Femme fatale

A femme fatale (/ˌfæm fəˈtɑːl/ or /ˌfɛm fəˈtɑːl/; French: [fam fatal]), sometimes called a maneater[1] or vamp, is a stock character of a mysterious, beautiful, and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, deadly traps. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to enchant, entice and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, witch, having power over men.

Femmes fatales were standard fare in hardboiled crime stories in 1930s pulp fiction.

In Virginia Allen's opinion, one of the most common traits of the femme fatale includes promiscuity and the "rejection of motherhood", seen as "one of her most threatening qualities since by denying his immortality and his posterity it leads to the ultimate destruction of the male".[2][dead link] Femmes fatales are typically villainous, or at least morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification, and unease.[3]

In American early 20th century films, femme fatale characters were referred to as vamps, in reference to Theda Bara, who played a seductive woman referred to as a "vampire" in the 1915 film A Fool There Was.[4] Many female mobsters (especially members of the Italian-American Mafia or Russian Mafia) have been known to be femme fatales in many films noir as well as James Bond films.

The phrase is French for "fatal woman". A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, or sexual allure. In many cases, her attitude towards sexuality is lackadaisical, intriguing, or frivolous. In some cases, she uses lies or coercion rather than charm. She may also make use of some subduing weapon such as sleeping gas, a modern analog of magical powers in older tales. She may also be (or imply that she is) a victim, caught in a situation from which she cannot escape; The Lady from Shanghai (a 1947 film noir) is one such example. A younger or underage version of a femme fatale is called a fille fatale, or "fatal girl".


Ancient archetypesEdit

The divine femme fatale of Hindu mythology, Mohini is described to have enchanted gods, demons and sages alike.

The femme fatale archetype exists in the culture, folklore and myths of many cultures.[5] Ancient mythical or legendary examples include Lilith, Mohini, Circe, Medea, Clytemnestra, Lesbia, Tamamo no Mae and Visha Kanyas. Historical examples from Classical times include Cleopatra and Messalina, as well as the Biblical figures Delilah, Jezebel, and Salome.[6] An example from Chinese literature and traditional history is Daji.

Early Western culture to the 19th centuryEdit

Salome in a 1906 painting by Franz von Stuck

The femme fatale was a common figure in the European Middle Ages, often portraying the dangers of unbridled female sexuality. The pre-medieval inherited Biblical figure of Eve offers an example, as does the wicked, seductive enchantress typified in Morgan le Fay. The Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute shows her more muted presence during the Age of Enlightenment[7]

The femme fatale flourished in the Romantic period in the works of John Keats, notably "La Belle Dame sans Merci" and "Lamia". Along with them, there rose the gothic novel The Monk featuring Matilda, a very powerful femme fatale. This led to her appearing in the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and as the vampire, notably in Carmilla and Brides of Dracula. The Monk was greatly admired by the Marquis de Sade, for whom the femme fatale symbolised not evil, but all the best qualities of women; his novel Juliette is perhaps the earliest wherein the femme fatale triumphs. Pre-Raphaelite painters frequently used the classic personifications of the femme fatale as a subject.

In the Western culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the femme fatale became a more fashionable trope,[8] and she is found in the paintings of the artists Edvard Munch, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck and Gustave Moreau. The novel À rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans includes these fevered imaginings about an image of Salome in a Moreau painting:[9]

No longer was she merely the dancing-girl who extorts a cry of lust and concupiscence from an old man by the lascivious contortions of her body; who breaks the will, masters the mind of a King by the spectacle of her quivering bosoms, heaving belly and tossing thighs; she was now revealed in a sense as the symbolic incarnation of world-old Vice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs her flesh and steels her muscles, – a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning.

— Joris-Karl Huysmans, À rebours, Sisters of Salome

She also is seen as a prominent figure in late nineteenth and twentieth century opera, appearing in Richard Wagner's Parsifal (Kundry), Georges Bizet's "Carmen", Camille Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Delilah" and Alban Berg's "Lulu" (based on the plays "Erdgeist" and "Die Büchse der Pandora" by Frank Wedekind).

