The List: The Most Mysterious and Seductive Femme Fatales
We all love strong female characters who aren’t above using their looks and charm to get what they want, right? They’re ruthless and manipulative. Mysterious and seductive. Just plain bad. This list of femme fatales runs the gamut.
Marie “Slim” Browning, the sultry American pickpocket from To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway. The film adaptation starred Humphrey Bogart with Lauren Bacall as Slim. Who can forget her famous line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
Black Widow, or Natasha Romanova, from The Avengers. Originally trained as a Russian spy, she was dispatched in her assigned role as a femme fatale to turn Hawkeye against Iron Man. Played in the Avenger movie series by the incomparable Scarlett Johansson.
Holly Golightly, from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, survived by flitting from one wealthy lover to another as she tried to find a rich man to marry her. Capote described her as an American geisha. “Never love a wild thing,” she said, and that’s what she was: a wild thing.
Harley Quinn, the femme fatale from Suicide Squad, Joker’s girlfriend. Beautiful, intelligent, and ruthless, this survivor of domestic abuse is a murderous, psychotic—and fun—mess.
Carmen Sternwood and Vivian Regan from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. A pair of femme fatale sisters attempt to lead private investigator Philip Marlowe astray as he investigates a case of blackmail and then a murder. He begins to suspect that one of them might be a stone-cold killer.
Amy Elliott Dunne from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Unhappy with her life, Amy sets out to frame her cheating husband for a murder—hers. Then she seduces an ex-boyfriend into helping her and slits his throat when it all goes horribly wrong.
Cora Smith from The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain. She’s a sultry housewife who begins an affair with a drifter, then persuades him to help her murder her husband.
Joan Medford from The Cocktail Waitress by James M. Cain. This is Cain’s last novel, and his femme fatale protagonist is a classic. Joan is gorgeous, smart, and desperate. She’s in dire financial straits and determined to get her young son back. Her first husband dies in a suspicious accident. Her second husband…dies. This one has a twist you won’t see coming.
Heloise Lane from And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman. Heloise is a typical suburban working mother with a little secret: she runs a prostitution ring. The men in her life think they control her. They don’t.
Bridget Callaghan from Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty. The saucy, irresistible girlfriend of a New York crime boss, Bridget has an affair with a young Irish enforcer who works for her boyfriend, which inspires the mob boss to exact a brutal revenge. This book is the first in a trilogy.