Kiss Me Deadly: 25 Best Big-Screen Bad Girls

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The femme fatale is one of the oldest archetypes at the movies — here are our picks for the most memorable lady killers, from the Bond Bad Girls to Catwoman to Grendel's mommy dearest

By Marc Bernardin
Apr 23, 2008

(EW.com)


GRENDEL'S MOM
Angelina Jolie
Beowulf (2007)
How bad is she? Well, first she wipes out a beer hall full of hardy warriors, then she tempts the surviving hero with her liquid-hawt flesh, after which she gives birth to a dragon that tries to burn the hero's kingdom to the ground. So, yeah, a little bit bad.




THE BOND BAD GIRLS
Famke Janssen/Lotte Lenya/Honor Blackman
GoldenEye (1995)/From Russia With Love (1963)/Goldfinger (1964)
Sometimes, the women James Bond encounters in his various missions are downy-soft cutie pies, waiting for 007 to ''show them the world.'' Other times, they're like Janssen's Xenia Onatopp, who schtupps men to death, or Lenya's Rosa Klebb, who dispatches her enemies with some fancy bladed footwork. And then there's Blackman's Pussy Galore, who is swayed from the Dark Side by the sheer power of Bond's, er, will.




LILLY DILLON
Angelica Huston
The Grifters (1990)
Most film noir femmes fatale are young nymphs who use their bubbling sexuality to ply their deadly trade. But Huston's con artist Lilly is a grown up, through and through. So grown up, in fact, that she's got a grown-up son, Roy (John Cusack), who's also in the game. Here's a side of the bad girl you don't see too often: what happens when time catches up with them.




AUDREY ''LULU'' HANKEL
Melanie Griffith
Something Wild (1986)
What'll it take to shake poor Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) free from his stifling, yuppified banker existence? Well, a sexy-dangerous weekend with Griffith's reckless hellion oughta do it.




IVY
Drew Barrymore
Poison Ivy (1992)
Barrymore revealed that she was no longer the little girl from E.T., playing a trashy teen who appears out of nowhere and moves in with dweeby Sylvie (Sara Gilbert). In no time, Ivy has seduced Sylvie's dad (Tom Skerritt), offed her mom (Cheryl Ladd), and pretty much destroyed Sylvie's life. She's a figure out of a nightmare — or is she just a projection of Sylvie's id, acting out her darkest Oedipal impulses?
 

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MATTY WALKER
Kathleen Turner
Body Heat (1981)
In her screen debut, Turner plays a kept woman who spins a web of deceit to honey-trap William Hurt's horny Florida lawyer. And, whaddya know, it works. A couple of steamy nights together and he's hatching a scheme to kill her rich husband.




JESSICA RABBIT
Voiced by Kathleen Turner
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Did the gorgeous wife of slapstick toon star Roger Rabbit kill the man she'd been having an affair with, and then frame her husband for the murder? ''I'm not bad,'' she coos. ''I'm just drawn that way.''




O-REN ISHII
Lucy Liu
Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
The diminutive half-Chinese, half-Japanese Yakuza boss has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about her mixed ethnicity. And if you bring it up, she'll chip your head off your shoulders. Like Paula Abdul said, back in the day, she's a cold-hearted snake.




MALLORY KNOX
Juliette Lewis
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Here's a girl who will kill you just as soon as look at you. On the road with her life-partner, Mickey (Woody Harrelson) — who helped her kill her abusive father — Mallory slayed her way down Route 666 before ending up in a maximum-security lockdown. Oh, and one thing to keep in mind: she's okay with one-night stands, but you'd better be a patient lover...because she's got something of an itchy gun hand.




CATHERINE TRAMELL
Sharon Stone
Basic Instinct (1992)
''Have ice pick will travel'' should probably be on her business cards. With one not-so-innocent re-crossing of her legs, Stone shot to stardom as Catherine Trammel, a wealthy, bisexual crime-fiction writer under investigation for murder.
 

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COFFY
Pam Grier
Coffy (1973)
The queen of blaxploitation cinema solidified her legend here, playing a nurse whose sister is killed by mobsters. What's a girl to do? Ask her boyfriend for help? Turn to the police? Screw that — Coffy blasts her way straight through to revenge, even if she has to pretend to be a junkie hooker to do it.




CATWOMAN/SELINA KYLE
Michelle Pfeiffer
Batman Returns (1992)
The movie tweaked her origin a bit — instead of just being a streetwalker-turned-enterprising cat-burglar, like in the comics, she's a secretary who gets quasi-mystical powers after being tossed out a window by her crazy-haired boss (Christopher Walken) — but Selina Kyle is a force of nature any way you cut it. And Michelle Pfeiffer cut loose in a way we'd never seen before. It's hard to choose which cliché to use to describe her: ''kitten with a whip'' or ''feline fatale''?




ANGELA
Salli Richardson
A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994)
It's not too hard to be the best part of a Keenen Ivory Wayans film, since the movies themselves are never much to sneeze at. This thin Shaft riff follows suit — but watch for Richardson as the old flame who bring new trouble for Wayans' black private dick. She's all sizzle.




