Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Top Ten Female Villains

“A villain must be a thing of power, handled with delicacy and grace. He must be wicked enough to excite our aversion, strong enough to arouse our fear, human enough to awaken some transient gleam of sympathy. We must triumph in his downfall, yet not barbarously nor with contempt, and the close of his career must be in harmony with all its previous development.” Agnes Repplier

Female villains are on my minds these days as I have one running around on the loose in my head. She’s doing her best to make my hero’s life miserable and I like to think she’s succeeding with some measure of success. I like being in her head. It’s fun in there.

It’s got me thinking of other female villains or antagonists. And there had been some great ones! So I decided to create a list of my favorites. Feel free to add the names of your own top female baddies in the comment section.

My Top Ten Favorite Female Villains

10. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. Brought to life on film by the inestimable Meryl Streep. Just once. Just one time I’d like to turn to someone and say: “Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?”

9. Famke Janssen as Phoenix in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. Haven’t read the Marvel Comics so can’t say how the movie compares to the comics, possibly it doesn’t in any way. This pick might be a bit iffy but Jean Gray to the Dark Phoenix works for me.

8. It’s my way or a lobotomy. Nurse Mildred Ratched (the best female villain name ever) from Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Louise Fletcher won an Academy Award for her Nurse Ratched portrayal. Such a great movie!

7. Who can forget Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery or Kathy Bates depiction for which she won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe? To this day the sight of a sledgehammer gives me shudders.

6. Angelina Jolie as the assassin Fox in the movie Wanted who believes in a twisted “Kill one, save a thousand” philosophy. Also, very nice…tattoos.

5. The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Tilda Swinton stole the show, or the movie I should say, with her portrayal of The White Witch. Is it cold in here, or is it just me?

4. I may have mention a time or two that I’m kind of a Nora Roberts fan. I may have also mentioned in the past that my favorites are her Chesapeake Bay series. This series also includes one of my favorite villains, Gloria DeLauter. Joan Crawford has nothing on this woman. Shudders.

3. How about Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Out of all the creepy scenes in that movie, the breastfeeding scene is still the one that creeps me out the most, proving you don’t need to hold a gun to be terrifying.

2. Then there is Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell character, a crime novelist / psychopath / leg crossing femme fatale from Basic Instinct. She gave new meaning to the word ‘research’. And proves you do have to be careful of crime novelists welding ice picks.

1. And my favorite female villain of all time is Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction. I don’t recommend her stew recipe. Does Michael Douglas know how to pick them or what?

So there they are, my top ten list. And I didn’t even get to Disney’s female villains: Maleficent, Cruella De Vill, Madame Medusa, Ursula, Yzma, or the Queen of Hearts. Which one’s your favorite? I’d have to say my personal, hands down number one Disney female villain is …

Some great links to blog posts and articles on creating memorable villains.

Antagonizing on the Prairies a blog post by our own Prairie Chick, Hayley.

How Not to Create a Villain found at

Creating Villains People Love to Hate and Villains, both found a Fiction Factor.

Creating Memorable Villains Here’s an interesting blog post written by Jeffrey Hirschberg with questions to ask your villain to help develop his or her persona. Written with screenwriters in mind but well worth a look.

Hope you enjoy the links.


Janet said...

Great stuff, Karyn. And some great villains - agree totally with your number 1 pick. That whole stalker thing taken to another level - evil, pure evil.

As for Disney - Ursula, I think. It's funny how you've illustrated some great, nasty women, yet a lot of what I read advises not to do the stereotypical, physco other woman because its become a cliche. I've been thinking of your villain - the one you have running around in your head - and how, even though it's somewhat stereotypical, you've given it a spin that really works. And I think that's the point - even with Jana's post on Monday. All characters can be cliche, if you let them, but if you bring them to life, give them qualities not seen in other villains, infuse them with life (and the stuff Agnes Repplier suggests - great quote, I'm printing that off for my bulletin board), then you'll have a villain unlike any other and a story that will stay in the minds of readers for a long, long time. I mean who doesn't remember Nurse Ratched or Mirand Priestly.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Janet. I printed that quote off as well. I think it pretty much sums it up. Once I found that quote I figured that said it best. Now I just have to figure out to transfer that three dimensional character onto paper :D

My favorite Disney character is Maleficent. She is wonderfully nasty.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
These are some great female villains. Maleficent was one of my favorites too. When my girls were little we must have watched Sleeping Beauty a hundred times, maybe more.

Janet said it really well. You can make a kick ass female villain who's nothing but evil, but if she's unique with her own motivations, she'll be anything but cliche.

Good luck with the evil woman running around in your brain! Best of luck getting her down on the page.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Karyn. I don't know all the villains in your list but the ones I do are well placed.

And I agree with Janet because when I thought of Disney, Ursula was the one that first came to my mind, too.

I don't have time to check out the links now but I'll definitely come back and look them up when I get back to my suspense wip.