Road to Halloween: Jeremiah’s Top 5 Scariest Female Villains

Written by Jeremiah Greville October 26, 2017

Scary villains are the key to most scary movies, but they can work in almost any genre. In horror however, there’s a sever gender disparity. The most famous horror villains are generally men, and they remain the faces that drive their franchises. Women are usually the victims in most horror films — surviving based on archaic rules surrounding sex and purity. Luckily, recent horror trends have started to fix things for female protagonists, but female horror villains are still hard to come by. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any scary female villains — far from it! Wickedly wonderful women have been on our screens for years, several in genres we usually don’t think of as scary. In compiling this list, I kept finding more and more great examples, and eventually had to come up with some rules to narrow them down.

Rules: 1) Must be a villain! 2) Does NOT have to be in a horror film, but must be terrifying. 3) No main characters, anti-heroes, or sympathetic characters (i.e. anyone we sympathize with and thus STOP FEARING). 4) Priority will be given to live action and horror films. 5) No creatures, dolls, or CGI characters (i.e. Xenomorph Queen, Annabelle, T-Rex) — we want actresses! There are TONS of great female villains who don’t quite meet these criteria, but deserve recognition nonetheless. The honourable mentions will be lengthy, but by no means exhaustive. Now let’s to the list of the top 5 scariest female villains!

Honourable Mentions: Eli (Let the Right One In), Tiffany Valentine (Bride of Chucky), The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz), Maleficent (Snow White, Maleficent), Morgana (Excalibur), Elle Driver (Kill Bill), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Delores Umbridge (The Harry Potter Series), Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)

5. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest screen4

If you haven’t seen the 1975 classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, you might be forgiven for wondering what a non-horror character is doing on this list. But for those who have seen the film, you’ll know right away that Nurse Ratched is one of the most terrifying women in fiction. She embodies the evil that comes with power, and the ultimate corruption that hurts those beneath her. Nurse Ratched has been so influential that her name alone has come to signify a cold, cruel nature. She’s even appeared in ABC’s Once Upon a Time TV series, and will soon be the subject of Ratched, on Netflix. However, she sits at #5 on our list because she ends her film deflated and defeated. Losing her power, she loses her ability to cause fear.

4. Regan MacNeil/Pazuzu (Linda Blair) – The Exorcist (1973)

Regan MacNeil

Here we have it, the main villain of arguably the scariest horror film of all time…at number #4? I know, I know — it hurts me too. Linda Blair pulls double duty as both villain and victim in her depiction of the possessed Regan MacNeil. It’s one of the greatest child performances ever, bolstered by timelessly terrifying special effects and camerawork. Pazuzu is pure, malevolent, supernatural evil, and Regan terrifies us with the progressing, awful physical toll to her body. The Exorcist is so good, so effective, that it makes even the experience of entering Regan’s room tense and foreboding. However, Regan isn’t really the villain — Pazuzu is. She holds the #4 spot on this list because it’s debatable if she really even counts as a ‘female villain’. Still, it’s one of the most terrifying performances by an actress in a villainous role ever committed to film. That alone insures her place.

3. Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase, Kelly Stables) – The Ring (2002) & The Ring Two (2005)


Samara Morgan is the only entry on this list whose villainous image has been used to sell not one, not two, but THREE theatrical installments. While she starred in subsequent films in the Exorcist series, Linda Blair’s terrifying visage was only ever associated with the first. Samara, based on Sadako from the Japanese Ringu, was instantly iconic and inspired several copycats. She’s in fact the exact opposite of Regan MacNeil. While Regan was a innocent soul possessed by malevolence, Samara is a malevolent soul masquerading as innocent. It’s this unique twist that gave The Ring two sequels. While the subsequent films in the series might not be as good as the first, Samara remains the best part of the franchise. She’s pure cool, and pure evil. One of those rare horror villains that can make you scared of watching TV or answering the phone.

2. Margaret White (Piper Laurie) – Carrie (1976)


You were expecting Carrie, weren’t you? Well, I’m happy to disappoint you, but Carrie White fails Rule 3) above: no main characters, or sympathetic characters. Despite her terrifying powers, Carrie is just a troubled girl trying to make it through high school. Throughout most of the film, she’s not scary at all. The true villain of the story is her abusive, overbearing, bible-thumping mother Margaret. Piper Laurie’s haunting performance is the scariest part of the film, and Carrie is her primary victim. It’s misguided, moralizing evil at work here — cruelty as love and religion causing greater cruelty. Margaret thinks she’s doing the Lord’s work as she tortures her daughter, causing many to die. Carrie is a tragic story, and the real villain is Margaret. She’s arguably the worst mother ever in film, and one of the most terrifying female villains of all time.

1. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) – Misery (1990)

Annie Wilkes

While Margaret White embodies maternal fears, Annie Wilkes embodies our fears of loneliness and longing. Everyone can see themselves in Annie and her victim, Paul Sheldon. We all want to be loved and wanted, and we all want to find someone to love. However, Annie Wilkes is the ultimate perversion of those emotions. Yes, we identify with her, but that makes her even more scary, as none of us want to be her. Add that to the fear of captivity, abuse, and mortal danger that she represents, and you start to paint a fuller picture. Kathy Bates — in her breakout role — plays Annie as woman ignorant to her own evil. And that makes her all the more effective as she tortures Paul and leaves us twisting in our seats. To this day, nobody in film has used a sledgehammer as horrifically as she has. Annie Wilkes may not be the flashiest character, but she remains the scariest female villain of all time.

So there you have it! Those are my choices for the top five scariest female villains in film. Do you agree or disagree? Comment below or on facebook with your choices for the scariest female villains. We’re always curious! And as always at this time of year — Happy Halloween!

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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