Who doesn’t love watching a good family movie? Sometimes it’s nice to know what you’re going to get when you sit down in front of the TV: the protagonist faces hardship, we have a clear resolution, and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s a tried and true formula that doesn’t need much altering, but sometimes what happens between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” can be pretty damn disturbing.
When we watch kids movies, it’s usually to get a feel-good buzz. However, a number of these flicks feature some female villains who are downright crazy, and not just for films intended for children. We are used to seeing the dastardly male baddies inconveniencing the heroes, but when you sit down and recall the female villains of children’s movies gone by, they have often committed acts that are far more shocking.
From the stepmothers of the 60s generation of Disney films to the new-age crazies, female characters have a surprisingly disturbing history of doing some genuinely shocking things. Not just “oh, that’s kinda bad” things, we’re talking straight-up nuts.
All is well that ends well, but in some cases the conclusions are darker than you would expect from family friendly content. These are 15 female villains from kids movies who are genuinely horrible.
15. Lady Tremaine – Cinderella (1950)
And we arrive at the first of our horrible stepmothers, none other than Lady Tremaine, the bane of Cinderella’s existence.
Lady Tremaine is especially wicked for the blasé manner her role is defined. We know her as a mean stepmother, but in reality she is much more sinister. As Cinderella’s parents died at a young age, she has no other option but to remain loyal to Tremaine, who treats her as a slave for both her and stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia.
What’s worse, Cinderella is offered an outlet in the opportunity to attend the Grand Duke’s ball and meet the unmarried Prince, but is impeded by her step family. First she is given more chores, then her ball gown is shredded to pieces. But the coup de grâce comes when Lady Tremaine, who realizes Cinderella is the woman the Prince wishes to marry, locks her in the attic. When that doesn’t work, she intentionally causes the glass slipper to be shattered.
14. Evil Queen Grimhilde – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
In the same vein as Lady Tremaine, we have Evil Queen Grimhilde, or simply the Queen for short. As was the story in Cinderella, the Queen forces her stepdaughter Snow White to be a lowly maid.
Fearing that Snow White may eventually surpass her as the fairest in the land, the Queen’s worries finally come to fruition. Like an Instagram girl scorn, who has watched her followers count be surpassed by a younger, more attractive woman, the Queen takes radical action and orders her Huntsman to take Snow White into the forest and kill her. As confirmation of her death, the Huntsman must bring back her heart as proof.
The Huntsman, unable to bring himself to commit the act, urges Snow White to flee into the woods, where she meets the beloved and politically incorrect dwarfs. Once the Queen realizes the presented heart is that of a pig’s and that Snow White still lives, she disguises herself as an old hag equipped with a poisoned apple, which she tricks the fair maiden into eating.
In what would be considered poor writing in the modern day, the Queen is struck down by a bolt of lightning. As for Snow White, a prince who just happens to exist now, discovers the body of the lifeless young woman and finds it acceptable to kiss her, breaking the spell of the poisoned apple.
13. Miss Trunchbull – Matilda (1996)
Everything about the 1996 film Matilda is charming: an adorable genius girl discovers her ability to telepathically control objects and breaks free from her life of abuse.
Begging her parents Harry and Zinnia to allow her to go to school, Matilda grows frustrated with her lack of intellectual satisfaction. Eventually her parents cave, but she is sent to the rundown elementary school Crunchem Hall, where Miss Trunchbull rules with an iron fist. Matilda learns of Trunchbull’s violent acts – most prominently punishing kids by locking them in a frightening cupboard called “the Chokey” – and witnesses one girl being tossed over a fence by her braids.
Matilda finds comfort in her teacher Miss Honey, a kind and loving woman. As their bond gets stronger, Miss Honey reveals that Trunchbull moved in with her and her father when she was two, and was regularly abused by her. Furthermore, her father died when she was five of an alleged suicide, but it is strongly implied that Trunchbull’s violent nature had something to do with it.
Using her newly discovered telekinetic powers for good, Matilda attempts to run Trunchbull out of town by “haunting” her house, but is confronted at school. The children are kept safe by Matilda’s powers while Trunchbull is bested and disappears, leaving the house to Miss Honey. In a true “happily ever after” moment, the movie ends with Harry and Zinnia signing custody of Matilda over to Miss Honey.
12. Jadis The White Witch – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)
If old tales didn’t feature an evil stepmother, it was an evil witch doing the dastardly deeds. In the case of Jadis the White Witch, the “evil” tagline certainly fits the bill.
Upon discovering Narnia, Lucy, one of the four Pevensie children (Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter), is told of Jadis’ wrongdoings such as making it winter for 100 years. But worst of all was her request for all humans who enter the world to be immediately sent to her, likely for torture.
Throughout the course of the movie, Jadis manages to attempt to turn Edmund against his sister in exchange for Turkish Delight, chain him and a goat-man up in her dungeon, and eventually kill the young lad along with the noble lion Aslan.
11. Bellatrix Lestrange – Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Though the Harry Potter series moves way from being child friendly in the later movies, it as a whole would be defined as suitable for children. Thus, here we have Bellatrix Lestrange.
