I love movies and I'm always on the lookout for primo stuff to watch. I'm curious who your fav women in movies are! They don't have to be the main character or anything. I think most of my very favorite movies are my favorites because they contain really neat shards of things I couldn't find anywhere else.
Off the top of my head, non-exhaustively, in no particular order:
Cass from Midnight Cowboy, portrayed flawlessly by Sylvia Miles. I love her introduction, wherein she makes many entreaties to her little white dog to take a poop. She then precedes to completely overwhelm and fleece Jon Voight, who was just going to ask her for payment for his "services" as a hustler, out of cab fare and extra. She's only in this one scene but she's absolutely hilarious and Sylvia Miles does such a good job. I've seen it a million times because it's one of my favorite movies and it never gets old for me.
Andy Feldman in Heat, as (coincidentally) Sylvia Miles's wildly unhinged daughter. I will forever remember her repeatedly screaming at her girlfriend, "BONNIE DON'T TAKE THOSE PILLS!" Andy deserved so much better than she got and she was a wonderful actress. I wish her all possible happiness in Heaven and I miss her presence in the movies so much.
Mink Stole as Peggy Gravel in Desperate Living, who is at turns pathetic, pitiable, evil, hilarious, and completely my queen. The scene where she screams at children playing in her yard is absolute gold. "Tell your mother I hate her! TELL YOUR MOTHER I HATE YOU!" plays endlessly in my brain. This is maybe my favorite woman in any movie ever. Mink Stole is also excellent as the petulant, vindictive, bizarre Taffy in Female Trouble, who shares my childhood penchant for playing car accident.
Mae West as Diamond Lou in I'm No Angel. I am in love with her narcissism, her unshakeable confidence, her sometimes downright stupid wordplay, her cane-swinging bravado and the song she sings about an ill-fated romance with a little tiny jockey. I love Mae West in general but this was the first movie I ever saw her in and nobody will watch it with me but I watch it over and over anyway. To be honest I also love her in Myra Breckenridge and Sextet, two much maligned movies that deserve way more praise because they are hilarious.
The titular Mamma Roma in Mamma Roma. Anna Magnani is so beautiful, and she has this amazing husky voice and a great broad laugh. I especially love the obscene song she sings at a wedding. I know people have a lot of feelings about Pasolini but I always really liked this movie. It has a lot of heart, whereas I find a lot of his other films a little too cold to be special to me or to merit more than one watch.
Hortense Daigle from The Bad Seed. I love Eileen Heckart in everything I've had the pleasure to see her in. She is an amazing actress and the scene in which she shows up drunk to Christine's nice apartment to despondently question her about what really happened and what Rhoda's real role in her son's drowning was is one of the saddest, most visceral and most well-acted bits of film I've ever seen. She knows Christine, a rich and comfortable woman, looks down on her to some degree, she knows that Rhoda did something to her son, and she knows that she can't do anything about any of it. Her bitterness, her rage and her grief break my heart every time.
Sadie, played by Jeramie Rain in The Last House On The Left, which is the only acceptable version of the movie, as the remake is a complete disaster with none of the janky charm or abject despair and brutality of the original. She is described over the radio as "a young, animal-like woman" and this is completely correct. My favorite scene, paraphrased, occuring on a top-down fugitive drive: "Frood, Sigmund Frood! I can't even look at the Grand Canyon anymore without crossing my legs. Everything's a giant PUH-HALIS!"
Susan Hayward as Barbara in I Want To Live! She's so insanely rude, defiant, glamorous and cool. I love every minute of this movie. I also love Susan Hayward's work as Lillian Roth in I'll Cry Tomorrow. She's excellent all the time, no exceptions. I know people either love or hate Valley of the Dolls, but she's great in it and so are all the other actresses.
Faye in The Day of the Locust. Self-absorbed, childish, spiteful, and a devout believer in the magic of movies, she is incredible in every scene and alternatingly funny and tragic. I love her insane freakout at her impish, unsettling, sickly salesman father, in which she weaponizes Jeepers Creepers in a way that no human has done or ever will do again. Karen Black is also wonderful as Rayette in Five Easy Pieces. I will miss her forever. She is one of my favorite actresses in the world.
Taeko in Strange Circus, who is incredibly complex, brilliant, wounded, evil, and completely unique. I have never seen a woman like her in movies and like as not will never again. Masumi Miyazaki is amazing. Bonus: this movie contains an extremely evil TiF.
Thomasine in The VVitch, portrayed by Anya Taylor Joy. She is such a real young girl to me and I relate to her. I love the scene where she menaces her little sister and threatens her with witchcraft.
Baby Jane, played by the inimitable Bette Davis. I love this character. She's terrifying, funny, completely deranged, tragic and childlike. Bette Davis is great in everything she ever did but Baby Jane is my favorite.
Havana Segrand in Maps To The Stars. Julianne Moore has brought so many unforgettable and complicated women to life but Havana is special to me. Her raw woundedness regarding her monster mother, the desperation with which she claws to her career as she becomes older, more damaged, and less desired, her alternating callousness, unctuous sweetness, dependency and cruelty on and toward Mia Wasikowska's character, who is also one of my favorites, is totally unforgettable and completely ferocious.
Jeliza Rose in Tideland, which everyone seems to hate for some reason but which is one of my favorite movies ever. She's one of the most believable little girls I've ever seen on screen and Jodelle Ferland plays her incredibly. Jennifer Tilly also absolutely wrecks it as Jeliza Rose's monstrous junkie mother, a pillow-shaped, negligee-wearing, baby-voiced demon who I will never get out of my head.
I also can't conscionably make a list of my fav female roles without mentioning, of course, Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence. She is perfect and singular and I will always love her deeply.
I am forgetting a ton but these are some of mine. Share yours! Thank you for reading.