Action, suspense, and females who are often dangerous or heroic, and ridiculously gorgeous, thriller films have it all. Although some thrillers’ female characters stand out amongst the others — think Denise Richards’s Kelly Van Ryan in Wild Things.
Whether they’re crazy, brave, or have an evil femme fatale-type plan up their sleeve, these stunning actresses portray some of the most intense thriller characters ever.
Sharon Stone – Basic Instinct
Sharon Stone plays the protagonist villain Catherine Tramell in the 1992 film Basic Instinct. According to a European film critic, the character is “a mix between the classic femme fatale and the new psycho killers, one of the evilest characters ever created, on Hannibal Lecter’s level.”
Her good looks definitely helped lure in a man or two, including the detective working her case!
Catherine Zeta-Jones – Entrapment
Catherine Zeta-Jones is all work and a lot of play in the 1999 film Entrapment. Playing the role of Virginia “Gin” Baker, Zeta-Jones goes from working as an ambitious insurance investigator to secretly planning on robbing the company dry.
In secret, she’s nothing more than a white-collar thief who no one suspects.
Alicia Silverstone – The Crush
The psychopathic stalker Adrian Forrester is beautiful yet disturbed. Played by Alicia Silverstone in her feature film debut, the character wants nothing more than to be romantically involved with a man named Nick Elliot.
Used to getting what she wants, Adrian isn’t happy when he declines her advances. One thing leads to another, and Adrian eventually winds up in a psychiatric hospital with an unhealthy infatuation with her doctor.
Kim Basinger – Final Analysis
Heather Evans from Final Analysis might be stunning, but she is also manipulative and has lived a life that dealt her a bad hand. Portrayed by Kim Basinger, Heather finds herself going from an abusive father to marrying gangster Jimmy Evans.
After figuring she could kill him and get his life insurance money, she creates an evil plan. Let’s just say it doesn’t all work out as she hoped.
Grace Kelly – Rear Window
Lisa Carol Fremont could have any man she wanted, but she has her eyes set on photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies. Portrayed by the stunning Grace Kelly, Rear Window follows Lisa as she tries to shake off her high-end fashionista persona to help Jeff investigate a murder.
Alfred Hitchcock didn’t want Lisa to be typical eye-candy, though. He gives the character a redemption arch, having her play the investigation smart and not sit around waiting for a guy.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Cruel Intentions
When it comes to an absurdly beautiful character who has one too many tricks up their sleeve, no one comes close to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions.
Manipulative, wealthy, and popular, Kathryn is part of the Upper East Sides social elite and enjoys hurting people for her own amusement, including her step-brother.
Drew Barrymore – Poison Ivy
Wild, spunky, and from a bad home, Drew Barrymore goes all out to portray the title character in the 1992 film Poison Ivy. Becoming friends with Sylvie Cooper leads Ivy to want her friend’s stable home life.
So, clearly, the best course of action is to seduce her father and kill her mother in a very femme fatale manner.
Kathleen Turner – Body Heat
Kathleen Turner plays the femme fatale Matty Walker in the 1981 film Body Heat. A manipulative and beautiful woman, Matty decides to seduce lawyer Ned Racine into killing her husband to collect the insurance money.
As the movie shows, Matty is very good at getting her way – “You’re not too smart, are you? I like that in a man,” she says.
Linda Fiorentino – The Last Seduction
Linda Fiorentino plays the role of Bridget Gregory in The Last Seduction. A manipulative femme fatale with a keen knowledge of the art of seduction and getting what she wants, Bridget enjoys playing with people’s heads.
In this case, keeping the money she stole from her husband and eventually killing him.
Kim Novak – Vertigo
A manipulative character who captures the heart of John “Scottie” Ferguson, Judy Barton, aka Madeleine Elster, in Vertigo is unlike other Alfred Hitchcock females. She finds herself personating another woman in a murder scheme for money, only to fall for the man following and investigating her.
While she is a Remorseful femme fatale, it doesn’t stop her ultimate demise.
Rebecca De Mornay – The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Peyton Flanders, aka Mrs. Mott, is the main antagonist in the 1992 thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Played by the beautiful Rebecca De Mornay, Mrs. Potts wants nothing more than revenge on the woman who killed her husband.
Posing as a live-in nanny, Mrs. Mott manipulates, seduces, and harms a family to get her way. Her way eventually fails.
Gene Tierney – Laura
Gene Tierney takes on the role of the title character in the 1944 film Laura. Young, beautiful, and very successful, Laura’s murder is investigated by New York City police detective Mark McPherson. Even though she’s dead, McPherson begins falling for the stunning woman.
Of course, in thriller films, nothing is as it seems. Laura is eventually found alive and with a stalker on her heels.
Soledad Miranda – Count Dracula
While Soledad Miranda’s character Lucy Westenra is dealt a bad hand in the film Count Dracula, it doesn’t detract from the fact that she is one stunning lady. Coming into the picture to check on her friend in the hospital, Lucy finds her health declining, thanks to the Count.
Eventually, she turns into one of the undead and is hunted down.
Denise Richards – Wild Things
In the 1998 film Wild Things, actress Denise Richards plays crazy lady Kelly Van Ryan. As the character says in the movie, “Yeah, I’m crazy. Ask my mom.”
A high school senior and cheerleader, Kelly is the All-American girl-next-door popular girl who has an evil plan up her sleeve — accuse a classmate of something terrible and split the money she’ll collect from court with her friends.
Lana Turner – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Lana Turner takes on a Bonnie Parker-type character in The Postman Always Rings Twice. After starting an affair with a drifter named Frank Chambers, Cora decides they should come up with a plan to kill her husband, take his money, and run away together.
Sadly, their crimes catch up with them, resulting in the death of Cora.
Jodie Foster – The Silence Of The Lambs
While Jodi Foster looked beautiful in The Silence of the Lambs, her looks weren’t the reason she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. Portraying an FBI trainee, Clarice interviews the infamous Hannibal Lector, hoping to gain insight on another serial killer, Buffalo Bill.
Going from a typical interview to a thrilling plot of survival, Clarice is one female character that should never be looked over.
Lisa Bonet – Angel Heart
Lisa Bonet’s beautiful and young Epiphany Proudfoot might be in the middle of a murder investigation in Angel Heart. Still, her story is a bit more complex than figuring out her mother’s murderer.
She becomes involved with a man who sold his soul to the devil, impregnating her with a child, not of this earth.
Gwyneth Paltrow – A Perfect Murder
When it all comes down to it, A Perfect Murder is all about greed. In the film, Gwyneth Paltrow plays the role of Emily, a young wife who is having an affair with a man named David.
Her husband, Steven, doesn’t necessarily care about her infidelity, just her money. So, he asks her lover to murder her so that he can get all of her cash. It doesn’t really work out the way he plans.
Nicole Kidman – Dead Calm
In one of Nicole Kidman’s final films in Australia, she plays the role of heroine Rae Ingram in the thriller film Dead Calm. After experiencing her son’s death, Rae and her husband decide to get out of town and take a yacht trip.
The relaxing getaway turns into nothing more than a nightmare when Hughie shows up. From there, Rae becomes a hero, helping her husband get them to safety and away from the psycho.
Faye Dunaway – Chinatown
It is no secret that actress Faye Dunaway is gorgeous, but it’s her performance as Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown that really sets her apart from other neo-noir thriller characters. A broken, mysterious woman, Evelyn keeps everyone at an arms distance, scared that they will learn her secret — the child she had due to her father’s abuse.
This particular character is meant to poke fun at the stereotypical femme fatale character found in the genre.