Top Ten: Female Movie Villains

Characters in movies are invariably placed into one of two categories, good guy or bad guy. But let’s not forget that some of cinema’s greatest villains weren’t guys at all. Let’s be honest, anyone who has lived more than a few days is well aware that women are just as capable of great evil as men. Sorry, ladies, but I am about to present my case.

Make no mistake, my friends, there is no such thing as ‘the fairer sex’. Forget Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter or Gordon Gekko. They are rank amateurs compared to this collection of XX chromosome hooligans.

Welcome to my Top Ten Female Movie Villains. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. And guys, next time your special lady friend gives you a hard time for leaving the toilet seat up, read this list, lower the seat, and count your blessings. Then lower the seat cover too, just to be on the safe side.

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Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates)

Misery – 1990

Every writer likes to think they have devoted fans out in the world, but there are limits. Annie Wilkes is definitely one of those limits. Where most fans like to show their dedication by attending conventions or collecting memorabilia, Annie prefers kidnapping, hobbling and coercing full creative control over her idol’s output. She’s like the editor from Hell. My advice is make a copy of your manuscript. And try to remember which way around the china penguin was facing. If Annie Wilkes is your number one fan, you are in all kinds of number two.

Redeeming qualities: She sometimes leaves the house. And she’ll do a good job of fixing up the injuries she inflicts on you. She used to be a nurse, you know.

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Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina)

Audition1999

It’s always the quiet ones, right? Asami may seem like a sweet, shy and reserved young woman, but she actually has a few jealousy issues. Serious jealousy issues, in fact. A couple of counselling sessions aren’t going to fix this one. When Asami asks you to love only her, she means only her. No kids, friends, family, dead wives or pet dogs allowed. Break the rules and she will have no choice but to cheerfully, lovingly, saw off your feet and hands. And then stick needles in your eyes. She means it all affectionately, though, so do try and be a little understanding.

Redeeming qualities: She’ll find a nice, warm sack to keep you in and she’ll feed you regularly. You may not like what’s on the menu, though. Gag.

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Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino)

The Last Seduction1994

Avoid this woman at all costs. If Bridget Gregory shows an interest in you, run for the hills because it will only end in tears. Yours, to be precise. What Bridget lacks in compassion, she more than makes up for in brains. If they handed out Noble Peace Prizes for schemes and machinations, Bridget would win hands down. She’s like Wile E. Coyote, only more successful and with nicer legs. In all fairness, Bridget isn’t completely heartless. If you’re lucky, or just useful, she won’t kill you. She’ll just have you framed for rape and murder and then sod off with all the cash. Ouch.

Redeeming qualities: Jeez. Well, she’s witty and she has money. And your relationship will be mercifully brief.

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Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner)

The Man with Two Brains1983

Dolores likes men. Especially wealthy men with weak hearts. She collects them (and their cash) like baseball cards, and brilliant brain surgeon Dr. Hfuhruhurr is just the next in line. Rampant infidelity and the withholding of matrimonial sex are the tools of her trade, but when she finds herself having to compete with the disembodied brain of sweet natured Anne Uumellmahaye, Dolores has to up her game a little. Dolores Benedict is the right woman with the wrong brain. Dr. Hfuhruhurr has a solution. Into the mud, scum queen!

Redeeming qualities: Dolores can pretend she has redeeming qualities, and she’s a great receptacle for the ideal brain, if you can find one.

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Margaret White (Piper Laurie)

Carrie1976

And you thought your mum was bad. Mrs White is quite possibly the worst mother in the entire world. The kind of fundamentalist Christian who gives fundamentalst Christians a bad name, Margaret isn’t happy unless she’s preaching fire and brimstone to some hapless audience. Unfortunately, the hapless audience is usually her long-suffering daughter Carrie. No matter what misfortunes life throws Carrie’s way, and there are a fair few of them, mommie will always be there to tell her it’s her own fault and she had it coming. Heart warming.

Redeeming qualities: Tough one, this. Not even God could come up with one. She’s not impervious to flying knives. That’ll do.

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Mystique (Rebecca Romijn Stamos)

X-Men2000

Raven Darkhölme is very angry. Being born a blue-skinned shape shifter into a world that doesn’t readily embrace blue-skinned shape shifters has left her with a sizeable chip on her shoulder. And a new name. Mystique is a mutant, proud of it and will kick your ass if you’re not one. And boy, can she kick ass. As far as she’s concerned, humans are there to be slapped around a bit, and then imitated to further the cause. The fact that Mystique can appear as anyone, yet chooses to walk around blue and naked, tells you all you need to know.

Redeeming qualities: Good sense of humour, great at parties, and you won’t have to wait around for hours while she decides what to wear.

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Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck)

Double Indemnity1944

Phyllis has two great loves in life, getting what she wants and getting someone else to get her what she wants. Okay, make that three great loves, the third being a decent insurance policy. Here’s someone who actually understands the fine print. Cold, calculating and completely prepared to use her body to advance her schemes, Phyllis is the poster girl for femme fatales everywhere. In her mind a dead husband is far more valuable than a live one, and if some poor sap is willing to do the deed for her, so much the better. Little minx.

Redeeming qualities: Well, she’ll help you out with those pesky insurance claims, and you could probably hide things under that fringe.

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Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest1975

They say true evil is banal and commonplace, and Nurse Ratched is the perfect example. Her unwavering dedication to her patients would be endearing if she wasn’t so dedicated to the idea that punishment and treatment are the same thing. She is the living embodiment of the conviction that it is all for your own good. When you pass through the doors into the Nurse Ratched’s ward you are a subject in her kingdom, and you’d best do as you’re told. Cold, embittered, cruel and in the words of Randle P. McMurphy, ‘something of a c**t’.

