The best femme fatales are typically seductive, manipulative, and intelligent when getting themselves out of tight situations. As for their loyalties and moralities, they may be situated in the grey area. Nevertheless, they are an entertaining trope to watch.
Hence, we’ve curated a list of movies with the best femme fatales to get you squirming and some blood pumping through your veins.
1. Batman Returns – Selina Kyle
Catwoman is always seen as a mysterious, dangerous, and sexy persona, but Michelle Pffeifer’s version of Catwoman is the best of them all. She brings true femme fatale energy to the character with her mind games and sex appeal as a weapon.
Watching how she toys around with Batman in a playful, flirtatious manner with a sense of frivolous danger is always exciting. Aside from her fabulously seductive looks, how she plots her boss’ demise while battling with her mind is an excellent insight into how femme fatales typically need to be a little crazy.
Plus, Catwoman will always have a spot on a list of the best femme fatales. She’s the comic book villain version of one. Her alliances are dubious, and she’ll always keep you guessing.
2. Mulholland Drive – Rita
A David Lynch masterpiece that brings together two women as enemies, lovers, and everything in between. Mulholland Drive takes away the typical male protagonist of neo-noir and replaces him with two different women who are instinctively drawn to each other.
We get two obviously characterized women – Betty, a seemingly innocent blonde, and Rita, a dark-haired red-lip amnesiac. However, Rita doesn’t immediately jump into the femme fatale role. It comes later and in pieces – just like her memories.
Mulholland Drive is a whole roundabout movie about finding Rita’s true identity as she develops amnesia after a car crash. One that results in a whole lot of confusion, the dark side of Hollywood, and an open-ended ending.
3. The Postman Always Rings Twice – Cora Smith
Here’s a femme fatale who knows how to make a deadly entrance and cement herself as an iconic character. From the moment Cora Smith walks out from a doorway dressed in white and a whole lot of leg, it’s game over for her prey. She is not to be missed as one of the best femme fatales of her time.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is another delve into a desperate woman trying to get rid of her husband for freedom. Naturally, she needs a man to do it to keep her hands clean. In comes Frank Chambers as he gets entangled in an affair that ends in the murder of her husband.
After many mind games, manipulation, and affairs, the two characters got repercussions for their actions. Even so, Lana Turner’s ability to portray panic while being utterly calm in her character as Cora Smith should earn her an award.
4. Atomic Blonde – Lorraine Broughton
A movie based on a comic book named Atomic Blonde is about a spy that tracks down a list of double agents back in 1989. The movie itself has a cyberpunkish-action feel that most on this list do not have.
Instead of men, Lorraine uses her seduction on women, which is atypical in neo-noir movies. Through all the action sequences and double-crosses, we find out that she is a triple agent working for the CIA. It just goes to show how deep her mind games and manipulation run.
Especially since the movie itself is filled with numerous seemingly important characters until they are not. The feeling of not knowing what will happen next fuels the adrenaline for this action thriller.
5. Body Heat – Matty Walker
Matty Walker is easily one of the best femme fatales of all time. Drawing inspiration from classic femme fatales like Cora Smith and Phyllis Dietriechson, Kathleen Turner presents a dangerous beauty as Matty Walker. Body Heat brought the erotic thriller genre back to life in the 80s and early 90s.
Aside from its eroticism, the movie is set during the Florida heat wave, where everyone is constantly sweating, even when they are not engaging in rigorous activity. Matty tricks the man she is having an affair with, Ned, into killing her husband. She disappears for part of the movie as he struggles to clean up his mess.
In the end, she dupes him and he ends up in jail while she vacations on a tropical island. We also find out that beyond her mind games, there is a case of stolen identity in play as well.
6. Femme Fatale – Laure Ash
With Femme Fatale in the title, you better bet that this movie will serve you up with a protagonist that fits the bill to a tee. Brian de Palma, one of the best neo-noir directors, decided he wanted to revisit the genre, so Femme Fatale was born.
The movie starts with a heist and a play in seduction by the leading lady, Laure. The heist ends up in a bust, and Laure runs off with the loot, deserting her accomplices. She ends up in Paris, and somehow a case of mistaken identities ensues. She ends up stealing the identity of the woman, but when her ex-accomplices find out her location, they hunt her down.
