The rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg), a GABAergic afferent to midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons, has been hypothesized to be broadly activated by aversive stimuli. However, this encoding pattern has only been demonstrated for a limited number of stimuli, and the RMTg influence on ventral tegmental (VTA) responses to aversive stimuli is untested. Here, we found that RMTg neurons are broadly excited by aversive stimuli of different sensory modalities and inhibited by reward-related stimuli. These stimuli include visual, auditory, somatosensory and chemical aversive stimuli, as well as “opponent” motivational states induced by removal of sustained rewarding or aversive stimuli. These patterns are consistent with broad encoding of negative valence in a subset of RMTg neurons. We further found that valence-encoding RMTg neurons preferentially project to the DA-rich VTA versus other targets, and excitotoxic RMTg lesions greatly reduce aversive stimulus-induced inhibitions in VTA neurons, particularly putative DA neurons, while also impairing conditioned place aversion to multiple aversive stimuli. Together, our findings indicate a broad RMTg role in encoding aversion and driving VTA responses and behavior.