Women can be evil, too.

Plenty has been said about female protagonists in horror, especially in relation to the “Final Girl” archetype that always seems to show up. Protagonists in horror, for whatever reason, almost seem to default to female – something that’s not the case in other genres not marketed toward women (ie, non-romcoms). But that’s not the case for horror villains. Murderers and monsters are firmly in male territory.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been some interesting female villains, though. On the contrary, some of the greatest horror movies of all time have had some truly fascinating women (or girls) as villains. Here’s a list of some of those:

Eli (‘Let The Right One In’)

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The slow-paced Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In is not everyone’s cup of tea (or blood, as may be the case). But even if you didn’t enjoy the movie, you have to admit that Eli’s character is well done. There are a couple reasons for this. It’s not just that she’s a child vampire – after all, that’s been done before – it’s in the specific blend of innocence and brutality she embodies. In her initial interactions with Oskar, she’s all child. And her monstrousness is more understated and implied than thrown in your face. (The focus, after all, is on her relationship with Oskar.) That’s what makes her character so creepy and interesting, to me.

Margaret White (‘Carrie’)

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I don’t think it’s controversial to say that, though there are a lot of terrible characters in Carrie, that Piper Laurie’s Margaret White is the real villain of the film. Sure, Carrie endures bullies, and Carrie herself is the one murdering her classmates, but her mother is the one who created the monster. There’s a great contrast as a nurturer and abuser in her role. And then, of course, that’s not enough – she goes so insane with anti-supernatural zealousness that she actually tries to murder her own daughter!

Julia Cotton (‘Hellraiser’)

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Her motivation and arc may be straightforward, but more than any other character, even Frank, Julia Cotton embodies what Hellraiser is about. She commits truly evil acts to realize her desires, and that leads to her downfall. The extremity of her lust for Frank is seriously transgressive, even now.

Annie Wilkes (‘Misery’)

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There are essentially only two actors in Misery: James Caan and Kathy Bates. And while James Caan is fine – everything about the movie is great, actually – Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes is the reason people still talk about it. She’s unforgettable as the charming, deranged fan of Caan (as a famous writer who’s been in an accident).

Ginger Fitzgerald (‘Ginger Snaps’)


What makes Ginger Fitzgerald my absolute favorite female villain in horror is that she’s not technically a villain. She’s an antagonist. The distinction being that, while her motivations ultimately oppose the protagonist’s (her sister Brigitte), she’s not evil, and she doesn’t even threaten Brigitte’s life until the very end of the film. She’s an extremely sympathetic character, and more significantly, she’s an extremely important person to Brigitte. The fact that she’s a complex character doesn’t hurt, but what really stands out about her is that she represents a painful dilemma for Brigitte, who wants to save her, but who also wants to stop her from hurting anyone.