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The 20 Greatest Female Movie Villains of All Time

30 November 2015 | Features, Other Lists | by Yasmin Kleinbart

Annie Wilkes Misery

Throughout cinema history, women have traditionally been seen as dismissive and obedient. They were the caretakers, mothers, and keepers of the household while the men were working for the day.

Well, there is certainly nothing sweet and passive about these hardcore women. They come from different backgrounds and cultures likes as crime leaders and nurses, and bring a different perspective to their situation. They all bring a certain kind of uniqueness to their villainy that isn’t just using arsenic to kill their husbands. Through violence, backstabbing, and dictatorship, these women prove that they can dominate in a man’s world without them by their side.

 

20. Veda Pierce (Mildred Pierce)

Veda Pierce (Mildred Pierce)

While not a traditional villain per se, Veda is the epitome of the “spoiled daughter” trope. Despite having a single mother break her back to provide her with a good life, Veda just spits on her face every time. She’s embarrassed to be seen with her mother in her waitress outfit because she thinks it’s beneath her. She showed her disdain by making their maid wear it. She also has no trouble sleeping and eloping with her mother’s new husband.

While some people love and cheer for the villains in films, everyone cringes whenever she comes on screen. She’s not misunderstood or had a particularly hard life. She’s just a spoiled brat who exploits her mother’s hard work to pay for her luxurious expenses. And when that stopped working, she attempted to fake a pregnancy to blackmail a wealthy family. As her father says in the last line of the book, “To hell with her.”

 

19. GoGo Yubari (Kill Bill)

GoGo Yubari (Kill Bill)

O-Ren Ishii’s bodyguards are tough baddies to beat, especially GoGo Yubari. From her innocent schoolgirl demeanor, it’s hard to guess that she stabbed a guy in the groin for flirting with her (after she persuaded him to). But when she’s fighting, she’s ruthless, violent, and pretty damn good with a ball and chain. Her ability to cut down multiple men at once shows that her power is way deadlier than imagined.

And her fight with The Bride shows that power at work when she’s able to swing that ball and chain around like it was cloth. She may not be in Kill Bill for long, but she is one hell of an adversary.

 

18. Princess Asa Vadja (Black Sunday)

Black Sunday

Regarded as one of the first formidable female villains in horror, Princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is one of the forgotten greats. Loosely based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story, Viy, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday is a gothic classic, revolving around demons and witchcraft.

The film tells the story of Princess Asa Vadja, a 17th century Moldavian witch whom her brother sentences to death. While she’s being burned at the stake, she swears revenge and places a curse on his descendants. 300 years later, she gets her wish by possessing a princess (also played by Steele) and attempting to drain her blood to achieve immortality.

Steele uses the classic seduction approach to murder the men getting in her way, and it works so well. She especially has a way with resurrecting dead bodies to do her bidding. Her oozing sexuality and her obsession with power make her a great villain that deserves more attention.

 

17. Ma-Ma (Dredd)

Ma-Ma (Dredd)

We all know that Lena Headey can play the manipulative woman well on Game of Thrones, so this should come as a no-brainer. Unlike Cersei, Ma-Ma didn’t play the game just through whispers; she went straight for the torture devices.

Madeline Madrigal (Ma-Ma) had a very hard life growing up; at 13, she was a drug-using prostitute desperate for a way out. So she decided to “feminize” her pimp by biting his penis off while he was high on the drug, Slo-Mo (which made the pain even more agonizing). She then created her gang—called the Ma-Ma Clan— and slowly killed off the rival organizations, making her the boss around the sector,

Peachtrees. She’s a headstrong leader who isn’t afraid to create bloodshed when necessary, even at the expense of her own men. She didn’t take any blame for her actions such as killing dozens of innocents with mini guns meant for Dredd. Apparently, it was his fault for making it too “messy”.

 

16. Kathryn Merteuil (Cruel Intentions)

Kathryn Merteuil (Cruel Intentions)

Before Regina George, there was Kathryn Merteuil: the face of the privileged and bored. Since she is based on Isabelle Merteuil from Dangerous Liaisons, you know that she will be the queen of secrets and deception.

But no one would know that by looking at her. She puts on the religious model student facade for the public, but behind the scenes, she uses people as pawns in her own twisted games.  She uses her sexuality in exchange for a car with her narcissistic step-brother, Sebastian, and uses her “saintly” personality to con a naive girl into losing her virginity. She even threatens the reputation of Sebastian’s new girlfriend just because it amused her.  Petyr Baelish could learn a thing or two from her.

 

15. Regina George (Mean Girls)

Regina George (Mean Girls)

While we all may not have encountered gun slinging, sword-fighting women in our time, we’ve all been victimized by Regina George in our life.

From the cliques to the parties, Regina is a symbol for all of the high school bullshit we’ve encountered in our lives. She’s spread horrible rumors, framed her friends, and had a knack for being incredibly two-faced. She’s someone who will make you think she’s your best friend, but is planning your demise at the same time. She stole Aaron Samuels away from Cady simply because she wanted to torture her like a hungry cat does to a mouse.

And let’s not forget about the infamous “burn book” which caused an all out war between all of the high school girls. And regardless of what happened, people still seem to love her. Instead of losing in the end, she still is the same person, but just focuses on destroying lacrosse players instead.

 

 

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  • Lupano Spinafro

    Emma Small, Johnny Guitar.

    • sol

      good one!