In fin-de-siècle decadence, Oscar Wilde reinvented the femme fatale in the play Salome: she manipulates her lust-crazed uncle, King Herod, with her enticing Dance of the Seven Veils (Wilde's invention) to agree to her imperious demand: "bring me the head of John the Baptist". Later, Salome was the subject of an opera by Strauss, and was popularized on stage, screen, and peep-show booth in countless reincarnations.[10]

Another enduring icon of glamour, seduction, and moral turpitude is Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. While working as an exotic dancer, she took the stage name Mata Hari. She was accused of German espionage and was put to death by a French firing squad. After her death she became the subject of many sensational films and books.

Other considerably famous femmes fatales are Isabella of France, Hedda Gabler of Kristiania (now Oslo), Marie Antoinette of Austria, and, most famously, Lucrezia Borgia.

20th-century genresEdit

Alice Hollister, the "original vampire"[11] of the screen
Actress Theda Bara defined the word "Vamp" in the film A Fool There Was.

One traditional view portrays the femme fatale as a sexual vampire; her charms leech the virility and independence of lovers, leaving them shells of themselves. Rudyard Kipling took inspiration from a vampire painted by Philip Burne-Jones, an image typical of the era[citation needed] in 1897, to write his poem "The Vampire". The poem inspired the 1913 eponymous film The Vampire by Robert Vignola, often cited as the earliest surviving "vamp" movie.[12] Protagonist Alice Hollister was often labeled as "the original vampire" at the time.[11][13][14]

Like much of Kipling's verse it became very popular, and its refrain: "A fool there was...", describing a seduced man, became the title of the popular 1915 film A Fool There Was that made Theda Bara a star. The poem was used in the publicity for the film.[citation needed] On this account, in the American slang of the era the femme fatale was called a vamp, short for vampire.[15][16][4]

Femmes fatales appear in detective fiction, especially in its 'hard-boiled' sub-genre which largely originated with the crime stories of Dashiell Hammett in the 1920s. At the end of that decade, the French-Canadian villainess Marie de Sabrevois gave a contemporary edge to the otherwise very historical novels of Kenneth Roberts set during the war for U.S. independence.

For film audiences, too, the villainess often appeared foreign, usually either of indeterminate Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was the sexual counterpart to wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Notable silent-cinema vamps included Theda Bara, Helen Gardner, Louise Glaum, Valeska Suratt, Musidora, Virginia Pearson, Olga Petrova, Rosemary Theby, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, Estelle Taylor, Jetta Goudal, and, in early appearances, Myrna Loy.

The story "Temptress of the Tower of Torture and Sin" is illustrated on the cover of the Avon Fantasy Reader.

During the film-noir era of the 1940s and early-1950s, the femme fatale flourished in American cinema. Examples include Brigid O'Shaughnessy, portrayed by Mary Astor, who murders Sam Spade's partner in The Maltese Falcon (1941); manipulative narcissistic daughter Veda (portrayed by Ann Blyth) in Mildred Pierce who exploits her indulgent mother Mildred (portrayed by Joan Crawford) and fatally destroys her mother's remarriage to stepfather Monte Barragon (portrayed by Zachary Scott); Gene Tierney as Ellen Brent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), and the cabaret singer portrayed by Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946),[17] narcissistic wives who manipulate their husbands; Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in Double Indemnity (1944), Ava Gardner in The Killers and Cora (Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on novels by Ernest Hemingway and James M. Cain respectively, manipulate men into killing their husbands.[17]

In the Hitchcock film The Paradine Case (1947), Alida Valli's character causes the deaths of two men and the near destruction of another. Another frequently cited example is the character Jane played by Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears (1949); during her quest to keep some dirty money from its rightful recipient and her husband, she uses poison, lies, sexual teasing and a gun to keep men wrapped around her finger. Jane Greer remains notable as a murderous femme fatale using her wiles on Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947). In Hitchcock's 1940 film and Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel Rebecca, the eponymous femme fatale completely dominates the plot, even though she is already dead and we never see an image of her. Rocky and Bullwinkle's Natasha Fatale, a curvaceous spy, takes her name from the femme fatale stock character.

