Femme Fatales have been in our fiction for decades and many have become pop culture icons for differing reasons. From the legendary roles of Lauren Bacall and Ava Gardner of the 40s, to more modern incarnations that appear in all forms of media. As such, let’s celebrate the best of the best.
This is actually a list I’ve been wanting to do for a while now as I love femme fatales for many reasons. I love their confidence, their dress sense, their fun nature and how agent they are in their sexuality. As someone who is really shy and for many reasons can be uncomfortable in public, the idea of being able to walk down a street full of confidence and agency as they do would be amazing.
Sadly, it’s a type of character that doesn’t get great treated well in fiction and a lot of the time, femme fatales are given poor character development and not given the respect they deserve.
The thing is, most women who act and dress sexy in fiction aren’t there for women reading/watching/paying or even be a fleshed out character in their own right, but to be there as eye candy for men watching which usually ends up going into objectifying areas.
Like in fighting games, the way the camera is positioned and some of the utterly ridiculous costumes feel objectifying and a lot of the time, it just doesn’t make sense like with Cammy, Mai Shiranui and Ivy Valentine.
That’s wrong and it shouldn’t be the only option for women which while is improving in some areas, it isn’t in others. There should be room for all sorts of roles like the silent type, the happy go lucky hero or the brave noble knight in Fantasy (as well as more Homme Fatale options for men and fatale options for positive non-binary people).
But like I said, the femme fatale isn’t bad by itself. For me, the big thing about what makes a good femme fatale is that while sexiness is part of their character, it shouldn’t be the only element. They need more to make them feel alive and human, to be characters and not caricatures.
So as such, here is my personal list of my favourite femme fatales.
Honourable Mention: Marie “Slim” Browning
The reason this is not on the list proper is because I am not as familiar with her character or the film To Have And To Have Not so I didn’t think it was fair. However, it would be tragic not to acknowledge her character and of course her famous line:
11. Xenia Onatopp
Let’s get this out of the way, Bond has a crap track record with women. Even in the newer films this is true and the series is a prime example of what I was saying in the beginning.
I feel very few women in the franchise are there for the women in the audience, especially the femme fatales and love interests. Many of them are prime examples of sex objects and damsels in distress and the series insidious sexism deserves much scorn.
But yet, I’ll admit there is one femme fatale that I do like and that is the sadistic Xenia Onatopp from Golden Eye.
I don’t know what it is but I just like her. Maybe because she has a very fun attitude that is sustained even when she is killing people or that she is treated like she is a serious threat that even Bond doesn’t mess around with.
Ultimately, she is just a fun character and a glittering star in a sky of awfulness and toxins.
10. Ada Wong
Resident Evil has a large cast of kick ass women. From Claire Redfield, Rebecca Chambers, Sheeva and of course the master of lock picking herself, Jill Valentine.
However, my personal favourite out of all of them is Ada Wong because like you’ll see further down the list, I am a massive sucker for crimson dresses (I really wish I had one).
But seriously, there is always a fun nature to her that makes me smile whenever she appeared in Resident Evil 4 and she helps make an already fun game great with her presence. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her serious side as well, on contrary, even when she is joking, there is always a sense that she knows every way to kill you and has plans for every possibility.
She’s like Batman if he was stylish.
And this is why it annoys me so much that the movie Resident Evil Retribution robs her of all that made her fun and good and replaced it with just blandness.
Damn those movies!
9. Faye Valentine
Cowboy Bebop is my favourite anime and one of my most liked TV shows so it’s no surprise that I like Faye.
Like many on this list, she has a confidence that makes her a joy to watch and she is able to hold her ground against her fellow bounty hunters like Spike. Like the others though, she does have her own Achilles heels such as constant gambling (which admittedly comes from a need to get out of debt) and her unwillingness to work as a team, a problem nearly all the members of Bebop have.
There are moments that I do think she can go too far, but overall I find her a really compelling character, thanks a lot to her backstory, her snarky personality and the voice talents of both her English and western voice actors.
Dragon Age 2 is a very decisive game among gamers and fans and it’s easy to see why. The game has a lot of faults such as its lazy and repetitive maps, its weak third act and plot holes. However, one of its strengths was its companions. From the adorable Merril, the smooth talking Varric and of course Isabella.
Also, while I’m talking about controversial opinions anyway, LadyHawke > Femmshep.
Isabella is a Pirate Captain (or Admiral in Inquisition) who just has a knack of getting into trouble. Even in her appearance in the original Dragon Age, she’s still getting into trouble. I’ll admit, Isabella is probably not the type of person I’d trust with a secret, but she would be a good friend to have as she also shows loyalty, wittiness and tons and tons of charm.
She works well in the game, as she is a really good counter point to Eveline in game and the two of them have really good chemistry and in game dialogue. She’s also really cool with Merril, showing a real affection to her and shows that she really cares about her safety and wellbeing.
Isabella seems like she would make for a cool older sister, the type of person who would get you into trouble, but would also stand by your side no matter what.
7. Vivian Rutledge
No way could a list about femme fatales could be complete without Vivian Rutledge from The Big Sleep, played by the legendary Lauren Bacall. You would have to be foolish not to include her right!?
… And I’ll admit… I kind of forgot her when I was initially writing this list… Please don’t kill me.
Hides under the table.
In all seriousness though, she is an amazing character of the Golden Age of cinema, from her performance that mixed stylishness and sophistication with fun, the story that allows Bacall to shows off her acting talents to her fullest and just her overall attitude makes her a fine example of femme fatales.
