In Brian De Palma's 1976 horror classic (based on the Stephen King novel of the same name), Carrie White is a homely and sheltered high school girl raised by her religious zealot mother. When she gets her first period in the high school shower, the popular girls, led by Chris (Nancy Allen), throw tampons at her and chant, "Plug it up!"
But that's not all. When the kindly school counselor gets the handsome Tommy to take Carrie to prom and make her feel special, Chris and her boyfriend engineer the meanest prank: they rig a bucket of pig's blood to drop on Carrie after she's been crowned prom queen. But Carrie's been discovering that she has telekinetic powers, and all it takes is one very public humiliation to set her off. Maybe Chris shouldn't have been so horrible.
You can't begin to discuss mean girls in movies without including The Plastics from 'Mean Girls.' Lindsay Lohan plays Cady Heron, a home-schooled teen who teams up with a couple of outcasts to take down the most popular clique in school, led by Queen Bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams). While her underlings aren't very nice, either, Regina takes the cake with her passive-aggressive and outright aggressive behavior. She demands that everyone follow her lead or get trampled. Regina's cruelties include (but are not limited to) discovering Cady has a crush on her ex, convincing him not to date her, and then taking him back for herself; telling people she likes their outfits/accessories and then proclaiming them ugly behind their backs; and maintaining the "burn book," a book with photos of her classmates that she and her friends hideously deface with cruel observations.
In 'Heathers,' the three most popular girls in school are named Heather. Like 'Mean Girls,' they too have a blonde, snobby leader in Heather Chandler, who is always quick to make fun of those she sees as superficially inferior. When Veronica (Winona Ryder), the most recent recruit to their clique, has had enough of the Heathers and their nasty attitudes, she schemes with the new bad boy in school (Christian Slater) to kill Heather Chandler and make it look like a suicide, thereby ending her reign of terror. But Veronica starts to realize that you can't fight mean with mean, and that when one popular girl disappears, there's always someone waiting to take her place. It's a vicious cycle of viciousness!
What's worse than being a mean girl? Being a mean girl with magical powers! In 'The Craft,' the high school outcasts prove meaner than the horrible popular girls. When troubled Sarah starts attending a Catholic school, she falls in with a trio of strange girls -- girls who are rumored to be witches. It's all fun and harmless chanting in the woods until they recruit Sarah into their circle, and their full powers are realized.
The girls, led by Nancy, get a little too greedy with their magic and start using them for bad -- they curse the most popular girl in school and make her hair fall out; when a love spell backfires and Sarah's would-be love interest becomes violent, Nancy supernaturally tosses him out of a window; and finally, when Sarah tries to back out of the circle, the girls attack and taunt her at home, trying to force her into killing herself. Lesson: witchcraft can make a nice girl very, very mean.
The dark comedy 'Jawbreaker' features another rendition of the popular clique of girls in high school known as the 'Fabulous Four.' Led by Courtney Shayne (Rose McGowan), the girls inadvertently kill their best friend, Liz, who just happens to be the nicest one in the group. After the accidental murder, Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) decides she's had enough of their antics and tries to distance herself, but that's when Courtney gets really mean.
Courtney and her friends (including a younger Judy Greer as the newly made-over "Vylette") ridicule Julie and try to make her life hell for leaving them. Then (!) we discover just how bad Courtney really is. After she killed her friend, she had sex with a stranger (played by, of all people, Marilyn Manson) on Liz's bed to try and make it look like her friend was raped. But that's not all! When Vylette starts to become a little too popular, Courtney posts pictures of her from before her makeover, revealing her for the ugly duckling she once was. Courtney truly is the worst -- a mean girl who relishes in her cruelty with absolutely no remorse.
As these things usually go, closure is found at the prom when Julie exposes Courtney for the monster she truly is. Nothing like prom to bring out the best in people.