The femme fatale has carried on to the present day, in films such as Chinatown (1974) with Faye Dunaway, Qurbani (1980) with Zeenat Aman, Body Heat (1981) and Prizzi's Honor (1985) – both with Kathleen Turner, Blade Runner (1982) with Sean Young, One Deadly Summer (1983) with Isabelle Adjani, Nagina (1986) with Sridevi, Blue Velvet (1986) with Isabella Rossellini, Fatal Attraction (1987) with Glenn Close, Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) with Rekha, Basic Instinct (1992) with Sharon Stone, Damage (1992) with Juliette Binoche, The Last Seduction (1994) with Linda Fiorentino, To Die For (1995) with Nicole Kidman, GoldenEye (1995) with Famke Janssen, Lost Highway (1997) with Patricia Arquette, Wild Things (1998) with Denise Richards, Cowboy Bebop (1998) with Wendee Lee, Devil in the Flesh (1998) and Jawbreaker (1999), both with Rose McGowan, Kaun? (1999), with Urmila Matondkar, Cruel Intentions (1999), with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Original Sin (2001) with Angelina Jolie, Femme Fatale (2002) with Rebecca Romijn, Jism (2003) with Bipasha Basu, Aitraaz (2004) with Priyanka Chopra, and Jennifer's Body (2009), with Megan Fox. In 2013, Tania Raymonde played the title role in Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret. In 2014, Eva Green portrayed a femme fatale in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Rosamund Pike starred in Gone Girl.

Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard has frequently played femmes fatales, in such films as A Private Affair (2002), A Very Long Engagement, The Black Box, Inception, Midnight in Paris, The Dark Knight Rises and Macbeth. Nicole Kidman has also played a few femmes fatales in films as To Die For, The Paperboy and Moulin Rouge!.

The archetype is also abundantly found in American television. One of the most famous femmes fatales of American television is Sherilyn Fenn's Audrey Horne of the David Lynch cult series Twin Peaks. In the late night Cinemax TV series, Femme Fatales, actress Tanit Phoenix plays Lilith, the host who introduces each episode Rod Serling-style and occasionally appears within the narrative. In the Netflix TV series, Orange Is the New Black, actress Laura Prepon plays Alex Vause, a modern femme fatale, leading both men and women to their destruction. On the second season of Dexter, actress Jaime Murray portrays Lila Tournay, an obsessive arsonist smitten with the titular character.

Femmes fatales also appear frequently in comic books. Notable examples include Batman's long-time nemesis Catwoman, who first appeared in comics in 1940, and various adversaries of The Spirit, such as P'Gell.

This stock character is also often found in the genres of opera and musical theatre, where she will traditionally have a mezzo, alto or contralto range, opposed to the ingénue’s soprano, to symbolise the masculinity and lack of feminine purity. An example is Hélène from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.