The movie is criticized for being rather similar to Mulholland Drive, especially since its ending is rather vague and confusing. As such, it did flop upon release, but as the years go by, Femme Fatale has grown its own set of loyal fans.
7. Jennifer’s Body – Jennifer Check
Upon initial release, no one paid much attention to Jennifer’s Body. But over the years, the movie has developed its cult-like fanbase. Casting Megan Fox as Jennifer Check is the best move in this horror comedy as she brings to life one of the best femme fatales.
Jennifer Check is a cheerleader in high school who gets possessed by a demon and is now obsessed with killing and eating boys. We’re speaking literally here. She plays mind games and tricks her male classmates, then proceeds to kill and eat them. This becomes a point of argument with her best friend, causing their relationship to be estranged.
As a succubus, she has to do it to survive, but her best friend is now out to stop her before her boyfriend becomes a victim too. Note that it can be hard to stomach due to all the blood, violence and gore, but it is a fun watch.
8. Basic Instinct – Catherine Tramell
An incredible mix of mind games and manipulation, Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell is the perfect embodiment of a femme fatale. The protagonist, Detective Nick Curran, is your classic neo-noir detective as well. Basic Instinct is a classic neo-noir with heavy influences from iconic neo-noir movies like Body Heat and Vertigo.
Catherine is a crime novelist and a prime suspect in her rockstar boyfriend’s murder. Yet somehow, she manages to curb that accusation by convincing the detective of her innocence and seducing him. As their love affair intensifies and someone else is framed for the murder, it is revealed to the audience that the true killer is indeed Catherine all along.
Naturally, Basic Instinct caused quite a stir during its release due to the homosexual depictions as well as erotic and violent scenes. But hey, it is a neo-noir erotic thriller, after all.
9. Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Jessica Rabbit
Seeing Jessica Rabbit for the first time in what feels like a kid’s movie definitely throws everyone off balance. Her character is naturally created to be a depiction of femme fatales in classic Hollywood movies.
In a world where cartoons and humans co-exist, private detective Eddie is hired to investigate rumors of Jessica Rabbit cheating on her husband, Roger Rabbit. But things take a turn when the person she is rumored to be cheating with is found dead. As much as she gets blamed multiple times throughout the movie, she manages to continuously prove that she is innocent.
Underneath her sexy persona, she is a smart and capable woman with a heart of gold, which is often overlooked. Such is the case for most femme fatales in movies, typically giving them the upper hand.
10. The Killers – Kitty Collins
You might not think much of someone named Kitty Collins, but this movie based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story will have you thinking twice. Again, similar to that of Cora Smith, the moment the protagonist of the movie meets Kitty, his fate is essentially sealed.
Ava Gardner is another name cemented in the femme fatale hall of fame for her iconic looks that are plastered everywhere during the movie’s release. The movie looks into the death of a former boxer known as The Swede. We follow the path of an insurance agent as he tracks down his beneficiary, uncovering a flashback to his life and Kitty’s involvement in it.
Kitty Collins is a benchmark for femme fatales, she goes where there is power. She makes her pawns do all the nasty work for her while she remains pretty and ‘innocent’, even to the end.
11. To Die For – Suzanne Stone
To Die For is loosely based on the convicted murderer Pamela Smart. It showcases Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone, one highly ambitious woman who would do anything for fame. This is set in a time when reality television is a hit and on the rise.
In this satirical dark comedy, Suzanne works hard to achieve her dream of being a journalist on television. As the movie progresses, we see just how far she is willing to go to achieve that dream. Through murder, manipulation, and fabrication, Suzanne manages to be free of her husband, escape jail time, and even gain fame.
Although, all of that is short-lived. The enemies she made along the way eventually catch up to her, and she gets what she deserves. Even so, her cunning and ambition make her a delirious femme fatale to be reckoned with.
12. Too Late For Tears – Jane Palmer
The plot and objective are simple, but sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a movie great. In the case of Too Late For Tears, the simple plot makes its characters shine brighter. A mysterious bag of cash lands in the car of Jane and her husband.
Jane continues to live life luxuriously with the cash as her husband grows more weary and suspicious of it. The owner of the cash, Danny, starts hunting them down, and Jane starts plotting against her husband instead. Essentially, Jane spends the entire film manipulating and lying her way through her husband, Danny, the police, and everyone else.
As an expert manipulator, she wins in the end and thus deserves a place as one of the best femme fatales in movies.
