Life Lessons To Be Learned From The Best Female Villains Of Childhood

The world of children’s entertainment is full of heroes. Each inspiring in their own way, teaching us lessons at a young age to shape and mold us. How to reach for the stars, imagine more for ourselves, stand up to bullies, be the underdog, overcome adversity, handle responsibility, and all the rest of it. But if you’re like me, the heroes were cool, the heroines were cute, but the villains, they were the ones to watch.

Villains are the fascinating and multi-faceted characters of those children’s stories and none were more fearful, intimidating, powerful or bold as the female villains. They got the better outfits, the more interesting dialogue (such wit!) and on almost every level they seemed more intelligent than those they went up against.

With their empowering confidence, here are just a few of the life lessons learned from female villains of our youth.

Take Pride In Appearances

Bellatrix, Maleficent, Evil Queen, Gothel

Bellatrix, Maleficent, Evil Queen, Gothel

While many a heroine was given a great makeover scene in my favorite films (and I LOVED a makeover montage) the leading loathsome lady was bound to be impeccable. They had the best outfits, not to mention accessories.


  • Maleficent’s headpiece in Sleeping Beauty is iconic, immediately distinguishing her from any other villain.
  • is clearly indicative of her own person style.
  • Maybe a bit too motivated by petty insecurity, Snow White’s Evil Queen certainly should have embraced her flawless eyebrows and Joan Crawford cheekbones.
  • Mother Gothel from Tangled could have avoided some heartache if she’d owned her silver Cher-like curls.

Appearances are important, dress for the job you want, right? And body image be damned. Ursula understood the significance of owning her skin and Poison Ivy knew how to use her looks to lure in her prey for a poisonous kiss. I don’t advocate for malicious seduction, but these ladies knew that appearances could be used as an advantageous device .

Know Your Gifts, Know Your Passions

Madam Mim, Jadis the White Witch, Trunchbull

Madam Mim, Jadis the White Witch, Trunchbull

I admit, this is certainly a lesson often bestowed by the hero/heroine of the film, but it almost always applies to the villain as well. The best example is those female villains who are simply good at their craft.


  • Jadis The White Witch () wouldn’t be able to ensnare an entire world under a 100-year winter without mad magic skills.
  • Agatha Trunchbull (Matilda) didn’t become headmistress of Matilda’s school overnight.
  • Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone) gave Merlin a run for his money when they engaged in a duel of magic.

In retrospect, one might even say the main initial contrast in the strength of the hero versus that of the villain of any story may just be a difference in self-understanding. One is about to begin their journey, the other has been on it and is trying to preserve whatever they hold dear with the skills they’ve built up.

Lean In, Work Hard, Make Demands

The number one motivating factor for villains tends to be a general desire for power, and I think a great disservice has been done making that appear to be such a bad thing. Especially when the heroines had basic aspirations such as wifehood, motherhood, princess-hood, and the occasional warrior. Even the girls who rejected the idea of being subjected to dated tropes of female subjugation rarely took charge the way the villainesses did.


  • Cruella De Vil is obviously maniacal and obsessive in her search for Dalmatian puppies to make her coats, but she doesn’t back down in her evil business venture.
  • Mama Fratelli in The Goonies commands her sons’ loyalty and schemes her way to fortune, understanding a when she sees it.
  • Think the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland) ever let anyone negotiate with her about a royal decree of “Off with their heads!”?

Villainesses certainly never sit around wishing or singing for help to find them. They use their brains, utilize their skills, make demands and pursue their destinies full speed.

Have A Plan

While these wicked women often assert themselves more than the hero they face, it isn’t always simple intimidation tactics at play. The best female villains have an intricate and detailed game plan. As any girl who grew up imagining intricate storylines for her dolls to live out, or who made lists, or organized her Tiger Beat posters according to the place of each teen crush in her heart, we were drawn to the organized female villain.


  • The Grand High Witch (The Witches) not only organizes an international conference of witches, she schemes up a plan to infuse candy with a potion that will turn children into mice. Global-scale savagery.
  • Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove has a simple goal, attain the throne, but she plays off the weakness and ego of the Emperor to get there, going out of her way to finish the job her boneheaded lackey couldn’t do.
  • Maleficent schemes up a several year plan out of (mostly) sheer will to survive. When a prophecy states some chick is going to kill you, take her out.

It’s Ok To Be Complex

Harley Quinn, The Witch of the Waste, Lady Tremaine

Harley Quinn, The Witch of the Waste, Lady Tremaine

Villians almost always they have layers vastly beyond that of the hero. The wonderful thing about a female villain is that those layers are complemented with emotion. These ladies feel feelings we girls understand: anger, sorrow, resentment, jealousy. They aren’t always niceness and gratitude.


  • can be ridiculous, but she’s driven by insecurity and a broken heart.
  • Harley Quinn (Batman: The Animated Series) is no role model for female empowerment, but for a bad man is universal.
  • Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine is not much of a stepmother, but she grapples with her place as a widow and the fate of children she possibly never wanted.

These ladies have damaged pasts, hurt feelings, and grief over those lost to them. Their complexity may fuel their depravity, but to this girl it made them more human.

Last But Not Least, Laugh In Times Of Trouble

There’s no laugh like a villainess’s laugh. Sure it was often in the face of someone else’s suffering, but these chicks know how to find the enjoyment in being their best self, living out their dreams — until the hero dashes them out. But still, take the time to enjoy those little moments.

So here’s to the villainesses. The ones who not only propelled the narrative of the film with their cunning, evil plans, pushing the hero to action, but who also empowered impressionable girls everywhere.

Who’s your favorite female villain? 0 Votes


MP Staff Writer, lover of all things fantastical and spooky. “Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.” – Ferris Bueller