The annals of horror and thriller films are filled with plenty of memorable bad guys - but they're also home to more than a few surprising female villains. Sure, there are villains who are evil from the start - but how much more chilling is the villain who appears normal - even friendly, helpful, one of the "good guys" - only to turn out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing?
Action, suspense, and horror movies have had plenty of scary female villains - from the most obvious to the most shocking - but the ones who linger the most are often those whose villainy comes when we least suspect it. These are the women we overlooked, underestimated, or simply thought we knew, suddenly developing a heretofore unseen dark side that can be deadly, or sometimes simply competitive in the extreme.
Here are a few of the best female villains in film history whose villainy may not have been readily apparent right from the start. Of course, these wolves in sheep's clothing don't reveal themselves right away, so to talk about them, we'll have to get into a lot of spoilers. You've been warned! Remember to vote up your favorite villainesses.
- 1377 VOTESPhoto: MGM
Never trust your No. 1 fan. Novelist Paul Sheldon learns that lesson the hard way in this 1990 adaptation of Stephen King's 1987 novel of the same name. After a car crash, Sheldon is rescued and nursed back to health by his self-professed "No. 1 fan," Annie Wilkes. Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her role as the unhinged Wilkes, who seems normal enough at first, but flies into a rage when she learns that Sheldon has done in the main character of his long-running novel series in favor of writing "more serious" work.
In one of the most chilling scenes in the history of horror cinema, Wilkes calmly explains what she's doing to Sheldon as she breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer to keep him from running away.
- 2289 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
A cold, calculating sociopath - called by her own creator, author Gillian Flynn, "pragmatically evil" - Amy Dunne initially appears as the victim in both Flynn's novel and the movie of the same name. It isn't until the pieces begin to unravel that we see the depths of her nefarious plan. How nefarious are we talking? She spends months creating an elaborate frame to implicate her husband in her disappearance and apparent demise, and that's just the beginning.
There are plenty of examples of Amy's chilling premeditation littered throughout the film, where she is played by Rosamund Pike, but one of the most memorable is a sequence in which she repeatedly hits herself in the face with a hammer in order to make it look like she's been abused.
- 3256 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros.
Creepy kids are a staple of the horror genre, but 9-year-old Esther, played by Isabelle Fuhrman in the 2009 film Orphan, is something else. Literally. The film's big twist reveals that the apparently homicidal tyke is actually a 33-year-old woman with a rare genetic disorder that causes her to look like a child. She's been masquerading as one in order to infiltrate the family and seduce her adopted "father." And she's willing to knock off anyone who gets in her way.
Since its release, the film has gone on to achieve cult classic status, thanks in no small part to the quality of its memorable antagonist.
- 4223 VOTES
Rose Armitage, 'Get Out'Photo: Universal Pictures
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Get Out is a modern horror classic. And to be a horror classic, you need some great villains. In Jordan Peele's feature debut, those come in the form of the Armitage family. The story follows Chris, a photographer, who joins his white girlfriend Rose at her wealthy family's house in the country for a weekend. Though things take a turn for the weird early on, the Armitages seem harmless enough. But something sinister is going on under the surface, and before it's all over, Chris discovers that Rose is in on it, as her formerly warm and supportive demeanor suddenly switches to icy cold.
As Rose, Allison Williams helps to deliver some of the film's most disturbing sequences, including a scene where she talks on the phone with Chris's friend, her voice filled with emotion, her face utterly and terrifyingly blank.