There have been many great villains in fantasy fiction: from Sauron in Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter’s nemesis Lord Voldemort. A sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman is set come out in theaters and has Charlize Theron returning as Queen Ravenna. Theron stole the show in 2012 in Snow White and the Huntsman and now has to compete with Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt in the sequel – as well as Chris Hemsworth respiring his role as Eric the Huntsman.
Queen Ravenna was one of the most prominent female fantasy villains in recent years – so to celebrate her return let’s look at the best female villains fantasy cinema has to offer.
10. Queen Ravenna – Snow White and the Huntsman
Starting this list is the villainess who influenced it – Queen Ravenna. Charlize Theron earned a lot of praise for her performance as the evil queen, chewing the scenery as she yells and screams at her subordinate and is allowed to be as evil as possible.
In Snow White and the Huntsman Queen Ravenna usurps the thrones after killing her husband and locks her step-daughter up in the dungeons. She is supported by her brother and an army of glass knights. Ravenna is a tyrant, but the people are powerless to overthrow her. The Queen is also a powerful magic user, about to steal the youth and beauty of other women to keep herself young, resulting in women scarring themselves and their daughters to protect themselves.
According to the trailers for The Huntsman: The Winter’s War, Ravenna is responsible for the death of her sister’s baby resulting in her sister becoming like Elsa from Frozen.
9. Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
There have been many great female villains in Disney animated movies, including Queen Grimhilde (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), The Red Queen (Alice in Wonderful), Ursula (The Little Mermaid) and Mother Gothel (Tangled). Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty is the most iconic villain from Disney’s fantasy movies. Maleficent was a powerful sorcerer who is scorned when she was not invited by King Stefan for his daughter’s christening – admittedly not the greatest motivation. Maleficent curses the princess to fall into permanent slumber on her 16th birthday after pricking her finger on spinning wheel.
Maleficent has an iconic look – clad in black with huge horns, green skin and armed with a staff and had a pet crow. She is also a very powerful villain, as well as using spells and curses she also has the ability to turn herself into a dragon.
Maleficent even earn herself a live action film with Angelina Jolie as the famous villain. 2014’s Maleficent was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty through Maleficent’s eyes, making her out to be a fairy who fell in love with a human, but was betrayed by him and had her wings cut off. She curses Princess Aurora as revenge against her ex-lover but ends up falling in love with Aurora as a daughter.
Maleficent was a very generic fantasy movie but Jolie was brilliant at playing the famous Disney villain.
8. Mombi – Return to Oz
The pseudo-sequel to the Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz, was a box-office success upon its release but has become a cult classic and is considered one of the scariest family movies ever made. Mombi was one of the main villains in the film, working with the Nome King. She is a princess and a powerful witch, having a powder that can make anything come alive and has the ability to change heads, having them all on display, a truly terrifying place to visit. She plans to make Dorothy’s head as a part of her collection.
Mombi was actually a combination of two characters from the Oz books. The first was Mombi from The Marvelous Land of Oz, a sorcerer who made a deal with the Wizard of Oz to disguise the rightful ruler of Oz as a boy and use them as a slave: this was retconned later books. The other was Princess Langwidere from Ozma of Oz, who has the head changing ability and attempts to steal Dorothy’s head. However, the book version was slightly more sympathetic because she was made the ruler of the land of Ev after her Uncle sold his family to Nome King for a long life and only took the job of regent because there was no one else left to do it.
7. Artemisia – 300: Rise of an Empire
Eva Green had a killer 2014, being the best thing in the two Frank Miller adaptations that year had to offer. One of them being 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel to 2007 300, playing the main villainess of the movie.
300: Rise of an Empire‘s Artemisia was very loosely based on the real woman of the Artemisia I of Caria, who commanded the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis. The movie version portrays Artemisia as a Greek woman whose family was killed by Greek hoplites, stole into sex slavery and left for dead but saved by the Persians. Artemisia was trained up by the Persians to be their best warrior and commander. Artemisia is the one who convinces Xerxes to become the god-king of Persia and invade Greece.
Artemisia was a woman driven by revenge, using the might of the Persian Empire to achieve this and she is so blinded by her mission that she commits numerous atrocities along the way. She is also willing to use her sexuality if military force does not work. She meets her match, physically and mentally, when facing the commander of the Greek navy Themistocles.
6. Bellatrix LeStrange – Harry Potter Series
Bellatrix LeStrange is the first of two female villains from the Harry Potter series to make it on this list. Bellatrix is Narcissa Malfoy’s sister and Draco Malfoy’s aunt.
