The Wicked Witch of the West - The Wizard of Oz
First up is one of the oldest female villains of all the time, the Wicked Witch of the West. We all know the gruesome green face and cackling laugh of Idina Menzel’s recent portrayal, but if you subscribe to the extended history presented in West End musical Wicked, you’ll discover a lot more to this story.
Few villains are pure evil. What really makes them scary is that their story is plausible - and sometimes even understandable. In the case of Elphaba, it’s a story of lost love and betrayal that led to her chasing Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road with a band of flying monkeys. Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that understandable…
Mystique - X-Men
Another prime example of how badass an identifiable villain can be is Mystique, the shape-shifting, gymnastic mutant from X-Men. Her past of prejudice and bullying fed into her eventual siding with Magneto’s mutant uprising against the humans, an army which is hardly full of obvious bad guys.
Her story is a sad one, with constant confusion and allegiance changes that mean you cannot help but take pity on her. That is until she unleashes a scaly blue can of whoop-ass on anybody who gets in her way, and we realise that she is just as dangerous as any of her male counterparts.
O-Ren Ishii - Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill is a woman’s story through and through. The hero is female, the main villains are female, and the entire plot is set towards destroying one man who commanded them all - Bill. Still, there is one character in particular who stands out as one of the most badass villains in movie history - O-Ren Ishii.
O-Ren’s back-story comes in the form of an archetypal revenge flick, bleeding through to the present in everything she does. From Lucy Liu’s unsettling silence to the moment she slices an accomplices head clean off at a board meeting, she is pure, 100% badass - and it all stems from a group of men destroying her life when she was young.
Talia al Ghul - The Dark Knight Rises
Talia al Ghul is the perfect example of a female villain hidden in plain sight - you literally don’t see her coming. In The Dark Knight Rises, it is revealed that she is not in fact Wayne Enterprises’ board member Miranda Tate, but R’as al Ghul’s daughter, bent on completing her father’s work.
What’s fascinating is that she remains hidden behind the stereotypical masculine bombardment of Bane on Gotham, pulling all the strings. When Batman finds out that Tom Hardy’s masked mercenary is in fact the faithful servant of his business associate Miranda Tate, the entire universe breaks down to reveal one of the most badass villains in film history.
Bellatrix Lestrange - Harry Potter
While a believable and identifiable villain can be a terrifying thing, a totally manic sadist can be just as frightening. Chaos is scary, and there is no movie villain more chaotic and sadistic than Voldermort’s number one follower Bellatrix Lestrange.
It’s obvious from the bird’s-nest hair, gothic robes and laissez faire use of the Cruciatus Curse that Bellatrix is the last person you want to meet in a dual at Hogwarts. She moves like she’s possessed, laughs at pain and, in true Dickensian style, her name reflects her personality perfectly. She’s just plain strange.
Regina George - Mean Girls
So Regina George may not be trying to destroy entire cities or seek vengeance for a dark past, but she’s still one of the most badass female super villains of all time. Why? Because in the animal kingdom that is high school she is queen bee, with the power to make or break your reputation.
Regina George is the one who commands the entire school, making her fellow students fall to her feet one after the next. When home-schooled Cady Heron enters however, the world is changed dramatically and Regina’s reign of terror is ultimately destroyed.