  • Utopian Hermit Crab

    Bellatrix Lestrange and Gogo Yubari are both minions controlled by a higher power, which you only accentuate by also mentioning O-Ren Ishii, from the same movie nonetheless. Furthermore, you should have listed Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil from the original movie, or at least used her correct full name, instead of the knock-off character in the sub-par remake.

  • wendell ottley

    Some excellent picks here, but certainly some important ones missing:

    Margaret White (Carrie)
    Mary Lee Johnston (Precious)
    Aileen Wuornos (Monster)
    Cruella De Ville (101 Dalmations)
    Mystique (X-Men franchise)
    Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction)
    Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct)

    • Mystique? Dude come on….

  • Lawrence Thompson

    Jenny from Forrest Gump is way up there in my “female villain” list. She was selfish, manipulative to the point of being a hard core user, rebellious, hateful, and used Forrest for sex one night, then abandoned him despite him loving her endlessly. When she turned up sick, and ONLY when she turned up sick, did she decide to let him know he had a son, about, what? FOUR YEARS AFTER HIS BIRTH!?! What kind of SICK woman does that shit? But now that she’s sick (after years of promiscuous unprotected sex, intravenous drug use, and who knows what other really oh-so-safe-social-practices) does she let Forrest sr. in on the fact that he’s a dad, that she NOW wants to marry him, and that NOW he can take care of their son . . . now that she’s gonna be dead soon. What a cast iron BITCH!

    • Wyatt W.B

      I couldn’t agree more. Many people see it as a love story, but I think she was just a bitch. A horrible woman who used and manipulated a man who helped her. I hated her.

    • bumboclot

      Selfish, thoughtless, addict maybe, but she was never evil. Gump also went off on his own adventures without her. She was more self destructive than cruel and Gump was only in her line of fire because he had that irrational attachment to her. Still, villain or no, she was one heck of a horrible person.

    • Allister Cooper

      Well said, Mr Thompson.

  • Cygnifier

    Edit. Dear god, revise, edit, and proofread. Drop the appalling stereotypes, the hyperbolic claims (often unsupported), and give the names of the actresses for ALL the roles, which don’t exist separate from those who played them. Sheesch.

  • FAS

    2 female villains whom I find underrated are Myung-ja from The Housemaid (1960) and Mitsuko Souma from Battle Royale.
    I also find Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye a really good Bond villain.

  • sol

    i’m sorry, Cruel Intentions? Really? Bette Davis in Whatever happened to baby Jane or Gene Tierney in Leave her to heaven are not in this list but, fucking Sarah Michelle Gellar is?

  • Grace Skerp

    No Mrs Iselin (Angela Lansbury) The Manchurian Candidate? That woman was hell bent on world domination and had her only child turned into a murderous automaton to do so. Picking on your kids, classmates, mom? Amateur hour.
    Plus, a brilliant performance.

  • Renata Zbóril

    I don’t think Nurse Ratched is a villain for start…
    The movie just ignores the fact that, in the book, she’s brutally abused, raped, had as a frigid woman of the institution, and after all that, humiliated more and more.
    It is a good movie and we cannot denial it, but we can’t also ignore the fact that it’s based upon on a book and simply forgets the horrendous things that happens to her as a woman in the middle of a men’ institution in the book to make her as a villain.
    It was a great movie to me ’till the book.

    • bumboclot

      She truly is a villain in the movie because she does actually display cruelty beyond just being tough on the other characters. If bad things happened to her in the past, that doesn’t really escuse her behavior as a villain, though it may explain it.

  • Rowsdower!

    Isabelle Adjani, Possession
    Mary Woronov, Rock n Roll High School
    Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers
    Kim Walker, Heathers
    Zooey Deschanel, 500 Days of Summer

    And my personal favorite…Eva Green, Dark Shadows!!!

    https://33.media.tumblr.com/a5559f943a2adca70e6c1937763260de/tumblr_navuybsgHQ1sj30xao1_500.gif

  • Pingback: The 20 Greatest Female Movie Villains of All Time | GoGoAnimes.com()

  • bumboclot

    I don’t know if Catwoman is much more of a villain than Batman himself. I mean she was basically a vigilante who was willing to go only slightly further than Batman beyond the law. Easy to judge her as “evil” if your other identity is a billionaire while she has to steal to survive.

  • Allister Cooper

    Meryl Streep as the nun in Doubt. And with all due respect to my Catholic pals, I thank heaven I’m not Catholic.

  • Allister Cooper

    Soma Mitsuko in Battle Royale.

  • Tristan Reed

    Pretty dreadful list with some massive oversights – this might be a list of the greatest female villains only in films you have seen..but that’s totally different to ‘of all time’.

  • lauramoreaux

    Bette Davis in What ever happened to Baby Jane

  • jann1k

    Mrs. Jones (Prisoners, probably the best female serial killer in film)
    Mason (Snowpiercer, glorious performance by Tilda Swinton)
    Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct)
    Ava (Ex Machina)

    but even though there are some great female movie villains, I gotta say TV has been way more consistent in providing evil women to make our skin crawl.

  • Adi

    Nicole Kidman – To Die For!

    • jane

      good call

  • jane

    amy dunne isn’t *that* bad… she’s got her reasons. in the book it’s more clear that she kind of has to kill desi because he is a stalker who keeps her imprisoned there. also, nick has been a dick of a husband and her parents used her for profit. so yeah, i think hers is more about revenge.

  • Klaus Dannick

    Phyllis Dietrichson?

  • Lawrence Thompson

    I wanted to add Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) from “Stardust”.
    What a witch with an upper case B!!!