MAD, BAD & BEWITCHING
Fantasy’s evil women are growing ever more complex and intriguing, writes Duncan Lay
1 MALEFICENT: SLEEPING BEAUTY / MALEFICENT / MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
A villain so good that she has been reinvented as a hero of the downtrodden and marginalised fairy folk. She started out pure evil in the original Disney film then proved to be secretly good in the 2014 re-imagining although things get complicated again in her latest outing. There’s probably no truth to the rumour that Angelina Jolie came up with the idea of the wings and the horns after seeing a picture of herself drawn by Jennifer Aniston over the whole Brad Pitt thing.
Once upon a time in fantasy land movie plots, we loved the goodies and hated the baddies who, preferably, had a nasty moustache to twirl. But just as times have changed off the screen so they have in fantasy stories and so we are seeing the rise and rise of the female villain.
And these are no onedimensional cartoon baddies.
The cartoon spindle-wielding evil fairy from Disney’s 1959 original was revealed as a far more complex, and even tragic character, in its 2014 re-imagining, Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie. And if its sequel Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil opened to mixed reviews this week, all agree Jolie’s magnificent dark godmother dominates the tale’s traditional heroine pretty Princess Aurora.
Then we have Harley Quinn, formerly a sidekick for Batman’s villain The Joker. Margot Robbie almost saved the widely panned Suicide Squad (2014) and was so good she has inspired two more movies featuring Quinn in Birds Of Prey scheduled for early 2020 and a rebooted Suicide Squad, expected to be released in 2021.
Then we come to Catwoman. Little Big Lies star Zoe Kravitz has just been cast in the latest Batman movie opposite Robert Pattinson and so we’ll have to wait to see whether she is secretly on the Batman’s side, as Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Or will she be evil like Eartha Kitt’s 1960s version or just bad, like Halle Berry’s failed 2004 offering in Catwoman.
Apparently it doesn’t matter — we love a female villain anyway. With that in mind, Insider counts down its top 10 female fantasy villains.
10 MYSTIQUE: THE X-MEN MOVIES
This shapeshifting X-Men character started out very bad as portrayed by Rebecca Romijn. But the lines began to blur as she helped out the heroes in X-Men 2 — then turned on them. Things became even more complicated in the prequel movies when Jennifer Lawrence took over. She was good, she was fated to be bad, then she was good again … but, regardless of whether she was good, bad or just
naughty, you couldn’t take your eyes off her.
9 SERLEENA: MEN IN BLACK II
She was a sentient plant who turned herself into a lingerie model — as you do — and then tried to destroy the galaxy. She summed up Earth beautifully when she said: “Silly little planet. I could rule the place with the right set of mammary glands”. She was in so many ways a huge step up from the giant cockroach they battled in the first movie.
8 DOLORES UMBRIDGE: HARRY POTTER SERIES
Voldemort might be the main protagonist for Harry Potter but who can forget Umbridge, a woman who shows how truly evil pink cardigans and fluffy kittens can be. Voldemort was evil because he wanted power. Umbridge was evil because she enjoyed it — just like a cat. It just goes to show there is nothing more terrible than a pen-pusher with power.
7 URSULA THE SEA WITCH: THE LITTLE MERMAID
When she wasn’t conjuring up storms to kill sailors, she was making deals with innocent little mermaids, to hand over a set of legs in exchange for a voice. Not only was she a memorable villain, she also inspired the entire payday lender sector.
6 HARLEY QUINN: SUICIDE SQUAD/ AD/ BIRDS OF PREY
Who would have thought the sidekick of The Joker could not only be the best thing about the woeful Suicide Squad but get her own show, plus inspire a reboot of the original? Margot Robbie was fantastic as the deranged Quinn with the help of the most famous spangly skintight shorts since Kylie Minogue had our heads Spinning Around.
5 WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST: THE WIZARD OF OZ
Not only did she rock the green make-up, she made the classic movie Wizard Of Oz. Sure, the songs and characters were fun but you can’t enjoy them without the dark spell she casts over the film. And who doesn’t secretly love someone with an army of flying monkeys?
4 BELLATRIX LESTRANGE: HARRY POTTER SERIES
Umbridge tortured people. Bellatrix killed them for fun. If it wasn’t bad enough that she killed Sirius Black, she also finished off Dobby, the heroic house elf. Thankfully, in a scene that echoed Ellen Ripley challenging the Alien Queen in Aliens, she was taken out by Mrs Weasley. Sadly, unlike the Alien Queen, she didn’t have acid for blood.
3 HELA: THOR RAGNAROK
The early Thor movies had so much testosterone, they were banned from running at the Olympics. Then along came Hela in the sultry form of Cate Blanchett to slaughter most of the minor characters from the first two movies and restore the balance. She’s vicious, vindictive and bloodthirsty but looks fabulous doing so.
2 CRUELLA DE VIL: 101 DALMATIANS
Who was worse? The cartoon version or the Glenn Close live-action version? Well, if you’re a dalmatian about to be turned into a coat, you probably don’t care much either way. These days she’d probably use cavoodles or similar as they have actual fur, instead of dog hair. But 101 Cavoodles sounds more like what you’d see inside a Bondi coffee shop.