Top 10 Movie Villainesses That Keep Fascinating Us

Tags: #Batman ,   #MeanGirls ,   #HarleyQuinn ,   #SuicideSquad ,   #MovieVillains

Julia Adams

Julia Adams

Last updated:  2023-07-21 07:44:25

We love to watch our heroines on the big screen. They're fighting against evil, and it's easy to root for them. Yet the ones we find the most captivating are often dark, deviant, and corrupt. They reflect our twisted and hidden impulses, and we're drawn to live through them the experiences we would never have in reality. Today we are naming our top ten movie villainesses but also check our list of notorious killer couples.

10. Harley Quinn in "Suicide Squad"

Harley Quinn was the best aspect of "Suicide Squad"

Harley Quinn first appeared as a fictional character in "Batman: The Animated Series." The audience was so enamored with her, which led to her introduction to the entire Batman franchise, including films, comics, and video games. She initially appeared on the big screen in an action-adventure "Suicide Squad," starring Margot Robbie as our beloved Harley. People love her because she's fierce, unpredictable, and fun to be around. Yet to understand such a complex character as Harley Quinn, you need to know her background.

Working as a psychiatrist in Arkham Asylum, Harleen Quinzel was tasked with psychoanalyzing the Joker. Manipulated by Batman's biggest nemesis, Harley became what she is today - the Clown Princess of Gotham. Desperately waiting for the affection of Mr. J., a lot of fans sympathized with her. The question stands until this day, is Harley a supervillain or a tragic character? Maybe both?

9. Regina George in "Mean Girls"

Regina implies that her ex-friend Janice is a lesbian

Can we give a big applause to Rachel McAdams and her iconic portrayal of the ultimate mean girl Regina George? The teen comedy-drama explores female high school relationships and brings us one of our favorite badass antagonists on film ever. The "miss plastic" herself takes us back to our school days when we all had this one popular, mean girl - Queen Bee, who ruled our life for a while. She's manipulative, intelligent, and confident, and when she wants something - she gets it.

Regina is your typical teenage girl - she loves shopping, dressing up, and gossiping. Still, she also creates intrigue here and there while controlling all people in her life. Well, maybe she's a bit above the average teen! Nevertheless, we love it! Her character in the "Mean Girls" movie is one that we love to hate, but we sometimes find ourselves rooting for her.

 8. Kathryn Merteuil in "Cruel Intentions"

Kathryn gloats over Sebastian

"Cruel Intentions" came out in 1999, and it took teenagers in the US by storm. Based on the French book "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," it's about upper-class teens in New York high school. If you ask people what hooked them to the film, they'll answer it's Kathryn Merteuil's character, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Kathryn is wealthy, beautiful, and well-liked, but she uses people for her perverted pleasure. Keeping up a religious student facade, on the inside, she's a sociopath and cocaine user. To investigate Kathryn's character's popularity, you have to consider the prude culture of the '90s that made her iconic in teen lives. In a way, she inspired sexual liberation. It was a movie that your parents wouldn't allow you to watch, and that fact alone made it even more pleasurable.

7. Cruella de Vil in "101 Dalmatians"

A trailer for " 101 Dalmatians"

Glenn Close's performance in the 1996 adaptation of "101 Dalmatians" will be remembered for high-fashion leather, fur outfits, and haunting laughter. Cruella de Vill is one of the most beloved characters since Disney introduced her in 1961 for the animated version of the novel "The Hundred and One Dalmatians." Do we need to remind you how popular Cruella is?

Glenn Close introduced this loved villainess to new generations at that time and proved once more that she was an outstanding antagonist. In the movie, Cruella tries to buy Dalmatian puppies from a fashion designer Anita who works for her company. When that fails, she makes her sleazy helpers steal them. All of us, animal lovers, can't stand Cruella's lust for illegal fur coats and her cruelty to animals. She's ruthless and sadistic but remains one of our favorite Disney characters.

 6. Elle Driver in "Kill Bill Volume 1"

Elle Driver's murder attempt

Quentin Tarantino movies always had a vast display of powerful female characters, and "Kill Bill" duology is no exception. If we have to pick our favorite villain, it would be Elle Driver, played by the brilliant Daryl Hannah in "Kill Bill Volume 1." Nicknamed California Mountain Snake, she is in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Elle is a relentless assassin, and just like Daryl Hannah said, she's not empathetic to the audience; she's pure evil.

Starting out as an Interpol agent, she was sent to arrest Bill but ended up falling in love with him and becoming his elite murderer. There's literally not one sound reason for her cruelty and amusement while hurting other people, nothing that viewers can relate to. Evil and arrogant, she will dismantle you in the most creative ways. Indeed, Elle Driver is a good fit for a vengeance story like "Kill Bill."

