10. Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice
Let’s say what Jane Austen was too subtle and polite to spell out: Caroline Bingley is a class-A bitch, fuming over Mr. Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth Bennett and feebly plotting to win him over. In a conversation with Darcy, Caroline delivers a classic mean-girl takedown of her rival:
I must confess that I never could see any beauty in her. Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character; there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I never could perceive any thing extraordinary in them. They have a sharp, shrewish look, which I do not like at all; and in her air altogether, there is a self-sufficiency without fashion which is intolerable.
9. Claire Standish, The Breakfast Club
The princess. The snob. The girl who made it OK to wear a pink shirt with red hair. Whatever you want to call her, Molly Ringwald’s Claire Standish was John Hughes’s tribute to the kind of girls who make everyone’s high-school life miserable. She threw around wonderful quotes such as, “Do you know how popular I am? I am so popular. Everybody loves me so much at this school.” In fact, the only reason she doesn’t rank higher on this list is because she comes around by the end of the film.
8. Mini, Skins
The new series of British Skins has only just begin, and it’s already produced a mean girl for the ages. Mini is frighteningly insecure, constantly manipulating her minions, Liv and Grace, struggling to hang onto her boyfriend, Nick, and alternately plotting to make over or destroy the awkward new girl, Franky. Everything she does is power play — but despite her machinations, her stock is quickly plummeting.
7. Countess Lydia Ivanova, Anna Karenina
Supposedly the guardian of all that is good and right and pious in the world, Lydia Ivanova is more like the friend who stabs you in the back and then goes after your man. Although she professes to have Anna Karenina’s estranged husband Alexei Alexandrovich’s best interest at heart, it’s pretty clear she advises him to deny Anna a divorce because she wants to torture the woman who makes her jealous.
6. Regina George, Mean Girls
How could we forget the girl for which a movie called Mean Girls was named? Rachel McAdams’s aptly named Regina kicked off her reign of terror back in junior high, when she started a rumor that her former best friend, Janis, was a lesbian. A few years later, she’s reigning over the Plastics with a diamond-encrusted iron fist and compiling a Burn Book where she and her friends write evil things about everyone else in school. We have never been so happy to see someone get hit by a bus.
5. Nellie Oleson, Little House on the Prairie
There were even mean girls on the American frontier, tormenting sweet kids like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just like many of the ladies on this list, Nellie Oleson is a spoiled rich girl, all fussy, blonde curls and bratty manipulations. Just as Laura Sessions Stepp writes, Nellie does grow out of many of her nasty tendencies as an adult.
4. Bertha Dorset, The House of Mirth
Mean girls and gossip culture abound in Edith Wharton’s work. But the falsest friend of all in The House of Mirth is Bertha Dorset, whose jealousy of heroine Lily Bart’s beauty and charm drives her to fabricate the story that brings about her ruin. The kicker? She accuses Lily of seducing her husband when Bertha’s the real cheater.
3. Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl
In its best moments, Gossip Girl is one big homage to Edith Wharton. So it’s no surprise to find Blair Waldorf, queen bee of the Upper East Side, near the top of this list. She has minions — and calls them “minions.” She manipulates her way through friendships, relationships, and her budding professional life. And no one wields social power like Blair. Remember how Jenny Humphrey is banished from Manhattan? Yeah, Blair did that.
2. Crystal Allen, The Women
There’s nothing new about mean girls on film. They date back at least as far as 1939’s The Women, in which the toughest bitch of them all — Joan Crawford — plays the conniving perfume-counter gold digger who steals Mary Haines’s husband, Stephen. As soon as Mary’s divorce is final, Crystal marries him, promptly begins an affair with another man, and then… no, we can’t give it away. You’re going to have to watch it and find out.
1. The Heathers
Heather Chandler. Heather Duke. Heather McNamara. In the minds of every child of the ’80s, this trio represents the Platonic ideal of mean-girldom. They systematically punish everyone at school, including their friend, Veronica Sawyer. When she’s had enough of them, the only way she can escape their control is through extreme measures. Enter Christian Slater…