The Villainess: The Most Intriguing Evil Women in Film History

What makes a villain? A villain is a crucial element in any story. If not for the baddie, the protagonist has nothing to contend with. The antagonist provides the narrative a significant service; it propels the story and makes it interesting. The nastiest villains are treacherous and cunning and a mortal threat to the hero or heroine.
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Villainesses are a special breed of evil. She flouts social conventions, and it is intriguing. Like a villainous matriarch, she holds assumptions in contempt and derails everything we know and expect of women.

Elle Driver

“Kill Bill”

Distinguished by an eye patch and a samurai sword, Elle Driver is a merciless villain who kills for fun. She was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a contract killer for Bill.

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She is known for her sassy remarks while she is taking out the victim. Elle Driver is easily one of Quentin Tarantino’s best villainesses.

Hela

“Thor: Ragnarok”

Thor, God of Thunder, has a sister, and she is Hela, Goddess of Death. They don’t get along. She is also Loki’s daughter, so it comes as no surprise that Hela has been Thor’s longtime foe.

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Plotting coups on Asgard is her forte, and as the Goddess of Death, she lords over an army of the dead who are loyal soldiers. Hela is a Marvel Comics character based on Hel from Nordic mythology.

Harley Quinn

“Suicide Squad”

Harley Quinn is a colorful DC Comics creation first brought to us in “Batman.” The Gotham villain favorite is most recognizable in the film “Suicide Squad” as Joker’s lover and partner in crime, but she’s no stranger to animation and television shows.

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DC Universe has featured Harley Quinn in the “Birds of Prey” and “The Suicide Squad” sequel. The villainess was Joker’s psychiatrist before she hooked up with him.

Regina Mills

“Once Upon a Time”

The evil queen Regina Mills reigns over ABC’s drama series “Once Upon a Time.” She is dreaded by all as mayor of Storybrooke, a fairy tale town where characters from tales like Rumpelstiltskin reside.

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She has powerful sorcery abilities, including teleportation, shapeshifting, and telekinesis, and is adept at dark magic. This antagonist evolved drastically throughout the seven-season run of “Once Upon a Time.” She made a 360-degree transformation from lording over as the Evil Queen to becoming the Good Queen.

Maleficent

“Sleeping Beauty”

The story of Maleficent may have originated in “Sleeping Beauty,” the 17th-century tale by French author Charles Perrault, but Disney popularized her. Maleficent has become the archetype femme fatale of all fairy tales, thanks to Disney.

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Disney named her “Maleficent” and single-handedly spawned her wicked notoriety. The latest incarnation by Angelina Jolie brought the self-named “Mistress of All Evil” to life in the 2014 film with a sympathetic side for the first time.

Queen of Hearts

“Alice in Wonderland”

In Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts reigns over the royal gardens in absolute terror. The angry tyrant is another Disney creation, borrowed from the classic Lewis Carroll story. The distempered and demanding monarch threatens and frightens her subjects.

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Her signature bark, “Off with their heads!” causes everyone to cower in fear. Only Alice stands up to her.

Cersei Lannister

“Game Of Thrones”

Queen Cersei Lannister ruled over the Seven Kingdoms by marrying King Robert I Baratheon. She came from the prominent Lannister family. She is ruthless and cunning. She had her husband killed to take power.

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But it wasn’t until she lost all her children that she turned her grief and rage to a reign of vengeance. In Season 7, she became a mad queen. She blew up the Sept of Baelor, murdering the Tyrells, and a lot of other people, as a ruthless power grab.

Nurse Ratched

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

Very few female villains surpass Nurse Ratched. Ruling from the all-powerful post as head nurse, the sociopathic villain donning a dated victory rolls hairstyle dials in her cruel intentions on R.P. McMurphy.

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Jilted by his cavalier attitude and knowing he is faking his illness, she does everything she can to make his life a living hell. Her victory is complete with a lobotomy that leaves him brain dead.

