They aren’t the damsel in distress. They aren’t your girlfriends or the frightened princesses. They aren’t some little bird who need your help to fly. Nope! They’re the bad guys! Today I’m counting down 12 of my favorite female antagonists to celebrate the end of Women’s History Month.
12- Yzma (The Emperor’s New Groove, 2000)
This purple, uh, ‘prettie’, was a wild card of personality. Yzma was Emperor Kuzco’s head adviser and chemist, a loyal employee of his family for years. She made many choices for the Emperor behind him back, causing her to be fired without a single thought. Her loyalty turning to anger, she decides to kill Kuzco and rule the empire. She plans to poison Kuzco, but instead of poisoning him, she turns him into a llama. Thinking Kuzco is dead, Yzma rules the empire, but soon learns her servant Kronk never killed him. They set out to find the llama emperor, and at the end, chase him down. She ends up turning into a cat, and is overthrown.
Yzma’s chemical genius is unappreciated by the other characters of the film. Being able to create potions that can change anyone into anything is pretty cool for a skill! Easy to keep your servants in check then!
What some don’t remember is that Yzma cared for Kuzco. She basically raised him, and felt so horrible when he fired her without hesitation. She was betrayed, and got her revenge. Kuzco even tries to vouch for Yzma, saying she would never kill him. What Kuzco did was wrong, and caused the whole snowball of effects that was The Emperor’s New Groove. Of course, Yzma’s personality in general helped grow Kuzco’s negative personality. Like many Disney villains, Yzma is hilarious, trying out complicated ways to kill Kuzco. She’s a comical powerhouse of throne hungry mania, with hilarious lines and actions.
11- Mapleshade (Warrior Cats Series, 2003-Present Day)
Yes, this she cat does fall into the category of female villains who become evil because of a man (or tom). However, there are many layers to her motivations and personality. You just need a closer look.
Mapleshade was a Thunderclan warrior who fell in love with Appledusk of Riverclan. She gave birth to his kits, and since this union was forbidden, she was banished from the clan. When she tried to move to Riverclan, her kits drowned in the river, causing Appledusk to hate her. She became a rogue and sought to avenge her kits. She first killed the Thunderclan medicine cat Ravenwing at the Moonstone for revealing her affair with Appledusk. Then she killed Frecklewish with an adder for watching her kits drown. Finally, she tried to kill Appledusk’s new mate Reedshine for having the kits that should be hers. She ended up killing Appledusk instead, and went to a barn to die. But death isn’t the end of Mapleshade’s story, oh no!
She awakens in the Dark Forest, the perfect place to plot her revenge. She plans to ruin the lives of Appledusk’s descendants, and chooses young Crookedkit, later Crookedstar, as her victim. She makes him promise to put his clan over his family, causing his entire family to die. She plans the downfall of the clans, training like minded cats in the clans to overrule them. In The Last Hope, she launches her famed attack, and is killed a second time by Spottedleaf, removing her forever from the world.
Mapleshade is a strong fighter with a determined spirit. She cared for her clanmates, and wanted love. When they betrayed her, she took her revenge, ruining the lives of many cats. She was a fierce leader for the Dark Forest, a villainess rival to Tigerstar. She hates many cats who got to have kits and fall in love, be respected by their clan mates and have a good life, such as Sandstorm. She’s put low on this list due to her motivations, but her attitude and determination still keeps her strong.
10- Mama Fratelli (Goonies, 1985)
This gangsta mama has a special spot in my heart for villains. Growing up with Goonies, it’s impossible for me not to like her and her sons.
Mama broke her son out of jail in a pretty impressive prison breakout and chase scene. Fire literally surrounded the building! How is that not cool?! She and the sons hide out in an old restaurant to run their counterfeiting operation, which just so happens to be over some old pirate treasure. The main kids come to the restaurant to find the treasure, and avoid the criminals for a while, until they go down underground and send Chunk to tell the authorities. Chunk is caught, and they threaten to blend his hand inside a blender. He reveals the existence of the treasure, and the Fratellis go after the kids. Near the end, the Fratellis capture the kids on the pirate ship and begin to send them to their drowning deaths. But Mama Fratelli’s deformed son Sloth comes with Chunk and frees the kids. The kids out of the cave, Mama triggers a trap that destroys the grotto where the ship lays. The Fratellis are then arrested for their crimes.
