Don’t double-cross them: The most fearsome female villains on TV

From cunning and manipulative ladies to downright psychopaths and cold-blooded killers, some of the most terrifying, villainous characters on TV today are women. Among the latest examples is Alpha (played by Samantha Morton), who will arrive for The Walking Dead’s second half of season 9. Alpha is the leader of the group known as The Whisperers, who wear the faces of zombies to trick enemies into believing they are the undead.

There are plenty of frightening females already on the small screen, of course, terrorizing their towns and showing that there’s a wide range of ways to be a true baddie. Here’s a roundup of some of the most villainous of them all. (Note: Spoilers ahead.)

Claire Underwood (House of Cards, Netflix)

female tv villains claire underwood
Netflix

Claire (Robin Wright), the first female President of the United States, proves that she’s just as cold and calculating as her now-deceased spouse and former president was, if not more so. A complete sociopath, she doesn’t shy away from doing whatever is necessary to get what she wants, no matter who it might hurt or who might get killed — even by her own hands.

Samantha Winslow (Ray Donovan, Showtime)

susan sarandon ray donovan
Showtime

Played by Susan Sarandon, Samantha is a powerful movie studio exec who is about as ruthless as they come. She hires Ray (Liev Schrieber), a well-known and equally ruthless “fixer,” to help her pursue her nefarious agendas and manipulation, getting rid of any threats that stand in her way. She’ll stage a suicide without batting an eye, or interfere in a mayoral election if it will help her get what she wants.

Aunt Lydia (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu)

ann down aunt lydia
Hulu

Make no mistake that Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd, who won an Emmy for her performance in 2017) is about as terrifying as they come. Her sole purpose in the theocratic nation of Gilead is to indoctrinate the handmaids and keep them in check — by any means necessary. That often includes torture and death, all in the name of preserving the “purity” of society, and ensuring her “girls” fulfill their duty of birthing babies for the barren and elite wives of the society’s male leaders.

Lenny Busker (Legion, FX)

aubrey plaza lenny busker

Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) takes several forms of a powerful mutant that feeds on a hatred for humanity in this imaginative X-Men-based series from FX. Technically, the “Shadow King” doesn’t identify as either male or female, but man or woman, the being played brilliantly by Plaza is often heard uttering disgusting statements of all kinds, including vulgar comments about women.

Madison Murphy (Orange is the New Black, Netflix)

amanda fuller madison murphy
Netflix

Madison (Amanda Fuller) is more annoying than cunning, putting on a tough mask to hide her insecurities. But there are many traits that make her worthy of the list, including her insistence that other girls in the prison call her “Badison,” her rude and sarcastic nature, and the pleasure she gets from terrorizing other inmates in the latest season of the series, which will end in 2019.

Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Better Call Saul, AMC)

laura fraser Lydia Rodarte-Quayle
AMC

Her character has only appeared sparingly so far in this series, but those who watched Breaking Bad, for which this show serves as a prequel, know that Lydia (Laura Fraser) is no innocent bystander. The head of logistics for a major corporation, she’s an expert at money laundering and uses her position to benefit drug dealers. While we haven’t seen the extent of this power-suited, high-heeled villain yet in Better Call Saul, we already know she would resort to mass murder to save herself.

Villanelle (Killing Eve, BBC America)

jodie comer villanelle
BBC America

Villanelle, aka Oksana Astankova (Jodie Comer), is a cold-blooded assassin who once castrated a French instructor’s husband because of her jealous infatuation with the woman. A bona fide psychopath, she not only carries out murder after murder, but also takes pleasure in the successful completion of them, with zero guilt or remorse about what she has done.

Annalise Keating (How to Get Away With Murder, ABC)

viola davis annalise keating
ABC

Villains can take many forms. While deep down, lawyer Annalise (Emmy winner Viola Davis) is a good person with pure intentions, trouble seems to follow her at every turn, and often of her own doing. Manipulating situations to cover up murders, constantly calling on her cop ex-lover to do her dirty work, and even helping a child rapist go free are just a few of her offenses. True, once the guilt sets in, she tries to rectify her bad deeds. But even with good intentions, Annalise is not afraid to play dirty to get what she needs.