Femme Fatales in Films
Character(s) Portrayed by Movie(s) Date(s) References
The Vampire Theda Bara A Fool There Was 1915 [18]
Carmen Geraldine Farrar Carmen [19]
Marguerite Gautier Alla Nazimova Camille 1921 [19]
Mizzie Stock Marie Prevost The Marriage Circle 1924 [19]
Elsie Van Zile Nita Naldi Cobra 1925 [19]
Felicitas von Rhaden Greta Garbo Flesh and the Devil 1926 [19][20]
Alverna Clara Bow Mantrap [19]
Lulu Louise Brooks Pandora's Box 1929 [19][21]
Lola-Lola Marlene Dietrich The Blue Angel 1930 [19][22]
Alison Loyd Thelma Todd Corsair 1931 [19]
Mata Hari Greta Garbo Mata Hari [19]
Shanghai Lily / Madeline Marlene Dietrich Shanghai Express 1932 [19][22]
Roma Courtney Carole Lombard Supernatural 1933 [19]
Lily Powers Barbara Stanwyck Baby Face [19]
Christina, Queen of Sweden Greta Garbo Queen Christina [19][20]
Scarlett O'Hara Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind 1939 [23]
Lana Carlsen Ida Lupino They Drive by Night 1940 [24]
The Girl Veronica Lake Sullivan's Travels 1941 [19]
Ruth Wonderly/Brigid O'Shaughnessy Mary Astor The Maltese Falcon [25]
Doña Bárbara María Félix Doña Bárbara 1943 [26]
Phyllis Dietrichson Barbara Stanwyck Double Indemnity 1944 [19][27]
Marie "Slim" Browning Lauren Bacall To Have and Have Not [27]
Carol "Kansas" Richman Ella Raines Phantom Lady [19]
Helen Grayle/Velma Valento Claire Trevor Murder, My Sweet [28]
Katherine 'Kitty' March Joan Bennett Scarlet Street 1945 [25]
Ellen Berent Harland Gene Tierney Leave Her to Heaven [19]
María and Magdalena Méndez Dolores del Río La Otra [29]
Vera Ann Savage Detour [25]
Veda Pierce Forrester Ann Blyth Mildred Pierce [25]
Mildred Pierce Beragon Joan Crawford Mildred Pierce [30]
Cora Smith Lana Turner The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946 [27]
Kitty Collins Ava Gardner The Killers [27]
Gilda Mundson Farrell Rita Hayworth Gilda [19][27]
Vivian Sternwood Rutledge Lauren Bacall The Big Sleep [27]
Coral "Dusty"/"Mike" Chandler Lizabeth Scott Dead Reckoning 1947 [31]
Mrs. Maddalena Anna Paradine Alida Valli The Paradine Case [19]
Kathie Moffat Jane Greer Out of the Past [27]
Elsa "Rosalie" Bannister Rita Hayworth The Lady from Shanghai [19][27]
Kay Lawrence Lizabeth Scott I Walk Alone [31]
Pat Cameron Claire Trevor Raw Deal 1948 [28]
Gaye Dawn Claire Trevor Key Largo [28]
Mona Stevens Lizabeth Scott Pitfall [31]
Delilah Hedy Lamarr Samson and Delilah 1949 [32]
Jane Palmer Lizabeth Scott Too Late for Tears [19]
Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson Sunset Boulevard 1950 [19]
Fran Garland Lizabeth Scott Dark City [31]
Raquel Lilia Prado Mexican Bus Ride 1952 [33]
Rose Loomis Marilyn Monroe Niagara 1953 [27]
Kamini Waheeda Rehman C.I.D. 1956 [34][35]
Juliette Hardy Brigitte Bardot And God Created Woman [36]
Sherry Peatty Marie Windsor The Killing [24]
Cabiria Ceccarelli Giulietta Masina Nights of Cabiria 1957 [19]
Hannuma (هنومة Hanūma) Hind Rostom Bab al-Hadid 1958 [37]
Judy Barton and Madeleine Elster Kim Novak Vertigo [19][27]
Laura Manion Lee Remick Anatomy of a Murder 1959 [24]
Anarkali Madhubala Mughal-e-Azam 1960 [38]
Cleopatra Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra 1963 [39]
Pussy Galore Honor Blackman Goldfinger 1964 [40]
Sandhya / Sandhya's twin sister Sadhana Shivdasani Woh Kaun Thi? [41]
Rosie Marco/Miss Nalini Waheeda Rehman Guide 1965 [34]
Yasmin Azir Sophia Loren Arabesque 1966 [19]
Mrs. Robinson Anne Bancroft The Graduate 1967 [42]
Bonnie Parker Faye Dunaway Bonnie and Clyde [43]
Shalini Singh Vyjayanthimala Jewel Thief [35]
Bree Daniels Jane Fonda Klute 1971 [44]
Sally Bowles Liza Minnelli Cabaret 1972 [45]
Nami Matsushima / Matsu the Scorpion Meiko Kaji Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion [46]
Coffy Pam Grier Coffy 1973 [19]
Yuki Kashima, aka Lady Snowblood Meiko Kaji Lady Snowblood [46]
Foxy Brown Pam Grier Foxy Brown 1974 [19]
Evelyn Mulwray Faye Dunaway Chinatown [47]
Nurse Ratched Louise Fletcher One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975 [40]
Carrie White Sissy Spacek Carrie 1976 [48]
Sunita Rekha Nagin [49]
Roma Zeenat Aman Don 1978 [50]
Shabnam Zeenat Aman The Great Gambler 1979 [50]
Sheela Zeenat Aman Qurbani 1980 [50]
Amiran / Umrao Jaan Rekha Umrao Jaan 1981 [51]
Joan Crawford Faye Dunaway Mommie Dearest [43]
Matty Walker Kathleen Turner Body Heat [19][47]
Rachael Sean Young Blade Runner 1982 [52]
Nisha Parveen Babi Namak Halaal [53]
Eliane Wieck Isabelle Adjani One Deadly Summer 1983 [54]
May Day Grace Jones A View to a Kill 1985 [43]
Dorothy Vallens Isabella Rossellini Blue Velvet 1986 [55]
Rajni Sridevi Nagina [56]
Alex Forrest Glenn Close Fatal Attraction 1987 [47][57]
Jessica Rabbit Kathleen Turner Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988 [19][47]
Aarti Verma Rekha Khoon Bhari Maang [51]
Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil Glenn Close Dangerous Liaisons [47]
Veronica Sawyer Winona Ryder Heathers 1989 [40]
Breathless Mahoney Madonna Dick Tracy 1990 [58]
Annie Wilkes Kathy Bates Misery [40]
Sarah Connor Linda Hamilton Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 [59]
Anna Barton Juliette Binoche Damage 1992 [60]
Ivy Drew Barrymore Poison Ivy [61]
Peyton Flanders Rebecca De Mornay The Hand That Rocks the Cradle [24]
Catherine Tramell Sharon Stone Basic Instinct [19][47]
Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer Batman Returns [57]
Hedra "Hedy" Carlson / Ellen Besch Jennifer Jason Leigh Single White Female [40]
Jacqueline Broyer Robin Givens Boomerang [27]
Rebecca Carlson Madonna Body of Evidence 1993 [58]
Adrian/Darian Forrester Alicia Silverstone The Crush [43]
Inspector Gangotri "Ganga" Devi Madhuri Dixit Khal Nayak [51]
Meredith Johnson Demi Moore Disclosure 1994 [57]
