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Frank Underwood, 'House of Cards’
Kevin Spacey's conniving politician is constantly thinking about his next move. This man does nothing but plot how to wrest control from those around him, then destroy the lives of those same people. Who’s he going to shove in front of a train next? Either way, his machinations were slick enough to get him appointed the vice president of fictional America—and now he’s settling into the Oval Office to continue his reign as the most powerful man in the nation. So, that’s good. —Megan Daley
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Rumplestiltskin, 'Once Upon a Time'
Wondering who's really pulling the strings any time something goes down in Storybrooke? Wonder no more—it's basically always the doing of the Dark One, a brilliant chess master who engineered the casting of the Evil Queen's original Dark Curse precisely so that he could track down the son he lost centuries ago. The only person on the show who could hold a candle to Rumple was his father, a.k.a. Peter Pan, who dominated the series in season 3—but guess which one of them managed to survive into season 4? —Hillary Busis
3 of 22
Katherine Pierce, 'The Vampire Diaries'
Elena's devious doppelganger, played by Nina Dobrev with curly hair, has been on the run and running amok since the 15th century, thanks mostly to her elaborate and moderately successful schemes. She's an expert at seduction and faking her death, but can find her plans undone by her desire to mess with Elena and the Salvatore brothers' lives. —Kat Ward
4 of 22
Cyrus Beene, 'Scandal'
Fitzgerald Grant's White House chief of staff, played by Jeff Perry, has elevated Machiavellian machination into an art form. This is a man who rigged the voting in a presidential election, engineered a scandal to discredit the vice president, and even very nearly assassinated his own husband—and that's only scratching the surface of his manipulations. —Kat Ward
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Jerry's mononymous nemesis can be truly malevolent or just irritating, depending on the needs of the episode in question. But either way, Wayne Knight's mailman is frequently plotting something, often with partner-in-crime Kramer—and though most of those schemes end up blowing up spectacularly, you've got to admire the guy for his persistence. Not to mention his ability to climb a tree like a ring-tailed lemur. —Hillary Busis
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Sideshow Bob, 'The Simpsons'
Bart Simpson's archenemy (Kelsey Grammer) first emerged as a bad guy when he framed his boss, Krusty the Klown, for armed robbery. In the years since that season 1 debut, though, Bob's evil plans have gotten a lot more elaborate—he's plotted to steal Selma Bouvier's money by marrying her, then murdering her on their honeymoon; he's rigged a mayoral election; he's attempted to kill Krusty by hypnotizing Bart, then strapping explosives on him. The only ones with the power to stop Bob in his tracks are the Simpson kids... and, of course, a few well-placed rakes.—Hillary Busis
7 of 22
Gus Fring, 'Breaking Bad'
To call Giancarlo Esposito's Gustavo Fring a schemer is a bit of an insult. The man is a major drug kingpin, working with the Mexican Juárez Cartel to distribute methamphetamine throughout the American southwest. And to cover his tracks, he created Los Pollos Hermanos, a very successful fried chicken restaurant chain. But Fring didn't stop there. As a public booster for the local DEA, he made himself not only an unlikely target for investigation, but a beloved member of the Albuquerque community. Combine it all, and you get a mastermind who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty when the occasion calls for it. (Remember Don Eladio and the poisoned tequila, or poor Victor?) His only downfall? Getting involved with Walter White. —Samantha Highfill
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Ben Linus, 'Lost'
Held in captivity by the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, Ben (Michael Emerson) claims that his name is Henry Gale, survivor of a hot air balloon crash. It's not a very original lie, but he tells it with such detached conviction that it almost works. That sums up Ben Linus—stunningly bad judgment backed by an unbeatable talent for manipulation. He carries himself like an underdog, engendering just enough sympathy to make people want to believe him no matter how many times he's proven that they shouldn't. Even the show can't help pitying the man, sending him on a path toward hard-earned redemption by the series' end. Everyone is powerless against Ben Linus. —Kelly Connolly
9 of 22
The Brain, 'Animaniacs'; 'Pinky and the Brain'
If you have even a passing familiarity with the laboratory mice Pinky and the Brain, you know what the Brain's objective is. Pinky's not much of a thinker—narf—but his partner's mission is singular. When Pinky asks what they're going to do that night, the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) only has one answer: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world." —Esther Zuckerman
10 of 22
"A," 'Pretty Little Liars'
Considering it's on a network called ABC Family, there sure are a lot of injuries, near fatalities, and deaths (fake and otherwise) on "Pretty Little Liars." And nearly all of those events center on a villain we can't even identify: the mercurial "A." He/she/it/they changes every half-season, but is capable of crazy feats like texting anonymously IN RED. At the rate this show is going, we may never know who the Big Bad actually is. —Dalene Rovenstine
11 of 22
As the literal Scribe of God, Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) is nothing if not a storyteller. He's an angel with something to say, and when God was nowhere to be seen in heaven, Metatron decided to start writing his own story. Masterfully weaving together multiple plots, Metatron manipulated Castiel—and just about everyone—until he was able to successfully cast all angels from heaven, igniting a war. And even after being captured and put in angel jail, he still seems to be one step ahead of the Winchesters when it comes to his Mark of Cain knowledge. After all, it's not easy to stop the angel who literally knows everything (because he wrote it down). —Samantha Highfill
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Wile E. Coyote, 'Looney Tunes'