Mr. Kaplan (The Blacklist, NBC)

susan blommaert mr kaplan
NBC

Yes, this “mister” is actually a miss. Her real name is Kathryn Nemec (Susan Blommaert), the unassuming older lady in a trench coat has secretly worked as Raymond Reddington’s (James Spader’s) fixer for more than 20 years. She knows where all of the bodies are hidden because, well, she hid them. She isn’t completely soulless, but you don’t want to cross her. She’ll be out for blood, and she knows how to clean up the crime scene so no one will ever know.

Martha (Fear The Walking Dead, AMC)

martha tonya pinkins
AMC

The latest villain to bring terror to the group of survivors, you’re more apt to feel sorry for Martha, played by accomplished theater actor Tonya Pinkins, than despise her. After failing to get help to save her dying husband, she descends into madness and decides to kill anyone who asks for help or is seen trying to give it. Helping, she believes, makes you weak, and it’s a perfectly justifiable reason to stick a stake through someone’s head or slit their throat.

June Harris/Dr. Smith (Lost in Space, Netflix)

female tv villains june harris
Netflix

After stealing the identities of her own sister and Dr. Zachary Smith, June (Parker Posey) is a female replacement for the Dr. Smith character (Jonathan Harris) from the original 1960s series about a family of space colonists. A con artist, she’ll do what needs to be done to survive and is quick on her feet, which makes her all the more dangerous. A thief and downright psychopath, views on her character as a “new” version of Dr. Smith have been polarizing.

Movies & TV

How Avengers: Infinity War’s Oscar-nominated VFX team made Thanos a movie star

The purple-skinned Thanos proved to be a breakout character in Avengers: Infinity War, thanks to the work of actor Josh Brolin and visual effects studios Digital Domain and Weta. Here's how they brought him to life and earned the film an…
Home Theater

The first reactions to Captain Marvel are out of this world

Academy Award winner Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie hitting theaters in March 2019. Here's everything we know about Marvel's first female-led superhero movie.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Business

Alita: Battle Angel’s big opening weekend leads weak holiday box office

New box-office champion Alita: Battle Angel outperformed expectations with its big premiere and positive reviews from critics, but Presidents' Day weekend is still off to a slow start.
Movies & TV

Why First Man’s Oscar-nominated visual effects are a giant leap for filmmaking

Paul Lambert, the award-winning visual effects supervisor on First Man, reveals the innovative techniques that blended old footage with modern movie magic to make the Apollo 11 mission to the moon resonate with audiences 50 years later and…
Deals

FA Cup: Watch Chelsea vs. Manchester United with ESPN Plus 7-day free trial

Chelsea and Manchester United are facing off in an exciting FA Cup match, with the fifth round - a tie match - slated for Monday. Die-hard fans of English football can stream the game anywhere at any time with ESPN Plus, and here's how to…
Movies & TV

Netflix completes its breakup with Marvel, cancels The Punisher, Jessica Jones

Two of Netflix's last-remaining Marvel shows have been canceled by the video streaming service. The Punisher is done after two seasons and Jessica Jones will be finished after its still-unreleased third season.
Movies & TV

Bill and Ted 3 celebrates the franchise's 30th birthday with excellent teaser

As the Bill and Ted franchise turns 30, a third installment that the cast and creative team call Bill and Ted Face the Music is officially in preproduction, though there are big hurdles to overcome.
Movies & TV

Amazon's Lord of the Rings series gets an interactive map of Middle-earth

Amazon Studios is betting big on its Lord of the Rings prequel series, which has a multiseason commitment and a budget of more than $1 billion. The series' first season will arrive by 2021.
Movies & TV

Here’s how to watch the 2019 Oscars livestream online

The 91st Academy Awards will air live on ABC, but there are also a number of ways to watch Hollywood's biggest night online using your mobile device, desktop, or set-top streamer. Here's how to catch the Oscars livestream.
Home Theater

Amazon ups the ante with Netflix, aims to release up to 30 movies a year

Netflix has a huge budget for both licensed and original content. But Amazon Studios isn't far behind. Studio chief Jennifer Salke revealed a plan to do 30 theatrical and direct-to-Amazon Prime titles this year alone.
Movies & TV

To drive its giant virtual world, Ready Player One needed a custom A.I. engine

Steven Spielberg and a visual effects team led by Roger Goyett built a new, virtual universe populated by a host of familiar characters for the Oscar-nominated Ready Player One, but they still had to maintain a powerful emotional depth in…