I strive to be a good person. I’m nice to everyone I meet, I call my grandparents regularly, and I ride my bike because I love the environment (and can’t afford a car). I like to think I’m a positive force in this world, but sometimes, it's tiring. Sometimes, in the immortal words of Willa Ford, I wanna be bad.
Instead of committing crimes or being rude to people, I choose to live vicariously through movies. There’s something very appealing about a well-written movie villain. They have to be menacing enough to work as a force of evil against the film’s protagonist, but they can also be likable in their own way--especially when they’re glamorous or hot, as so many villains have been.
Let’s talk about the most glamorous and inspirational villains of all time.
The Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
As far as Disney character tropes, I think it’s interesting how they use makeup and styling (even within the realm of animation) to illustrate good and evil. Typically, the ingénue princess types rep a bare, natural face. They’re young and pretty with perfect pouts and bouncy hair.
The villains are usually older women. They’re dramatically made up. Think dark eye shadow, harshly drawn-on eyebrows, hair tightly pulled back. The Evil Queen from Snow White is a perfect example of this. It’s funny, then, that the premise of the story is that the Queen wants Snow White dead simply because she’s jealous of her youthful beauty. Not to get too deep into the politics of narrative beauty, but it’s interesting to ponder the effects these characters’ appearances might have on our psyches as we grow up.
The Evil Queen perfectly pulls off the double-whammy dramatic eye AND lip. Her purple robes, black cape, and high white collar are the things of which high fashion is made. She might not be the most beautiful of them all, but she’s surely the most glamorous.
Cruella de Vil From 101 Dalmatians (1961)
This film may have been intended as some low-key anti-fur, animal-rights propaganda, but it had the opposite effect on me. Watching Cruella slink around in luxuriously over-the-top furs had me yearning for a glamorous, lush life far away from the confines of my lower-middle class Baltimore home.
I love her red lipstick, half-white half-black hair, green eye shadow, and drawn-on, extra-arched brows. Cruella’s look is an exaggerated rich lady. She’s a monster of glam with an awesome theme song that’s now stuck in your head. You’re welcome!
Bellatrix LeStrange From Harry Potter (2007 - 2011)
When I read the Harry Potter books, Bellatrix came off the pages like one of the most terrifying women I’d ever read. As the Dark Lord’s most loyal servant, she was manic in her quest to defend He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. She killed and tortured some of the book’s most beloved characters, and I reviled her with the fury only a teenage Harry Potter fanatic can muster.
Then, when the films were cast and it was revealed she’d be played by the one and only Helena Bonham Carter, I remember thinking, “Oh, shoot. I’m gonna love her.” Helena’s one of my favorite actresses of all time. She slays in every role she plays, and Bellatrix was no different.
With her huge mane of curls, white streak, and signature wild-eyed gleam, Bellatrix owns the screen. SPOILER ALERT: While her demise (by the hand of Molly Weasley, hurrah!) still brought me a certain joy, I can acknowledge her signature look is pretty glamorous in its own terrifying, evil, escaped-from-Azkaban kind of way.
Patrick Bateman From American Psycho (2000)
In one of, if not the best, “getting ready” scenes of all time, audiences were introduced to one of the most cunning, careful, and gleefully slick villains of all time, Patrick Bateman. His morning routine is the stuff Top Shelf Dreams are made of.
As an investment banker-slash-serial killer, Patrick slides sharply through life. While his psychosis and tendencies towards murder make him a slightly undesirable bedfellow, I’d be willing to bet he’s got most of us beat as far as glamorous morning primp sessions.
Captain Hook From Hook (1991)
Few movies have held up from my childhood to pull present day heartstrings like Hook. It’s the perfect family film. Julia Roberts is the most charming pixie Tinkerbell, Bob Hoskins (RIP) is a delightfully bumbling Smee, Robin Williams (RIP) is a veritable icon, and Dustin Hoffman plays the evil, maniacal, slightly effeminate and entirely over-the-top Captain Hook.
Between the perfectly coiffed wig of curls and those dastardly eyebrows, Hook’s look is anything but minimal. He’s a meticulous villain as well as a meticulous dresser. With style and a commitment to A Whole Lotta Look, he certainly earns a place on this list.
- Who’s your favorite villain of all time?
- Have you ever thought about the way villains get portrayed as more heavily made-up women in films? (Don’t even get me started on the way Disney effeminates men as a way of vilifying them. Looking at you, Governor Ratcliffe.)