Female villains: When does bad become magnificent?

FHM has an interesting list of what they consider the 10 best female movie villains. They also have some disturbing, yet fun, video clips to go along with their choices. And it got me thinking: What exactly makes a villainess a grand dame in the baddie world? So here’s my take on the qualities that make a villain truly great.

1. The hotness factor

OK, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I can get swept up by a villain just because she’s hot. I’m not alone: Malinda has her own list of baddies who are also hotties. Both Malinda and FHM include the likes of Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct) and Catwoman as played by Michelle Pfieffer. O-Ren Ishii makes the FHM list and mine as well. I’d also like to suggest two more recent villains to add to the “hot” list: Sarah Corvus and Caprica Six (Battlestar Galactica).

2. The look

It could be a slightly crazy stare or a stop-you-in-your-tracks icy glare, but all great villains have a signature look. It’s the look that says evil deeds are sure to follow. Think Callisto’s crazy head tilt or Alti’s signature sneer and you’ll get the idea.

3. The soul of darkness

Give me a villain with a tortured soul any day. Why? Because those are the ones I can most readily identify with. Those are the villains I can understand, the ones whose choices seem to make sense, no matter how despicable those choices are. See, the thing is, we can all relate to the one who becomes evil in response to the evil she has endured. And there’s always a chance that these villains can be saved to one day become our heroes. Xena, anyone?

4. The outfit

Nothing says evil like tight-fitting leather. Nothing. I believe I’ve already mentioned Catwoman. A certain terminator model fits here as well.

5. The weapons

Whether it is big guns, big swords or big bombs, the best villains have the best toys. Mallory Knox (Natural Born Killers) and O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill Vol. 1) are good examples.

6. The evil plan

No matter how good the weapons, a baddie with intellect is more fun to watch than those whose lack of brain power should have resulted in their immediate capture by the forces of good. The women with a plan, rather than those who just wreck random havoc on the general populace, always seem to rise above their counterparts. Think Cruella de Vil and her spotted coat, or Natalie Davis (the Miniature Killer on CSI) and her tiny little crime scenes.

7. The girl-next-door façade

For me, the best villains have always been the ones who could be living next door to me in my quaint little suburban neighborhood, the ones whose evil deeds are hidden behind closed doors. These women include the likes of Annie Wilkes from Misery and the fictional Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest. I shudder just thinking about sledgehammers and wire hangers.

What qualities did I miss? Which villains do you love to watch, and what is it about them that sucks you in?