Sarah Michelle Gellar pulled a 180 and gave us something totally different from her 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' heroine in 'Cruel Intentions.' Kathryn is rich, sophisticated and horrifically manipulative -- even worse, she wants to sleep with her stepbrother, but she doesn't want to make it easy for him. So Kathryn makes a bet with her equally incest-inclined step-bro: convince the most chaste girl in school (Reese Witherspoon) to give up her V-card to him, and she'll finally let him into her bed. Gross, right?!
Kathryn orchestrates a complicated web of cruelty by using everyone around her like pawns for amusement. Using her proper upbringing as a weapon and presenting herself as a role model and perfect student, all Kathryn has to do is whisper the right lie, threaten to expose the darkest secrets of those who have mistakenly trusted her, make the right suggestions, and watch lives totally fall apart around her.
Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) is not a very popular girl, but when Zack, the most popular guy in school, makes a bet to turn her into the prom queen, all it takes is removing her glasses, putting on some makeup, throwing on a cute dress and poof! Now she's a threat to the most popular girl in school, who also happens to be the meanest.
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe plays Taylor Vaughan, Zack's girlfriend who ditched him for a 'Real World' cast member while on Spring Break. Taylor acts as if everyone should bend to her impulsive whims and worship her, but when Laney starts becoming popular (and is so much nicer!), Taylor can't stand it. At a party, when Taylor sees that Laney had the nerve to (unwittingly) wear a red dress similar to hers, Taylor makes an example of her, pouring a drink down Laney's dress, making her cry and embarrassing her in front of everyone.
Even worse, she makes Zack her prom date, after his bet is revealed to Laney, just rubbing salt in the wound. Sure, Zack does some not-so-great things, but his heart is eventually in the right place. Taylor doesn't have a heart at all.
The Diablo Cody-scripted 'Jennifer's Body' is a clever riff on teen girls coming of age. The horror! The hormones! Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) is the most beautiful and popular girl in school, who is still somehow friends with her childhood BFF Needy (Amanda Seyfried). Needy puts up with Jennifer's cattiness and her casual snipes at her appearance -- Jennifer needs to keep Needy down to feed her monstrous ego.
But then one night, a group of indie rockers try to sacrifice Jennifer to the devil in exchange for fame, and things go really, really wrong. Jennifer becomes a demon who needs to devour high school boys to stay pretty and charismatic. She treats it like it's no big deal and starts to really love tearing boys to pieces, but she takes it too far when she goes after Needy's boyfriend. The film serves as commentary on the way coming of age can change us for better or worse, with all those hormones raging and turning girls into little monsters, but it also cleverly deconstructs how girls will do anything to stay popular and relevant in high school. Horrific, indeed.
In 'Never Been Kissed,' Drew Barrymore plays a newspaper reporter who has, of course, never been kissed. She heads back to high school to work on a piece about what high school is really like, but just finds herself reliving her hellish teen years all over again when she tries to befriend the popular kids, led by Kirsten, Gibby and Kristen.
The girls make fun of her clothing, dog on the smart kids, and act like your typical snobby airheads. But they really seal the cruel deal when they plot to perform their own modern version of the 'Carrie' pig's blood prank, intending to dump a can of dog food on a girl they refer to as "Alpo." Thankfully, Barrymore puts them in their place, giving up her cover and possibly losing her love interest in the process. (Also, can we talk about how her love interest was her teacher, and once he found out she was an adult, he was mad? So weird.)
Mandy Moore plays Hilary Faye, the most popular girl at a super religious academy. Hilary is self-righteous and superficial -- typical mean girl trademarks -- but she's just a little worse because her nice girl routine is just an act to curry favor with God and continue getting attention she doesn't deserve.
When she finds out her friend Mary slept with her gay boyfriend to "save" him and wound up pregnant instead, she tries to do a little saving of her own with an impromptu exorcism. She also ridicules her handicapped brother, played by Macaulay Culkin. Hilary's the worst because she doesn't know she's the worst. She believes she's actually doing the good, Christian thing by judging others and publicly shaming them. But wait until you see the giant pimple she gets just before prom. Take that, Hilary Faye.