Evanora

“The Wizard of Oz”

Better known as the Wicked Witch of the East, Evanora is terribly wicked, but we don’t know much about her. We learn of her ruthless tyranny from her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, who is dead set on acquiring her late sister’s slippers.

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The coveted slippers, however, went to Dorothy Gale when her house, in flight from a tornado in Kansas, accidentally crushed Evanora to death, leaving only her legs poking out from under the house with the magic slippers on her feet. Disney’s 2013 version, “Oz the Great and Powerful,” reimagines Evanora as the cruel nemesis to Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.

Madison Lee

“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”

Madison Lee is a former Charlie’s Angel who goes on to be an independent operative and an enemy of Charlie and his Angels. The 2003 “Full Throttle” is a reprise of the popular TV show.

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Madison Lee had once been awarded the Nobel prize in astrophysics and invented the molar microphone. But her ambitions to be God instead of an angel derailed her mission.

Agatha Trunchbull

“Matilda”

Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” presents Agatha Trunchbull, the meanest headmistress you have ever seen. She tortures poor Matilda, who also has her dad to deal with at home. Trunchbull terrorizes all the children at Crunchem Hall Elementary.

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The school principal hates children and tells them, too. Dahl characterizes her as a “gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of the pupils and teachers alike.” She never spoke in a normal voice. She barked, growled, or bellowed.

Bellatrix Lestrange

“Harry Potter”

Bellatrix Lestrange is a nasty Death Eater aligned with Voldemort. She loves torturing wizards and Muggles and causing them pain. Also known as Bella, she preys on the weak. She is fully capable of murder.

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It saddened Harry when she killed his friend Dobby. Bella’s most vicious weapon is the Unforgivable Cruciatus Curse, and she relishes inflicting it. It causes extreme agony and torturous pain.

Amy Dunne

“Gone Girl”

Amy Dunne is the sleeper villain in “Gone Girl.” It looks like her husband Nick is the culprit after Amy’s mysterious disappearance on their fifth wedding anniversary. Gone without a trace, Nick is the lead suspect in the case. Just as she plotted it.

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When it turns out he’s had an affair, and DNA evidence is discovered at their house, we don’t know it was planted by her. She went to intricate lengths to frame him, even faking a pregnancy. Amy was set on revenge ever since she secretly caught Nick cheating on her.

Lady Tremaine

“Cinderella”

Lady Tremaine is the name of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. She is one of the cruelest villains of Disney’s rather extensive repertoire of evil women. Lady Tremaine is especially mean. She forces Cinderella to do all the heavy housework, like the floors, while her two stepsisters live in luxury.

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Lady Tremaine plotted against Cinderella, sabotaging her efforts to go to the ball. Cinderella is crushed watching her stepsisters dress for the ball. Of course, to be extra cruel, her stepmother makes sure Cinderella is on hand as a maid to dress them.

Annie Wilkes

“Misery”

Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes is a wicked nurse in his 1987 “Misery.” She is a merciless murderer who killed babies in her care at the maternity ward she worked at. It turns out later that she killed her father when she was only 11. She shoved him down the stairs.

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It comes out, also, that she killed her roommate at college. She is one mean broad. Paul is an author in “Misery,” writing a story about a girl called Misery. Annie saved his life after a car crash, but he’s not going to be spared from her malicious plans.

White Witch

“The Chronicles of Narnia”

The White Witch is a powerful sorceress named Jadis who rules over Narnia, having cast the Hundred Years Winter spell. In C.S. Lewis’s tale, Jadis is beautiful, tall, and inhuman, a fearsome giant.

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Her great powers include turning humans to stone and manifesting anything. When the boy Edmund meets her, she magically conjures his favorite candy, but only to trap him and his sister under her power.

Catherine Tramell

“Basic Instinct”

Catherine Tramell is a baddie who loves to manipulate and control others with evil intent. She is a psychological terrorist who seduces her victim and then kills them or has them killed. She says she is a crime novelist and acts out crimes in real life to inspire her writing.