13. Wild Things – Suzie Toller
Neve Campbell, one of the more memorable scream queens of the 90s, tries her hand at being a femme fatale villain this time around. It results in three sequels packed with some thrilling and twisted plot twists that you can’t help but watch.
Wild Things follows the subsequent events of a guidance counselor getting accused of rape by two high school students. When the police launch an investigation into the matter, more and more information starts coming to the surface. As part of the audience, you can’t help but get surprised at every turn and twist.
Suzie Toller acts as the innocent persona who turns out to be not so innocent after all. She is the mastermind behind every single plan and action that happens in the movie. You can’t help but applaud her.
14. Gone Girl – Amy Dunne
In another case of an innocent hidden mastermind, we have Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. She is the hidden antagonist of the movie, framing her husband for her disappearance in an act of revenge. Classic femme fatale move.
Throughout the movie, we watch flashbacks that showcase the couple’s deteriorating marriage, which leads to her disappearance. All evidence leads to her husband getting rid of her but they were all carefully planted by Amy herself. It is also revealed that she has done similar things before to her past lovers, but there’s no way out for Nick.
Even to the end, as we are exposed to every single twisted thing she has done, Nick is still forced to stay with her. Mainly because she entrapped him, but Amy is truly a dive into how evil a femme fatale can be. Sometimes, the most evil characters make the best femme fatales.
15. Body of Evidence – Rebecca Carlson
Much can be said about Body of Evidence being Madonna’s vanity project, but she portrays the traits of a femme fatale quite well in it. This erotic thriller is essentially about a woman using her sexual appeal to entrap and manipulate men to avoid jail time. The wild thing is it works.
Body of Evidence is highly erotic, with numerous scenes of sexual depictions, so do be warned before you dive into it. Rebecca Carlson becomes a suspect for murder when her lover dies of complications during an erotic incident. She proceeds to seduce, manipulate, backstab, and commit sexual acts to get away from being charged.
The amount of scandalous affairs all for the sake of money is truly astounding. Rebecca Carlson’s ability to manipulate men for the sake of wealth does mark her as a tempting femme fatale. Even if she did not get to enjoy the wealth she plotted so hard for.
16. Cruel Intentions – Kathryn Merteuil
Trust that the French will always know what they’re doing when writing a vindictive female character. Cruel Intentions is based on ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ which was made into the film Dangerous Liaisons in 1988.
The setting and characters were modified to fit a more modern retelling, so the Marquise de Merteuil is Kathryn Merteuil, and the story is now set in high school. Kathryn plots, backstabs, lies, blackmails, and essentially destroys the lives of others, all in the name of being bored. Now, as evil as Amy Dunne may be, Kathryn Merteuil may top her.
Hence, when karma catches up to her, it brings incredible satisfaction to see her fall. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance as Kathryn is one of the best femme fatales out there, without a doubt.
17. A Simple Favor – Emily Nelson
A juicy mix of murder, seduction, and plot twists, we have A Simple Favor. This book adaptation translates well into a movie with Blake Lively as the temptress – Emily Nelson.
It starts with her befriending vlogger Stephanie Smothers, and then she disappears. A couple of days later, her body is found dead in a lake. An insurance scam, as well as an affair between Stephanie and Emily’s husband, ensues. While all this goes on, it is revealed that Emily is a twin and has plotted the death of her father years ago.
As the movie takes on more twists and turns, we find out Emily is alive and the mastermind behind the whole situation. She is a charming and pathological liar who does not shy away from threatening the people around her to get what she wants.
18. Vertigo – Judy Barton
Alfred Hitchcock’s version of a femme fatale deserves to be highlighted. Vertigo in itself is a complex, psychological thriller movie that will mess with your mind, regardless of its tropes. The movie gets its name from the protagonist’s fear of heights.
Judy Barton is fuelled by your typical femme fatale motive – gaining wealth. Yet at the same time, her character can be classified as slightly tragic due to her guilty conscience. Plus, Scottie originally does not view her as a human being but simply as a vessel for the souls of Madeline and Carlotta.
Scottie’s obsession ends up changing Judy into a mold of Madeleine. However, it is later revealed that Judy is Madeleine and is paid to con Scottie. Sadly, she ends up accidentally dying the same way she faked Madeleine’s death. Fate can be twisted sometimes.
19. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – Lara Croft
We all know how badass Lara Croft is, but Angeline Jolie’s version cements her as one of the most attractive characters out there. Lara is a femme fatale through and through, an iconic video game representation of the trope.
The movie itself is far from great, but Angelina Jolie’s performance as Lara Croft is an admirable one. Some may even argue that it is the best thing the movie has to offer. Lara Croft is an adventurer who goes into hidden tombs and caves in search of ancient treasure. But of course, she is not the only one. There are many like her plotting against her.
Lara Croft is a femme fatale who is cunning and strong with a strong seductive vibe which helps her gain insight on her missions. Think of the Indiana Jones movies but a more scuffed female version.
20. Double Indemnity – Phyllis Dietrichson
This far down the list, you may notice that there are generally two types of femme fatale looks – the dark and deadly types or the white and icy ones. Phyllis Dietrichson is the poster girl for the icy blonde femme fatales dressed in white.
We have the original femme fatale who manipulates a man into killing her husband for his insurance money. The film brings together an insurance agent, a wife accused of murdering her husband, and a claims adjuster investigating the phony claim. Without a doubt, the insurance agent fell right into her trap from the very beginning.
The two plan a double indemnity payout that includes a lot of deception, murder, and manipulation. This movie places Phyllis Dietrichson as one of the best femme fatales out there as her character continues to get replicated throughout the years.
21. Nightcrawler – Nina Romina
A self-serving, morally corrupt, evil character; Nina Romina takes a slice out of the evil femme fatale handbook. Nightcrawler presents an intense fight for power between Nina and Lou, the main protagonist of the show, who is arguably more foul than her.
It starts with Lou trying to impress her with her demands for graphically violent footage in affluent neighborhoods. Yet a twist of power bends Nina to his will instead, as he holds the footage in ransom for her to do his bidding. Nina eventually uses sex to get what she wants and a whole lot of media manipulation to increase her ratings.
You could say that Nina Romina’s character is a more modern version of the femme fatale trope, but the basics are all there. She’s devious, deadly, and manipulative.
22. GoldenEye – Xenia Onatopp
A double-crossing Bond girl makes for a thrilling and enjoyable femme fatale. Of course, Xenia Onatopp is not the only Bond girl to fit the troupe.
Anyways, Xenia is a trained fighter pilot and assassin who makes an appearance in GoldenEye, where she traps men by seducing them and killing them. Her character gains sexual satisfaction in killing, so you can see her get aroused after a massacre. One of her signature moves involves crushing people with her thighs, which she attempted to do with Bond twice.
Even if she is somewhat of a side character in this movie, her iconic looks and moves make her one of the more memorable depictions of the troupe. She is beautiful, seductive, and deadly, all the makings of the best femme fatales.
23. The Last Seduction – Bridget Gregory
A neo-noir erotic thriller that ends up suing the Oscars, The Last Seduction spurred Linda Florentino to a heightened level of fame. She depicts Bridget Gregory, a runaway wife who manipulates her way into multiple murders and money. The best part is she gets away with it.
Her extreme manipulation and use of sex as gratification start when she runs away with her husband’s cash to a small town and assumes a new identity. She essentially manipulates everyone she comes into contact with, lying to them and even setting them up for murder.
Yet, even as they attempt to double-cross her, she finds a way to outsmart them and win. Bridget Gregory is a true manipulative sociopath who, by the end of the movie, seems untouchable.
24. Dream Lover – Lena Mathers
In this erotic thriller of deep psychological manipulation, Lena Mathers is a seductive femme fatale who seemingly wears a million faces. After entrapping a divorced architect into marrying her and having his children, her many layers start to unfold.
He starts to get suspicious of her character, her past, and her actions, as she occasionally comes home with bruises. As Ray gets increasingly paranoid about her demeanor, he hits her and gets admitted to a mental hospital. Lena gets away with it and takes away his property and his children.
Sadly, her victory is short-lived as she gets killed by Ray while she visits him in the mental hospital. Even so, pulling off her entire plan of landing him incapacitated and stealing everything from under his feet makes her a true cold-blooded femme fatale.
25. Blade Runner – Rachael
As most neo-noirs spawn iconic femme fatales, Blade Runner is no exception. It is one of the best neo-noir movies out there, after all. Somehow it is only right that it brings to life one of the best femme fatales as well.
