Why he was a good villain: Merritt was one of the most chilling villains of all time. He was creepy and constantly played mind games with the detectives. He was also responsible for the death of his wife’s doctor. Not to mention, he kidnapped Olivia Benson!
SVU Character: Bart Ganzel
Episode: Season 13, Episode 23 — Season 14, Episode 2
Why he was a good villain: Bart was in charge of an escort service and poisoned many women. Not only that, he also framed Captain Cragen for murder and used hitmen to kill people. He was bad, but he was also interesting.
SVU Character: Delia Wilson
Episode: Season 13, Episode 23 – Season 14, Episode 2
Why she was a good villain: Along with Bart Ganzel, Delia Wilson used her power to drug women so they’d join her escort-service. She also used hitmen to kill people. Her back-and-forth with Bart was disturbing, but it also made for great television.
Lou Diamond Phillips
SVU Character: Victor Gitano
Episode: Season 7, Episode 19
Why he was a good villain: Victor not only kidnapped children, he actually slashed Olivia Benson’s throat! He also held Olivia and Elliot at gunpoint. He was one of the few villains to actually seriously hurt one of the detectives.
SVU Character: Andre Bushido
Episode: Season 10, Episode 7
Why he was a good villain: Andre smuggled animals and was also a white slaver, which made him quite different from other SVU villains. He also shot Elliot Stabler.
SVU Character: William Lewis
Episode: Season 14 – Season 15
Why he was a good villain: William is one of the most devilish villains of all time. Not only is he a rapist, a kidnapper, and a killer, he abused and abducted Olivia Benson. He also escaped jail and even kidnapped Olivia again!
SVU Character: Lowell Harris
Episode: Season 9, Episode 15
Why he was a good villain: Along with attacking Olivia Benson (can she catch a break?!), Harris raped and murdered many women at a women’s prison. He was disgusting and perverted.
SVU Character: Dr. Greg Yates
Episode: Season 16 — Season 17
Why he was a good villain: It’s no surprise that the character of Dr. Greg Yates was based on Ted Bundy. Yates was a serial rapist and a serial murder who terrorized women for years. He also managed to escape prison!
SVU Character: Dr. Carl Rudnick
Episode: Season 9, Episode 16 — Season 17
Why he was a good villain: Dr. Carl Rudnick was a serial rapist and killer who just so happened to be based off of Robert Durst. Rudnick was creepy because he was a cross-dressing serial killer who would impersonate people, but he was also a medical examiner who just so happened to examine the bodies of women he actually killed!
SVU Character: Sheila Porter
Episode: Season 19
Why she was a good villain: Unlike most of the other villains on this list, Sheila actually didn’t kill anybody, but she’s still one of the most conniving people to ever be on the show. She’s the biological grandmother of Olivia’s son, Noah, and even kidnapped him after Olivia won custody.
SVU Character: Terry Jessup
Episode: Season 4, Episode 7
Why he was a good villain: There have been many child predators over the years on SVU, but Terry was one of the worst. In fact, he raped and murdered a little 5-year-old girl. He was sick and twisted.
SVU Character: Hunter Mazelon
Episode: Season 12, Episode 23
Why he was a good villain: SVU rarely has villains who are young people, which is why Hunter was such a compelling bad guy. Hunter was a juvenile delinquent who was a serial rapist, but his back story was very interesting. Though his crimes were heinous, there was a part of you that felt badly for him because he had been molested as a child.
While it’s easy to root for the detectives on Law & Order: SVU, it’s really the villains that keep the show interesting and fresh. Whether it’s a creepy serial killer, a malicious kidnapper, or an animal abuser, after 20 seasons this show has had no shortage of epic baddies.
Though it’s hard to narrow it down to just a select few, here are the 12 best SVU bad guys — and gals — of all time! Check out the gallery above to see the list.