Some villains are terrible through and through. These are the types of characters that you love to hate from the moment they flit across the page, leaving nothing but misery in their wake. Though some of these villains may have redeeming qualities, you could never love them. In a literary world of good versus evil, they’re so solidly on the side of evil that you don’t feel fooled or lured in by their wicked ways. Not one bit.
But then on the other hand, there are some villains who do lure you in. They’re so sparkling and alluring that even though you know they’re evil, you just can’t resist being on their side. Sure, they do terrible things, but they're so interesting and complex — you want to know what they're going to do next! They're unpredictable. They're unashamed. Sometimes, they're just plain bad news. But the characters can't stay away from them, and neither can the reader.
There’s a reason femme fatales are so dangerous — it’s difficult to ignore that kind of character. Here are a few of the most dynamic women who have graced the pages of literature, leaving a trail of beautiful destruction.
1. Suzanne From The Girls by Emma Cline
Suzanne is moody and selfish and, by the end of the novel, downright evil. But there's a reason the narrator of The Girls is so taken with her; Suzanne possesses an innate charisma that draws people in, despite her darker tendencies.
2. Lady Macbeth From Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Lady Macbeth is the brains behind all the action in Macbeth . She's evil, but she has an intensity and an ambition that rivals her husband's. It's this intensity that makes her character so compelling.
3. The White Witch From The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
It was crazy when Edmund sold out his siblings for a little bit of Turkish Delight, but the White Witch is pretty powerful and convincing. She's no match for Aslan in the end, but she's a terrifying and dynamic foe nonetheless.
4. Estella From Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Miss Havisham knew what she was doing when she raised Estella: the girl is cold as ice. Despite her faults, she appeals to Pip, who can't resist her conflicted nature.
5. Abigail From The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Abigail is pretty dang crazy, but you have to admit that she's interesting. She manipulates everyone around her, but she does it with such pizzazz.
6. Isabella From Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Jane Austen thought that no one would like Emma Woodhouse, but the true villainess of her novels is Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey . At first, she's everything you want in a BFF. But then she reveals her true colors. She's manipulative and selfish, yet, at the end, I was still sorry to see her friendship with Catherine crumble.
7. Veruca Salt From Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Veruca was my favorite character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I read it as a kid, which seems bizarre to me now. After all, Veruca is spoiled and selfish and just all-around terrible. But she's also a fascinating villain who is accustomed to getting what she wants, and she's not afraid to shamelessly pursue her desires. You have to admit, that's pretty compelling.
8. Milady De Winter From The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Spy, seductress, and diamond thief — Milady does it all. She's beautiful and manipulative and cunning, possessing all the traits necessary for a bewitching villain.
9. The Other Mother From Coraline by Neil Gaiman
In Coraline , the chilling "other mother" is also known as the "beldam." This word is reminiscent of la "belle dame," a charming villainess who is the subject of John Keats' poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci (the beautiful woman without pity). The poem is about a woman who ensnares men because she's been made to destroy, similar to the Other Mother, who's charming at first but soon turns deadly.
10. Anna Karenina From Anna Karenina from Leo Tolstoy
Here's a case where an anti-heroine charmed her own creator: originally, Tolstoy intended to make Anna Karenina ugly and vulgar, but he became so intrigued by her character that he rewrote her into a beautiful and alluring woman. Now that's power.
11. Carmilla From Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Before Dracula, there was Carmilla , Le Fanu's classic vampire story. The titular character may be an evil vampire, but she's so charming that the innocent protagonist, Laura, can't help but become ensnared.
12. Scarlett O'Hara From Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Scarlett is extremely vain and selfish, but she's also intelligent and passionate. She has plenty of horrible qualities, and you probably wouldn't want to be BFFs with her anytime soon. But you have to admit that the girl's got gumption.
13. Becky Sharp From Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
Becky Sharp would do anything to climb the social ladder, and her cunning and manipulative plots make her an ideal anti-heroine. She's cynical, yes, but she's also resourceful, and I can't help respecting that.
14. Amy Dunne From Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
She's the ultimate dynamic female villain. Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is manipulative, crazy, and sometimes downright evil — but you can't tell me you weren't ~sort of~ rooting for her the whole time.
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