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A great story requires a great villain…or villainess. Here are ten of my favorite female villains in film and literature.
1. Artemisia – ENTJ
I’m not a huge fan of the gratuitous gore in the 300 movies, but I still love Rise of an Empire solely because Artemisia (as portrayed by Eva Green) is such a deliciously malevolent villain. She’s the most skilled swordswoman (or man) in all of Persia, a brilliant naval strategist, and she rules the men under her command with an iron fist. Artemisia would rather die than surrender, which is what makes her such a compelling antagonist. Oh yeah, and she has mad fashion sense.
By the way, did you know that the Artimisia of 300 is based on a real woman? Artemisia I of Caria was queen of Halicarnassus in about 480BC. She commanded five ships and fought as an ally of Xerxes I during the second Persian invasion of Greece. Herodotus wrote of her, “Artemisia, whose participation in the attack upon Greece, notwithstanding that she was a woman, moves my special wonder…her brave and manly daring sent her forth to the war, when no need required her to adventure.” The Greeks offered a reward of 10,000 drachmas for her capture, but no one succeeded. That’s one badass woman!
2. Catwoman – ISTP
I love Catwoman in all her incarnations. More antihero than pure villain, she has a good side that peeks out behind her tough exterior every now and then. I think my favorite thing about her is how much fun she has. Whether robbing a jewelry store, rescuing hapless women on the streets, or messing with Batman’s head, you know Catwoman is enjoying herself. Also, her ability to do high kicks in latex is superhuman.
3. Bedelia Du Maurier – INTJ
I actually watched all three season of Hannibal, which is pretty shocking when you consider my usual aversion to horror and gore. Regardless, I found the show stylistically and visually compelling enough to stick with it, and one of my top reasons to watch was Bedelia. I am also a huge Gillian Anderson fan (X-Files forever!), which didn’t hurt. Aside from being the most lavishly attired serial killer sidekick on film, Bedelia is an enigma. Until season three, it’s difficult to discern whether she’s a victim or perpetrator. She’s a fascinating character to watch.
4. Emma Hill – INTP
I only watched The Following for one season. (It ended so perfectly. Why did they have to keep going?) Emma is probably the most interesting character on the show. She’s a quiet girl with a cruel, provocative mother before she falls under the spell of the charismatic, self-assured serial killer cum literary cult leader Joe Carroll. She has a sweet side, a thing for knives, and a killer inside. She’s the stereotypical manic pixie dream girl gone horribly wrong.
5. Elizabeth Jennings – ISTJ
The sterner half of The Americans Russian superspy duo in is fully committed to the Soviet cause. Where Philip falters and questions the morality of their job, Elizabeth shoves her personal feelings aside and does whatever it takes to win the Cold War. Her character is not without nuance though. While she always puts the mission first, having children complicates things, and as time goes on we see a softer side of her emerge every now and then. Also, she can’t be more than a buck ten, but she can take out two FBI agents in hand-to-hand combat, so there’s that.
6. Bellatrix Lestrange – ESFP
My typing of Bellatrix is subjective. She’s so insane, I’m not sure anyone (except J.K. Rowling) can type her with 100% accuracy. Bellatrix is a total psychopath with awesome hair, a weird romantic obsession with Voldemort, and a real knack for torturing people–probably the result of pureblood inbreeding and a little too much time with the dementors in Azkaban. Supermom Molly Weasley also showing her fiery side in this clip.
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7. Regina Mills – ENFJ
Storybrooke’s favorite evil queen or not-so-evil queen or evil-but-only-under-a-spell queen (it’s hard to keep track) keeps everyone entertained with her conniving magical ways. Regina is not a simple woman. She has a tumultuous past, likes power a little too much, and is constantly coming up with new ways to overcomplicate an already overcomplicated plot. She also has perfect hair and amazing style, which seems to be a theme with the villainesses on this list.
8. Alice Morgan – INTJ
Half the reason I love Luther so much is because of Alice. She’s a murderous sociopath who somehow manages to win the affection of London’s most dualistic detective. In the first season I hated her, in the second she fascinated me, and by the end of the third season she was my favorite character on the show. All of this despite the fact that she murdered her dog, which is usually a deal-breaker for me. Ruth Wilson’s brilliant portrayal will live long in my memory.
9. Ravenna – ENTJ
It’s significant that two incarnations of Snow White’s Evil Queen make it onto the list. Charlize Theron has a gift for playing baddies, and Ravenna is her crowning glory. One minute she’s all coolheaded confidence and the next she’s stark raving mad. It’s a pretty great contrast. Also, HER DRESSES. Is it a universal requirement that all great female villains be gorgeously dressed?
10. Yzma – ENTP
Yzma takes the cake. She’s a mad scientist, crazy schemer, and one-time queen who sets out on a nationwide llama hunt to defend her place on the throne. She has record-breaking eyelashes, an obsession with purple, and a boy toy sidekick who talks to squirrels and makes the best meat pie in all of Peru. Life goals.
Who are your favorite villainesses?