A few weeks ago I posted a column about female protagonists ("Let's Hear It for Heroines"), and in putting together my list of those I was a little surprised at how few female heroes have been featured in novels and movies. The same thing goes for female villains, but even more so--Hollywood doesn't seem fond of casting a woman as the bad guy. But I'm fond of those in the following list. I've ranked these evil folks backward, by the way, from least creepy (#25) to most creepy (#1). My opinion only.
NOTE: Evil, in this case, doesn't necessarily mean criminal. It means those who scared me the most. How many of these do you remember?
25. Eleanor Shaw (Angela Lansbury) -- The Manchurian Candidate
24. Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) -- Body Heat
23. Bellatrix Lastrange (Helena Bonham Carter) -- Harry Potter
22. Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) -- Snow White and the Huntsman
21. Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler) -- Hocus Pocus
20. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) -- Maleficent
19. Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) -- Friday the 13th
18. The White Witch (Tilda Swinton) -- The Chronicles of Narnia
17. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) -- Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
16. Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) -- From Dusk to Dawn
15. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) -- Sunset Boulevard
14. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) -- The Wizard of Oz
13. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) -- Gone Girl
12. Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter) -- Play Misty for Me
11. Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) -- Monster
10. Ellie Driver (Darryl Hannah) -- Kill Bill
9. Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) -- Natural Born Killers
8. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) -- Rebecca
7. Catherine Trammel (Sharon Stone) -- Basic Instinct
6. Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) -- Mommie Dearest
5. May Day (Grace Jones) -- A View to a Kill
4. Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) -- From Russia With Love
3. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) -- Fatal Attraction
2. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) -- Misery
1. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) -- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Following up on that, here are ten female antagonists who weren't all that scary to me--but I just didn't like 'em. At all. I've ranked these from the least unlikable (#10) to the most unlikable (#1):
10. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
9. The Warden (Sigourney Weaver) -- Holes
8. Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett) -- Annie
7. Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) -- The Goonies
6. Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) -- The Help
5. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) -- The Graduate
4. Regina George (Rachel McAdams) -- Mean Girls
3. Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) -- Working Girl
2. Cinderella's stepmother (Cate Blanchett)--Cinderella
1. Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) -- The Devil Wears Prada
These lists don't include, of course, bad girls who are likeable--Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon), etc. But audiences are expected to like them: they're protagonists, not antagonists.
I also left out good/bad shapeshifters like Regan McNeil (The Exorcist) and Carrie White (Carrie), villains from TV series--Cercei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Sister Mary Eunice (American Horror Story), and a bunch of meanies from Buffy the Vampire Slayer--and animated female villains like Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians) and Ursula the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid). And so on and so on.
As usual, I've included only characters from movies I've actually seen, which leaves out a lot of candidates. Who are some of your favorite female movie villains? Also (he asked, holding up a gender-equality sign), have you featured women as villains in your own writing?
I have. And it's fun.