As a franchise, Star Trek has more “misunderstood antagonists” than outright villains. Often, the Federation just has misunderstandings with other alien species. But there is some outright villainy in the far future. And some of the most legendary antagonists in sci-fi history came from this franchise. These Star Trek villains hail from The Original Series, from The Next Generation, from Voyager, from Discovery, and everything in between. They come from the big and small screens. But one thing they all have in common is the villainous delight they brought to fans. Here are 13 of the very best (or rather, very worst) Star Trek villains over the last 55 years, ranked.
13. Seska (Voyager, 1995-1996)
Star Trek: Voyager had few great villains, outside of the Borg Queen. The other alien races they fought, like the Hirogen, didn’t have memorable leaders. But the best villain in this Star Trek series was an actual crew member. Seska (Martha Hackett) was one of the rebel Maquis who Janeway took in, who became Voyager crew members when the ship got lost in the Delta Quadrant. But we later learn that she was a Cardassian spy, surgically altered to look Bajoran to infiltrate the Maquis. Later trapped aboard Voyager, she caused all kinds of problems for Janeway’s crew. Including siding with hostile alien races against her crewmates.
12: Harry Mudd (TOS, 1966-1967, The Animated Series 1973, Discovery 2018)
The original series had several memorable antagonists, but almost all were mostly one-offs that never returned. The grand exception to that rule was Harcourt Fenton Mudd, or just Harry Mudd. A space pirate and swindler, actor Roger C. Carmel played him like a 17th-century salty sea pirate. Only one who captains a space freighter used for smuggling and other nefarious purposes.
Harry Mudd appeared three times to plague Kirk and his crew. In the first season’s “Mudd’s Women,” we learn that underneath his jolly exterior is an opportunist, drug dealer, and pimp. And in the more lighthearted “I, Mudd,” he was still someone willing to kill. He even appeared on the animated series. A more sinister version of him played by Rainn Wilson showed up on Discovery. But the best is still the original. And he is one of the best Star Trek villains out there.
11. Nero (Star Trek 2009)
Because of the success of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, many Star Trek movies attempted to follow in the “vengeance-driven madman” template for their main bad guy. And most, like Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis, failed to live up to Khan. But Star Trek 2009’s villain, Romulan Commander Nero came closest. After a supernova destroyed his homeworld, resulting in his wife’s death, he blamed Ambassador Spock for failing to prevent it as promised.
So what does Nero do? The bitter Romulan traveled back in time with one mission — to make Spock suffer as he suffered. Well, since he destroyed his entire home planet of Vulcan, we say he made good on that promise. We admit he’s a bit one-note, but Eric Bana is just great in the role and chews all the available scenery. And this raised him to truly memorable status.
10. The Duras Sisters (The Next Generation 1991-1994, Deep Space Nine 1993, Star Trek: Generations 1994)
One highlight of TNG was a long-running Worf-centric arc, dealing with his family’s Klingon political rivals, House Duras. The first member of House Duras we met was a man, a braggart and idiot, who met his death at Worf’s blade. But his two sisters, Lursa and B’etor, played by Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh, respectively, were much more interesting and fun on screen.
Conniving schemers, the Duras sisters sought to control the Klingon Empire by any means possible. And the fact that women couldn’t rule on the High Council didn’t stop them from trying. They also get extra points for being the ones who destroyed the Enterprise-D in the film Star Trek: Generations. Although these Star Trek villains but a few minutes themselves after that. The Duras sister lived by the sword, and died by the sword.
9. Captain Gabriel Lorca (Discovery 2017-2018)
In the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, the titular ship’s Captain was a rough-around-the-edges jerk named Gabriel Lorca. Jason Isaacs, who played malicious men in the Harry Potter franchise and in Star Wars: Rebels, portrayed Lorca. So really, we should have known from the get-go that Lorca wasn’t just a jerk, but an actual bad guy. We eventually discovered that he hailed from the Mirror Universe, where all the Federation’s counterparts are basically terrible people. We hated Lorca as Captain, but we kind of loved him as an outright bad guy.
8. The Borg Queen (Star Trek: First Contact 1996, Voyager 1991-2001, Picard 2022)
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the franchise introduced the Borg Collective as a cybernetic hive mind, with no individual personalities among them. But when it came time to do the film Star Trek: First Contact, the creative team knew the Borg needed a face. (And a torso. And sometimes, legs). So since the Borg is like a beehive, wouldn’t it have a Queen?
In First Contact, she attempted to assimilate Earth in the past, and bring both Data and Picard to the dark side (to borrow a phrase). The Borg Queen could’ve taken away the collective’s singular scariness, but because of Alice Krige’s performance and weird sensuality, she became a fan favorite. The character later antagonized Voyager, and Annie Wersching currently portrays her on Picard.