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In the “Basic Instinct” crime noir franchise, Tramell is the femme fatale, but to an extreme. She is also a sociopathic serial killer.

Dolores Umbridge

“Harry Potter”

Headmistress Dolores Umbridge is universally feared at Hogwarts. In a shrewd power play, she forced Dumbledore out to take his post as head of Hogwarts. The cruel teacher whom Harry despised dresses like a British nanny but packs a mean streak.

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Perhaps the best compliment to J.K Rowling for creating this character comes from Stephen King, who wrote, “the gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toadlike face, and clutching, stubby fingers, is the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.”

Alex Forrest

“Fatal Attraction”

In this 1987 horror suspense film, Alex Forrest is so ruthless her exploits are forever scarred into the minds of viewers. She is a woman you do not want to spurn. With the tenacity of the Terminator, she goes after the man with whom she had a brief affair and then his family.

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She stalks, harasses, threatens, and finally tries to murder his wife. Her unrelenting obsession adds up to a bone-chilling 119 minutes.

Mystique

“X-Men”

Mutant Mystique from Marvel Comics is an X-Men antagonist. Created in 1978 with the birth name Raven Darkholme, she is the mother of X-Men Nightcrawler and the adoptive mother of X-Men Rogue.

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Once, proving herself to be a supervillain, she founded the Brotherhood of Mutants and had key people assassinated. She is a fierce shapeshifter. Painted blue with piercing yellow eyes and red hair, she commonly hides her identity with aliases.

O-Ren Ishii

“Kill Bill”

Like Elle Driver, O-Ren Ishii is a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and she is vicious. O-Ren is a martial arts expert with exceptional skills. In Tarantino’s 2003 film, O-Ren is one of the world’s most feared assassins.

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O-Ren’s vengeance stems from the childhood trauma of being in the house as a nine-year-old and witnessing her parents’ savage murder. She is the supreme leader of the Tokyo Yakuza until she is assassinated just as brutally as she lived.

Baroness

“GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra”

G.I. Joe is a Marvel Comics hero that became a massively popular Hasbro action figure toy line. Baroness originated from the 1982 Marvel comic series. As head of the Cobra intelligence operations, she is an expert in cryptography and psychological warfare.

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She also knows a thing or two about bio-chemical warfare. Baroness, as her name implies, comes from a line of wealthy European aristocrats. This femme-fatale is a threat to any man who gets in her way.

Regina George

“Mean Girls”

Regina George is mean, as advertised. She is manipulative, vindictive, and adept at psychological manipulation and control. She employs her skills of manipulation to remain at the top of the social ladder. Regina is the typical high schooler from the popular clique, but she is relentless.

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She will crush a friend’s romantic hopes without a second thought or humiliate a kid in front of the whole school and laugh about it. She’s a victimizer feared by all.

Queen Ravenna

“Snow White & The Huntsman”

Queen Ravenna has inflicted fear into the hearts of many for ages. The cruelties of the wicked queen were first recorded by the Brothers Grimm in their telling of the “Snow White and the Huntsman” folktale. The Evil Queen is a once-beautiful narcissistic tyrant who is obsessed with holding the title “fairest of them all.”

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The powerful sorceress regularly consults the infamous magic mirror. Snow White is a very pretty princess who is now a young woman, and Queen Ravenna is Snow White’s stepmother. The tale takes a dark turn the day the magic mirror proclaims Snow White fairest of all.

Drusilla

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Drusilla was a devout Catholic, and a dutiful daughter before Buffy’s universe vampire Angel brutally sired her. Before the transformative bite, Angel slaughtered her entire family in front of her eyes and then used torturous mind control to poison her innocence. He was very successful.

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She turned into a vicious vampire with psychic abilities that she possessed as a human.