Mama is a tough counterfeiter in all regards. She’s fine with murdering children to gain a pirate’s treasure, shredding a kid’s hands for information, and neglecting Sloth due to his deformity and slight mental slowness. She tries to acts like she loves her sons, but it’s clear she sees them as either employees in her business or a hazard. She’s smart enough to plan her son’s prison escape, avoid the cops, and keep her operation running for quite a while. A cruel, smart addition to the list.
9- Mother Gothel (Tangled, 2010)
I highly doubt mother knows best in this situation. Mother Gothel was obsessed with her beauty, using a magical golden flower to restore her youth. The flower was stolen by the king and queen, which turned into Rapunzel’s hair. So Mother Gothel stole the child as her own personal fountain of youth and kept her locked in a tower. When Rapunzel escaped, she learned the truth about Mother Gothel and her birth, which caused Mother Gothel to stab Eugene in the gut. Before he died, he cut Rapunzel’s hair off, also cutting off Mother Gothel’s life source. She fell out of the tower window and withered away into dust.
Mother Gothel delivered her own form of abuse to Rapunzel. She lied to the girl, saying the world was too dangerous for her, that people would try to abuse her gift. She put Rapunzel down every minute, avoiding nice comments. She has a theatrical air around her, quite dramatic. Unlike other female Disney villains, she doesn’t have any magical powers. She relies on her intelligence and cunning. She is the most selfish person you’ll find in modern fiction. Abusive, vindictive, selfish, and smart. The perfect mix of traits for a villain.
8- Ursula (Little Mermaid, 1989)
This half octopus was banished from Atlantica, given a vendetta against King Triton. When his curious human loving daughter Ariel came swimming by, she the key to Triton’s downfall. She struck a deal with Ariel to fall in love with Eric. As Ariel tried to win her prince’s heart without her voice, Ursula sabotages the girl so that she does not succeed. When Ariel came close to the kiss, Ursula took her voice and used it to try and marry Eric herself. When that too is foiled, she holds Ariel ransom and forces Triton to hand over the trident and crown. This is when she goes full villain and tries to kill everyone. She was given the most epic death Disney could give to a character onscreen- being stabbed through the gut with a ship.
Ursula’s abilities are powerful, though her greatest strength may be her charm. She knows what she wants, and what others wants, so she can easily manipulate them into doing just what she needs. When they fail, they’re a perfect addition to her garden of souls. She can also shapeshift and bind unbreakable deals.
Ursula is a chaos loving creature, who also nonchalantly committed cannibalism on screen (if eating a fellow fish creature counts). She did show a soft side to her two loyal followers, Flotsam and Jetsam. She treated them well, even though she yelled orders at them all the time. Their death caused Ursula to turn even more murderous than before, turning into a giant monster to avenge them. She’s classy, tricky, vengeful, with a soft spot for two eels and all things chaotic. That earns this lady a place on this list.
7- Cruella de Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will! To see her is to take a sudden chill! Cruella, Cruella, she’s like a spider waiting for the kill! Look out for Cruella de Vil. If you don’t know it by now, Cruella is known as one of the more heartless Disney villains. She’s a wealthy fashionista looking to make a coat out of the pelts of dalmatian puppies. Now that’s evil! She steals 99 puppies across London, fifteen of which belonging to the main characters, and takes them to the Old De Vil Place. The pups escape, and are chased after by a furious Cruella across England. They get into a car accident while chasing them and are presumed arrested. Not much to say about her personality wise sadly, but her sheer anger and all in all evil traits have put her on many Top Villains lists.
