In the movies, good girls are dependable, but bad girls are the ones that have the most fun, it’s undeniable. Beautiful, yet dangerous, bad girls combine the twin obsessions of sex and death in one attractive package, drawing the men around them – often to their doom.
Sometimes, they’re driven by greed, lust, and all the usual suspects, ruthlessly robbing, manipulating, and murdering their way to fortune and sometimes fame. They may be take-charge chicks from the word go or they may bide their time quietly, plotting and planning their inevitable take over from the background while others operate under the illusion that they’re in charge. They’re masters of the double cross with all the angles covered. These ladies are sexually charged and the more violent the action gets, the crazier the action gets in bed.
Other femmes fatales are driven by dark incidents in the past to seek revenge against those that hurt them or their families. These ladies are single-minded and relentless – and the subject of some of the most iconic action movies ever made.
The worlds of horror and neo-noir are full of examples of treacherous ladies but no matter what their motivation, when it comes to murder, these women step up to the plate to get the job done with feminine flair. It’s a question of style; maybe that’s why we love bad girls so much.
15. Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad (2016)
Harleen Quinzel was the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist assigned to treat one of their intractable cases – the Joker. Instead of treating him, Harleen was slowly driven insane by the Joker, becoming the murderous Harley Quinn, his cohort in crime. The two of them rack up an impressive list of kills in the comic books and animated films, and as we meet her in Suicide Squad, she’s arrested by Batman for her involvement in a Joker weapons deal. From there, she’s recruited into the Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller along with Deadshot, Boomerang, Killer Croc, El Diablo and Slipknot. Rick Flagg and Katana are assigned to lead the criminal team on a mission to defeat the Enchantress and her plot to take over Gotham. After helping her supervillain cohorts defeat The Enchantress and save the world however, Amanda Waller only wants to shave a measly ten years off her sentence. Harley Quinn doesn’t have to worry about that though, as she escapes prison with the help of the Joker. She’s free for now, which means she won’t be around the next time Amanda Waller goes looking for jailbirds to fill out the Suicide Squad roster…or will she?
14. Brit & Candy in Spring Breakers (2012)
Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are four friends who start their Spring Break with the armed robbery of a fast food restaurant. In Florida, the foursome become involved with local drug dealer Alien (James Franco). The four whittles down to two as first Faith and then Cotty become horrified with the increasingly violent, drug and sex-fuelled goings-on. Brit and Candy, however, are along for the ride in earnest as Alien falls afoul of a much bigger fish in the drug biz and the three of them plot revenge for the shooting that injured Cotty and sends her packing. The revenge plan goes awry when Alien is shot in the head but let’s just say our two bad girls finish off the rest of the dealer’s bodyguards and then the big fish himself as he relaxes in the bathtub. The two of them take the dead man’s sports car and ride out of town.
13. Lisbeth in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 & 2011)
Based on the novel by the late Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has had two screen treatments — the original Swedish version made in 2009 and whose title actually translates as Men Who Hate Women, starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace, and the American remake of 2011. The 2011 version starred Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, joined by Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist. As part of a multi-faceted plot in the dark story, Lisbeth Salander is under the thumb of her new legal guardian, a bastard who makes her do sexual favors to get at her own money. The scenes are brutally graphic, including a rape, but Lisbeth gets her own back and then some in a scene where she tortures him and tattoos his status as a rapist on his chest. The whole story revolves around sexual abuse and murderous revenge, with Lisbeth in an on-again, off-again relationship with Mikael Blomkvist, the publisher of a magazine who asks for her help. The book is only the first of the Millennium series, all of which were published after the writer’s death in 2004 and went on to become international best sellers. The character of Lisbeth remains as troubled, feisty and prone to violence throughout the books. Lisbeth is not only adept at torture and revenge, but also hacking into any websites’ documents, and returns along with Blomkvist in sequels The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s’ Nest.
12. Mandy in All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
In the movies, whenever a group of teens get together for a holiday in an out of the way locale, you know that trouble will ensue. Amber Heard plays the seemingly sweet girl-next-door who finds herself on the vacation from hell in this suspenseful story. The group of popular teens vacationing at a ranch are shot, beaten, and knifed to death one by one. There’s not much of a mystery as to who the killer is…until the end, where we learn Mandy herself is behind it all. She commits the perfect double cross and drives away unscathed. Heard plays Mandy as a part of the popular crowd, while still remaining outside it, and the portrayal of Emmet, the friend who does most of the killing, is reminiscent of real life killers to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine fame.
