One Piece is a series that is more about a story than it is about heroes. Yes, it focuses mostly on Luffy and company slowly rising to the top of the pirate world and making their names known all over the world. However, that’s only half the story. For all the great heroes we love, there are even bigger villains. And arguably, one of the greatest strengths of One Piece isn’t just the world-building, but the villains that populate those worlds. You just really cannot wait for Luffy to punch them right in the face and to see the ramifications of what happens afterwards.
So we thought we’d honor who are the best of the best. There are so many iconic baddies in One Piece that it was impossible to choose, but these are the five that we feel stand out the most.
Poor Enel. He’s stuck to such a universally disliked arc that when discussing the all-time great One Piece villains, he’s easy to overlook. However, if Enel was the main baddie of an arc like Baroque Works or Enies Lobby, you can bet he’d be ranking much higher on this list. However, Enel basically redeems the entire Skypeia arc by being the most condescending jackass possible. He’s a man who believes himself to be God and, even more terrifyingly, has never been given any reason to doubt that. His shocked face when he realizes he can’t hurt Luffy is responsible for one of the most iconic images in all of One Piece to boot, making him an easy pick for this list.
4. Big Mom
When Whole Cake Island kicks off with can only be described as the best Disney villain song Alan Menken never wrote, you immediately know Big Mom is going to be an all-time great. There’s a great contrast between her extreme childlike naiveté and sheer selfishness that makes her unique among One Piece villains. She’s not someone who is using a traumatic event to justify her terrible actions; she genuinely believes she’s doing nothing wrong. By that same token, that creates a warped sense of perception that because she is only trying to do right, that means she can get away with quite literally anything. She’s terrifying to boot: at this point of the series, she is the only major villain who survived a major arc and who Luffy failed to beat in a one-on-one fight.
For many One Piece fans, Arlong stands as the original villain of the series. Even if there have been progressively stronger and stronger foes, Arlong is going to stand as the most intimidating to many. This is because, of all the really major villains, Arlong is the one with the strongest personal connection to a member of the crew. The fact that he murdered Nami’s mother directly in front of her eyes solely due to greed remains one of the most unnecessary moments of cruelty we’ve witnessed in the entire series. He set the standard for what to expect out of One Piece villains.
2. Sir Crocodile
Of course, you can’t talk about iconic villains without discussing the take down of Crocodile during the climactic showdown at Alabasta. This was such a huge moment in anime that it brought a relatively unheard of public domain orchestral piece in Dvorak’s New World Symphony into the pop culture consciousness. It’s such a huge moment for the Strawhat Pirates, managing to stop a Shichibukai right in his tracks and save an entire country with just 7 of them. It’s the moment where the Strawhats transcend from being an unheard of crew to a global force, and that’s what Crocodile represents.
1. Donquixote Doflamingo
We’re not actually sure if Doflamingo or Crocodile is the more iconic One Piece villain, but we’re giving the top to Doflamingo just due to the sheer charisma he exudes. He’s got it all. Does he piss you off? Destabilizing an entire country just due to personal entitlement would be enough to make anyone want to punch him out. Is he terrifying? Just that single, solitary toothy grin and being literally untouchable by anyone else in the series until Luffy gets a swing at him certainly makes a case. Does he have an interesting backstory? Murdering his father at age 8 because he’s mad he got crucified because of his father’s naive belief that they could just mingle with commoners is pretty twisted. One Piece isn’t over yet, but it’s hard to imagine any villain nearly as compelling as Doflamingo.
We wanted to throw in an honorable mention to Blackbeard here, who would have absolutely made this list, but considering Luffy has yet to go toe-to-toe with him, it felt a bit premature. These are who make up the best of the best, though, and we can’t wait to see who Luffy gets to punch out next! Looking at you, Kaidou!
Did we miss your favorite? Are you a Rob Lucci fan? Fan of cockroaches like Buggy? Maintain that the Katakuri fight is the best in the series? Well, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!