So why is she so low on this list? While part of it is my bias towards Animations and games, I just feel she lacks the fun nature that I like in many femme fatales. That isn’t to say she isn’t fun, far from it, but just not as much as others.
6. Android 18
Android 18, the woman who broke Vegeta’s arms. What else needs to be said about her tham that?
To put it simply, 18 is pure, unadulterated, bad ass and one of the best characters in the later era of Dragon Ball … That is until Dragon Ball Super decided to side-line her completely, a decision so stupid, even the characters in-universe have to point out how silly it is (seriously, there is no good excuse for why she wasn’t with the others fighting Freeza).
I’ll admit, one of the reasons 18 is on this list is not because of the character, but because of a cosplayer who was there for me when I was being bullied and harrassed and true symbol of what fandom really should mean rather than the toxic environment that some want it to be.
For that, she deserves a place on this list.
That and she is the character who finally gave Mr Satan some well-deserved punishment and humiliation for all the BS and deceit he had been pulling in the Cell and Boo arcs and that’s awesome.
The first of two DC characters on the list, Vixen is one cool woman and is a great example of how you do a comic book femme fatale right because let’s be honest, comics fail depicting femme fatales all the time.
Vixen is classy, easy going, fun and while more recent depictions of her have removed the femme fatale elements such as her Arrow Verse TV show, she is still an awesome character in her own right and I hope she gets are series that is more than 30 minutes.
She has an incredibly unique power and in the DCAU (the first time I was introduced by the character), she had great chemistry with both Hawkgirl and Green Lantern.
Ultimately, just a good comic femme fatale in an art form that often fails them.
Pokemon has quite a few characters that can be described as femme fatales like Misty/Kasumi’s sisters and the Beauty trainer class. However, I personally feel Elesa is the best example.
Elsa originates from the 5th Generation of Pokémon games and is both an Electric type Gym Leader and a super model. She combines the two careers together by having her stadium be a runway and is very popular Gym leader, both in universe and out.
She has a love for fashion and while at first, she can appear vapid and shallow, both the anime and games emphasize her caring nature, always ready to stand up to injustice. This can be seen very clearly in Pokémon Black/White where she defends Bianca when her father disallows her from being a Pokémon Trainer.
Also, she has a love for bad puns which makes her a really fun person to be around. Plus, she is a pretty damn good Gym Leader and can easily take you down if you don’t prepare yourself for her Emolga and Zebstrika.
3. Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy is my favourite comic book villain along with Black Manta. When written well, she is portrayed as clever, strategic and a big risk to Batman and the other heroes of Gotham city like Robin, Azrael, Spoiler and Batgirl.
One Elephant in the room I feel should be addressed is her use of mind control. Personally, while there are some unfortunate portrayals of her being an abuser like in the infamous story where she and Floronic man tried to take over the world with weed, I don’t see her going as far as sexual assault.
She isn’t keen on men, but she treats them as tools to get what she needs like escaping from Arkham or getting necessary chemicals. That’s still of course wrong, but she has standards.
And like Elesa, she has a caring attitude and is ready to stand up for her fellow woman. We see this of course with her friendship with Harley Quinn and wanting to save her from the Joker. She shows no sign of ever giving up on her and its really nice that in the BTAS, she shows no ill will to Harley when she is trying to give up crime (and personally I feel she would be encouraging her to do what she wants).
Ultimately, if you want to see her at her best, watch her appearances in the Batman Animated Series and New Batman Adventures. This was my first exposure to her and a great way to understand what is great about her.
2. Juri Han
If you saw my Top 10 Street Fighter characters article a few months back, you may remember that I said she was my favourite character from that series and I stand by that assessment, especially after what we see in Street Fighter V’s story mode.
There, we see her being able to show care about Cammy and the Dolls while retaining her nature and what makes her great (I’m using that word a lot today aren’t I?).
She has a delightful playful attitude and a strong confidence that makes her both a joy and a serious threat. Remember, this is the person who has beaten Cammy, Chun Li, Guile, Vega, Seth and possibly M Bison in canon, that’s an impressive win streak.
Plus, for me, her fighting style is perfect for me and she is a joy to play in both Street Fighter IV and V. She actually got me into watching Taekwondo because her use of the fighting style intrigued me.
And yes, she looks good with an eye patch in V.
1. Anna Williams
If you know me, you know she was going to be on this list.
If you want a sum up of what Anna, is like, her Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending pretty much exemplifies what is great about her:
Over the top is her middle name. She dresses over the top, she acts over the top and while her sister, Nina likes the stealthy approach, taking out enemies quietly, staying out of sight and has a cold and blank expression. Anna just kicks downs the door and bazookas the enemy to death while laughing all the way.
And while she is considered the evil sister of the Williams and stuff like altering Nina’s mind is pretty bad. She does have a softer side, even if it doesn’t show that much.
And speaking of the mind wipe, while that was morally repugnant, I think in her eyes she was doing the right thing. Unlike Nina who hates Anna to her core (both blame the other for killing their father), I don’t think the same is true for Anna who I feel secretly wants to be friend with her sister again and the mind altering was probably a last desperate attempt to do just that.
And yes, I want to cosplay as Anna Williams. Her crimson dress is beautiful and cosplaying as her at a convention would be amazing. To be able to walk down a room and feel confident, cool and magnificent, that would be a dream come true for me.