11. Hayley in Hard Candy (2005)
Ellen Page is a pixie-ish 14-year-old vigilante in this low budget indie film. As the movie opens, Ellen’s Hayley Stark is chatting online with Jeff Kohlver, a 30-something photographer. One of those photographers, you’re thinking…and you’d be right. The audience is expecting the worst sort of naive young girl with predatory sicko photographer scenario as the two arrange to meet, with Hayley mixing a couple of drinks before the photography action starts, but the tables are turned in this revenge flick with a female touch. Hayley ends up as the avenging angel to Jeff, the pedophile who is linked to a missing young girl. Hayley toys with Jeff as she tortures him, playing a wicked game of cat and mouse and she finally gets him to confess to his role in the young girl’s murder — just before he steps off the roof. The last scene shows Hayley wandering down the road in her red hoodie as a modern-day Red Riding Hood who saves herself without the woodman.
10. Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) & Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
In the Kill Bill movies by Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman plays the Bride, or Beatrix Kiddo, a former partner of the eponymous Bill in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Pregnant with his child and set to marry someone else, Bill crashes the wedding, killing everyone except for Beatrix, who is nonetheless shot. She emerges after a four-year coma as The Bride, a woman on a quest to kill Bill and her former cohorts – but not before first exacting revenge on the hospital orderly who’s been raping her for years while she was unconscious. During the two movie story lines, The Bride kills a lot of people with her trademark sword, including two of the other assassins (played by Lucy Liu and Vivica A. Fox) before it’s taken by another assassin (played by Daryl Hannah) to use against her own tormentor. Along the way, The Bride is drugged and buried alive, but eventually succeeds in her quest. Reunited with the child stolen from her womb, she walks off into the sunset and a new life. Tarantino was influenced by the violent, B-grade Grindhouse movies, along with inspiration from various spaghetti western movies, Bruce Lee films and others in making this stylish ode to cinematic violence.
9. Brigitte & Ghost in Ginger Snaps (2000) & Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)
In Ginger Snaps, werewolves are sometimes pretty teenage girls with a taste for sex and death. Ginger Snaps is a horror flick franchise that became a cult hit via home video sales. It tells the story of two sisters who are misfits and a suburban community where dogs are mysteriously being killed… Ginger gets bitten by a werewolf and transforms while sister Brigitte watches in horror, trying one cure after another in vain. In the ending of the first film, Ginger dies after a heroic/tragic final battle with her sister – but not before she bites Brigitte, infecting her too. Ginger shows up as a ghost in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed but it’s really the story of how Brigitte succumbs to the werewolf infection in her blood and the inevitable thirst for sex and murder. Brigitte gets involved with Ghost, another mysterious teenage girl who – as it turns out – is responsible for setting her own mother on fire. Brigitte kills another werewolf, but ends as Ghost’s imprisoned pet of as the movie ends. Sometimes, sex and murder are forever.
8. Violet & Corky in Bound (1996)
Violet (Jennifer Tilly) is a mob girlfriend and Corky (Gina Gershon) is an ex-con in this neo-noir crime thriller by The Wachowskis. The two hot ladies become secret lovers and grow closer as Violet becomes increasingly turned off by her boyfriend Caesar, (played by mob movie fave Joe Pantoliano) and his heartless, violent ways. The two come up with a plan to steal $2 million from Violet’s Mafia boyfriend. Despite their hot sexual relationship, Corky doesn’t quite trust Violet, providing some of the initial tension in the plot. The scheme to take the money and implicate Caesar’s criminal associates doesn’t quite go as planned, racking up a body count as the theft is discovered and the situation goes sideways. They get into dangerous situations as the crooks try to recover the money but the ladies stick together and drive off with the loot. Noted writer and sex educator choreographed the steamy lesbian sex scenes that punctuate this suspenseful story and while the box office receipts were modest, it paved the way for the Wachowski to go on to the hugely successful Matrix trilogy.
7. Bridget in The Last Seduction (1994)
Bridget, played by fiery Linda Fiorentino, is one devious woman in this dark thriller. As the story begins, Bridget is in New York City, married to a doctor in training who’s making a little extra cash selling pharmaceutical grade cocaine on the side. After a particularly lucrative deal, and then an argument with Bridget, he slaps her. While he’s in the shower, she takes the money and runs. Stopping just outside Buffalo, she gets a job at an insurance company under an assumed name and gets mixed up with one of her co-workers. She manipulates the local man, but they eventually split after she comes up with an outrageous plan to sell murders to the wives of cheating husbands. Meanwhile, her husband is on her trail, looking to retrieve the cash he owes to loan sharks. She kills the P.I. he sends after her and cons the police into closing the case. Hubby and her former co-worker team up to try and turn the tables on her, but Bridget is too quick for them. The unkindest cut of all? She tells the last man standing she wants to enact a rough sex rape fantasy – after calling the cops to report him. She tricks him into confessing all while she slips away with the cash.