Bridget Gregory Linda Fiorentino The Last Seduction [19][27]
Mallory Wilson Knox Juliette Lewis Natural Born Killers [43]
Suzanne Stone-Maretto Nicole Kidman To Die For 1995 [57][62]
Xenia Onatopp Famke Janssen GoldenEye [47]
Cruella de Vil Glenn Close 101 Dalmatians
102 Dalmatians
Madam Maya Rekha Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi 1996 [51]
Samantha Caine/Charly Baltimore Geena Davis The Long Kiss Goodnight [57]
Satánico pandemonium Salma Hayek From Dusk till Dawn [63]
Lynn Bracken Kim Basinger L.A. Confidential 1997 [47]
Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield Patricia Arquette Lost Highway [64]
Isha Diwan Kajol Gupt: The Hidden Truth [51]
Emma Murdoch Jennifer Connelly Dark City 1998 [65]
Kelly Van Ryan Denise Richards Wild Things [47]
Moina Manisha Koirala Dil Se.. [66]
Tiffany Jennifer Tilly Bride of Chucky [48]
Asami Yamazaki Eihi Shiina Audition 1999 [48]
Kathryn Merteuil Sarah Michelle Gellar Cruel Intentions [47]
Courtney Shayne Rose McGowan Jawbreaker [40]
Ma'am Urmila Matondkar Kaun? [51]
Mitsuko Souma Ko Shibasaki Battle Royale 2000 [67]
The Devil Elizabeth Hurley Bedazzled [68]
Natalie Carrie-Anne Moss Memento [69]
Ginger Fitzgerald Katharine Isabelle Ginger Snaps
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
and both 2004
Mystique Rebecca Romijn X-Men
X-Men: The Last Stand
Satine Nicole Kidman Moulin Rouge! 2001 [57]
Ginger Knowles Halle Berry Swordfish [57]
Rita/Camilla Rhodes Laura Harring Mulholland Drive [19]
Julia Russell Angelina Jolie Original Sin [47][57]
Lara Croft Angelina Jolie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life
Laure Ash / Lily Watts Rebecca Romijn Femme Fatale 2002 [47][57]
Akasha Aaliyah Queen of the Damned [70]
Velma Kelly Catherine Zeta-Jones Chicago [71]
Constance "Connie" Sumner Diane Lane Unfaithful [72]
Clarisse Entoven Marion Cotillard A Private Affair [47][73][74]
Sonia Khanna Bipasha Basu Jism 2003 [75]
O-Ren Ishii Lucy Liu Kill Bill: Volume 1 [43]
Gogo Yubari Chiaki Kuriyama Kill Bill: Volume 1 [76]
Sonia Sinha Preity Zinta Armaan [77]
Persephone Monica Bellucci The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Ajedrez Barillo Eva Mendes Once Upon a Time in Mexico [24]
Elle Driver Daryl Hannah Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill: Volume 2
Beatrix Kiddo Uma Thurman Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill: Volume 2
Selene Kate Beckinsale Underworld 2003-2016 [43]
Regina George Rachel McAdams Mean Girls 2004 [76]
Sonia Roy Priyanka Chopra Aitraaz [51][79]
Amanda Young Shawnee Smith Saw [48]
Domino Harvey Keira Knightley Domino 2005 [80]
Jane Smith Angelina Jolie Mr. & Mrs. Smith [47][57]
Æon Flux Charlize Theron Æon Flux [57][81]
Laura Dannon Nora Zehetner Brick [47]
Lucinda Harris Jennifer Aniston Derailed [57]
White Witch Tilda Swinton The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Roma Priyanka Chopra Don
Don 2
Sunehri Aishwarya Rai Dhoom 2 2006 [82]
Miranda Priestly Meryl Streep The Devil Wears Prada [76]
Mandy Lane Amber Heard All the Boys Love Mandy Lane [48]
Bellatrix Lestrange Helena Bonham Carter Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Lamia Michelle Pfeiffer Stardust 2007 [43]
Sophia Singh Katrina Kaif Race 2008 [79]
María Elena Penélope Cruz Vicky Christina Barcelona [83]
Dollface Gemma Ward The Strangers [48]
Silken Floss Scarlett Johansson The Spirit [84]
Irene Adler Rachel McAdams Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Jennifer Check Megan Fox Jennifer's Body 2009 [85]
Anastasia "Ana" Lewis DeCobray / Baroness Sienna Miller G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra [43]
Krishna Verma Vidya Balan Ishqiya 2010 [51]
Mal Cobb Marion Cotillard Inception [47][73]
Nina Sayers / The Swan Queen Natalie Portman Black Swan [43]
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow Scarlett Johansson Marvel Cinematic Universe (2010-ongoing) [86]
Mystique Jennifer Lawrence X-Men: First Class
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Apocalypse
Dark Phoenix
Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes Priyanka Chopra 7 Khoon Maaf 2011 [51][79]
Adriana Marion Cotillard Midnight in Paris [47][73]
Talia al Ghul Marion Cotillard The Dark Knight Rises 2012 [47][73]
Catwoman Anne Hathaway The Dark Knight Rises [57]
Maggie Beauford Jessica Chastain Lawless [87]
Queen Ravenna Charlize Theron Snow White and the Huntsman
The Huntsman: Winter's War
Laura Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin 2013 [88]
Kaya Kangana Ranaut Krrish 3 [77]
Grace Faraday Emma Stone Gangster Squad [89]
Sydney Prosser/Lady Edith Greensly (based on Evelyn Knight) Amy Adams American Hustle [90]
Evanora Rachel Weisz Oz the Great and Powerful [43]
Begum Para Madhuri Dixit Dedh Ishqiya 2014 [91]
Ava Lord Eva Green Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [27]
Amy Elliott Dunne Rosamund Pike Gone Girl [19][57]
Ava Alicia Vikander Ex Machina [92]
Maleficent Angelina Jolie Maleficent
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
SP Shivani Shivaji Roy Rani Mukherjee Mardaani
Mardaani 2
Rajkumari Chandrika Singh Swara Bhaskar Prem Ratan Dhan Payo 2015 [79]
Lady Tremaine Cate Blanchett Cinderella [43]
Lady Macbeth Marion Cotillard Macbeth [47][73]
Lady Macbeth Florence Pugh Lady Macbeth 2016 [94]
Dr. Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn Margot Robbie Suicide Squad
Birds of Prey
Rose Armitage Allison Williams Get Out 2017 [48]
Fearless Nadia Kangana Ranaut Rangoon [95]
Hela Cate Blanchett Thor: Ragnarok [43]
Lorraine Broughton Charlize Theron Atomic Blonde [57][81]
Reena Manisha Koirala Lust Stories 2018 [96]
Dominika Egorova Jennifer Lawrence Red Sparrow [81]
Annie / Bonnie Margot Robbie Terminal [97]
Karen Zariakas Anne Hathaway Serenity 2019 [98]


