Ten damsels in distress that don’t need saving. Serving an unhealthy dose of women that maim, murder, humiliate and destroy, this is the Top 10 Most Frightening Female Characters.
One of the things that always strikes me about Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel Carrie is, despite the destructive might of the pubescent titular character’s bloody revenge, it is her mother that takes the prize for sheer craziness. The image of Carrie White, the skin on her face ever tightening against the drying pig’s blood splashed across it, is a memorably disconcerting sight but it is nothing compared to her mother’s god-fearing fanaticism.
That got me thinking – frightening female characters: who has there been, what films have they appeared in, and who stands out as the scariest of them all?
10. Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner, Serial Mom, 1994)
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The brilliant Kathleen Turner is devilishly scary as murdering mom Beverly Sutphin. The white picket fence smile and homely familial love she bestows on her husband and children hides a borderline psychotic who can’t prevent her knitting scissors from doing serious damage to the neighbours. This comical satire is overseen by transgressive cult artist John Waters and underpinned by Turner’s terrific performance.
9. Mrs. Mott (Rebecca De Mornay, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, 1992)
See Also: Top 10 Scary Mothers in Film
Don’t ask Mrs. Mott to baby-sit your children. That’s the simple lesson learned in 1992’s The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The scheming widow plots to destroy an entire family after she blames them for the death of her husband. Rebecca De Mornay’s vicious performance is one of the most memorable from the thrillers of the 1990s.
8. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton, Wizard of Oz, 1939)
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The broomstick helps her wicked ways, ensuring she’s never more than a short flight away from tormenting you. Her face is a more cartoonish depiction of evil than Regan’s in The Exorcist, but the Wicked Witch of the West is still a terrifying creation.
7. Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina, Audition, 1999)
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Sometimes a date won’t turn out how you planned it. Sometimes you’ll go home alone feeling empty, sad and unworthy. But, sometimes, that date might go well, and you’ll find the need for a taxi for two, not one. However, if it’s Asami Yamazaki you’ve just “pulled” then you better hope an accident befalls you en route home. Because once Asami has got her teeth into you, there’s very little left once she’s done. Takashi Miike’s Audition is hide-behind-the-couch torture of the very highest order.
6. Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers, 1994)
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If you mess with Mallory Knox, you mess with her off-kilter husband Mickey too. These two mass murdering psychopaths will chop you to pieces and invite a ratings-grabbing media to film to carnage.
5. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987)
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The bunny-boiling brilliance of Glenn Close as frighteningly psychotic Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction turned a million men away from extramarital affairs in the late 1980s. The perennially-permed woman-of-the-world turns to attacking Michael Douglas’ family after he turns the sex tap off. It culminates in a great…climax!
4. Margaret White (Piper Laurie, Carrie, 1976)
See Also: Top 10 Scary Mothers in Film
The inspiration behind the Top 10 Most Frightening Female Characters in Film takes the fourth spot. Piper Laurie is callous in her monstrous yet icily controlled god-fearing ways as the overpowering mother of telekinetic daughter Carrie. Her small role is one of the best things about Brian De Palma’s terrific adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
3. Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, Misery, 1990)
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Poor Paul Sheldon (James Caan) – he’s a world famous, critically-somewhat-acclaimed and commercially successful novelist who is “lucky” enough to find his number one fan who will do anything for him. However, unfortunately, his number one fan is psychotic ex-nurse and baby killer Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who proceeds to “hobble” him in order to keep him captive while he writes a new novel she’s happy with.
2. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975)
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Louise Fletcher is terrific as Nurse Ratched, a power-hungry authoritarian who has to do battle with happy-go-lucky convict and anti-authoritarian Patrick “Mac” McMurphy (Jack Nicholson). The tragic outcome to this terrific tale about the inhabitants of an Oregon mental asylum makes Nurse Ratched an icon of frightening female film characters.
1. Regan (Linda Blair, The Exorcist, 1975)
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Linda Blair is astonishing as a pubescent girl who is possessed by an evil demon. William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is undoubtedly the greatest horror film ever made, and surely the scariest.
Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.
Your turn – what female characters scare you?
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