The Movieline Nine: Crazy White Bitch Movies

In Backlash, Susan Faludi argues that Fatal Attraction -- the gold standard of a certain kind of Hollywood thriller in which a deranged woman invades the life of a happily married couple to reap violent destruction upon their lives -- was not just an anti-feminist film, but was rather crafted with the express purpose of delivering an anti-feminist message. She's probably right, but I loved it anyway, and will likely sit through any domestic intrusion movie (ooh -- great title. Domestic Intrusion, starring Halle Berry and Kiefer Sutherland) so long as there's at least one decent wife-on-murderous-slut catfight in its third act. Yesterday, we wondered what we might expect from the latest addition to the canon: Obsessed. In its honor, then, we premiere our slightly truncated spin on the classic top ten, The Movieline Nine...Crazy White Bitch Edition.

9. The Landlady

1998

"Evil doesn't knock...It has the key!" was the tagline to this 1998 straight-to-Canadian-DVD, Z-movie romp. It boasted Talia Shire in the lead, having the time of her life as an uptight religious conservative with a dirty streak -- she watches a male tenant (Heroes' Jack Coleman) undress through a one-way mirror. Not your classic mistress-goes-psycho scenario, but it's damn fun, and watching her pick off her tenants one by one is effectively unsettling -- especially if you've ever had a creepy building manager. And who hasn't.

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8. Devil in the Flesh

1997

Rose McGowan plays Debbie Strand, placed in foster care with her bible-thumping granny after her mother and mother's boyfriend die in a fire. She soon develops an obsession with an engaged English teacher and bodies start piling up. One of McGowan's more memorable early roles, and one of the most enjoyable depictions of insensitively handled elder abuse from the past 25 years.

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7. Irresistible

2006

One more straight-to-Blockbuster goodie, only this one boasts Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, and Emily Blunt as the three corners of the classic dutiful wife/philandering husband/possibly psycho-slut love triangle, and with the new spin that everyone thinks wife Sarandon is the one who's psycho. It's hard to believe any of these actors signed on to something so trashy and derivative (instead of boiled bunnies you get cookie jars full of bees), but they did! And we reap the rewards.

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6. The Crush

1993

Alicia Silverstone makes her screen debut as Darian (later dubbed to Adrian when the real girl the screenplay was allegedly based on sued), a 14-year-old girl who becomes obsessed with her parents' guest house tenant, Nick Eliot (Cary Elwes). Notable for several nude scenes on the part of both actors. A classic.

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5. Poison Ivy

1992

Another classic from the genre's early '90s Golden Age, Poison Ivy marked a career turning point for Drew Barrymore. We honestly wondered if we'd ever see her reach the heights she hit playing the teen femme fatale -- and she would, in another botanical triumph, Grey Gardens. It might surprise you that Ivy was acclaimed by The New York Times as a "commercial art film." It spawned three inferior sequels, but make no mistake: this is the one you want.

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4. Swimfan

2002

Transfer student Madison Bell (Erika Christensen) develops a crush on Ben (Jesse Bradford), the school's star competitive swimmer, who is happily attached to a girlfriend. The two get it on in the pool, Ben regrets it, Madison grows obsessed, begins clogging his inbox with sexy e-mails, and things get predictably more menacing from there. Run-of-the-mill shlock, saved perhaps by Christensen's creepazoid performance.

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3. Single White Female

1992

A cultural phenomenon as much as a movie, Single White Female found new life in the psycho-love-triangle premise by pitting the obsession between its two women. You probably know the story: Alison "Allie" Jones (Bridget Fonda) kicks her boyfriend (Steven Weber) out of her Manhattan apartment after finding out he's been cheating on her. She takes in Hedra "Hedy" Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), puppies are bought, hairdos are copied, hard drives are wiped, and screwdrivers are thrusted. Barbet Schroeder knows how to keep things tense, and the screenplay by Don Roos, based on John Lutz's novel, is twice as smart as it should be.

