10 murderously good femme fatales
You don’t have to browse through a decent DVD collection for very long before you come across a terrifying and unforgettable movie serial killer. From Hannibal Lector to Norman Bates, John Doe in Se7en to Halloween‘s Michael Myers, there are plenty of ruthless, obsessive people-slayers lurking in the vaults of Tinseltown. But they all have something in common (aside from all being rather unpleasant). They’re all men. Hundreds and thousands of evil killers, all of whom have the Y chromosome.
But that’s not to say that women aren’t capable of the ultimate crime. There have been many notable cinematic murderesses in movie history… and we’ve unearthed some fearsome female serial killers just for you.
Here are our top ten:
Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke) in Sudden Impact (1983)
The fourth installment in the Dirty Harry films, this is the one where Clint Eastwood utters the classic line, ‘Go ahead. Make my day…’ Jennifer Spencer does indeed make Harry Callahan’s day when they begin a romantic tryst. Trouble is, when she’s not with Dirty Harry, she’s methodically picking off a group of criminals that attacked her and her sister a decade ago.
Rachel Newman (Mila Kunis) in American Psycho 2 (2002)
The eponymous psycho of the first film (and Bret Easton Ellis’ phenomenal book) was, of course, a chap. But the follow-up saw an altogether more dainty and less muscle-bound killer than Christian Bale’s ripped, crazed yuppie Patrick Bateman. The diminutive Mila Kunis is an unlikely knife-wielding killer, but she ice picks her way through an impressive number of victims. If that’s not enough, she even pushes William Shatner (Star Trek‘s Captain Kirk) out of a window!
Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) in Saw II (2005)
In possibly the most extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome ever, Amanda Young survived her kidnap and attempted murder by the game-playing Jigsaw Killer in Saw and went on to become his apprentice (what a YTP scheme that is, eh?!). After the illness that spurred Jigsaw on to commit his crimes worsens, Shawnee sees the good in his ‘work’ – he only punishes morally dubious types – and goes under the poorly murderer’s wing. It doesn’t take her long to pick up her new trade, either. Vicious.
Alice Spages (Paula E. Sheppard) in Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
When 9 year-old Karen Spages (Brooke Shields’ first role) is found murdered in church, suspicion falls on her jealous oddball sister, 12 year-old Paula. But as more people start turning up dead, everyone begins to doubt the kid’s capability as a calculating mini-murderer. It couldn’t be ‘sweet’ Alice, could it?! Well, ummm… yes it could!
Mrs. Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) in Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th is considered by many to be the original ‘slasher’ flick. It went on to spawn a series of sequels, all of which featured an array of pretty teenagers meeting their makers in the bloodiest ways possible; all at the hands of the now iconic, zombie ‘Jason’ figure. But the 1980 original featured another unhinged murderer, Jason’s mum. Enraged at the potential reopening of the camp where her son drowned due to staff negligence, Pamela V goes on a killing spree to keep the place shut down. She may not have had quite as scary a look as her soon-to-be reanimated kid, but she wielded a knife just like her psychotic offspring.
Marie (Cecile de France) in Haute Tension (2003)
Marie has designs on her best friend Alex. So she invites her to her family’s secluded old home in the French countryside. But instead of wooing her with country walks, a romantic home cooked meal and a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Marie has a different plan: she goes on a murderous rampage. It’s a high risk strategy and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. It turns out that Alex is one of those girls that doesn’t find Split Personality Disorder, kidnap, murder and gallons of blood splattered everywhere seductive. Should have stuck with the chocolat et vin, Marie…
Beverly R. Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) in Serial Mom (1994)
Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray director John Walters’s classic black comedy sees protective mother Mrs Sutphin take the idea of caring for her family just a little too far… This over-the-top matriarch, played beautifully by Kathleen Turner, runs over a critical teacher, impales a hapless young lad who stands up her daughter, bludgeons a woman to death with a leg of lamb and then sets fire to some poor chap for witnessing the meat-battering. It’s certainly an unpredictable M.O. for the police to work with, but they soon arrest her. But dear, sweet, doe-eyed Mrs. Sutphin talks her way out of the court case – and even bags a movie deal out of it!
Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) in Natural Born Killers (1994)
With her husband Mickey by her side, Mallory Knox was one half of one of cinema’s deadliest ever couples. Mickey and Mallory were like Bonnie and Clyde on steroids. Her shockingly hyper-violent tendencies (well, she is a Quentin Tarantino creation…) are never, ever suppressed. In the hail of bullets it’s almost impossible to count, but she’s responsible for plenty of the 52 lives snuffed out by the pair. Certainly not a woman to be messed with.
Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) in Basic Instinct (1992)
Sharon Stone’s character in this erotic crime thriller is mostly known for one thing – that interview in a short skirt. Catherine Tramell was also pretty adept at murdering people with an ice pick. Femme Fatale Tramell is such a cool customer, such a stone-cold killer that she even makes it into the American Film Institute’s prestigious ‘100 Best Villains’ list.
Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) in Monster (2003)
South African actress Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her incredible portrayal of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos – and rightly so. Theron is one of the most stunning women in the world and yet you’d never know it watching Monster. Her make-up, wardrobe and intense performance combine to make her Wuornos a grubby, damaged, whirling dervish of anger and violence. When a vicious assault by a man ends in murder, Aileen goes on a shocking spree of robberies and killings. Never mind ‘female serial killer’ films, this is one of the best true-life crime flicks ever made. Monstrously good.
Who’s missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below.