Top 10 Horror Movie Villain Motivations

by WatchMojo about a year ago in pop culture

Horror movie villain motivations make it a little easier to understand why they went on such graphic murdering sprees.

Be they demented serial killers or supernatural entities, you can always rest assured that horror movie villains will have fascinating reasons to kill. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 greatest horror villain motivations.

For this list, we’re looking at the reasons why horror movie villains kill, and are choosing the ones we think are most interesting. But we’re only including villains that are human or controlling humans.

In the petrifying world of horror, even Santa Claus can become a child’s worst nightmare. Young Billy Chapman is forever scarred when a serial killer dressed as Santa kills his parents—we guess they were on the naughty list. After years in a corrupt orphanage, Billy snaps, dresses as Santa, and decides to punish the naughty himself. As Billy ruthlessly targets bullies and immoral teens, suddenly coal in your stocking doesn’t look like that bad a punishment.

This clever trip into the woods offers a distinct twist on the traditional bad-guy back-story. When zombies stalks a group of teens in an isolated cabin, it turns out that computer technicians are behind the entire nightmare. Typical. Every year, these secret murders are carried out to make sacrifices to unseen gods. If the sacrifices fail, the gods will destroy all humans, raising the stakes way higher than most other thrillers.

A classic tale of bullying gone wrong, Carrie is still relevant decades after its release. Tortured at school by heartless classmates after she gets her first period and stifled at home by a religious fanatic mother, Carrie’s shut off from the world. But with her blossoming womanhood comes strange new powers, and Carrie soon realizes she can make things happen with her mind. After being humiliated by a brutal prank, Carrie sees red and uses her newfound telekinetic abilities to stand up and get revenge against her tormentors.

First introduced in 1988, Chucky brought a whole new look to the traditional slasher. Killer Charles Lee Ray is shot dead by police, but uses voodoo to transfer his spirit to a doll. The possessed Chucky goes on a killing spree, seeking revenge on former criminal partners and hoping to possess the doll’s young owner—hence the “Pinocchio Syndrome,” since he just wants to be a real boy. But this horrifying plastic murderer with a need to kill kids only gives us more reason to fear dolls.

One of the silver screen’s first scream legends, Boris Karloff’s Imhotep was hell-driven to resurrect his lost love. After archaeologists unearth the mummy, he goes on a lengthy journey to find his old flame’s tomb. Better yet, he stumbles upon her reincarnation and attempts to mummify her as his bride. Though he ultimately fails, Imhotep’s catalyst is eternally relatable. Love, forever making a monster look a bit more human.

We’ve seen people murdered for crop harvests before, particularly in The Wicker Man. But things take a more terrifying turn in Children of the Corn. Kids in a small farming town massacre the adults, sacrificing them to their mysterious leader, He Who Walks Behind The Rows. The idea of our precious future turning against us in service of a twisted prophecy is a nightmare that will stay with you the next time you drive though the countryside.

Revealed in a shocking twist ending, “Angela” has a troubled past for the ages. After losing his family in a boating accident, Peter Baker is taken in by an aunt who raises him as a daughter, “Angela.” Struggling to fit in at camp, memories of her father’s love affair with another man return when a boy kisses her. This sexual confusion drives her mad, propelling her to dispatch camp members in exceedingly gory fashion.

A mother will do anything for her son—even kill. Pamela Voorhees is heartbroken when son Jason drowns at camp. She blames the counselors, who were having sex and left him unsupervised. In retaliation, she embarks on a vengeful quest to kill off Camp Crystal Lake’s young and carefree counselors, particularly the slutty ones. Jason himself takes the killer’s knife in hand for sequels, continuing the slasher tradition of murdering partying teens.

A child killer is scary enough. The disfigured spirit of said child killer haunting dreams takes it to a whole new level. Cornered by angry parents after murdering their children, Freddy Krueger is burned to death in a boiler room. Years later, he resurfaces as a vengeful nightmare, capable of killing teenagers in their dreams. A child killer bolstered by supernatural powers and a twisted revenge plot makes for one of cinema’s more paralyzing motives.

Before our top pick takes a swing at us, here are some honorable mentions:

  • Sadism / Exploring Human Experience, Pinhead: Hellraiser
  • Hunger, The Shark: Jaws
  • Insanity / Repressed Sexuality / Curse, Michael Myers: Halloween franchise
  • Appetite for Human Flesh, The Creeper: Jeepers Creepers
  • Vengeful Victim of Death by Bee Stings, Candyman: Candyman

King of today’s horror, Jigsaw has a motivation like no other. Dying of cancer, he wishes to make people appreciate their lives. This being a horror series, he does this through torturous tests that challenge the victims’ will to live. Basing each trap around the weaknesses in a person’s personality, Jigsaw offers self-help in the most morose manner. For taking people’s lives with a hint of dark helpfulness, we anoint Jigsaw’s as the top horror movie motivation.

Do you agree with our list? Which villain has your favorite motivation? For more informative top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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