A loyal fanatic of Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix became a Death Eater after graduating from Hogwarts, and her sadistic nature made her one of The Dark Lord’s most dangerous followers. Bellatrix was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban for torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom, the parents of the much-loved and awkward Neville Longbottom. Upon breaking out with the nine other Death Eaters, she made it a goal to murder any relatives who were members of the Order of the Phoenix, including cousin Sirius Black and niece Nymphadora Tonks.
If she wasn’t already hated enough by readers and viewers alike, Bellatrix is also credited with killing Dobby the house-elf, and is finally stopped by Molly Weasley after her attempted murder of her daughter, Ginny. “Not my daughter, you bitch!” Classic.
10. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Maleficent is another classic fairytale character, known as the evil fairy who decides to ruin a baby’s life just because.
At the christening of King Stefan and Queen Leah’s baby daughter, Princess Aurora, Maleficent curses the princess, declaring that Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die before her 16th birthday. Very specific for a curse, but it was olden times so whatever.
Aurora (renamed Briar Rose for some reason), on the day of her 16th birthday, meets a cute man who she cannot wed due to already being betrothed at birth (again, it was olden times). Taking advantage of Aurora’s fragile state, Maleficent appears and tricks her into touching an enchanted spinning wheel, pricking her finger and completing the curse.
As is discovered, the mega cutie Aurora met was Prince Phillip, the man she was promised to at birth, and he is able to break the curse by kissing the princess. Only after battling Maleficent in the form of a giant dragon with a sword blessed by the good fairies’ magic, however.
9. Mother Gothel – Tangled (2010)
We all know the old fairytale Rapunzel, right? Well, Tangled is a fantastic and humorous modern interpretation of the story, still featuring the psychotic acts of crazy kidnapper Dame Gothel, or Mother Gothel as she is known in the movie.
After a golden flower capable of healing illness, decay, and injury is taken from Mother Gothel’s possession, she steals the King and Queen’s daughter, Rapunzel, upon discovering her hair contains the flower’s healing properties. Rapunzel is raised in an isolated tower under the impression that Mother Gothel is her mother, while her real parents mourn her loss every year on her birthday.
Eventually Rapunzel realizes Mother Gothel’s antics and confronts her, resulting in her heroic love interest Eugene being stabbed. Though Rapunzel agrees to a life in captivity if she is able to heal him, Eugene bravely cuts off her hair, destroying the magic and killing Mother Gothel.
8. Scarlet Overkill – Minions (2015)
Minions might be an adorable movie that, if you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen more times than you wish to remember. But try to imagine for a moment that these are people and not cute, yellow creatures in overalls we are talking about, and the plotline to Minions becomes seriously messed up.
Desperate to find a villain to serve, three minions – Kevin, Stuart, and Bob – set out to find a new master, stumbling across Scarlet Overkill, the first female supervillain.
Scarlet explains her plan to steal the Imperial State Crown from the Queen of England, which ends up with Bob accidentally becoming the King of England. Enraged, Bob is forced to abdicate to Scarlet, and the three minions are imprisoned to be tortured.
Though they escape with the intention of apologizing to Scarlet, they accidentally drop a chandelier on her head, provoking her to order their executions. Bob and Stuart are caught, and if Kevin does not return before dawn, Scarlet proclaims she will kill them.
In a confrontation between the minions and the Overkills, Scarlet and Herb, Kevin appears to be killed trying to stop the escaping villains. Of course, it turns out none of them are dead, and Scarlet and Herb are frozen in place by a young Gru in a delightful tip of the cap to Despicable Me.
7. Mrs. Tweedy – Chicken Run (2000)
Most may not consider the slaughtering of chickens as evil per se, but the manner in which Mrs. Tweedy goes about running her chicken farm is strikingly similar to that of WWII prison camps. The chickens are held captive and expected to fulfil their purpose, and if they don’t, they are killed for food.
When Mrs. Tweedy becomes restless with the poor profits generated from egg sales, she comes up with the idea to turn the grim farm into an automated chicken pot pie factory.
The chickens, frequently attempting escapes led by unofficial leader Ginger, encounter a flying cockerel named Rocky who accidentally crash lands in their compound. The gang desperately try to learn Rocky’s flying techniques, but once it is revealed he is little more than a rocket stunt act, all hope appears to be lost.
In a race against the clock as the pie-making production line nears completion, the chickens construct a flying machine and manage to finally escape with the assistance of Rocky. Mrs. Tweedy is unable to prevent their departure, and is sent hurling into the pie machine in the process, causing it to explode and destroy both the machine and her barn.
6. The Wicked Witch of The West – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Everything about the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is creepy. If you haven’t heard any of the stories to come from the movie’s filming, give it a Google and strap yourself in.
The plot itself is also pretty freaky, and there is no more sinister character than the Wicked Witch of the West. Enraged by Dorothy’s house crushing her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, revenge is sworn against our protagonist.