Catwoman

“Batman”

Catwoman is a Gotham City femme fatale and sometimes lover of the Dark Knight. She first appeared in the DC Comics Spring 1940 issue of the “Batman” comic book. She was portrayed as a professional cat burglar called the “Cat.”

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She is one of Batman’s most captivating villains and has been portrayed by numerous actresses. Her on-again-off-again love/hate romance with Batman is fueled by the Dark Knight’s efforts to amend her criminal lifestyle.

Cruella de Vil07418

“101 Dalmatians”

Cruella de Vil is the most striking evil villain Disney ever spawned. Dressed in high-contrast black and white fashions and clutching her signature cigarette, she is the meanest old lady you ever knew. She is not a witch with those powers; she is more powerful, she is uber-wealthy.

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And Cruella, whose last name implies devil, is least forgivable because her evil plan is so heinous. She wants to slaughter puppies to make them into a fashionable coat.

Esther

“Orphan”

Esther, a 9-year-old foster child, seems like an unlikely villainess until her true identity is revealed. The small Russian girl is actually a 33-year-old with murderous intent. Her real name is Leena Klammer, and she is a psychopath on the run.

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She escaped a mental hospital where she was the facility’s most dangerous patient. She looks like a girl because of a rare disorder that causes dwarfism. She uses it as a means to an end and tricks an American family into adopting her.

Miranda Priestly

“The Devil Wears Prada”

Miranda is a high-powered fashion magazine editor and a nightmare to work for. From her New York City office, she rules capriciously over “Runway” magazine.

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Only Meryl Streep could deliver Miranda Priestly, so there are no other iterations of this character from the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger. Miranda is mean like Cruella. They are both comedic characters driven by extreme greed and egotism.

Xenia Onatopp

“Goldeneye”

Xenia Sergeyevna Onatopp is a former Soviet military officer and fighter pilot. She joined the crime syndicate, Janus, as an assassin after the fall of the Soviet Union. This femme fatale is literally and fatally sexual.

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She kills men while copulating, and she likes it. Her sadistic nature makes her stand out as a Bond Girl. She is known for her deadly thigh squeeze.

Bonnie Parker

“Bonnie and Clyde”

Great Depression-era legend Bonnie Parker was just a normal American girl before she met Clyde Barrow when she was 16. His fancy dress, his new automobile, and his slick ways caught her attention, and she joined him immediately on his criminal adventures. The two thieves from Texas are actual people whose story has never ceased to be romanticized in movies.

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They garnered a cult of personality from their exploits as well as from Bonnie’s poetry and images, especially the one in which she is packing a gun with a cigar clenched in her teeth.

Borg Queen

“Star Trek: First Contact”

The Borg Queen is creepy in the way she deviates from humanity. She declared, “I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.” She is literally many because she is a slew of drones called the Borg Collective, or at least the source of their shared consciousness.

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Like a queen bee, she defends her hive to death, safeguarding order over chaos.

Norma Bates

“Psycho”

Norma Bates is an enduring horror figure first found in Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel “Psycho.” Her son, Norman Bates, is the monster of her upbringing. He is a psycho killer, and she was the overbearing mother that made him insane.

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Alfred Hitchcock is primarily responsible for creating the iconic mother and son villains in his 1960 film. Most recently, A&E retells the story in “Bates Motel,” a 2013 television series.

Emma Frost

“X-Men: First Class”

Emma Frost is a mutant with almost unbeatable powers. She is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Comics narrative, but she is not portrayed in the film as prominently as other mutants. She can arm herself with a skin of diamonds and overcome any enemy with superpower telepathy.

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This femme fatale is a dynamic character who went from supervillain to superhero during the course of the “X-Men” comic book series. However, in the 2014 X-Men movie “Days of Future Past,” it is revealed that she died sometime in the late sixties.

Kathryn Merteuil

“Cruel Intentions”

Representing the worst side of the gender divide, Kathryn Merteuil is mean, and she boasts of it. It is nothing to annihilate another girl’s reputation if there’s an end that suits her. She is rich, beautiful, and cunning.

