Top 10 Soap Opera Villains of All Time

What’s a good soap without those characters we love to hate? There have been countless soap villains throughout the history of daytime, but these 10 unforgettable baddies are in a class all by themselves. 

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Stefano DiMera, ‘Days of Our Lives’

Joseph Mascolo as Stefano DiMera. NBC/Mitchell Haaseth

With a name like that, how could he be anything but one of soaps’ most devious and dangerous villains? When he came to Salem, Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo) was a crime lord being pursued by number one cop, Roman Brady. Stefano’s desire to kill Roman and his family members was so relentless he became one of the most maniacal villains to ever hit daytime.

Stefano and Roman’s cat and mouse game continued for years, with Stefano eventually kidnapping Roman, holding him hostage, and replacing him with an imposter. Stefano finally moved on from his Roman-fixation. He kidnapped Roman’s son-in-law, held him hostage, and replaced him with an imposter. Old habits die hard.

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Sheila Carter, ‘Young and the Restless’ and ‘Bold and the Beautiful'

Crazy Sheila (Kimberlin Brown) pled her case to the parole board. John Paschal/JPI

Sheila Carter was so bad her evil couldn’t be contained on one soap. After a crime spree in Genoa City that included baby stealing, arson, and the attempted murder of her own mother, Sheila fled to L.A. where she murdered her therapist, poisoned her lover’s ex-wife, and hushed one of her cohorts by having him stung to death by a tank full of bees.

Although Lauren shot and killed Sheila in 2007, you can never be sure she’s gone for good, even when DNA tests say so. Despite her wicked ways we sometimes hope she’ll be resurrected, but only by her original portrayer, the magnificent Kimberlin Brown.

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Roger Thorpe, ‘Guiding Light’

Roger was one of the first soap villains to prove that the most fascinating bad guys are the ones who don’t realize they’re bad. Roger justified all of his misdeeds, from kidnapping his daughter to marital rape to dragging his ex-wife Holly against her will through the jungles of Santo Domingo.

When Roger fell from a cliff and was presumed dead, he was also one of the first to set the rule for dying on a soap: if we don’t see the body, a return is inevitable.

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Helena Cassadine, ‘General Hospital’

The widow of a mad scientist who tried to freeze the world, Helena was schooled in the art of evil-doing by the master. To get revenge on Luke Spencer for killing her hubby, she made it a life-long mission to rain hell on the entire Spencer clan. She kidnapped Luke’s son Lucky and programmed him to inject his father with a brain-eating biotoxin.

Helena also likes to keep her diabolical plotting all in the family. She poisoned her son and threw him overboard from a yacht, and had her nephew institutionalized and drugged, simply because she didn’t approve of his choice in women.

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Carlo Hesser, ‘One Life to Live’

This underground drug-trafficking mobster had not a single redeeming quality, but he gets points for creativity. During his reign of terror on , he kidnapped sisters Megan and Sarah Gordon and trapped them in Amish Country, and tied Sarah Roberts and Cristian Vega to a raft and sent them over a waterfall. Carlo was last seen in 2008, which means he’s out there somewhere plotting his next move… maybe in Amish Country.

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James Stenbeck, ‘As the World Turns’

' James had many enemies in Oakdale, but the two main targets of his wrath were always his arch-rival John Dixon, whom he blinded in a car accident and tortured with a dagger, and the object of his obsession, Barbara Ryan. During their marriage, James tried to drive Barbara crazy, had her carted off to the loony bin, and, in the ultimate display of affection, trapped her in a bullring with a raging bull.

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David Hayward, ‘All My Children’

He may be a cardiac surgeon, but Dr. David is more famous for breaking hearts than mending them. Even the love of Pine Valley’s best women couldn’t save David. He continued to lie, cheat, steal, and spike his enemies’ drinks with a libido-enhancing drug called Labidizone.

In 2010 David faked his death to frame his wife’s true love for murder. The only snag was that his wife was the one arrested for the crime. After recovering from a recent gunshot wound, David claimed he wanted to turn over a new leaf. Yeah, like poison ivy.

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Vivian Alamain, ‘Days of Our Lives’

Louise Sorel. NBC/Mitchell Haaseth

While many soap villains perform run-of-the-mill schemes like blackmail, stealing babies, and switching paternity tests, Vivian has the distinction of being the only one to bury an enemy alive – twice. First she stuck Carly in a coffin six feet under. And recently, she buried Maggie alive in a sarcophagus so she wouldn’t steal her husband.

Oh, did I mention, she had to relocate her daughter-in-law’s remains to a pet cemetery to create a vacancy in the sarcophagus? Vivian has taken villainy to new depths.

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Carl Hutchins, ‘Another World’

Carl’s passion was counterfeiting, but he also had a penchant for murder and explosives. He poisoned the son of his nemesis, the noble Mac Cory, and detonated a bomb that killed the beloved Frankie Frame.

Carl spent most of his years in Bay City inflicting pain and misery, but found redemption when he fell in love with heroine Rachel Cory in 1994. By the time the show went off the air in 1999, Carl had transformed into a full-fledged good guy.

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Alan Spaulding, ‘Guiding Light’

Despite his endless list of crimes against almost everyone in Springfield, Alan always had a misguided love for his children and grandchildren, and claimed his criminal activity was done in the name of family. He shot his son, gaslighted his sister, and had his granddaughter’s baby daddy run down – which resulted in the death of an innocent girl.

Although Alan faked two heart attacks, ironically his heart gave out in the end after he elected to go through a risky surgery to save his son Phillip. For most of his life, Alan was as rotten as they come, but he is one of the few villains who died with dignity.