Either way, you don't have to be a fetishist or a feminist to find girl-gang movies exciting. Here are 13 of the most notable girl-gang flicks in movie history.
Gallery | 13 Memorable Girl-Gang Movies
- 'Bad Girls' (1994)
It's hard to remember now, but two decades ago, Drew Barrymore was only just beginning to outgrow a wild-child reputation. So she was an obvious casting choice -- moreso than Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, and Madeleine Stowe -- for this Western about four prostitutes who go on the lam together after Stowe is sentenced to hang for killing an abusive john. Director Jonathan Kaplan, who had handled with some sensitivity Jodie Foster's rape drama "The Accused," pays some lip service to what must have been the harsh realities of life for a woman in the Old West, but mostly, this is just an excuse for four attractive actresses to strap on six-guns and saddle up.
- 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' (1965)
Perhaps the greatest girl gang movie ever made (and certainly the one with the greatest title), Russ Meyer's exploitation classic centers on three thrill-seeking strippers who invade a remote ranch in search of the fortune reportedly stashed there and proceed to titillate and terrorize the family of male oddballs living there. It's hard to root for anyone in this desert gothic, but Meyer (and his camera) gaze with awe and wonder at his Amazonian antiheroines. Especially the fearsome, bodacious Tura Satana, who sets the screen ablaze with one of the greatest exploitation-movie performances of all time.
- 'Girl Gang' (1954)
This exploitation film about a heroin dealer who turns nice girls into thieving junkies was the "Spring Breakers" of its day, only without the irony, self-awareness, or craft. Indeed, there's some of the endearing ineptitude of an Ed Wood movie here (no coincidence, since it stars Wood regular Timothy Farrell and was produced by "Glen or Glenda" producer George Weiss). Future Playboy Centerfold Joanne Arnold is one of the girls. The movie is so delightfully trashy -- it even includes a detailed sequence on how to free-base heroin -- that it's a wonder it made it past the 1950s censors, even as a cautionary tale.
- 'Grease' (1978)
Well, the Pink Ladies are sort of a gang. They have matching jackets, like to smoke and drink, and have generally bad attitudes. Their leader goes by her last name, Rizzo (Stockard Channing), which is good, because "Betty" doesn't sound nearly as tough. Plus, they hang out with the guys in the T-Birds and date them, sort of like a sorority with an affiliated fraternity. True, the girl gangs in most of these other movies would claw them to shreds without breaking a nail, but at least the Pink Ladies have style.
- 'Mad Money' (2008)
A dozen years after "Set It Off," Queen Latifah and her galpals are still staging heists. Only this time, her partners in crime are Diane Keaton (the plan's mastermind) and Katie Holmes (the three women all work at the Federal Reserve), and their quarry is worn-out currency that the government plans to shred. "Thelma & Louise" screenwriter Callie Khouri directed, so you might expect a parable about female empowerment through crime. Instead, it's more a cautionary tale about the perils of greed and consumerism. It's a mild little comedy, one that rewards modest expectations.
- 'Mi Vida Loca' (1993)
Director Allison Anders provides an almost documentary-like look at a Latina girl gang in Los Angeles' Echo Park neighborhood. At the center of the story are Mousie (Seidy Lopez) and Sad Girl (Angel Aviles), best friends until Mousie's drug dealer boyfriend Ernesto gets Sad Girl pregnant. Eventually, they learn that men come and go (often violently), but female friendship can last forever. Anders' obvious affection and empathy for these girls shines through every frame.
- 'Set It Off' (1996)
Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise -- lifelong friends who've all experienced hardship and privation -- form a gang out of mutual desperation and become successful bank robbers. But success breeds greed and mistrust. It's unique among girl-gang films in that all of the women are black and one (Latifah's character) is openly lesbian, without that becoming a point of tension between her and the straight characters. The movie takes place in a world where events quickly spiral out of control. Throughout the film, simple actions lead to horrific consequences and minor situations flare up into violent confrontations. You may not sympathize with these women, but at least you'll understand why they do what they do.
- 'Sugar & Spice' (2001)
Imagine "Set It Off" crossed with "Bring It On," and you'll get the gist of this mild satire about a group of high school cheerleaders who turn to bank robbery when one of them (Marley Shelton) becomes pregnant by the quarterback (James Marsden) and needs money to maintain her lifestyle. Bonus points to the girls for getting the idea from watching Patrick Swayze's gang of bank-robbing surfers in "Point Break."
- 'Switchblade Sisters' (1975)
A Quentin Tarantino favorite, this Jack Hill exploitation drama sets up a rivalry between two members of the Dagger Debs -- leader Lace (Robbie Lee) and newbie Maggie (Joanne Nail) -- after Lace's boyfriend demonstrates his interest in Maggie by raping her. The movie is a '70s time capsule, with a girl gang of black-power revolutionaries and an epic shootout at a roller-skating rink. Alas, there's no one on hand with the charisma of a Pam Grier, but it's easy to see exactly what in the film's trashy, over-the-top action and dialogue would have appealed to Tarantino.
- 'Taxi' (2004)
In this remake of a French comedy hit, Jimmy Fallon is a feckless cop in pursuit of a quartet of supermodel-esque bank robbers (Gisele Bundchen is their ringleader) whose M.O. seems to consist of distracting their victims with their stunning good looks. Girl-gang movie sine qua non Queen Latifah is on hand as a taxi driver who squires Fallon around Manhattan (since his driver's license has been confiscated) at breakneck speeds in her souped-up cab. Given the car chases that routinely defy the laws of physics, a gang of leggy Brazilian bank robbers is actually the movie's least implausible element. It's films like this that are the reason Fallon is the next host of "The Tonight Show" instead of a movie star.
- 'Teenage Doll' (1957)
B-movie monarch Roger Corman crams an epic of exploitation, violence, revenge, trash talk, and yes, even sociological insight into an economical 66 minutes. The story of a gang war between the Black Widows and the Vandalettes, it finds time for each girl to explain why she chose the gang lifestyle. Despite its Darwinian, law-of-the-jungle take on gang life, the film was beautifully shot by veteran lensman Floyd Crosby, so it looks almost... classy.
- 'Teenage Gang Debs' (1966)
There's no sisterly solidarity in the heart of Terry (Diane Conti), a Manhattan gang girl who singlehandedly tears a Brooklyn gang, the Rebels, apart, pitting its members against each other in knife fights and setting up their girlfriends (the debs of the title) for gang rapes. It's a world where guys routinely carve their initials on their girlfriends' breasts, and where a song called "Black Belt" (complete with karate-themed choreography) could have become a dance craze, had anyone seen this movie.
- 'Thelma & Louise' (1991)
Can you have a gang of two? In this feminist fable, fishing buddies Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) become outlaws because... well, the patriarchy is violent and doesn't take women seriously. Plus, fellow outlaw Brad Pitt stole all their cash. They take to banditry with surprising ease. Armed with just one gun, they're soon cop-imprisoning, truck-exploding, rapist-killing, vintage-convertible-driving badasses. Between Callie Khouri's Oscar-winning script and Ridley Scott's epically grand direction, the pair are clearly on their way to folk-heroine status by the time they drive off into history.