Hela from Thor: Ragnarok, Cipher from Fate of the Furious, Ma-Ma from Dredd, and Ahmanet from The Mummy

Screengrab via Marvel Entertainment/YouTube CRAZY JATT/YouTube Movieclips Trailers/YouTube Universal Pictures/YouTube Remix by Jason Reed

Johnny Depp could not be more wrong about female villains at the movies

A look at female villains in film since 2007. (Spoiler: There aren't many.)


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on May 22, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 1:35 pm CDT

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is hitting theaters this week, but a resurfaced post from a Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriter may make some fans wonder what could’ve been.

First discovered by MoviePilot last week, the revelation comes from screenwriter Terry Rossio. In a longer blog post about screenwriting, Rossio claimed that his version of Dead Men Tell No Tales originally had a female villain but his script was nixed.

Why? Johnny Depp had previously appeared in a movie featuring a female villain and he thought he would be repeating himself. (The main villain in the finished film, Captain Salazar, is being played by Javier Bardem.)

My version of Dead Men Tell No Tales was set aside [just] because it featured a female villain, and Johnny Depp was worried that would be redundant to Dark Shadows, which also featured a female villain.

Of course there is also the possibility that all those screenplays simply sucked. But usually when I go back to read a screenplay that wasn’t produced, it holds up, often better than the film that was eventually produced. Sometimes it just takes a single decision by a single person, often just a whim, to destroy years of story creation and world-building.

In the post, Rossio—who is an executive producer and given a story credit on Dead Men Tell No Tales—acknowledged that other factors might’ve been involved. But it’s not a particularly good look for the film or Depp, who has faced increasing backlash for his on-set behavior and a lawsuit from his ex-manager. There is also the lingering accusation that Depp allegedly abused his ex-wife Amber Heard, which has led some fans to bring it back up anytime Depp gets cast in something new or attempts to repair his image.

But the move from Depp to nix a female villain—because one appeared in a film of his that flopped, mind you—once again highlights just how few female villains are in blockbuster movies. If Depp was worried about retreading ground, maybe Jack Sparrow should face someone other than a vengeful (and undead) pirate, the main villain of multiple Pirates films.

How few are there? We looked back at some of the most financially successful movies of the last 10 years to see how many there were in major blockbusters. The criteria was simple: If she was the main villain of the film, she got on the list.

We didn’t include secondary villains or henchmen that feature in films like Kingsman: The Secret Service or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. If the villain had a presence as the big bad (e.g. Order of the Phoenix’s Dolores Umbridge), we put her on the list. Animated films and films whose villains only use their voices are denoted with an asterisk. Female villains that were one part of a team or organization such as The Twilight Saga‘s Volturi were kept off the list.

And the result? While 2017 has some promising villains in The Mummy and Thor: Ragnarok, it’s still a very small list.


1) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Imelda Staunton as Dolores Jane Umbridge)

2) The Golden Compass (Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter)

3) Enchanted (Susan Sarandon as Queen Narissa)

4) Beowulf (Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother)


1) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko)

2) Twilight (Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria)

3) Horton Hears a Who! (Carol Burnett as Sour Kangaroo)*

4) Eagle Eye (Julianne Moore as ARIIA)*


1) Coraline (Teri Hatcher as Other Mother)*


1) Alice in Wonderland (Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen)

2) Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Bryce Dallas Howard as Victoria)

3) Tangled (Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel)*


1) Horrible Bosses (Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris)


1) The Dark Knight Rises (Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul)

2) Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna)

3) Dark Shadows (Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard)

4) Mirror Mirror (Julia Roberts as Queen Clementianna)

5) Dredd (Lena Headey as Ma-Ma)


1) Oz the Great and Powerful (Rachel Weisz as Evanora)


1) Divergent (Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews)

2) 300: Rise of an Empire (Eva Green as Artemisia)

3) Annie (Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan)


1) Minions (Sandra Bullock as Scarlet Overkill)*

2) Cinderella (Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine)

3) Insurgent (Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews)

4) Spy (Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov)


1) Zootopia (Jenny Slate as Bellwether)

2) Suicide Squad (Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn; Viola Davis as Amanda Waller)

3) The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna)

2017 so far

1) The Fate of the Furious (Charlize Theron as Cipher)

2) The Mummy (Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet / the Mummy)

3) Thor: Ragnarok (Cate Blanchett as Hela)

4) Baywatch (Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds)

Editor’s note: This post has been updated for clarity and context. 

H/T io9

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*First Published: May 22, 2017, 2:16 pm CDT