Bad Girls: The Greatest Female Villains In Films (Part 1)

From Wicked Witches, to Ice Cold Bitches…This is the ITOL countdown of cinema’s greatest and meanest “Bad Girls” as voted by you! Join us for our countdown from Number 15 to Number 11 in our Part 1!

Number 15: Rose Armitage from “Get Out” (2017)

By Claire L. Smith

Rose Armitage from Jordan’s Peele‘s directorial debut hit “Get Out” quickly captivated audiences due to Allison William‘s impeccable performance and Peele’s amazing ability to make a terrifying villain out of the character.

Rose is arguably one of the scariest members of the Armitage clan as on the surface, she is the loving, ‘woke’ white girlfriend of Chris. However, beneath her innocent skin lies hiding a violent, sadistic psychopath and master manipulator with the ability to draw several people of colour into her family’s racist and murderous trap. Even from the start of the film, she ensures that Chris always questioned his instinct that something is wrong through her ability to manipulate and gaslight him. She also used his guilt surrounding his mother’s death to ensure that he didn’t flee the Armitage home. She has him convinced to the last possible second that she is on his side until her ultimate betrayal is revealed.

The ending of the film shows the peak of her psychopathy as she attempts to viciously murder Chris as he tries to escape. Once that fails, she again tries to manipulate him with a victim-like stance. William’s performance is impeccable in this scene as she presents such a calculated and dangerous personality that would send chills down anyone’s spine. The fact that she starts laughing as Chris attempts to strangle her is baffling as it is terrifying as we don’t know if this is another manipulation tactic or if she is actually getting off on the violence. We never know if she is being genuine.

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Allison Williams as Rose from “Get Out” (2017)

Yet possibly the most terrifying thing about Rose is the reaction she gained from some audience members. Some viewers were convinced that she (like her romantic partners) was hypnotized by her parents and that she couldn’t possibly be a true villain. Jordan Peele completely debunked this theory in an interview with Vogue. Now, this might be a contribution to William’s performance and goes to show how manipulative this woman was, but this also shows the privileges white women enjoy, that we always have that benefit of the doubt that maybe we are still innocent. A privilege Rose constantly takes advantage of throughout the film, especially right before her death as she tries to frame Chris but is thankfully foiled by Rod. The fact that she is not afraid, or even remorseful, about using racial prejudices against people and weaponizing her own privileges makes her all the more despicable and villainous.

Rose herself is a lightning rod for many metaphors surrounding race in “Get Out”, that combined with her ability to manipulate and commit extreme acts of violence without a hint of hesitance or empathy makes her one of the most terrifying villainesses in recent film history.

Number 14: Mrs Danvers from Rebecca (1940)

By Nicole Ackman

Some villains are over-the-top in their ridiculous scariness; others are more frightening in how familiar and tangible they feel. Mrs. Danvers from “Rebecca” is frightening because she’s a very real antagonist. Mrs. Danvers, or “Danny” as the titular character calls her, first appeared in Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, “Rebecca.” The book was adapted into a movie two years later, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Judith Anderson’s portrayal of Mrs. Danvers only made her more well-known — and more sinister.

“Rebecca” is the story of a young woman who marries an older wealthy Englishman, only to find herself continually compared to his seemingly perfect first wife, Rebecca. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, was particularly devoted to Rebecca and continually makes it clear that the second Mrs. de Winter does not measure up.

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Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers tormenting the second Mrs de Winter

 

In the novel, Mrs. Danvers is a matronly figure, but the 1940 film cast her as a somewhat younger woman. While the Hollywood censorship board prohibited anything that outright suggested a lesbian relationship or feelings between Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca, many people have read romantic feelings into her obsession with Maxim’s first wife.

Mrs. Danvers is a suffocating presence for the young newly married protagonist, made even worse by the fact that everyone else seems to trust her. She isolates the main character and creates an impossible standard for her to live up to by deifying her new husband’s first wife. She completely gets inside of the protagonist’s head. I think that this character is so effective as a villain because she preys on the natural fear that we won’t measure up to a partner or an employee that came before us.

We will be getting a new interpretation of Mrs. Danvers in the adaptation of “Rebecca” directed by Ben Wheatley that is currently being made. She will be played by Kristin Scott Thomas in the new film opposite Lily James and Armie Hammer. It will be exciting to see a new spin on the character and whether she will resemble the Mrs. Danvers of the novel, Judith Anderson’s performance, or something completely new. One thing is certain: Mrs. Danvers is a great female villain that lives on in the collective subconscious.

