14 Actresses Who Played Real-Life Killers

Rosy Cordero | Jan 10, 2016 Celebrities

We may more often hear about male murderers, but plenty of women have fired a gun or wielded a knife or used a poison, whether in anger, for revenge, or, well, for any other reason, to deadly effect. Their stories are shocking and brutal, and for actresses playing them in movies, they represent an acting challenge like no other. 

Check out these 14 actresses who weren't afraid to play real-life killers -- and even saw their careers reap the benefits.


Image via Lifetime Entertainment

  • Salma Hayek


    Image via Samuel Goldwyn Films/Roadside Attraction

    Before there was Tinder, people would look for love via lonely heart ads in the newspaper. This is how Martha Beck, played as seductive and deadly by Salma Hayek in the 2006 film Lonely Hearts, met Raymond Fernandez. The duo boasted of killing as many as 20 women from 1947 to 1949 but were executed via electric chair after being convicted for two murders.

  • Faye Dunaway


    Image via Sunset Boulevard/CORBIS

    Faye Dunaway was a newcomer in Hollywood until her starring role in Bonnie and Clyde catapulted to stardom, thanks in part to her fashion model looks and beautiful clothes. With Warren Beatty by her side, the duo brought to life the outlaw lovers who traveled the U.S. with their gang killing people in from 1931 to 1935.

  • Lily Rabe


    Image via Suzanne Tenner/FX

    Each season of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy picks a new theme and new identities for his talent. Lily Rabe has been with the series every season and in the most recently -- and chillingly -- played serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Wuornos, a prostitute, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing six of her male johns

  • Joanne Froggatt


    Image via ITV

    In her first role after wrapping filming as Downton Abbey's lovable maid Anna, Joanne Froggatt took on a darker subject: murder. In Dark Angel, Froggatt stars as Mary Ann Cotton, who was hanged for killing three of her husbands and 11 of her 13 children in Victorian England.

    More from The Stir: 15 Actors Who Played Real-life Killers in Movies (PHOTOS)

  • Hayden Panettiere


    Image via Lifetime Entertainment Services

    American student Amanda Knox spent nearly four years in Italian prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher, a fellow student living in Italy, before being exonerated in 2015. Hayden Panettiere portrayed Knox in the highly controversial TV movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy


  • Charlize Theron


    Image via Newmarket Films

    Charlize Theron won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film Monster. Theron was virtually unrecognizable in the star-making role: She gained 30 lbs and wore prothetic teeth to play Wuornos, who was executed in Florida in 2002 for six murders. Film critic Roger Ebert dubbed the film one of the best of best of the decade.


  • Alyssa Milano


    Image via Amazon

    In 1992, there wasn't a news outlet that wasn't obsessed with covering the Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco story. One year later, Alyssa Milano played 17-year-old Amy, who shot her older lover's wife in the face in Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story.

  • Drew Barrymore


    Image via Amazon

    Not only did Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco shock America, but they also inspired competition from the three major networks for best interpretation. Drew Barrymore was dangerously good starring in ABC's version entitled, The Amy Fisher Story.

    More from The Stir: 17 Hollywood Stars Who Fired or Sued Their Parents (PHOTOS)

  • Laura Prepon


    Image via True Crime Investments

    Before she wore a prison uniform on Orange is the New Black, Laura Prepon played serial killer Karla Homolka in Karla. Homolka, along with husband Paul Bernardo, raped and murdered at least three girls  including her younger sister Tammy. Although Homolka got a lesser sentence for claiming she was foced by her husband to participate, video tapes were later found proving she was a lot more involved than she admitted.

  • Meredith Baxter


    Image via Amazon

    Meredith Baxter became a household name for her role as Elyse Keaton on Family Ties, but she took a walk to the dark side to play  killer Betty Broderick. In A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, she played a woman convicted of killing her husband and his mistress-turned-wife.

  • Tania Raymonde


    Image via Lifetime Entertainment

    There were so many layers to the Jodi Arias murder trial that you need to watch Lifetime's Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret just to keep it all straight in your head. Tania Raymonde played the woman convicted of killer her former lover Travis Alexander (played by Jesse Lee Soffer) in the 2013 made-for-tv movie.

  • Aishwarya Rai


    Image via Eros International

    Stepping out of the happy Bollywood roles that made Aishwarya Rai famous, she took on a darker role in the 2006 film Provoked. The 2006 is based loosely on the story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who killed her abusive husband, Deepak. The late Miranda Richardson plays Ahluwalia's cellmate Veronica who helps her with her case.

    More from The Stir: 20 Female Stars Who Look Waaay Younger Than They Really Are (PHOTOS)

  • Catherine Keener


    Image via First Look Pictures

    Indie queen Catherine Keener played abuser and killer Gertrude Baniszewski in the film An American Crime. Gertrude physically and mentally abused, then killed Sylvia Likens (Ellen Page), a teenager that was left in her care, with the help of her husband, children and even neighborhood kids. 


  • Farrah Fawcett


    Image via ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

    In 1989, Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal starred in the TV movie Small Sacrifices. The film was based on the true story of Diana Downs, who shot her three children, killing one, then blamed it on a "bushy-haired stranger." Downs, whose secret diaries revealed she wanted to be with a married man who wanted no children, was diagnosed with antisocial, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders.

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