the show. It made anything that the other villains on this list have done look like child's play... even if Cece did explicitly state that she planned to keep the liars alive. If Cece is to be redeemed, it will happen in Season 6B: her actions certainly aren't excusable, but we may get a deeper insight into her mental state during her A days.
One of the highest ranking villains on this list isn't even connected to Ali or Big A: he's just a freelance psycho. Nate (real name Lyndon, because every truly evil dude needs a strong alter-ego) killed Maya in a jealous rage, and then attempted to murder both Paige and Emily as an act of revenge. This guy has absolutely no chill, and is one of the most pure examples of evil ever seen on the show.
1. Mr. DiLaurentis
Yep — Mr. DiLaurentis is absolutely Pretty Little Liars number one villain. Think about it: had Mr. DiLaurentis just been a slightly understanding dad, Cece may have never been sent to Radley and may have never acted out against her family, thus avoiding approximately 85 percent of the show's drama. (I guess, in some way, we can thank Mr. DiLaurentis for giving us a show in the first place?)
Whoever is stirring up trouble next season better bring their baddest self: these villains are a hard bunch to beat.