6. Beverly in Serial Mom (1994)
Kathleen Turner is a femme fatale of another kind in this black comedy by John Waters of Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray fame. If Turner was all svelte and sexy in most of her earlier movies, in Serial Mom she goes full on milf, complete with a perfect hairdo, house in the suburbs, and an overprotective streak on steroids. On the surface, she’s a suburban housewife with a dentist husband and two kids, all wide-eyed sweetness, but we see Beverly’s dark side early on when she makes an obscene phone call to a neighbor who stole her parking spot. She proceeds to murder anyone who crosses the family, including the math teacher who insulted her son and the kid who stood her daughter up on a date. Beverly is eventually caught but manages to sweet talk her way out of a conviction. She ends up acquitted of murder with a movie deal in the works.
5. Catherine in Basic Instinct (1992) & Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
The original Basic Instinct was Sharon Stone‘s break out role. While there were plenty of explicit (for the day) sex scenes with co-star Michael Douglas, it was that seminal scene of her character under interrogation, crossing her legs in a miniskirt while going commando that everyone remembers. Stone plays Catherine Tramell, a writer who becomes the prime suspect when her boyfriend is murdered with a ice pick during a sexual encounter. There’s a lot of sex and intrigue along the way and the ending seems to offer two explanations of the murders – one where she’s innocent. Yet, she is reaching for an ice pick during the very last (sex) scene… Those questions may be answered in the 2006 sequel, where Sharon Stone reprises her role as Catherine, now a best-selling author in London. During a kinky ride with a British footballer, she masturbates while driving, causing an accident where he is killed. Scotland Yard is suspicious, however, and she attends court-ordered psychiatric therapy sessions with Dr. Michael Glass. She manipulates the good doctor skillfully but as his obsession with her grows, so does the body count around him. She doesn’t escape suspicion, but let’s just say it ends with the psychiatrist committed to a mental institution and Catherine with a smile on her face.
4. Lilly in The Grifters (1990)
A young Annette Bening steals the scene but it’s the older, wiser Anjelica Huston who walks away at the end of this sordid tale of cons and double crosses. John Cusack is Roy, a young con artist who hasn’t found his way, ending up on the wrong end of a wicked stomach punch. It puts him into contact with his mother Lily, Huston’s character, a lifelong grifter who works for a local hood. She hasn’t seen him in eight years, but misses an important bet tending to his injuries. She also meets his new girlfriend and sexy neighbor Myra Langtry, played by Bening as the kind of woman who pays for late rent by showing up naked at the door. The two instantly recognize each other as masterful con artists with ambitions way beyond the ineffectual Roy. The three become bound up in a twisted storyline that ends with two of them dead, and Lilly driving down the highway with a suitcase full of cash. The sweetness of a mother’s love is not, needless to say, what fuels this neo-noir masterpiece.
3. Matty in Body Heat (1981)
Husky voiced Kathleen Turner was in her prime in this neo-noir film directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It’s hot in Florida, really hot, and so is Turner’s Matty, the bored wife of a rich businessman played by Richard Crenna. Naturally, she’s having an affair with an inept lawyer (William Hurt) but she also has an airtight prenup that leaves her with next to nothing should she opt for a divorce. Besotted, lawyer Ned Racine first suggests it, and then goes through with a scheme to kill her husband, but then finds himself ensnared in an ever more byzantine plot that leaves him on the hook and in prison. Matty — or the woman we know by that name — is like an onion, each layer peeling away to reveal yet another aspect to the lies and deceptions that lead the frankly naive and incompetent lawyer straight into the trap. The movie’s a great chance to see Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in break out roles; Turner is especially good as the icy, calculating black widow who ends up on a beach sipping drinks while Ned Racine pays the price.
2. Jennifer in I Spit on Your Grave (1978 & 2010)
The original movie, first titled Day of the Woman, was a cult favorite and brought on controversy over the extended, violent rape sequence that makes up the first part of the film. The remake was released as a low budget slasher horror flick with a rape revenge angle that was no longer as shocking as it was the first time around. In the story, novelist Jennifer Hills goes to a rural retreat to write in peace and quiet, managing to offend a few locals along the way into town. A group of the boys arrive to subject her to a brutal gang rape. In the original, while most of them want to kill her at the end, one of them spares her. In the remake, they all think her dead until they start to get killed in ever more gruesome ways. While the details are different, in both movies Jennifer finds creative ways to get revenge on the men who ganged up on her without getting caught.
1. Yuki in Lady Snowblood (1973)
This Japanese film directed by Toshiya Fujita and starring Meiko Kaji was a major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill saga. Yuki’s story begins in tragedy – a gang of thieves break into a rural homestead, killing the husband and leaving the wife unconscious and pregnant. She later tracks down the thieves but is arrested as she attacks one of them. Yuki is born in prison and her mother dies shortly after, leaving her to be raised by a priest. The priest teaches her how to wield a sword and when she turns 20, Lady Snowblood goes on the hunt for revenge. The film is considered one of the classics of Asian action cinema and spawned a sequel in 1974, where Lady Snowblood is on the verge of being executed for her crimes when she is “rescued” by the feds to perform secret assassinations.