Sure, his wacky plots to capture and devour that fleet-footed Road Runner usually end up with the coyote sustaining great bodily harm, thanks in no small part to an unpredictable ACME-branded gadget—but you've got to admit that the usually-mute canine has style. (In his most memorable appearances, he's voiced by the great Mel Blanc.) How else could Wile E. convince so many unseen delivery dudes to lug umpteen anvils all the way to the middle of the desert? —Hillary Busis
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Thomas Barrow, ‘Downton Abbey’
Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) has a lot of secrets, but he hasn’t created the same air of mystery about his manipulative ways. He’s always trying to get his co-workers fired. He’s constantly getting into some sort of trouble because he just can’t help it (remember Kemal Pamuk in series 1?). He even tries to manipulate Lady Grantham, but she had none of it (naturally). This guy is the worst. —Megan Daley
14 of 22
Vee, ‘Orange is the New Black’
Yvonne "Vee" Parker (Lorraine Toussaint) is the master manipulator who shakes things up at Litchfield in the second season of 'Orange is the New Black'—and poor Taystee pays the price. Vee leads the boisterous inmate down the wrong path both in prison and in her life before prison. She also starts an illegal cigarette racket almost single-handedly and manages to transform poor Suzanne from misunderstood prison poetess to the bulldog everyone's always assumed her to be. Rosa was there to bring Vee to justice in the finale of season 2—but is she really gone for good? Here’s hoping...or not. —Megan Daley
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Dick Dastardly, 'Wacky Races'
The Hanna-Barbera universe's most fearsome villain—based on the baddie Jack Lemmon played in the 1965 slapstick classic ''The Great Race''—isn't really so fearsome; he's mostly interested in simply winning the lengthy, complex road rallies featured in each episode. His primary method for achieving that goal? Convoluted trickery that took up way too much energy; maybe if he'd simply focused on driving well, he'd occasionally cross the finish line first. Drat, drat, and double drat! —Hillary Busis
16 of 22
Littlefinger, 'Game of Thrones'
It should be clear by now that "Game of Thrones" is basically a giant chess match between eunuch Varys (Conleth Hill) and the brothel-owning Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen). But while even Varys is fighting for order in the realm, Littlefinger’s only out for himself. Many of his moves (helping to assassinate Joffrey, for instance) serve no purpose other than confusing his opponents. This Heath-Ledger-Joker approach to villainy has worked out well; he’s now Lord of the Vale, and all set to seduce a girl half his age out of love for her dead mother. Get ready to squirm. —Christian Holub
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Mr. Krabs' cycloptic ex-best friend, voiced to wicked perfection by Doug Lawrence, proves that big things come in tiny, maniacal packages. His goal—to become the only restaurateur in Bikini Bottom—has led Plankton on numerous elaborate quests to steal the recipe for Krabs' famous Krabby Patties. Most have been unsuccessful—though the little guy did manage to have plenty of F.U.N. while briefly taking over a small corner of the world in the first ''Spongebob'' movie. (You do know what F.U.N. stands for, right?) —Hillary Busis
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Jim Moriarty, 'Sherlock'
To be a foil for Sherlock Holmes, you have to be unpredictable. In Andrew Scott's hands, Moriarty is unhinged—the kind of man who can't be understood because it's not clear if he understands himself. Everything he does is a performance. He breaks into the Tower of London just to get Sherlock's attention, and once he has it, he'll take his own life in order to take the consulting detective down. Moriarty is Sherlock with no moral compass; the game is all that matters. Now that he's apparently back from the dead, Moriarty seems poised to resume his reign of terror—and "Honey, you should see [him] in a crown." —Kelly Connolly
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JR Ewing, 'Dallas'
Larry Hagman's iconic oilman is the personification of wheelin' and dealin', Texas-style. He's a bold workaholic whose ego is dwarfed only by his ten-gallon hat—and his manipulative plots are too numerous to name, from having corrupt detective Harry McSween issue an arrest warrant for his sister-in-law to framing his old rival Cliff Barnes for his own murder. (JR orchestrated the whole thing, knowing that he was dying of terminal cancer. Think of it as the Dumbledore approach.) No wonder everybody wanted to shoot this guy. —Hillary Busis
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Emily Thorne, 'Revenge'
Can scheming done in the name of revenge really be considered bad? That was the question that marked the first season of "Revenge," and Emily Thorne's antics. But four seasons in and with more than few deaths under her belt, the "revenge" excuse doesn't really work for Emily (Emily VanCamp) anymore. Her martial arts training, bilingualism, and close proximity to techie Nolan means no obstacle or person stays in her path long. —Dalene Rovenstine
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Greg Pikitis, 'Parks and Recreation'
Every public servant needs a teenage nemesis. Leslie Knope had Greg Pikitis (Cody Klop), a brat with a fake mom on retainer and a knack for trashing public property when no one's looking. The more Pikitis denies his crimes, the more Leslie loses it ("I have been very civil, but I will waterboard you!"), which only makes him look more innocent. Even Burt Macklin, Andy's FBI alter-ego, can't interrogate the truth out of this kid. The greatest prank Pikitis ever pulled is convincing the world he's not a prankster. —Kelly Connolly
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Eric Cartman, 'South Park'
Don't laugh—this foul-mouthed, pint-sized butterball, voiced by 'South Park' co-creator Trey Parker, may be the most fearsome presence on this entire list. In 18 seasons of mayhem, Cartman has started an organization called the Crack Baby Athletic Association, transformed his left hand into a pop-singing superstar (named… Jennifer Lopez), convinced poor Butters that a meteor had destroyed all of civilization just so Cartman could go to a Mexican restaurant in his stead, nearly launched a second Holocaust, and tricked his nemesis Scott Tenorman into eating a chili made of Scott's own parents. So yeah: If your paths ever cross, just give him a bag of cheesy poofs and slowly back away. —Hillary Busis