Femme Fatales in TV Shows
Character Portrayed by Show Dates References
Catwoman Julie Newmar Batman (1966-1967) [99]
Wonder Woman Lynda Carter Wonder Woman (1975-1979) [19]
Cathy Ames Jane Seymour East of Eden (1981) [43]
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark Cassandra Peterson Elvira's Movie Macabre (1981-1986) [100]
Audrey Horne Sherilyn Fenn Twin Peaks (1990-1991) [101]
Dana Scully Gillian Anderson The X-Files (1993-2018) [102]
Nikita Peta Wilson La Femme Nikita (1997-2001) [57]
Buffy Summers Sarah Michelle Gellar Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) [103]
Saffron Christina Hendricks Firefly (2002-2003) [57]
Lila Tournay Jaime Murray Dexter (2007) [19]
Young Moira O'Hara Alexandra Breckenridge American Horror Story: Murder House (2011) [104]
The Evil Queen/Regina Mills Lana Parrilla Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
Arya Stark Maisie Williams Game of Thrones (2011-2019) [105]
Cersei Lannister Lena Headey Game of Thrones (2011-ongoing) [57]
Lydia Rodarte-Quayle Laura Fraser Breaking Bad (2012-2013) [106]
Claire Underwood Robin Wright House of Cards (2013-ongoing) [57]
Alex Vause Laura Prepon Orange Is the New Black (2013-ongoing) [107]
Chanel Oberlin Emma Roberts Scream Queens (2015-2016) [108]
Serena Joy Waterford Yvonne Strahovski The Handmaid's Tale (2017-ongoing) [43]
Oksana Astankova / Villanelle Jodie Comer Killing Eve (2018) [43]

