From the cunning and the conniving to the downright psychotic, some of the best TV villains of recent years are women.
To celebrate the return of Killing Eve's Villanelle, one of the best Machiavellian figures on TV right now, we have compiled a list of some of the best female TV villains to hit our screens.
These anti-heroes have the confidence to pursue their goals no matter what the cost. Their ruthlessness and dedication is often what makes them so captivating to watch.
These are the women you don’t want to get on the wrong side of.
1. Villanelle, Killing Eve
Jodie Comer's Villanelle, also known as Oksana Astankova, is a cold-blooded assassin ready to go to any lengths to get the job done. A certified psychopath, Villanelle leaves a trail of bodies in her wake as she travels throughout Europe, slipping from one disguise to another faster than you can say Molly Goddard. Killing is one of the only things that seems to bring Villanelle joy: that, and her obsession with MI5 agent Eve Polastri. Villanelle is clever and manipulative, always making sure she is one step ahead, ready to kill by any means necessary, from a poisoned hairpin to the eye, to a spritz of toxic perfume.
2. Claire Underwood, House of Cards
House of Cards' Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) is the first female President of the United States, and you don’t get to the top without amassing a few skeletons in your closet. Claire knows that sometimes in order to gain power you have to seize it, and she has no problem with killing in order to get it. Claire becomes more ruthless with each season, as she climbs to the top of the political ladder. She is at her most brutal when she poisons her lover then watches him die slowly while the two have sex.
"In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it’, says Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) to a group of handmaidens. Part of the reason Aunt Lydia is such a terrifying villain is because she doesn’t see her actions as bad. She believes in the new world order of Gilead so much that she is prepared to torture and manipulate others to retain the dystopian status quo. Despite claiming to follow the teachings of God, her punishments range from electrocution and burning, to cutting out eyes. Aunt Lydia is so in favour of a life of misogyny, oppression and fear, that she is ready to punish anyone who dares to challenge it.
4. Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
"When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) only plays to win, and if that means an incestuous affair with her twin, poisoning enemies, or driving her son to suicide, for Cersei the end always justifies the means. Cersei has her eye firmly on the iron throne and her cold and calculating nature sees her survive where others fall. She remains unfazed by her acts of cruelty and proves that hatred, not just blood, runs through her veins.
5. Annalise Keating, How to Get Away With Murder
Not all villains are evil to the core, but circumstances can cause people to behave in ways they wouldn’t have thought possible. Lawyer Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) starts with the best of intentions, but soon spirals down a dark hole of lying, manipulation, and even staging her own attempted murder. Although Annalise does display guilt and remorse for her bad deeds, she is not afraid to betray those closest to her in order to get out of a sticky situation.
6. Sister Mary Eunice, American Horror Story: Asylum
There have been many villains in the American Horror Story franchise, and Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) is one who is hard to forget. After becoming possessed by the devil, Sister Mary starts mentally and physically torturing the people around her. With no regard for human life, she uses people’s darkest secrets and fears against them, driving them to the edge of insanity, and if that doesn’t work she happily resorts to murdering them instead.
7. Samantha Winslow, Ray Donovan
A powerful movie studio exec, Samantha Winslow (Susan Sarandon) is ruthless in every sense. She hires Ray Donovan (Live Schreiber) to help her remove any threats that stand in her way, no matter what it takes. From staging a suicide, to manipulating a mayoral election, Samantha is ready to put down anyone to get what she wants.
8. Katherine Pierce, Vampire Diaries
Also known as Katerina Petrova, Katherine, a witch-turned-vampire, has done many nefarious deeds to survive her 500-years on the run. Regularly killing without remorse, Katherine has amassed a large body count, killing both for fun and for her own personal gain. These bad deeds don’t go unrewarded, with Katherine gaining the title of Queen of the Underworld thanks to her plotting and scheming.
9. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, Breaking Bad
Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) is a character who will do anything to save her own skin. Cunning and calculating, she always knows to put herself first. Lydia, head of logistics at a manufacturing company and also a meth supplier, constantly chooses the lucrative drug business over any cost in may have to human life. She easily manipulates people to carry out her dirty work, even compiling an 11 person 'kill list' in order to cover her own back.
10.Sue Sylvester, Glee
Although Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) may not be as violent and heartless as other names on this list, make no mistake, Sue can be just as cunning and conniving. After all she does become Vice President of the USA. From asking school boys to be sperm donors, to planting porn in the Principal’s office, Sue constantly behaves without morals or compassion, breaking rules and holding grudges, always ready to enact revenge.
Killing Eve returns to BBC One on 8 June.