16 Best Female Villains You Can’t Help But Love
When most people think about movie and TV villains, it’s normally the likes of Hannibal Lecter, King Joffery, Michael Myers, and The Joker that come to mind. While they are all fantastic movie bad guys, do you notice the common theme they share? That’s right, they’re all men. Now there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but if you just focus on male villains you are doing a disservice to all movie baddies. Some of the best just happen to be female villains who are both sexy and dangerous and not the sort of people you want to get caught up with.
Female baddies include everyone from comic book villains like Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn, psychotic book fans like Annie Wilkes from Misery, sexually charged killers such as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct, and even evil queens like Disney’s Maleficent. These evil and despicable women don’t get the attention they deserve, so that’s why we want to highlight them.
Brought to life by some of the best actresses in the industry, female villains are just as cunning and brutal as their male peers, often using their sexuality to their advantage. And despite many of these women being scary, you can’t help but love them.
So let’s give it up for the female villains dominating our movie and TV screens.
16 Best Female Villains You Can’t Help But Love
1. Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Game Thrones became a TV phenomenon when it hit the small screen in 2011. The sword and sorcery epic about warring families vying for the Iron Throne features a slew of memorable baddies, but none quite as calculating as Cersei Lannister. As the show builds through its seven seasons we see Lannister go through all the emotions as her three children are killed, her father murdered, and her family betrayed by her dwarf brother Tyrion.
She goes from a loving mother to a steely-eyed antagonist who eventually becomes queen and uses her power to take revenge on her enemies in the nastiest ways possible. Cruel and manipulative, Cersei is an evil queen for the ages.
2. Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter Series)
Just thinking about Bellatrix Lestrange gives us nightmares. Voldemort’s right-hand woman is a murderous wizard who will stop at nothing to do her master’s bidding. We all remember what happened to Dobbie right?
Played with relish by Helena Bonham Carter, Lestrange is evil incarnate with a terrifying cackle that will give you goosebumps. The ruthless Death Eater is not to be messed with.
3. Annie Wilkes (Misery)
Don’t mess with a book lover. Kathy Bates is brilliant as Annie Wilkes, a nurse who just so happens to come across her favorite author, Paul Sheldon (James Cann) after he’s involved in a car crash. Instead of taking him to the hospital, the creepy Wilkes brings him to her home to look after him. What starts as a friendly relationship takes a dangerous turn when Wilkes won’t let him leave and forces him to write a new novel about the return of her favorite character, Misery.
Wilkes is truly horrifying and a great example of fandom gone too far, while the sledgehammer scene will have you gasping in terror. Wilkes is certainly one of the more dangerous female villains on this list.
4. Regina George (Mean Girls)
Better known for her romantic roles in movies like The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Vow, one of Rachel McAdams’ great early roles was playing teen bully Regina George in Mean Girls. As the leader of the Plastics, she uses her acid tongue and ice-cold temperament to lavish her rivals with putdowns that many can’t recover from.
5. Amy Elliott Dunne (Gone Girl)
Gone Girl is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name about a missing woman whose husband becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Rosamund Pike plays against type as Amy Elliott Dunne, the missing wife who isn’t actually missing. She’s a femme fatale of the highest order who is framing her husband (Ben Affleck) for cheating until circumstances force a change in her thinking with bloody consequences.
Dunne is the modern-day version of Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction. As the old saying goes, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
6. Maleficent (Maleficent)
As far as Disney villains go, Maleficent is right near the top of the list. Brought to life by Angelina Jolie in the live-action movies Maleficent and its sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the shapely queen loves dressing in black and putting curses on entire kingdoms.
Unlike some female villains, Maleficent isn’t fully evil, she’s just misunderstood by those who fear her. All she wants is a little bit of respect.
7. Kathryn Merteuil (Cruel Intentions)
Rich kids with too much time on their hands get up to no good in Roger Kumble’s delectable drama Cruel Intentions. A riff on Dangerous Liaisons, the movie swaps the French period setting with 90s New York as Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) bets friend Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) that he can’t bed new student Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon), who also happens to be a virgin.
Cruel Intentions is full of lust, double-crosses, and stellar performances from the young cast, with Gellar shaking her Buffy the Vampire clean-cut image with a memorably seductive performance.
8. Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)
Meryl Streep is the ruthless Miranda Priestly, the editor of the fashion magazine Runway. Equipped with an inspired wit and no-nonsense attitude, Priestly rules with an iron fist and is feared by all her employees, including her new assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway).
While she might not actually be evil per se, she terrifies those around her and makes boss moves that don’t always go down well but keep her where she needs to be, at the top of the food chain.
9. Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad)
The Joker’s on-again-off-again girlfriend has been brought to life in recent years by talented Aussie actress Margot Robbie. First appearing in 2016s Suicide Squad decked out in a cheerleaders outfit complete with fishnets, pigtails, and her favorite weapon, a baseball bat, Quinn became somewhat of an anti-hero thanks to her charming personality and unique look.
Loved by fans so much the DC universe villain got her own movie, Birds of Prey, while also appearing in The Suicide Squad, a reboot of the original, by James Gunn. She’s a memorable villain who does things her own way.
10. Colonel Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love)
James Bond comes up against SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) several times throughout the Bond franchise, with one of the organization’s most villainous operatives being SPECTRE No. 3 Colonel Rosa Klebb. A former member of the Russian counter-intelligence agency SMERSH, the cunning defector is part of a plan to get Bond to steal a Lektor cryptography device before killing him.
Things don’t go according to plan and Klebb is forced into action, taking on Bond with her knife-tipped shoes. It all ends in tears for Klebb, who is shot by Russian agent and Bond love interest Tatiana Romanova. Although she meets her demise, Klebb is not someone you want to meet in a dark alley.
11. Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct)
Sexy, confident, and deadly with an ice pick, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) femme fatale in Paul Verhoeven’s erotic thriller Basic Instinct. A suspect in the murder of a wealthy rock star, investigating detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) soon becomes involved in a steamy affair with Tramell and starts to think she might be more than just a suspect.
Tramell is a female villain for the ages who loves nothing more than playing games with those she comes in contact with. While the movie will also be remembered for that interrogation scene, Stone brings a cunning ruthlessness to Tramell that sets her apart from similar movie villains.
12. Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter Series)
Another wicked witch from the Harry Potter series, Dolores Umbridge is placed at Hogwarts to weaken Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore’s influence. She is elected “High Inquisitor” by the Minister of Magic and has total control over the school, refusing to teach the students anything that will help them when the hordes of evil attack.
While she was behind Lord Voldermort’s return, Umbridge was more concerned with using her position of power to deal out punishment to her students who she enjoyed watching suffer. Think of your most hated teacher and Umbridge is ten times more evil.
13. Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmations)
There are several cinematic versions of Cruella de Vil, with our favorite portrayal coming from the great Glenn Close. She appears as the cruel fashion designer intent on creating a coat made from the fur of 101 dalmatians.
One of Disney’s evilest characters, if not the worst of them all, de Vil will stop at nothing to get what she wants and has no qualms about who she steps on in the process. How can you like someone who wants to kill puppies?
14. Phyllis Schlafly (Mrs. America)
Although not as evil as some of the characters on this list, Phyllis Schlafly was a real-life conservative activist who was anti-feminist at a time when the movement was starting to gain legs. Not only was she against feminism, but also gay rights and abortion. She successfully campaigned against making changes to the Equal Rights Amendment and wrote over 20 books throughout her life.
Cate Blanchett fully embodies Schlafly’s convictions in the series Mrs. America and was praised by many for her performance. She manages to humanize Schlafly while still presenting her as a righteous woman with questionable beliefs.
15. O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill: Vol. 1)
A former member of the Deadly Vipers who is now head of the Yakuza, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) is a vicious woman who’s also handy with a sword. Top of the Bride’s “Kill List,” Ishii sends her gang the Crazy 88 to take care of the Bride before she battles her in one on one combat, losing her head in the process.
16. Joan Crawford (Mommie Dearest)
Based on the memoir of Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of movie star Joan Crawford, the movie paints the elder Crawford as an abusive and manipulative woman who took pleasure in her daughter’s pain.
Although the movie didn’t do well critically, the performance of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford is something to behold. Slightly overacting, she turns the Sudden Fear and Flamingo Road star into an absolute terror who at one point uses a coat hanger as a weapon against her daughter.