The 20 Most Badass Female Movie Villains in Pop Culture, Ranked

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You know who gets the best role in movies? Villains.

While the heroes are often nice, upstanding people (or just people trying to get by), the villains are much more than that. They’re  often flashy, conniving and sartorially excellent schemers who always have a plan – or are at least smart enough to hire someone who does. Villains get things done, and they do so while wearing the clothes ever.

They’re even better when they’re women. Here are twenty of the best in no particular order.

Hela – Thor Ragnarok

After being banished to Hell by centuries by her father Odin, Hela returns to take over Asgard using the might of her undead armies. Here is a woman so badass she can one-handedly crush Thor’s hammer, and keeps the giant wolf Fenrir as a pet.  

Is Hela a great villain? Yes, you’d better believe she is.

Catwoman – The Batman Franchise

Selina Kyle has seen many, many iterations over the years, but you cannot deny that she just dominates in all of them. The one villain to constantly one-up Batman, Kyle is seductive, stylish and very, very smart. There’s lots of villains in Gotham, but only one literally has nine lives.  

Maleficent – Malificent and Sleeping Beauty

One of the original Disney villains, all Maleficent ever wanted is respect. Sure she had to put a curse over a princess and an entire kingdom to do it, and sure, she had to turn into a horrifying dragon and kick a few knightly butts, but hey, at least she went after what she wanted.

Nurse Ratched – One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest

If there’s one character in movie history that represents the crushing power of institutions, it’s Nurse Ratched. Ruthless and sadistic, Ratched treats the Salem State Hospital as her own private playground until the free-spirited Randle McMurphy arrives and questions her authority.  

Joan Crawford – Mommie Dearest

It’s every kid’s greatest fear – growing up with a sadistic and controlling mother who cares more about her image than her own child. For Christina Crawford, it was apparently a reality, which spawned the film Mommie Dearest and the immortal battle cry – No more wire hangers!”

The Xenomorph Queen – Aliens

At 20-feet-tall with a tail like a lashing whip, and jaws strong enough to crush a human chest, the Xenomorph Queen is hands-down the most intimidating and horrifying creature in the Aliens franchise.

Responsible for laying the hordes of xenomorph eggs that decimate human colonists, the Xenomorph Queen is smart, calculating, and ruthless in protecting her young. Oh, and she can go toe-to-toe with a Power loader and survive, so there’s that.

Bellatrix LeStrange – The Harry Potter Franchise

Cruel, sadistic and completely unhinged, Bellatrix LeStrange is one of the deadliest Death Eaters in Lord Voldemort’s army. Even worse, she’s his trusted woman, responsible for the deaths of some of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter universe.

Mystique – X-Men Franchise

The X-Men franchise has many villains with varying degrees of power, but none can compare to the seductive super-spy known as Mystique. One of Magneto’s primary sidekicks, Mystique can change her appearance in seconds, which means she can become anybody – literally anybody.  

In the past few years, Mystique has shuttled between antihero and straight out villain, but no one can deny her sheer kickass-ness.

Annie Wilkes – Misery

Annie Wilkes is the stuff of nightmares. A deranged serial killer who believes herself to be author Paul Sheldon’s number one fan, she confines him to her house and forces him to write a new novel since she didn’t like the last one he did.  

Oh, and did we mention she hobbles him? Lovely woman, that Annie.

Amy Dunne – Gone Girl

Now here is one cold-blooded woman. Fed up with her useless, philandering husband, Amy Dunne masterminds a coldblooded plan to frame him for her murder so that he can suffer for crossing her and taking her from her beloved New York.

She’s literally one of the most terrifying psychopaths ever, and the most horrific thing is she doesn’t even really need to kill anybody. Although she does…

O-Ren Ishii – Kill Bill: Volume I

You have to hand it to O-Ren. After watching her parents get horrifically murdered, she trained for years so that she could then horrifically murder their murderer. And she was still a child when she did it.  

After she grew up, she became a deadly crime boss so feared, she collected her own personal army. Not bad for a traumatized little girl. Also not good for all the people she has murdered.

Elle Driver – Kill Bill Franchise

In the Kill Bill duology, there’s assassins, and then there’s Elle Driver, one of Bill’s right hands. Driver is the type of person that would poison her own kung fu teacher and stomp down a pregnant woman just because.  

Oh, and then there was the time she set a deadly black mamba on a man, and then read to him all the antidotes she refused to give him as he died. Elle Driver is undoubtedly evil, and she gets hers  in the end. Boy, does she get hers…

Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter Franchise

The banality of evil… That’s always the phrase you think of when you think of Dolores Umbridge. Dolores isn’t out there trying to cast unforgivable curses with the Death Eaters, but she is undoubtedly one of the most evil characters in the series, preferring to inflict her evil via bureaucracy and rules.  

Catherine Tramell – Basic Instinct

It was the leg re-cross that shook the world. During questioning for a murder investigation, Catherine Tramell, the malevolent murderess of the Basic Instinct duology re-crosses her legs and takes herself into movie history.  

Also, she directly murdered, or orchestrated the murder of a whole bunch of people, so she’s a really evil person.

Regina George – Mean Girls

The alpha titular mean girl in the film, Regina George ruled her squad with an iron fist, and honestly, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

From her biting, bitchy one-liners to her militaristic insistence on matching outfits, George was truly a villain for the modern age.

Ursula – The Little Mermaid

Large, purple and utterly power-hungry, Ursula the Sea Witch is one of Disney’s most beloved villains, not only for her ability to make an entrance, but her sheer, unmitigated gall in trying to snatch Atlantica from those pesky menfolk.

The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz

Of all the villains on this list, only one has a voice so distinctive you can immediately hear it whenever you see the line “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too.”

Honestly, the Wicked Witch had a pretty good cause for going after Dorothy. Wouldn’t you be upset if someone dropped an entire house on your sister?

Cruelle de Vil – 101 Dalmatians

Is there any villain with a look as distinctive as Cruella de Vil? The sartorially excellent Disney villain stormed into our hearts with a cruel sneer and a love of fur coats so pathological she was willing to kidnap and skin puppies to fulfill it.

Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada

What can we say about Miranda Priestly? Speculated to be based on longtime Vogue editor Anne Wintour, Miranda Priestly is like Cruella DeVille made flesh – only without the psychopathic urge to kill and skin baby Dalmatians.

Harley Quinn – Batman Franchise

Everyone may be enamored of the Joker, but it’s his delightfully batty sometimes-girlfriend, sometimes-accomplice Harley Quinn that takes the villain crown. Harley is ditzy, vindictive, and so very, very crazy that people who read minds often wish they’d never taken a look into hers. Though she crosses into anti-hero status every now and then with the Suicide Squad, she’ll always be a villain to us.