Rachael’s existence in itself is revealed to be a tragic one, but before you sympathize with her, you’ll probably dislike her first. She works with the villain of the movie and is a crafted femme fatale. From the way she looks and the way she acts, her character is forged as evil.
Then, we all come to find out that she is a replicant who is supplicated with false memories and has no control over her life. She is the product of the antagonist’s experiments, sad as that may be.
26. Promising Young Woman – Cassie Thomas
One of the newer titles on this list, Promising Young Woman stars a rather star-studded cast that centers around Carey Mulligan as the troubled Cassie Thomas. It is a dark comedy thriller that features revenge and feminist rage.
Cassie is out to get her revenge on her best friend’s rapist and everyone involved after learning that he is about to get married while her best friend is dead from suicide. She lies, manipulates, and disguises herself to find out the truth of what happened. Even if she ends up killed, her plan is still in motion, and that is what makes her a mastermind.
Her plans still brought down the rapist with fool-proof evidence of everything that happened. As much as you want to be angry at the way everything plays out, you can’t help but root for her. Which is why she deserves a spot on this list of the best femme fatales.
27. Out of The Past – Kathie Moffat
Kathie Moffat does it all in Out of The Past – blackmail, double-cross, seduce, murder; she even frames someone else to take the fall for her. She’s the picture-perfect femme fatale, even if she seemingly looks too innocent to play one.
The movie starts with a flashback of what happened. Kathie gets cornered by Jeff Fisher as she kills her husband and runs away with his money. She seduces him and proposes that they run away together. What follows is a series of fights, murder, and blackmail, which leads to the characters in the present day.
Kathie is back and looking for help from Jeff, who happens to be hiding in a small town. The murders, double-crossing, and manipulation ensues. Kathie Moffat is a sly character hiding behind an innocent facade, making this movie a thrilling watch.
28. Fatal Attraction – Alex Forrest
What makes Alex Forrest different from the other femme fatales on this list is the point of her obsession. Where everyone is obsessed with wealth or freedom, she is purely obsessed with a man. To be precise, a married man.
Anyway, it all starts when Dan Gallagher has a weekend fling with Alex Forrest. She starts to get obsessive over him, manipulating him to stay with her. She even goes so far as to harm herself and harass him through endless phone calls. Even after he relocates, her actions and obsessions seem to get worse.
Additionally, the term ‘bunny boiler’ came from this movie and is used as a derogatory term to mean a vengeful woman rejected by her lover. Aside from the clear mental issues Alex has, she does fit the bill of a femme fatale with her endless scheming and manipulation. Just goes to show that a femme fatale can also turn ugly real quick.
29. Inception – Mal Cobb
We’ve decided to incorporate Mal Cobb, even if she is technically a mental projection of Dominick Cobb’s messed-up mind and a guilty conscience. Mainly because she is almost fool-proof and dangerous. Mal has the upper hand against her husband and makes him pause each time.
Throughout the movie, she easily foils his plans and even serves as an easy distraction for him. Even if her character is long dead and she is just a projection living in his thoughts. Mal is malicious, a dark and dangerous character living directly in the main protagonist’s head to mess him up.
You can see how that would be an issue, right? Her character is well planned out and executed, you can’t help but enjoy the adventure Inception will lead you on.
30. The Hunger – Miriam Blaylock
For this last one, we decided to feature an erotic horror film that centers around vampires instead. Perhaps it will help to spice things up a little from our typical ‘woman loots man and runs away’ situation, which seems to be a recurring theme.
This time, we bring you a story that centers around two vampires and a doctor who specializes in aging and sleep. When Miriam’s human-turned-vampire lover (John) realizes he is aging, he seeks the help of Doctor Sarah Roberts, but she brushes him off. John succumbs to his old age, staying alive but as a decrepit corpse.
As such, Miriam finds herself lonely. When Doctor Sarah keeps showing up, she decides to engage her in sexual conduct and bites her, attempting to turn her into a vampire. Even if the ending is tragic, it does not compare to Miriam’s manipulation and lies throughout the thousands of years she’s been alive.
Now that’s our 30 movies with the best femme fatales. As cinema continues to grow, we are excited to see more variations of the trope come to life. Who knows, we might even get a revitalization of the femme fatale era of movies.
Additionally, since femme fatales are related to the neo-noir genre, do check out this list of 70’s neo-noir movies you should watch at least once!