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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.