The Baddest Girl Gangs on Film


This summer’s cinema slate is all about teen girls gone wild, with Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring bringing the crime spree to theaters. Earlier this week, we listened to the Skrillex soundtrack for Korine’s neon bacchanal and looked at some awesome fan-made posters for the film. The trailer for Coppola’s Bling Ring also appeared online, which got us excited for celebrity-obsessed teens that rob from the rich. Girl groups that willfully break boundaries are rare in cinema, and we wanted to spotlight more of the biggest troublemakers on film. These brazen all-girl gangs (cliques and crime groups alike) proved men don’t necessarily have the upper hand when it comes to kicking ass and taking names.

The thrill-seeking go-go dancers in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

The buxom bad girls in Russ Meyer’s cult classic Faster Pussycat are a gang of pissed off go-go dancers. The women head out on the highway where they rob, kidnap, and kill (with their bare freaking hands), casting men aside to get whatever they want: sex, money, and a good time. The biggest badass of the group is the trash-talking Varla who spews poetic one-liners like nobody’s business. There’s an interesting message about sexual/gender politics running through Pussycat if you choose to find it, but the uber violent shenanigans are dazzling on their own.

The Lizzies in The Warriors

Walter Hill’s 1979 dystopian cult classic The Warriors features a ridiculous number of street gangs with awesome get-ups and names like The High Hats (mimes in red and black), The Boppers (purple fedoras and waistcoats), and Sheepshead Bay motorcycle gang Satan’s Mothers (we want their vests!). The fierce all-girl gang of the bunch known as The Lizzies seek revenge on Coney Island gang The Warriors, who are framed for murder. Once The Lizzies tempt The Warriors away from safety, they shoot to kill. As Warriors member Rembrandt puts it: “The chicks are packed!”

The Flawless Four in Jawbreaker

How do we love Jawbreaker? Let us count the ways: a bitchy teen clique (Rose McGowan, Julie Benz, Rebecca Gayheart, Charlotte Ayanna) ensnares an outcast (Judy Greer) and forces her to join their high school gang after she accidentally discovers the girls’ grave mistake. Popularity intoxicates the geeky loner who eventually realizes she has to stop her wicked sisters from getting away with murder. The ass-kicking Pam Grier, horror icon P.J. Soles, and Marilyn Manson (then, McGowan’s boyfriend) co-star, but a wicked McGowan shines in the underrated teen crime comedy.

The coven in The Craft

If you were an angsty teen girl in the late 1990s, then you were probably obsessed with The Craft and would have joined the witchy gang in a heartbeat. A group of troubled young sorceresses are harassed at school. They become drawn to a transfer student who completes their ring of power as the fourth “element.” Together they cast love spells and wreak havoc on the student population, but eventually they turn on each other. Fairuza Balk would frighten us into a lifetime membership with any gang.

The Dagger Debs/The Jezebels in Switchblade Sisters

The 1975 grindhouse classic Switchblade Sisters popped up during the girl gang exploitation craze that attracted young viewers like Quentin Tarantino. The director has written and spoken extensively about his love for the women that are “so easy to kill, so hard to love.” The Dagger Debs battle an oppressive male gang group for supremacy, eventually changing their name to The Jezebels before the film’s final showdown. Surprisingly, the movie deals with poignant women’s issues like female rivalry, pregnancy, and rape — but then again, director Jack Hill is known for the unique feminist angle he brings to his works. Tarantino has praised the movie’s dialogue and more. See what the hyper director has to say in the below clip.

The Plastics in Mean Girls

Ah, Mean Girls — when Lindsay Lohan still embodied the promise of a bright future. The 2004 movie has a place in our hearts not only for a pre-train wreck LiLo, but also for The Plastics. The most popular girls at North Shore High also happen to be the worst human beings ever, but they rule the school. The nastier ringleader Regina George (Rachel McAdams) is to her cohorts, the harder they try to impress her. The backstabbing is repulsive, but manages to stay true to reality thanks to Tina Fey’s snappy script work.

The She-Devils in Desperate Teenage Lovedolls

If you can tear your ears away from the soundtrack to Desperate Teenage Lovedolls for a moment, you’ll notice that the lo-fi punk flick is a trashy, fun experience. Bands Redd Kross, Black Flag, and the Nip Drivers set the tone for a Super 8 adventure following teen rock band runaways, the Lovedolls, that try to make it big. Rival band The She-Devils — a badass gang of girls we kind of want to hang out with — try to snarl the Lovedolls into submission and ruin their success. Director Dave Markey was only 21 when he created the film, which taps nicely into the 1980’s California punk scene. For more Lovedolls, follow up the film with the 1986 sequel, Lovedolls Superstar, with appearances from Vicki Peterson (The Bangles), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), and Sky Saxon (The Seeds).

The Man-Eaters in She-Devils on Wheels

Godfather of gore Herschell Gordon Lewis showed audiences what raucous biker babes The Man-Eaters do for a good time: treat men like pieces of meat (and sometimes, even worse). The quotable campfest sees the all-girl cyclists facing off against their male counterparts and terrorizing the town. The best part of the movie is that most of the women cast as bikers were the real deal.

The bank robbers in Set It Off

F. Gary Gray’s 1996 film about female bank robbers — played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise — posits that the Los Angeles women fell into a life of crime, because they wanted to better their lives. Audiences empathize with the hard-luck story, which rouses questions about survival and loyalty, but the film reminds us that crime comes with a hefty price.

The Heathers in Heathers

If this list has reminded us of anything, it’s that people can be really rotten to one another. Take The Heathers at Westerburg High School, for example. Feared and frequently revered, the cool girls clique even alienates one of their own. Soon, however, they feel her wrath — with the help of a morbid outsider who has devious plans for… permanent revenge. A great satire on teenage politics and the world at large, Heathers’ dark comedy, memorable dialogue, and smartly drawn characters transcends high school hallways.