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She mentions she’s from the Upper East Side frequently. Kathryn projects herself as a perfect Catholic girl but has a completely different side to her. This character is also featured in the prequel “Cruel Intentions 2.”

Regan MacNeil

“The Exorcist”

A demon named Pazuzu uses Regan, a sweet little girl, as its host. When she is possessed, Regan is one of the most disturbing child characters of the horror genre.

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Animal-like and vicious, the possessed Regan twists her head completely around while the Father, a priest brought in to help, is incanting the exorcism spell. That spinning head left a lasting impression in cinema, and the film did too. “The Exorcist” was the first horror movie to receive a Best Picture nomination, and it received nine other Oscar nominations to boot.

Tiffany

“Bride of Chucky”

Just in case Chucky wasn’t terrifying enough, along comes Tiffany, the wife of the possessed doll who kicked off the sizable Chucky film franchise. Tiffany is blonde and a little ditzy, but she has a vicious temper if angered.

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Unlike Chucky, she only kills people who deserve it, and she struggles with her murderous habit. She appears in “Bride of Chucky,” “Seed of Chucky,” “Curse of Chucky,” and “Cult of Chucky,” with the final installation of the movie sequel in 2017.

Poison Ivy

“Batman and Robin”

This supervillain of Gotham City is a former botanist, so it makes sense that Poison Ivy is part plant and part woman. She first appeared in DC Comics in June of 1966. Like Catwoman, she is an intimidating foe but also, on occasion, romantically involved with the Dark Knight.

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Poison Ivy’s love for plant life makes her a natural enemy of man and a misanthrope. She is one of Batman’s most dangerous villains, earning a place in his dreaded gallery of rogues.

Joan Crawford

“Mommie Dearest”

“Mommie Dearest” presents a chilling example of motherhood that has left an indelible mark in cinema. Based on the Golden Age actress Joan Crawford, a peek behind her perfect-appearing life reveals a control-freak monster who horrifies her adoptive children. The wealthy actress’s alcoholic temper fits are as terrifying as her psychologically abusive punishments.

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One time, the daughter used a wire hanger to hang up a dress. Her mother, who forces her daughter to address her as “Mommie, dearest,” ferociously beat the child with the hanger because she had a problem with wire hangers.

Amanda Young

“Saw”

Amanda Young is a once-victim and drug addict who becomes a ruthless murderer. As one of the villains of the “Saw” franchise, she is the only known survivor of the Jigsaw Killer.

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Amanda becomes a secret apprentice to Jigsaw after her escape, who, she admits, assisted her. As an apprentice, she successfully set two traps. She doesn’t survive.

Sister Jude Martin

“American Horror Story”

Sister Jude is a severe Catholic nun in charge of discipline at the Briarcliff Manor, an insane asylum where she rules with a heavy hand. She promotes harsh treatments like electro-shock therapy and punishments like castration.

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She is cruel and vindictive and is not someone to cross, but she came from a life of sin. She once ran over a girl and left her for dead. Having absolved herself by finding God, she becomes a nun, but she is rigid and unforgiving.

Katherine Pierce

“The Vampire Diaries”

Katherine Pierce is a villainous vampire who does heinous things to save herself and throws anyone else under the bus, no matter how much she cared for them previously. She’s scheming and cruel.

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She’s betrayed many a monster, having been on Earth for 500 years. Werewolves, witches, and other vampires have fallen victim to Katherine. In the nineteenth century, she seduced two brothers who became vampires, each secretly, and then betrayed both.

Lady Macbeth

“Macbeth”

Few villainesses are as cold and calculating as William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. She wants to be queen, so, after consulting some witches, she drives her husband to murder.