Number 13: Minnie Castevet from “Rosemary’s Baby”  (1968)

By Bee Garner

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ruth Gordon in the role of Minnie Castevet. Minnie is the true embodiment of the ‘neighbour from hell’ and what makes this villainess so creepy is the fact that she doesn’t exactly appear evil at first glance. But, looks can be deceiving and the devil is in the detail as they say. With her bright colourful clothes, pearl necklace, whacky oversized head accessories, blue eyeshadow, and blood-red lipstick, we are tricked by her warm persona, just like poor Mia Farrow‘s Rosemary. However, Minnie’s devilish ways soon reveal their ugly self to us and it’s not the devil that is the true villain of the film, but Minnie.

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Ruth Gordon as Minnie in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

 

It is Minnie that gives Rosemary the strange pendant necklace that belonged to another tenant who ended up taking her own life. It is Minnie who brings the chocolate mouse laced in drugs, which leads to Rosemary becoming unconscious and being raped by the devil as Rosemary’s husband Guy (John Cassavetes), the Castevets, and the other tenants, all stand around naked and watching on in glee. It is Minnie who convinces Rosemary to visit their ‘good’ friend, Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), who says that Minnie will make Rosemary a daily health drink to help her with the pregnancy. And, it’s Minnie who pressures Rosemary to become a mother to her evil little spawn.

Gordon delivers such a great performance in “Rosemary’s Baby” that rewatching the film and knowing the outcome makes her interactions with Rosemary even more chilling to watch. Gordon’s performance wouldn’t go unnoticed by the Academy and she would walk away with the Oscar for Best Supporting actress which she rightfully deserved as she truly is remarkable in this film.

Number 12: Mrs Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” (1980)

By @miquewatson

Pamela Voorhees is quite an interesting slasher film antagonist. When one thinks of the Friday The 13th film franchise, chances are their thoughts are more than likely going to conjure up the infamous villain, Jason Voorhees: from the hockey mask to the machete, to the Boogey man’s immortality he seemingly possesses. Although Jason has made quite a name for himself as the vicious blood-thirsty killer all throughout the 80s. But most people neglect to consider where this franchise all started, and may even be surprised to learn that the very first villain of the show was actually Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), Jason’s vengeful mother.

Pamela is a female antagonist who isn’t the stereotypical vengeful hot chick that wears inappropriate attire or has the camera lasciviously crawl up her body. There’s nothing objectifying about Pamela, and refreshingly so. Her whole character goes against the rule book of horror films as she doesn’t, in any way, give thirsty fanboys anything to drool over–her motherly charms are irresistible and she is legitimately scary.

Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer)

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Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) the real villain of Friday the 13th (1980)

 

Prior to revealing herself as the main villain of the film, she arrives just as the final girl has seemingly lost all hope, and uses her motherly charms to trick her into believing that she is good-natured. Almost in a snap of a finger, Palmer’s performance goes from oh, to Woah. She unleashes her true colors and snaps, leaving a trail of blood behind her and elicits gasps from the audience.

What’s entirely plausible here–what makes Pamela stand out the most–is that unlike other slasher movie villains (Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger), she has a truly believable motivation for wanting to exact her revenge; the death of a child at the hands of mean-spirited neglect would be enough to drive anyone mad. And at that point, we’re glad that Pamela goes the extra step.

Number 11: Baby Jane Hudson from “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)

By Joan Amenn

 Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) is a villain in a Hitchcockian sense of the word.  She is an embittered former child star who bears the scars of a dominating father/manager and sibling rivalry with her later blooming but successful actress sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). She is resentful of caring for her now invalid sister and dreams of a comeback but her descent into madness unravels her plans and leads to murder.

However narcissistic and vicious she is, Davis plays Jane with a great deal of sympathy and humor. The audience can’t help but feel sorry for Jane being unaware that time has passed her by as she pours over the scrapbooks of her press clippings and her gasp of anguish when she gets a good look at herself in a mirror. However, Jane caused Blanche to be crippled in a car accident and the two women are locked in a horrific stalemate of codependency and mutual loathing until Blanche decides to take steps to have Jane sent to an institution.

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 Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis)

Bette Davis dominates the screen as a woman lashing out in hurt and anger against potentially being abandoned by her only living relative, as only Bette Davis could. She is nasty, coldly calculating and snide but she is also still a vulnerable, scared little girl. Baby Jane is a great villain because the audience can recognize all the motivations of her actions and can identify with them.  Don’t miss the last bit of conversation between Davis and Crawford for a devastating plot twist you didn’t see coming. Of course, the legendary off-screen rivalry between these two actresses probably helped in setting the tone of their onscreen relationship but Davis truly deserves her Oscar nomination for Baby Jane.

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