Redeeming qualities: As long as you behave, constantly and without question, Nurse Ratched won’t give you too much trouble. She even smiles from time to time.

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Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya)

From Russia with Love1963

Russian agent Rosa Klebb likes French champagne, Swiss chocolates, other women, torturing people and evil agencies with long acronyms. She dislikes smarmy British agents and being told off by the boss. Moving from SMERSH to SPECTRE, perhaps because the latter has an extra letter in its acronym, Klebb is super-villain Blofeld’s No. 3. It would be easy to admire Rosa simply for being one of the few women impervious to James Bond’s tedious charms, but since this cold fish is impervious to anyone’s charms, it doesn’t really mean much. Brutal.

Redeeming qualities: Not many. She does have a very cool pair of shoes, though. Just don’t get too close to them. Not that you’d want to, let’s be honest.

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Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton)

The Wizard of Oz1939

She’s lean, green and very mean. The Wicked Witch of the West makes Voldemort look like a British actor in make-up. More than a little pissed when her sister is killed by a falling house (it happens), she vows revenge on the insipid Dorothy and her irksome dog. Although those ruby slippers she’s been hankering for probably have more to do with it. Armed with a chin that could chisel brick and a blood-curdling cackle, the Wicked Witch of the West is evil incarnate. She just needs to invest in some waterproof clothing. And she could probably do with a shorter name.

Redeeming qualities: None whatsoever, unless you’re a fan of flying monkeys. You’re not, are you?

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21 people thought reading “Top Ten: Female Movie Villains” would be a good idea. Stranger still, they left messages...

  1. Margaret Reyes Dempsey

    This was great fun! I laughed at the line: “Here’s someone who actually understands the fine print.” So true.

    I adored Margaret Hamilton, through my fingers when I was a wee child, and then eyes uncovered when she was Cora, the Maxwell House coffee lady. :-)

    Okay, my turn now. I’m off to write. ;-)

    Reply
  2. Dan

    Argh. You beat me to it! I was thinking about a top ten female horror movie characters and some of these were on that list!

    Some cracking performances here – my top 2 – Kathy Bates and Piper Laurie. Laurie’s performance is one of the scariest I’ve ever seen.

    I love the inclusion of Linda Fiorentino, and I guess Katherine Turner could have made the grade with more than one role – perhaps The War of the Roses, or more likely, Serial Mom! ;)

    Reply
    1. Richard

      Don’t let me stop you doing that blog, Dan. I want to read it. :-)

      I did have to pick through a few Kathleen Turner roles. But evetually it was being able to write, ‘Into the mud, scum queen’ that swung it.

      Reply
  3. JapanCinema

    Yeah, the girl from Audition was psycho but theres a million other villians out there in Asian film land. If you’re a fan of hers you should check out some others :) Great list by the way.

    Reply
    1. Richard

      Audition stuck in my mind for weeks, and it was between her and Sadako from Ring. I was looking at Eihi Shiina’s filmography while writing the blog, so maybe I will try some of her others.

      Thanks for commenting. Love your site. Should come in useful for picking out some Japanese gems. :-)

      Reply
  4. rtm

    Awesome list, Richard! Totally agree that the fairer sex make for some terrifying villains… it’s not all about physical strength as these women seem delicate on the outside. Wow, Linda Fiorentino, whatever happen to her, I think I saw that movie a long while ago and yes she was quite a menace. For some reason the one that came to mind as soon as I saw the name of the list is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. It sure makes men think a million times before cheating!

    Reply
  5. joem18b

    Great list.

    Just to chime in, I’d name Body Heat as good K. Turner being bad.

    A couple of others that come to mind:

    Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)

    O-Ren Ishii and Elle Driver (Kill Bill)

    The mama in Alien

    The Queen in Snow White

    Godzilla

    Reply
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  7. sundryandco

    The Wicked Witch of the West – An excellent choice! I only have to glance at her face on screen and I still get a shudder. Annie Wilkes, however, has to be the ultimate – I’ve only watched the film once, as it scared me so much the first time, that I don’t think I could watch it again! I remember watching it years back and not recovering for a significant amount of time :D I love this list – Great to female villains for a change.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Women make such great villains, don’t they? And as for the Wicked Witch, can you imagine hearing that cackle in your room at night? Now, that’s scary. It’s likely that anyone who has spent some time in an NHS hospital might find Annie Wilkes less scary through familiarity. I jest, of course. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by. :-)

      Reply
  8. amy

    It’s so weird to see Misery and Wizard of Oz in the same list xD

    Are these villains because they’re crazy, or are they villains because they’re truly evil? Kathy Bates seems the crazy type, while the Wicked Witch is more on the evil side =D

    I had a list of psychotic young women on film xD

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      I guess for the sake of this list I was making judgements based on actions, rather than mental stability. Psychos are just too much fun to leave out. ;-)

      Reply
  9. eduClaytion

    Great looking site and a very cool post. Just found my way here and am really enjoying the work. We just had a poll at my site to determine the best psychological thriller from some big names. Kathy Bates was on the list. I have to say though, love the pick of Margaret Hamilton at the end of this list. So true.

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad to meet you, and equally glad that you’re enjoying my half-lucid scribblings. :-)

      Margaret Hamilton? Was there ever any doubt? She scared the hell out of me as a kid. And an adult.

      I’ll be sure to check out your poll and cast my vote. :-)

      Reply
  10. Novroz

    Great list!! I might steal your idea for my monthly top-5 post one day ;)
    Although I don’t know most of the females here, but i really enjoy reading it. Annie Wilkes will definitely be in my list.

    Reply

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