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She arouses Macbeth’s ambition to take the crown from King Duncan, and then she instructs him to feign innocence. “Look like the innocent flower / but be the serpent under it.” Meanwhile, perfidiously, she plants the crime on the king’s guards. She is the instigator of this play’s tragedy, the mastermind who is secretly pulling the strings of Macbeth’s villainy.

Veruca Salt

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Veruca Salt is the most spoiled rotten greedy little girl in all of Great Britain. “I Want it Now!” is her song. She wants anything and everything she sees and is used to getting it from her extremely wealthy parents.

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She didn’t even find the golden ticket; she acquired it. She demanded her father buy as many candy bars as it took to get one. The last thing she demanded was a squirrel. It is her grand finale, her final exit, as a pack of squirrels carries Veruca off to her demise.

Margaret White

“Carrie”

Carrie is the other victim of her mother’s abuser. Steven King’s Margaret White conceived Carrie and believes the child is the product of Satan. Margaret is fearsome and aggressive as a mother but what makes it worse is she is driven by psychotic religious fundamentalism.

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In God’s name, she unleashes cruel punishments. When Carrie starts her period, Margaret flies off the handle in a scripture incanting rage, demanding Carrie beg forgiveness. Raised with the fear of God instilled by her mother’s fire and brimstone Christianity and harsh bullies at school, Carrie is driven to murder.

Enchantress

“Marvel Comics”

The Enchantress is a pair of villainous characters who originated in Marvel Comics’ 1964 publication “Journey into Mystery.” Amora came first. She was a ravishing seducer skilled in magic who attempted to entice Thor under her power.

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Ultimately it was a futile effort, though she held the Asgardian god under a trance temporarily. Sylvie Lushton is the second Enchantress. She was endowed with great mystical powers by Loki, who created her to unleash chaos over Asgard. In DC Comics, a third enchantress character, the Enchantress, was portrayed by Cara Delevingne in “Suicide Squad.”

Abigail Williams

“The Crucible”

Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible” brought this villainess to life. Abigail Williams is a cold and calculating young lady embroiled in one of Salem’s infamous witch hunts. In order to escape the crime of adultery, she creates a shrewd and manipulative narrative.

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She was a servant for the Proctors until the wife, Elizabeth Proctor, catches Abigail and her husband, John Proctor, in an affair. Abigail will stop at nothing to maintain her status as an upstanding Christian. She schemes to get both of them hanged for witchcraft and anyone else who speaks against her testimony at the court trial.

Morgaine le Fay

“Marvel”

Morgaine le Fay is a character stretching back to King Arthur’s day, so she shows up copyright-free in various comic publications and movies.

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In Marvel Comics, she is the half-sister of King Arthur and an immortal. She is an Avenger enemy and a lover of Doctor Doom. In DC Comics, le Fay crosses Batman and Wonder Woman. She also makes an appearance in Hulu’s Marvel series “The Runaways.”

Xenomorph Queen

“Alien”

Xenomorph is the alien in the “Alien” franchise. The queen xenomorph is the most lethal. She is bigger and stronger, with two sets of arms. She towers to 15 feet and has spikes protruding from her heels. Also known as Internecivus raptus, this is an invasive species of beasts whose only drive is to propagate more.

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She is not motivated by human villainy. The queen is the sole propagator of the species. Her drones, sometimes called warriors, workers, or soldiers, use predation and any means necessary to ensure the self-preservation of the xenomorph species.

Circe

“The Odyssey”

Circe is an ancient minor goddess from Greek mythology, best known as the enchantress who traps Odysseus on his voyage home from the Trojan War. She seduces him and turns his shipmates into pigs. Circe fell in love with Odysseus and managed to sire three sons with the Greek hero after detaining him for one year.

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DC Comic’s Circe is beguilingly beautiful with fiery red hair; she’s immortal, turns humans into animals, and has access to many powerful spells. She is an enemy of Wonder Woman. Marvel’s Sersi is an Eternal. Look for her in the 2021 Marvel film “Eternals.”