The term "catfight" refers to a fight between women, usually involving scratching, hair pulling, biting, and clothes ripping. If it's mere verbal abuse, then it's just called being "catty.
At least not in the catfights listed here. In fact, in some Asian films, catfighting is taken to a whole new level of intensity, skill, and brutality. So let your claws out and enjoy the Catfight Movie Hall of Fame. An oldie but a goodie, this Western pits heart-of-gold saloon gal Marlene Dietrich against the prim and proper Una Merkel. This sets the standard for clawing, hair-pulling, and clothes ripping. It takes the sheriff played by Jimmy Stewart to cool the women off with a bucket of water.
My advice: don't mess with Marlene! You get three for the price of one here. Her opening battle with Fox features the two fighting in Fox's suburban home and are interrupted by her little girl coming home from school mom explains the mess by saying the dog did it.
Director Quentin Tarantino shows us that catfighting has moved way beyond scratching and hair pulling. We all know how James Bond attracts women, but in this movie there are two hot babes—Martine Beswick and Aliza Gur—who both want and are willing to fight for him. As Bond's friend explains: "The women will fight until one of them is dead or surrenders. The winner will marry the man they both love, the loser will be cast out of the tribe, never to return. Although the main focus of this second part of Quentin Tarantino's revenge tale is Bill, Uma Thurman does take on Daryl Hannah in an intense fight staged inside the cramped quarters of a trailer where there's not even enough room to unsheathe a sword.
Uma seals Hannah's fate with the terse line: "Bitch, you don't have a future. No list of catfights would be complete without something from Russ Meyer. Faster, Pussycat! Haji and Williams engage in some playful, sexy catfighting early on while Satana looks on. You can read whatever you want into her gaze. What better backdrop for catfighting than a roller derby? Raquel Welch and Helena Kallianiotes square off memorably, both in the rink and on some railroad tracks.
This was a tough call; which Pam Grier movie to highlight? The Big Dollhouse is a tempting choice because it takes place in a women's prison score big points for that and ends with mud wrestling more points. Black Mama, White Mama serves up the delicious gimmick of having Grier chained to her prison nemesis as they flee confinement and claw, slap, and bite each other across the countryside.
Also tempting is the great gladiator battle in The Arena but, because Grier is forced to fight Margaret Markov, it doesn't really qualify as a catfight. So that leaves the brawl in a lesbian bar in Foxy Brown as an example of Grier's catfighting skills, and it's a choice that won't disappoint. Sparks fly in this star-studded MGM film featuring an all-female cast with claws sharpened and painted jungle red.
This film brims with venomously funny cattiness as well as a free-for-all, no-holds-barred catfight-o-rama at an elegant ball. Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford go at each other over Shearer's hubby, but it's Paulette Goddard's catfight with Rosalind Russell that proves most memorable.
You can't have a catfight hall of fame without at least one Asian entry. It was a tough call but Moon Lee taking on Yukari Oshima has to be one of the best femme-on-femme fights ever. The deadly and sexy Oshima proclaims, "I am just a poor defenseless woman," and then proceeds to beat her male opponent senseless. She tries to do the same to Lee but Lee is made of tougher stuff. The final battle is brutal, bloody, and jaw-droppingly awesome.
And no list can be complete without at least one women-in-prison film. What more can you ask for? Sigourney Weaver as Ripley taking on the Mother Alien in Aliens qualifies as an interspecies catfight. Weaver got called 'Rambolina' for proving yet again that women could be just as tough action heroes as men.
Edited by Christopher McKittrick. She has been a film critic for more than 25 years. Updated January 16,