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2. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

1992

There really exists no purer example of the domestic intruder genre: Mrs. Mott (Rebecca De Mornay) is the pregnant widow of a molesty obstetrician. She miscarries, gets evicted, has a hysterectomy -- basically everything you need to get a good Crazy White Bitch revenge motive going. Six months later, she's going by the alias Peyton Flanders, and is the live-in dream nanny to Claire (Annabella Sciorra), the woman whose accusations against her husband led to his suicide. So many amazing lines and moments, beginning with the one in which Mrs. Mott tells groundskeeper Ernie Hudson, "Don't fuck with me, retard." From the magical world of Disney.

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1. Fatal Attraction

1987

Simply the best of its kind, and also a giant commercial hit -- the second-highest grosser of 1987 -- Attraction hangs on the performance of Glenn Close as mentally unstable corporate cheetah Alex Forrest. There's nothing we could say here that hasn't already been said: just the look on her face sitting next to innocent moppet Ellen on the roller coaster is seared into the memory of anyone who's seen it. Michael Douglas, too, as the philandering Dan, deserves as much credit, his performance encapsulating the darkest recesses of an almost universally identifiable sentiment, "I really shouldn't have f**ked this nutjob."

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Comments

  • pavlovs wife says:

    No Play Misty For Me?

  • Fer says:

    Um. Fatal Attraction was the second-highest grosser of 2008? I think muscle-memory might have taken over when typing the year, Seth.

  • it came from the tar pits says:

    This is the most important article I've read all week.

  • Seth Abramovitch says:

    Fixed, thanks.

  • icallthebigonebitey says:

    Great list! Back in 2001, I had a roommate that had graduated from Harvard. Whenever he asked me a question, I used to drive him insane by constantly quoting Julianne Moore's line in "Hand That Rocks The Cradle" to one of her underlings: "You've got a Harvard education, figure it out."
    Also I think my "older man" fixiation may have started with Tom Skerritt in "Poison Ivy" -- did he do some full frontal in that, or is my enfeebled mind playing tricks on me?

  • Elise Keaton says:

    I realize it's technically a made for TV movie, but you really shouldn't make a list like this without including A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story starring Meredith Baxter-Birney. A reversal on the genre yes with the wife being the psycho but a gold standard nonetheless.

  • champcheyne says:

    Misery i think would fall in the top 3 for me. Kathy Bates won an oscar for that crazy white bitch. she isnt good looking like most on this list.

  • Inhaler says:

    Not even an honorable mention for She-Devil?

  • anon says:

    How about an honorable mention for Ellen Page in Hard Candy?

  • Colander says:

    No honorable mention for the Hannah Montana movie?

  • Johnny Noir says:

    What's the one where Molly Ringwald shows her tits? That was actually good. I think it was an early Lifetime (the psychobitch channel) effort.

  • Johnny Noir says:

    Malicious, from 1995. Best when watched back-to-back with The Breakfast Club!

  • Flint says:

    Great article. Now to be fair, let's see the best crazy black bitch movies

  • J.R. LeMar says:

    I'd add "SCORNED" from 1994, starring Shannon Tweed. Saw on Cinemax, late @ night, when I was a teenager. Great movie.

  • RudolphNYC says:

    The movies don't play.

  • Catcher of the Wry says:

    Great call!

  • momo says:

    I know I'm way late to the party but The Temp anyone? Also, big ups for quoting Susan Faludi! The chapter on Fatal Attraction is particularly interesting, Adrian Lyne originally wanted to do the more nuanced and psychologically truthful suicide ending but test audiences had other plans.

  • Jacks Or Better says:

    People think PLAY MISTY FOR ME was the grand-daddy of this genre. But STRANGERS ON A TRAIN got the ball rolling. Hitchcock just cast a man in the 'crazy white bitch' part.
    And really, these are just examples of an old type of (typically reactionary) 'show a kindness to a stranger...' genre stories.

  • Jack Handy says:

    Just need something to let this "crazy bitch" know how crazy she is!

  • Mylene Farmer Fanatic says:

    Predating all of these films are Whatever Happened To Baby Jane and Mommie Dearest. The crazy white bitch genre has always been one of my favorites! I'm a 26 year old gay male and I happen to own most of the movies on that list lol

  • [...] The Movieline Nine: Crazy White Bitch Movies – MovielineApr 24, 2009 … In Backlash, Susan Faludi argues that Fatal Attraction — the gold standard of a certain kind of Hollywood thriller in which a deranged woman … [...]

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