7. Q (TNG, DS9, Voyager, 1987-2001, Picard 2022)
The omnipotent entity from the Q Continuum, played by John de Lancie, Q evolved from a Star Trek villain into more of a nuisance. But that’s not how he started. First appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s pilot episode, he forced Picard to stand trial for the crimes of humanity. Other encounters saw him creating wild fantasy scenarios for the Enterprise crew, and currently, changing Earth’s past to create a dystopian present. But he gets to keep villain status for one reason. In an act of pure pettiness, he introduced the lethal Borg to the Federation, centuries too early. And thousands died as a result. That’s pretty villainous to us.
6. Weyoun (Deep Space Nine, 1995-1999)
The biggest threat to peace on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the Dominion, a sort of anti-Federation from the other side of the Galaxy. Although the leaders of the Dominion were its shape-shifting Founders, the face of this empire was the alien race called the Vorta. And the conniving Vorta we saw most on DS9 was Weyoun, played by Jeffrey Combs.
Combs played the characters as if he were a used car salesman. A used car salesman with an army of genetically engineered soldiers at his disposal, mind you. As a clone (as all his species are), even when they killed off this Star Trek villain, he’d just return as an identical version. Weyoun appeared 24 times total on Deep Space Nine, as six different clone variants. He was like a rash that Captain Sisko just couldn’t get rid of. And DS9 viewers were thankful for it.
5. Kruge (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1984)
In the original Star Trek TV series, the Klingons were a lot of posturing and bluster. But they rarely did anything that was too bad. The true template for Klingon badassery was set by Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. As a Klingon Bird of Prey commander named Kruge, he was obsessed with uncovering the secrets of the newly-created Genesis planet for his own ends, and for the glory of the Klingon Empire.
In just this one film, we saw Kruge coldly kill his lover Valkris for seeing classified information, as well as one of his own officers for screwing up on the bridge. And not just killed, but totally vaporized. He also destroyed a Federation starship and had one of his own officers murder Captain Kirk’s son just to prove a point to his adversary. Christopher Lloyd absolutely set the tone for what Klingons were in the franchise going forward with this performance. And that’s why this Star Trek baddie sits so high on our ranked villains list.
4. Kai Winn Adami (Deep Space Nine, 1993-1999)
As we know from the real world, religious fundamentalists are scary. And when they gain political power? They are even scarier. Such is the case with Kai Winn, played by Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher. They introduced us to her as a Bajoran Vedek (priest) in season one of Deep Space Nine. She first appeared as a religious zealot who tried to divide the Federation from the Bajorans.
But those ambitions were not enough for Winn. She soon clawed her way to the top, becoming her planet’s supreme religious figure. Winn said everything with a condescending smile, one that just makes you love to hate her. And as the series progressed, we learned that her so-called faith is just a smokescreen for her desire for power and control. Although the writers gave her layers, she was nevertheless one of Star Trek’s most ruthless villains.
3. General Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1991)
The second-best cinematic villain in the Star Trek franchise was played by the great Christopher Plummer, in the original crew’s final outing together, The Undiscovered Country. When the Klingon and Federation have to make a peace after a tragedy befalls the Klingon homeworld, not everyone in the Empire wants to make friends with their longtime enemies.
At the front of that line was Chang, a Klingon general who loved to quote Shakespeare and who hid all his animosity behind a wry smile. An old warhorse who was not prepared for a peaceful future, he was even willing to work with his enemies to ensure a lasting peace never occurs. He may have made only one appearance in one film, but it sure was one for the ages. Not to mention, we love a villain who wears a great-looking sash.
2. Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek 1967, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 1982)
Ricardo Montalban originally played the part of a 20th century genetically engineered tyrant named Khan Noonien Singh in the 1967 episode “Space Seed.” Despite a great performance, if it was only that one episode, he would likely not be on this Star Trek villains list, much less rank this high. No, it was his return 15 years later as a vengeance-driven madman in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that really makes him one of the all-time greats.
When Star Trek combined believable motivation, top-tier acting, and forever memorable lines (“Vengeance is a dish best served cold”), it made an unbeatable mix. The combination makes him the best big-screen Trek villain of all time. Everyone else in the film series pales in comparison. Especially the other Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the character (in name only) in Star Trek Into Darkness. He does not make it onto our Star Trek villains rankings.
1. Gul Dukat (Deep Space Nine, 1993-1999)
No Star Trek villain was as complicated, layered, and outright evil as the Cardassian war criminal Gul Dukat. As the commandant of Terok Nor, the space station later called Deep Space Nine, he oversaw the occupation and subjugation of the planet Bajor. His rule saw millions of Bajorans die in labor camps, and deal with untold suffering. And when he lost the planet, he became bitterly obsessed with getting his old position back as its brutal overseer.
Although veteran actor Marc Alaimo played the part dripping with ego and evil, he also gave Dukat layers. Among those layers was his genuine caring for his half-Bajoran daughter. But DS9 never let you forget, no matter how much we might occasionally sympathize with him, this was one bad dude. As a recurring villain throughout the seven-season run of DS9, no Trek antagonist was ever allowed more to work with, or delivered it all so well.