Bellatrix was one of Voldemort’s most loyal followers, but also one of the most sadistic. She tortured Neville Longbottom’s parents to the point of making living husks. Bellatrix was driven to insanity when was sent to the wizard prison of Azkaban and when she did escape she killed Sirius Black and tortured Hermione Granger for fun. She was one of Voldemort’s most vicious soldiers.
Helena Bonham Carter was perfectly cast as Bellatrix – she is an actress known for crazy, maniac characters and easily played out the crazed fanatic.
5. Yubaba – Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki is responsible for making some of the best anime movies ever, including Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. His 2001 movie Spirited Away is considered by some his best movie and it is one of his most successful, making $289.1 Million worldwide and has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Spirited Away tells the story about a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro, who ends up in a fantasy world when moving home. Her parents are turned into pigs, and she is made to pay off their debt by the witch Yubaba. Chihiro is made to work in a bath-house and to ensure obedient Yubaba takes Chihiro’s name, renaming her Sen.
Yubaba is a tyrant who treats her workers poorly, holds a river spirit, Haku as a slave, is very greedy and lives in opulence. But she does have a softer side, willing to throw herself into danger situations and dotes over her infant son.
4. Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter Series
The other villainess from Harry Potter to make this list is Dolores Umbridge, who like Bellatrix was introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Imelda Staunton played Umbridge, who became the new Defense of the Dark Ages teacher at Hogwarts – parachuted by the Ministry of Magic to enforce their control over the school.
On the surface Umbridge was a sickly sweet who dresses in pink, decorates her office with cat plates and speaks in a soft voice, but it is really one of the most sinister characters in the Harry Potter universe. She uses her position to get a power fix, enforcing new ordinances from the Ministry of Magic, elevates students from Slytherin into powerful positions so she can use them as her personal heavies and uses veritaserum (truth serum) to forcibly extract information. Umbridge most harness act at Hogwarts was torturing students by making them write lines with a magic quill that made them bleed the more they wrote.
When Umbridge returned in the series in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows Part 1 she was leading a committee within the Ministry to hunt for Muggle-born wizards and witches, a job she relished. She was enacting the will of Voldemort without even realizing it.
3. Morgana Le Fay – Excalibur
1981’s Excalibur is the most loyal adaptation of Arthurian legend, being based on Thomas Malory’s 15th-century work Le Morte d’Arthur and embraced the darker elements of King Arthur’s story that has been forgotten over time. Helen Mirren starred as one of the main villains of the movie, playing Morgana Le Fay, Arthur’s half-sister. Morgana is seeking revenge after Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon killed her father and tricked her mother into conceiving the once and future king. Morgana does this by assuming the form of Guenevere and through their incestuous relationship births Arthur’s greatest nemesis Mordred.
Director John Boorman cast Nicol Williamson as Merlin to play opposite Mirren, knowing they had a falling out after performing in a production of Macbeth and wanted to use the animosity for their on-screen roles.
Excalibur was a modest success when it was first released and now a cult classic (it was even referenced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). It is a great fantasy movie and easily the best adaption of Arthurian legend. Bryan Singer was linked to a remake, but it is currently on hold.
2. The White Witch – The Chronicles of Narnia Series
The White Witch is one of the most famous female villains in fantasy fiction and the most recognizable villains from The Chronicles of Narnia series – to the point that her role was expanded in the film series.
The White Witch was portrayed by Tilda Swinton in the series in one of her most mainstream roles. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – The White Witch had conquered the land of Narnia for 100 years, making it a land of permanent winter where Christmas never comes. But her power is challenged when the Pevensie children come to Narnia: who could fulfill a prophecy. She was still a formidable foe, even when her winter turns to spring, she commands an army filled with wolves, dwarves, and minotaurs, has the power to turn anyone into ice and stone and even killed Aslan, the great lion of Narnia (although that was Aslan’s intention).
After The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe The White Witch’s followers attempted to resurrect their leader using black magic to achieve it. This event especially created for Prince Caspian. She also reappeared in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as one of Peter’s visions – representing his guilt for his betrayal in the first movie.
1. The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz
The Wicked Witch of the West in 1939’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic villains in movie history -not just fantasy cinema. Played by Margaret Hamilton The Wicked Witch of the West is the greatest villain in the Land of Oz, the most powerful witch in the world and a tyrant over the Winkie. She seeks revenge against Dorothy after the death of her sister: The Wicked Witch of East is crushed by a house.
The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most recognizable looks, having green skin, wears a black dress and pointy hat and carries a broomstick – basically the archetypical witch.
The Wicked Witch was the fourth best villain American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time and voted as the 90th Best Greatest Movie Character by readers of Empire Magazine. The character received a reinterpretation in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of Wicked Witch of the West which was adapted into a hit musical. She also received an origins story in 2013’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, but the less we say about Mila Kunis’ performance, the better.