MADISON LEE
Demi Moore
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
It had been a while since we saw Ms. Moore in a big, honking Hollywood flick — 1997's G.I. Jane, to be precise — but she held the center of this sequel as the former Angel gone rogue. When she strutted out of that surf, with that still-slammin' bod...ooof.




CHRISSY, SISSY, MISSY, AND JUSTICE
Ali Larter, Eliza Dushku, Jennifer Schwalbach, Shannon Elizabeth
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Hot jewel thieves pretending to be animal rights activists? Who may or may not be lesbians? Yes, please.
 

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EVELYN MULWRAY
Faye Dunaway
Chinatown (1974)
Of every woman on this list, Evelyn Mulwray has the least amount of malice in her heart — but the way it got there may be the most distasteful. Raped by her industrialist father (John Huston), mother to her daughter-sister, sleeping with the P.I. (Jack Nicholson) investigating her husband's death.... No, morality doesn't come easy to her.




LYNN BRACKEN
Kim Basinger
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Agreeing to go under the knife to look like a movie star, and then renting one's self out to men willing to pay to sleep with ''movie stars'' — yeah, that might leave one's moral compass out of whack. Basinger won her Oscar for playing such a woman, the sultry, sad heart of Curtis Hanson's '50s noir masterpiece.




PHYLLIS DIETRICHSON
Barbara Stanwyck
Double Indemnity (1944)
Stanwyck pretty much invented the femme fatale with her role in Double Indemnity, a film written by three of the most hard-boiled scribes in Hollywood history: Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain (whose The Postman Always Rings Twice, which has a similar plot, provided an unforgettable femme fatale role for Lana Turner and, later, Jessica Lange). Of all the dames who ever convinced some poor sap to kill her husband for the insurance money, Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson is the slinkiest, the scariest, and the least remorseful. This is a woman who can make shopping at the grocery store seem sexy and dangerous.




NIKITA
Anne Parillaud
La Femme Nikita (1990)
Sure, she walks off into the sunset with her true love at the movie's close, but before that, Nikita — former junkie-hellraiser, adopted by the government and trained as an assassin — kills a whole lot of people in very stylish, very French ways.




VIOLET
Jennifer Tilly
Bound (1996)
Being a gangster's moll agrees with Tilly's Violet, who uses her ditz and her derriere to steal millions of mob money from her boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano) and land a new lover (Gina Gershon) in the process.
 

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WENDY KROY/BRIDGET GREGORY
Linda Fiorentino
The Last Seduction (1994)
Really, it's not even fair. None of the men in The Last Seduction is any match for Fiorentino's con artist Bridget Gregory — not her similarly larcenous husband (Bill Pullman), nor the feckless white-collar drone (Peter Berg) she hooks up with after she runs off with hubby's ill-gotten gains. She's smarter and greedier than everyone else, with a gift for improvising her way out of trouble, and unburdened by any trace of regret, compassion, or regard for the lives of others. She should be a hissable villain, but in Fiorentino's performance, the standout role of her career, Bridget is darkly funny, an unlikely superwoman beset on all sides by rubes.




MORGANA
Helen Mirren
Excalibur (1981)
The half-sister of King Arthur (Nigel Perry), Morgana wasn't satisfied with just sitting on the sidelines, watching her anointed-by-God kin build his table without corners. No, she concocted a grand plan to imprison Merlin the magician; appear to Arthur disguised as Guinevere and sleep with him (boo for incest!); and then give birth to the son who would prove to be Camelot's undoing.




MRS. ELEANOR ISELIN
Angela Lansbury
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
A boy can always trust his mother, right? She won't be a party to his brainwashing, just to politically position her husband to help overthrow the government, won't she? Won't she? Betrayal is exponentially more painful the closer the betrayer is to you....




SIL
Natasha Henstridge
Species (1995)
The very sexy result of an experiment using an extra-terrestrial set of directions on how to tweak human DNA, Sil emerges almost full-grown with the body of a centerfold and the programming of a great white shark. All she wants to do is screw, kill, and try and make little homicidal alien babies.





SUZANNE STONE MARETTO
Nicole Kidman
To Die For (1995)
Kidman's small-town weather girl Suzanne Stone Maretto wants to be a national TV star in the worst way, and she gets her wish when her murder trial becomes a media circus. Kidman gives her a comical but chilling edge; she plays Suzanne as a perky Barbie doll with a frozen smile. She'll do anything for fame, including seducing a naive teen (Joaquin Phoenix) into killing her husband (Matt Dillon). Fittingly, To Die For was the first movie that showed Kidman was not just then-husband Tom Cruise's arm candy but a skilled actress who deserved to be a star on her own merits.
 

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FOX
Angelina Jolie
Wanted (2008)
Already one of our favorite femmes fatales, Angelina Jolie teaches James McAvoy's novice killer-for-hire how to be the best he can be (and curve a bullet!) in the new shoot'em-up thriller, Wanted.
 

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