Dorothy continues on her merry way to find the Wizard of Oz who might be able to help her get back home to Kansas. The Wizard agrees to help, but only if her and her odd band kill the Witch of the West.
5. Dawn Bellwether – Zootopia (2016)
Bet you didn’t expect to delve into some serious racial and class hierarchy discussion when reading this list, did you?
In a world populated by anthropomorphic mammals, things start to go awry when 14 predators go missing. Police aspirant Judy Hopps volunteers to investigate, receives the praise of Assistant Mayor Dawn Bellwether, and teams up with the cunning fox Nick Wilde.
The pair learns that select animals begin to revert to their feral state. Aided by Bellwether, it is discovered that Mayor Leodore Lionheart is keeping the predators imprisoned in order to figure out the cause of their strange behaviour. Lionheart is arrested and Bellwether becomes the new mayor.
As it turns out, Bellwether had constructed an elaborate plan to use a toxic flower to turn predators violent, creating a world where animals naturally seen as prey reign supreme. The movie is littered with undertones of the predators being natural aggressors, strikingly similar to the typically upper-class white view of black communities.
4. Spiker and Sponge – James and the Giant Peach (1996)
As you’d expect from a Tim Burton film, James’ life is pretty grim. On his birthday, his plan to go to New York City to visit the Empire State Building hits a snag when his parents are killed by a ghostly rhino that comes from the sky. As a result, James moves in with his evil aunties, Spiker and Sponge.
Treated as a slave and threatened with beatings, James’ life takes a turn when he meets a mysterious man holding a bag of magic green crocodile tongues. Clearly unable to be trusted with anything valuable, James slips and all the tongues disappear. Luckily, one of the tongues transforms a single peach on an old tree into an enormous attraction.
James crawls inside the peach and meets a cast of anthropomorphic bugs who agree to journey to New York City, avoiding a giant robotic shark and skeleton pirates along the way.
As they near their destination, James and the peach are challenged by a massive storm headed by the ghostly rhino, presumably sent by Spiker and Sponge. James challenges the rhino, causing the peach to fall on top of the Empire State Building. Spiker and Sponge appear, and their history of abuse is revealed, enraging the pair into attempting to kill the boy. The bugs save James, the peach pit is made into a house in Central Park, and everybody is happy.
3. Cruella De Vil – One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t even like dogs, plotting to skin puppies to use their fur for a coat is one of the evilest things anyone has ever plotted ever.
The adorable dog love story One Hundred and One Dalmatians gets derailed when Roger and Anita, brought together by their Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita, receive a visit from Cruella De Vil.
Anita’s wealthy former schoolmate learns of the litter of 15 puppies Perdita gives birth to and makes an enticing offer, which is refused. Frustrated, De Vil orders her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, to steal the pups.
The puppies are found in an old family estate along with 84 other Dalmatians, all who have been collected for the purpose of fashion. Escaping from the brink of death, all 99 puppies are brought back to Roger and Anita, who are now rolling in money, to live happily ever after.
2. The Grand High Witch – The Witches (1990)
If you saw this movie as a child and weren’t scarred for at least a decade thanks to the chilling visuals, you are a better person than I.
The Witches is a movie about witches who kill children – great. Forever finding ways to torment kids, the Grand High Witch comes up with a formula to turn children into mice. To make it doubly evil, the formula is put into lollipops and sold to children to also make a profit.
Luke, our protagonist, is captured and turned into a mouse upon being discovered eavesdropping at a witches meeting, along with his friend Bruno. Both reunite with Luke’s caregiver, Helga, and devise a plan to steal a bottle of the formula.
Like every edgy spooky young teen film, the movie ends with the goodies getting the upper hand. The witches are turned to mice, and both staff and hotel guests begin mass killing the mice. To end things off on a positive note, the Grand High Witch is killed with a meat cleaver by Rowan Atkinson as the hotel manager, and the kids are turned back to their human states by a repented and reformed witch. Hooray!
1. The Beldam (The Other Mother) – Coraline (2009)
Oh, where to start. While the Beldam, also commonly known as the Other Mother, doesn’t manage to kill anyone in her weird alternate world, the torment and suffering she caused children is enough to make her the most terrifying villain from a kids movie.
Coraline, who is starved of excitement in her mundane life, discovers a door to a fantasy world where everything is wonderful and her parents don’t ignore her. There’s just one catch: in order to stay, Coraline must have her eyes sewn over with black buttons.
What she doesn’t disclose is that Coraline’s eyes act as her soul, and as she finds out from a cat she met in the real world, the Other Mother plans to keep her imprisoned. Naturally, the Other Mother traps Coraline in a magic mirror, where she meets previous victims.
In order to free the victims, Coraline must find their eyes which have been scattered about, and will be forced to stay forever if she cannot.
After retrieving the eyes, she witnesses the Other Mother in her true spider-like form, saves her parents who were trapped in a snow globe, cuts the Other Mother’s hand off in the secret door, then battles the severed hand in one last horrific scene. All is well that ends well. Surprisingly strange for such a dark story.