6- Lord Dominator (Wander Over Yonder, 2013-2016)
This cartoon baddie sure packs a punch! She doesn’t have some wimpy girl name, no, she has an epic name. She is LORD DOMINATOR. BOW BEFORE HER. She is the main antagonist of Wander Over Yonder’s second season. At first, she was thought to be a dude by the characters of the show due to her armor, but that was eventually discovered. In the episode My Fair Hatey, she sings an epic song to celebrate women and how she will not date Lord Hater and is a villain for the fun of it. It’s basically the anthem of villains now. The main character Wander often tries to turn her good, but Dominator refuses him.
Even with her masculine armor, Dominator holds no quarrels with looking fabulously feminine. She’ll wear a crop top and a long flowing skirt and kick your butt with her lava powers. She is able to manipulate both lava and ice, and has her own army of tiny robots. When in her armor, Dominator is a powerful force with remnants of Darth Vader. She is a pure evil woman, who wants to destroy the galaxy for fun. In reality, she’s a geek. Just an absolute geek. She loves to freak out about chaos and destruction, providing a mirror of hyperactivity for the hero Wander. She’s still evil, just hyperactive as well.
All in all, Lord Dominator is an amazingly well written woman, with strong motivations, well developed personality, and the greatest fashion sense of any villain I’ve seen. Sorry Cruella, her geek socks beat you and your puppy coat.
5- Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter Franchise, 1998-Present Day)
She killed Sirius. This woman is evil, evil, evil! A pure blood member of the Black family, Lestrange was a fanatic loyal Death Eater. In the later eighth book, it is revealed that she even somehow gave birth to Voldemort’s kid Delphini. She was one of the death eaters that tortured the Longbottoms and part of the Azkaban breakout in the fifth book. Her goal was to kill all members of her family the betrayed the blood line, like Sirius and Nymphadora. She fought to be the last death eater alive in the final battle, and was killed by a mother’s determination. You don’t try to kill a Weasley without the Weasley mother chasing you down and killing you with a zap of her wand.
Lestrange was a powerful witch, mistress of the dark arts. She could easily take down experienced Aurors, with a particular skill with the Cruciatus Curse. She was also skilled at non-verbal magic, dueling, and occlumency. Truly a powerful witch to fight.
Lestrange was as crazy as they come. With a cheerful glow on her face as she murdered her family, she always believed she was better than everyone (except of course, her beautiful Lord Voldemort). She shared the Black temper, and the passion for certain people. She truly cared for her sister Narcissa, even though she hated everyone else. She could lead her fellow death eaters on an attack, never willing to disobey Voldemort. At least this psycho lady is loyal. She truly loves to torture others, and despises anyone not of pure blood heritage.
4- GLaDOS (Portal Series, 2007-2011)
This robot overlord loves testing to death. By that I mean she kills her test subjects if they complete all the tests. GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System) was originally Caroline, the beautiful assistant to Cave Johnson, the head of Aperture Labs. As his health declined, Johnson ordered that if he died before the technology to put his mind into a robot was created that Caroline was to take his place. She refused, but was forced to become GLaDOS. The scientists put multiple personality cores onto GLaDOS to keep her in check, one being Wheatley, who was designed to be the world’s biggest moron. She eventually flooded Aperture with neurotoxin on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, but the surviving scientists were able to place a morality core onto her.
In the first game, she lead Chell, the player, through the tests, but she escaped at the last test (a pit of fire). Chell defeated GLaDOS, destroying her, but the robot was revived by Wheatley’s stupidity later on. In the middle of the second game, Wheatley replaced GLaDOS as head of Aperture. He turned mad, put GLaDOS’ personality inside a potato, and sent her and Chell into the ruins of the old Aperture facility. She remembered Caroline’s past, her old personality returning. When the two defeated Wheatley, GLaDOS deleted the part of her where Caroline lived, and let Chell go free.