5. Catwoman in "Batman Returns"

Michele Pfeiffer becoming the Catwoman

Most fans of the "Batman" movie franchise will agree that Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman performance is the best one. In "Batman Returns," we follow the origin story of this superhero. The role was first given to Annette Bening, but she had to pass since she got pregnant. Today it's hard to imagine anyone else depicting a broken Selina Kyle becoming the powerful and confident Catwoman. In 2017, Vulture proclaimed her the best superhero movie villain, as many people enjoyed her dynamic with Batman more than the one he has with The Joker. 

Pfeiffer plays the role of her life as Selina Kyle, Max Shreck's secretary, who ends up being killed by him, only to resurrect as a skillful superpowered human being. Catwoman's character is intense, crazy at times, and not depicted through the usual male gaze that we can see almost all the time when talking about female roles. Yes, she's sexy in that leather outfit, although it's hard to notice it when she's pushed over the edge, insane, and vindictive.

4. Alexandra "Alex" Foster in "Fatal Attraction"

Fatal attraction trailer

Fatal Attraction, a psychological thriller drama, was the most popular film in 1987, and it starred Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, and Anne Archer. The story revolves around a married man who has a one-time affair with Alexandra Foster. Dan (Michael Douglas) moves on with his life, not expecting that he will pay a high price for cheating on his wife. Alex just won't let him go, as we see her attempting to kill herself, killing his daughter's pet and abducting her before eventually trying to kill his wife. For all scorned women out there, she's a hero, seeking justice and making Dan take responsibility for his actions. What the audience can conclude from watching Alex is that she has a BPD, although that doesn't justify her behavior.

Feminists today would criticize this role as we can tell that Alexandra is an independent, single woman, content with her life choices. Showing her become obsessed with Dan, the film is pushing the narrative that without marriage and children, she can't be happy. Either way, Glenn Close received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for the category of Best Actress, and we found her acting inspiring and moving.

3. Catherine Tramell in "Basic Instinct"

Movie trailer for "Basic Instinct"

Sharon Stone brings us the exciting but dangerous Catherine in the 1992 erotic thriller "Basic Instinct." The story follows Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), a detective investigating the murder of rock musician Johnny Boz. Catherine Tramell is an heiress and a crime novelist majoring in psychology. Throughout the film, it's implied that she is a serial killer who murdered her parents and, basically, every man she got involved with. Tramell is the prime suspect in the ongoing investigation of the murder of the rockstar since he died, just like the fictional character in her latest novel.

We have Sharon to thank for one of the most memorable scenes in cinematography ever. Remember that leg crossing without underwear while being interrogated by the police? However, she's more than a femme fatale, being educated, intelligent, and assertive. Women can find it liberating to watch a female character misbehaving, as they're often held to a high standard. Yes, Catherine Tramell is an antagonist, but we should be inspired by her positive characteristics and behaviors. That includes embracing and expressing our sexuality, being confident, and going for what we want.

2. Annie Wilkes in "Misery"

Official trailer for "Misery"

Kathy Bates depicted a disturbing Annie Wilkes in a psychological drama, "Misery," based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. It was a magnificent display of her acting abilities that won her an Oscar for best actress. Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a novelist who wound up in a blizzard traveling from Colorado to his New York home. His car goes off the road before a nurse finds him and brings him home. From their first conversation, she makes it very clear that she is the biggest fan of his Misery novel series.

Annie has a destructive infatuation with Misery Chastain, a protagonist in Sheldon's books. When the writer wakes up on a remote farm in Colorado, she seems kind or tries to present herself that way. But once Annie reads his latest manuscript and learns that Misery dies, she forces Paul to write another novel with a different ending. Sheldon slowly but painfully realizes (and so do all of us watching) that he won't leave that place alive. We won't spoil the end for you if you haven't watched the film or read the book. We recommend you to do so as her character (both on-screen and in the novel) is worth every second of your time.

1. Aileen Wuornos in "Monster"

Charlize was excellent as Aileen Wuornos

The biographical drama "Monster" follows a serial killer Aileen Wuornos who was sentenced to death. Her character is portrayed by the brilliant Charlize Theron, who went the distance to transform herself for this role, both physically and mentally. She lives on the edge of society and is forced to sell her body to make a living. Aileen shows signs of PTSD and BPD, which are necessary things to consider while judging her personality.

She was exposed to sexual abuse early on in her life, as her father's friend abused her when she was eight years old. Left to care for herself since her father didn't believe that she's been mistreated, 13-year-old Aileen ends up on the street working as a prostitute. Raped again by her client, it spirals her into a tsunami of events with a point of no return. Throughout the film, it is inevitable to feel compassion and sympathy for Aileen as the cataclysm that is her life unfolds. Charlize Theron indeed painted us a picture of a traumatized woman seeking justice for all the wrongdoings she had to suffer.

This was our pick for the top ten list of female antagonists that we both adore and hate simultaneously. Yet, we can all agree that they are unforgettable! Therefore, they are often the reason why we love these movies and care more about them than the hero characters.

Who is on your list of favorite female movie villains? Share your take and analysis of the villainesses in the comment section.

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