Use in criminal trialsEdit

The term has been used in connection with highly publicised criminal trials, such as the trials of Jodi Arias[109][110] and Amanda Knox.[111]


  1. ^ Cope, Rebecca (11 March 2014). "Best Film Femme Fatales". Harper's Bazaar.
  2. ^ Walter, Susan (2015). "Images of the Femme Fatale in two Short Stories by Emilia Pardo Bazán". Romance Notes. 55 (2): 177–189. doi:10.1353/rmc.2015.0034. S2CID 162844916.
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  7. ^ C. G. Jung ed, Man and his Symbols (1978) p. 187
  8. ^ Jill Scott, Electra after Freud (2005) p. 66
  9. ^ Huysmans À rebours – Toni Bentley (2002) Sisters of Salome: 24
  10. ^ Toni Bentley (2002) Sisters of Salome
  11. ^ a b Kalem Films The Lotus Woman. Moving Picture World. 1916. p. 1074.
  12. ^ John T. Soister, American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913–1929, McFarland, 2012, p. 41
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Further readingEdit

  • Dominique Mainon and James Ursini (2009) Femme fatale, ISBN 0879103698. Examines the context of film noir.
  • Giuseppe Scaraffia (2009) Femme fatale, ISBN 9788838903960.
  • Toni Bentley (2002) Sisters of Salome, ISBN 9780803262416. Salome considered as an archetype of female desire and transgression and as the ultimate femme fatale.
  • Bram Dijkstra (1986) Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture, ISBN 0195056523. Discusses the Femme fatale-stereotype.
  • Bram Dijkstra (1996) Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture, ISBN 0805055495.
  • Elizabeth K. Mix Evil By Design: The Creation and Marketing of the Femme Fatale, ISBN 9780252073236. Discusses the origin of the Femme fatale in 19th century French popular culture.
  • Mario Praz (1933) The Romantic Agony, ISBN 9780192810618. See chapters four, 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci', and five, 'Byzantium'.