As a robot, GLaDOS is able to commit many cruel acts. She is in control of every part of Aperture, and sees through cameras scattered around. Her deadly neurotoxin kills all living things. Her tests are mind numbing, giving you an amazing sense of satisfaction when you beat them. Her witty personality keeps the game alive and entertaining. As Caroline, you sympathize with how she did not want to live forever, but had no choice. Of course, that’s not the best part of GLaDOS. The best part is her personality. It’s snarky, it’s witty, it’s funny, it’s a joy to hear.
3- Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty, 1959, and Maleficent, 2014)
Listen, not inviting someone to an event like Princess Aurora’s royal christening is basically a MAJOR insult. Like, MAJOR. It’s like the White House is hosting a party and the First Lady isn’t invited. So can you blame Maleficent for being mad?
So at the beginning of the 50’s film, Maleficent gate crashes the party and tries to get the king and queen to apologize for not inviting her. When they refuse, she curses Aurora with the famous death by spinning wheel curse and leaves. She basically spends sixteen years hanging out in her castle trying to find the baby after she is taken away. When Aurora completes the curse, Maleficent captures Prince Phillip so he cannot break the spell. When he’s freed, she turns into a giant dragon and begins an epic fight scene, though is killed.
Her personality and character becomes even more defined in the 2014 movie Maleficent. There, she had been kind and friendly to other mythical creatures and fell in love with the boy who would become king. As an adult, he stole her wings, she becomes ruler of the Moors and seeks revenge with her raven Diaval. This is when she curses Aurora, but knows where the child lives. Since the fairies raising her are idiots, she ends up caring for the child and saving her so the curse will be completed. As Aurora learns of Maleficent and grows attached to her, the villainess develops a motherly love for her cursed girl. Sadly, she is unable to lift the spell before her sixteenth birthday. Her maternal love wakes Aurora, she gets her wings back, and unites the kingdoms.
Maleficent is smart and cunning, a powerful fairy. In the first film, she is true evil. Anyone who calls themselves the Mistress of All Evil has to be evil. She thinks herself above everyone else, only caring for her raven. She’s soft spoken, proper, and elegant. In her own personal movie, she shows many different sides of her personality; loving, full of wrath, powerful, and always elegant. A perfect addition to the list.
2- Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter Franchise, 1998-Present Day)
This lady. This witch. The hatred she inspires is strong. You may want Voldemort to be defeated, but you wanted this lady DEAD. After Harry’s stunning accusations that Voldemort has returned, the Ministry of Magic sent Umbridge to Hogwarts as both the next DADA teacher and to watch Dumbledore in Harry’s fifth year. She presides to be terrible at her job, torture students, actually be HAPPY and POWERFUL around a horcrux, and basically the worst human being to ever exist. She does so many horrible things, I can’t even mention them all in this article.
The part about her that may be so stunning and relatable is that us normal people face people like this all the time! Paper pushers who really just hate humanity. The mention of her name makes you want to punch a flower in the face and burn all things pink and every cat photo on the internet. She’s THAT well written.
So who is the top villainess? That role would have to go to…
1- Harley Quinn (DC Franchise, 1936-Present Day)
Oh Harley. How could I not include you? Surprisingly, she was first introduced in Batman The Animated Series. She was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a top psychiatrist intern working at Arkham Asylum and a skilled gymnast. She studied the Joker, who manipulated and tricked her into falling for him. After helping him escape, she became Harley Quinn. Her relationship with the Joker was very abusive, the best abusive relationship ever written. She has a close relationship to Poison Ivy, and can fluctuate between loving the Joker and hating him. She’s known as one of the most famous DC villains to be created.
Harley shares the Joker’s love of a laugh, making great jokes and better fight scenes. She has multiple different persona, her most common one her fun loving crazy Joker obsessed identity. Of course, she also acts like Harleen Quinzel at times too. She needs to be obsessed with something, anything, in order to feel complete. In one word, you could describe Harley either as crazy or passionate. Both would be extremely accurate.
The biggest writing flaw about her though is that she could fall in the category of being evil because of a man. However, this is subverted, because she became Harley in order to be with Joker, not to hurt him. In any case, with good and bad parts of her personality, Harley Quinn is the greatest female villain to be written.