J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings novels are nothing short of a literary phenomenon. All the major archetypes are there, and it could be argued that Tolkien helped create some of them. It’s a timeless tale not just of good vs. evil, but also how temptation and folly play a role in our lives, and how we can fight against it.
That being said, there are many characters in the story that are downright despicable, and will never see the error of their ways. Peter Jackson’s cinematic LOTR trilogy helped bring these nefarious villains to life, showcasing them in all their infamy. It’s time to rank the most evil characters from The Lord Of The Rings, from downright shady, to the worst of the worst.
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Gollum’s evil nature stemmed largely from the corrupting nature of the One Ring, but it began arguably before he came into its possession. Sméagol saw fit to murder his cousin Déagol after the latter had stumbled upon the Ring during a fishing trip. After murdering him and claiming possession of the Ring, Sméagol was cast out of his community due to his belligerent nature.
With no company except the Ring, Sméagol became known as the creature Gollum, and rejected the outside world. He would routinely kill those who came near his domain, and he attempted to get both Frodo and Sam killed so that he could regain the Ring once again. Gollum did struggle with his own conscience, and was capable of showing remorse, so he can’t be ruled completely evil, but his darker nature always seemed to win.
Saruman was supposed to epitomize the brilliance and purity of the Valar, but instead he fell to the trappings of corruption. He started out as a kind wizard, but he was also arrogant, dismissive of others, and condescending. It was but a small taste of what would later come when he learned that the spirit of the dark lord Sauron still festered in Middle Earth.
Rather than devote himself to Sauron’s destruction, he instead struck an unholy alliance between Isengard and the evil forces of Mordor. Secretly, he schemed to take the Ring for himself, but it required maintaining the illusion of that alliance. His machinations against Rohan spilt much blood, and his treachery nearly tipped the balance of military power in favor of Mordor.
8. The King Of The Dead
The Army of the Dead were cursed by Isildur for failing to come to his aid against Sauron’s forces, but their treachery was already evident at that point. Secretly, they worshipped Sauron whilst maintaining the lie that they were allied with Gondor. As such, the curse fell swift, and the Army was damned to linger without rest.
The King of the Dead was a particularly unscrupulous villain who would gladly kill anyone who marched on the White Mountains. Aragorn struck a bargain to lift their curse in exchange for their service in battle against Mordor’s forces, but the King did not accept out of the kindness of his heart, or a sense of honor and duty. He and his men simply wanted to rest.
The creature known as Lurtz managed to do quite a bit of damage in his relatively short time on Middle Earth. He was one of the first of Saruman’s dreaded Uruk-hai, a deadly orc offshoot with vastly enhanced physical strength and stamina. It was Lurtz who led the Uruk-hai in a campaign that nearly destroyed the Fellowship early into their quest.
Lurtz was pure, unmitigated malice and cruelty, with a singular mind to obey his master Saruman. He was a creature bred for war, therefore it isn’t known how far his evil extended beyond that purpose. In battle, he was absolutely merciless, without an ounce of compassion. He lived to shed blood, and would have spilt much more had he been allowed to live on.
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The character Gothmog isn’t fleshed out in Tolkien’s novels, but his on-screen debut in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy goes much farther, representing him as one of the most evil characters in the story. Gothmog is wholly devoid of compassion or goodness, and instead takes great delight in the concepts of war, slaughter, and sadism.
His battle tactics frequently involved the use of psychological warfare to demoralize and frighten his enemies in the hopes that their confidence would shatter. In the case of Mordor’s attack on Minas Tirith, he very nearly succeeded before Gandalf managed to rally Gondor’s forces, and counter-strategize.
5. The Balrog
Few creatures in LOTR lore are so universally feared as the dreaded Balrogs. One of the most wicked and fearsome of these demonic beasts was the Balrog who inhabited the abandoned bowels of the Mines of Moria. There, it lay in wait for anyone foolish enough to enter its domain, be they friend or foe alike.
Indeed, the orcs of Moria were terrified of the Balrog, and for good reason. This frightening creature was described as a dark apparition cloaked in shadow and flame, and it held no goodness in whatever passed for its heart. The Balrogs were initially created by the first dark lord known as Morgoth, which in itself is a terrifying thought.
Any creature viewed as a pet by Sauron must be exceptionally evil, and Shelob certainly fits the definition. This giant spider gained Sauron’s favor early on, perhaps because of her biological link to Ungoliant, the most infamous of her kind. She guarded the pass of Cirith Ungol after taking up residence there, acting as a deterrent for those foolish enough to slip into Mordor via the back door.
Shelob was a creature of pure, unfettered evil, feasting on her own offspring, as well as any other creature who managed to get caught in her thick webs. She enjoyed the stalking and killing process, and thought nothing of the lives she took, whether good or evil. Indiscriminate murder was her forté.
3. The Mouth Of Sauron
Few individuals got to speak directly with the dark lord Sauron, and only one was bestowed the dubious honor of speaking directly for him. The Mouth of Sauron was just that, a man in service to the dark lord who would commune, then share his message to both allies and enemies, alike.
It was obvious that the Mouth enjoyed his job immensely, and perhaps saw himself ascending the ranks of Sauron’s future order. His twisted physicality and cruel, heartless banter proved that there wasn’t a stitch of good in him. He was gleeful to share his master’s message, while holding a position of great authority over Mordor’s forces.
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2. The Witch-King Of Angmar
The Nazgûl are frightening as a collective force, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest – the Witch-king of Angmar. He was one of Sauron’s most fearsome lieutenants, and instrumental in his war efforts against the races of Middle Earth. He was also bestowed with incredible magical strength that rivaled even Gandalf the White.
He was also extremely difficult to kill, given his inherent resistance to most forms of weaponry. As Sauron’s power grew, so too did the Witch-king’s, and he became a destructive force on the battlefield in his own right. He was beyond any hope of redemption back to the light, and took great delight in killing for Sauron’s glory.
Sauron managed to traumatize an entire world with his evil plans for total conquest and domination of Middle Earth, and stories of his campaign did not fade fast. His evil was so potent that he was able to channel his dark powers into a single Ring, which was in turn tied to his very life force and existence.
At full strength, Sauron was immeasurably powerful, and he used it to channel his malice and rage. Other evil beings flocked to his banner with an instinctual desire to march at his side, even if he cared little for them. He remains one of the greatest cultural allegories to Satan the Devil in modern history, blending cruelty and malice with intellect and sophistication, creating a truly evil entity.
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