13 '90s Villains You Probably Still Have Nightmares About
No matter how tough you thought you were, if you had access to a television in arguably the most nostalgic decade, you probably don't sleep great. Why? Thanks to these '90s villains that still give you nightmares. There was an antagonist designed for whatever fear viewers may have had. If you were kind of uncertain about your brother and didn't really trust him, then watching The Lion King was a shortcut to sleep deprivation for a few days. Similarly, if cannibals or clowns were the thing someone couldn't deal with, there were films and miniseries designed to chill them forever (see The Silence of the Lambs and the '90s It, respectively).
And while it's easy to get stuck on the happy, breezy elements of that decade — whether the cute fashion or the upbeat dance music — in the entertainment sector, there was also a whole lot of darkness. Slasher movies got meta; David Lynch unleashed the most terrifying thing of all, the subconscious, onto our screens; and even wholesome Disney seemed to be doing their damnedest to come up with bold new villains who would haunt us long past that trip to the theater. So be warned: Don't read this list if you scare easily. And whatever you do, don't click on the videos. You won't sleep for days.
1. Scar From 'The Lion King'
He psychologically tortures an adorable mouse before attempting to consume him. Then he tricks Simba into venturing into that terrifying elephants' graveyard, almost getting him killed by hyenas. Plus, he murders his own brother. Add the letter "y" and Scar's name becomes even more appropriate. Add the deeply sinister bass of his voice into the mix and it's no wonder a cartoon lion gives you nightmares.
2. Hannibal Lecter From 'The Silence Of The Lambs'
He's a cannibal, he's a serial killer, and he's the smartest person in basically every room. But what's truly horrifying is how his civility to FBI trainee Clarice Starling contrasts his inhuman behavior, with the former psychiatrist making gourmet meals out of his victims.
3. Catherine Tramell From 'Basic Instinct'
Icy crime novelist Catherine Tramell is unforgettable as the primary suspect for a murder. The fact that the plot brings her into close, sexual contact with the lead, while we discover she's murdered her lover and had the balls to have pre-written a novel with exactly the same murder in it, means she's a haunting figure.
4. Annie Wilkes From 'Misery'
It helps that there's something innately creepy about an obsessive fan to begin with. But the nurse's psychopathic desire to keep famous romance novelist Paul Sheldon trapped in her house, and the very real violence she resorts to in order to keep him there, means she's an enduring feature of your worst nostalgic movie nightmares.
5. BOB From 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'
There's an animalistic quality to BOB and that's part of what makes him so terrifying (that and the fact that for most of Twin Peaks, fans have no freakin' clue who he is and never see him outside of the nightmare-like sequences in which she appears). Whether the demonic entity is crawling toward the camera or gazing into it hungrily. No wonder we're still so afraid of him all these years later.
6. Asami Yamazaki From 'Audition'
Because she sat perfectly still for four days next to a phone following her "audition" to become widower Shigeharu Aoyama's new wife, waiting for him to call, and we all knew right then something weird was up. Because of the needles in eyeball scene. Because she'd rather cut her dates to pieces rather than tolerate them having feels for literally anyone else.
7. Billy From 'Scream'
He's effectively horror's first mansplainer. He murders Casey's boyfriend Steve after lecturing Casey about horror movie conventions, then proceeds to do away with her. What's not to hate here? No wonder he's still bugging viewers while they're sleeping.
8. David McCall From 'Fear'
The initially seemingly polite boyfriend was more than a little bonkers, had a criminal record, got full-on physically abusive, and was presumably behind a whole generation of teenagers' parents getting extremely paranoid about their offspring's new squeezes. Plus, that creepy shrine to his girlfriend/obsession Nicole? For shame, Mark Wahlberg.
9. Ben Willis From 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'
Sure, so the terrible teens of I Know What You Did Last Summer did run him over and leave him for dead, which obviously isn't exactly cool, but instead of getting the law involved, he decides to dish out some particularly sinister street justice, picking them off one by one. But Ben wasn't scary because we knew who he was, but because we didn't. Long before Pretty Little Liars was so much as a twinkle in I. Marlene King's eye, we were all having nightmares about getting sinister notes from a stalker who knew our secret.
10. IT From 'It'
Many moons before It was a movie, it was a '90s miniseries. The shapeshifting entity is scary no matter who you are, because that's its whole deal. Sure, IT is terrifying as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. But even if clowns don't bother you, it'll take the shape that bothers you the most. So don't lie, you're as scared as IT as anyone else.
11. Nancy From 'The Craft'
Oh man, where does it stop? Nancy is every person who's ever attended high school's worst nightmare: a malicious, insecure teenage girl who thinks the world's against her. Oh yeah, but with endless power. Basically that girl who cut your ponytail off, but with magic. Gulp.
12. Begbie From 'Trainspotting'
It's not exactly like anybody in the Trainspotting gang is a saint, but Begbie is miles worse than anyone else. He's sadistic and volatile and handy in a fight. And it's hard not to be haunted by the scene where he chucks his pint glass over his shoulder from where he's sat on the pub balcony, glassing a woman in the face, before going downstairs and fighting everyone in the pub for the sheer thrill of it.
13. Shan Yu From 'Mulan'
Can we talk about how damn scary Shan Yu was for a villain in what was meant to be a kids' movie? He had yellow eyes. He was enormous. Ruthless. Even Captain Li Yang couldn't take him on.
Is it any wonder that roughly a third of U.S. millennials still live with their parents? Maybe this isn't just about the economy, but the traumatizing effects of '90s TV and movies — we're just nervous Begbie or Billy or BOB will come and get us.