In horror, we’ve become pretty accustomed to seeing male villains on the big screen. From Leatherface to Jason Voorhees to Freddy Krueger to Michael Myers, men have largely dominated this role for the past half century. However, there are tons of noteworthy female antagonists to discuss. And some of these ladies are the scariest the genre has to offer. Take a look at the gallery below to check out 15 of the most iconic female villains in horror, then let us know your favorite character from this list in the comments section on social media.
Annie Wilkes—”Misery” 1990
Long before Kathy Bates was delighting audiences on “American Horror Story,” she portrayed one of the most terrifying female villains in all of horror— Annie Wilkes. In “Misery,” Wilkes portrays an obsessive fan of an author, who “rescues” him and then holds him captive. This performance was well worth Bate’s Best Actress Academy Award win.
Pamela Voorhees—”Friday the 13th” 1980
We love a twist ending and Mrs. Pamela Voorhees was certainly not the villain we expected to see at the end of “Friday the 13th.” Betsy Palmer was absolutely iconic in her portrayal Jason’s mother, truly dominating the series before her son eventually took over the villain role later in the franchise.
Asami Yamazaki—”Audition” 1999
No one created terror among audiences quite like Asami. This black widow is truly horrifying and her means of torture would shock any horror fanatic. And honestly, no actor could play the part quite like Eihi Shiina.
Tiffany Valentine—”Bride of Chucky” 1998
The horror comedy genre was forever changed when Tiffany Valentine was created. Portrayed by the iconic Jennifer Tilly, this character is the perfect female foil to Chucky and her one liners are positively perfect. I mean, “Barbie, eat your heart out,” can it really get better than that?
Samara Morgan—”The Ring” 2002
If there was one horror antagonist that truly defined the early 2000s, it was Samara Morgan of “The Ring.” Samara’s story, as discovered throughout the film, is truly fascinating and she’s much more than a one dimensional slasher. Plus, actor Daveigh Chase also provided the voice for Lilo in “Lilo and Stitch” and that’s what I call range.
Amanda Young—”Saw” 2004
We love a good victim to villain story line. Amanda Young, portrayed by Shawnee Smith, begins the franchise as the OG victim of Jigsaw’s reverse bear trap. But, her survival skills made her the perfect apprentice for John Kramer and one of the most scene stealing accomplices in all of horror history.
Baby Firefly—”House of 1000 Corpses” 2003
Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” is pretty out there and Baby Firefly is certainly a character you’ll never forget. Portrayed by Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon, Baby Firefly is both sexy and seriously scary. We get to see her story play out alongside the other members of the Firefly family and see the role reprised in 2005’s “The Devil’s Rejects” and 2009’s “3 From Hell.”
Kayako Saeki—”The Grudge” 2004
J-horror knows what’s up and Kayako Saeki is straight up nightmare inducing. First introduced in 2002’s “Ju-On: The Grudge” and later in 2004’s American remake, Kayako is one of the scariest ghosts to ever grace the big screen.
Bathsheba Sherman—”The Conjuring” 2013
Speaking of terrifying ghosts—enter Bathsheba. There are plenty of villains to choose from within “The Conjuring” and one of the most underappreciated is Bathsheba Sherman. This figure plays horror’s maternal villain trophe and the film’s expert use of jump scares make her all the more unsettling.
Julia Cotton—”Hellraiser” 1987
Many people think that Pinhead is the primary antagonist of the first “Hellraiser” movie, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, this honor goes to Julia Cotton, portrayed by Clare Higgins, a woman who makes regular human sacrifices in order to resurrect her lover (who’s also her husband’s brother). And for even more Julia Cotton, you can enjoy her become the resurrectee “Hellbound: Hellraiser II.”
Sue Ann—”Ma” 2019
It’s not every day that we see an Oscar winning actor portray a horror villain and that makes Octavia Spencer’s casting as Sue Ann in “Ma” all the better. Spencer’s acting is phenomenal, making this film a must watch. Plus, the background of this character is fresh, relatable and exciting.
When it comes to terrifying kids in horror movies, Esther occupies the number one spot. This character is a parent’s worst nightmare and Isabelle Fuhrman’s portrayal of the character is pretty much perfect. Never underestimate Esther.
Rose Armitage—”Get Out” 2017
Rose Armitage, portrayed by Allison Williams, is unquestionably one of the most frightening horror villains of the last decade. Rose is a truly scary killer, able to switch her personality effortless at the drop of a hat. Seriously, she may seem sweet at first, but she’s one of the most ruthless characters on this list.
Lupita Nyong’O had her work cut out for her in Jordan Peele’s “Us.” Not only did she portray the film’s protagonist Adelaide, but her character’s evil doppelganger Red as well. And figuring out which of them is truly the more evil, that’s the true mystery of the film.
Rose the Hat—”Doctor Sleep” 2019
While Jack Torrance was the primary antagonist of 1980’s “The Shining,” Rose the Hat earns that title in the 2019 sequel. Conniving, cunning and sneaky, Rose the Hat leads a cult of psychics who consume the psychic essence of people with the shining. Rebecca Ferguson truly embodied this frightening antagonist and in doing so, became an unforgettable horror legend.