10 Horror Movies With No Obvious Villain

Naming the villain in these horrors is harder than you think.

Lake Mungo
Arclight Films

Whether it’s Freddy Krueger and his razor-fingered drive for child-killing vengeance or a nasty demon hellbent on torturing the souls of whichever unlucky family’s house it’s attached itself to, horror films are famous for their wide selection of villains. In fact, this genre is home to some of the most iconic big screen baddies ever created.

The villain’s role is to be the object of terror. They’re there to be the source of dread to ensure the protagonist remains in danger and audiences are kept in a state of tension. A great villain often results in a great movie. However, spotting the real villain isn't always so easy.

While most films make it obvious who the villain is supposed to be, the distinction between who’s good and who’s evil isn’t always made as clear to viewers. Rather than being cut-and-dry tales of good vs evil, films like these tend to be more nuanced in their terror.

They can weave character studies which are as disturbing as they are intriguing, or they can be a non-stop guessing game of who the killer is. Either way, there’s no obvious villains to be found here.

10. Devil (2010)

Lake Mungo
Universal Pictures

Claustrophobic thriller Devil is the perfect premise for a whodunnit-style horror where anyone could be the killer.

Set within the confides of a cramped lift, John Erick Dowdle’s flick sees a group of strangers find themselves trapped together when the lift they're in mysteriously breaks down. Being stuck in a lift is enough to ruin anyone’s day, but things are made much worse when one of the strangers is the literal devil.

Whenever the lights go out, one of the trapped is killed. Meanwhile, a small team of security guards and investigating police officers work to figure out what’s going on and discover who the killer is before everyone is killed. It’s a race against the clock to find answers while the bodies start piling up.

Executed with an endearing B-Movie charm that has all the idiosyncrasies M. Night Shyamalan (who’s credited with conceiving the story) is famous for, there are enough red herrings thrown in throughout its snappy eighty-minute runtime to keep viewers second guessing themselves to who the devil in disguise is.

And, coming from the mind of the Shyamalan, nobody will see the reveal coming when it’s time to unmask the true villain.


Glasgow-based cinephile who earned a Masters degree in film studies to spend their time writing about cinema, video games, and horror.