If you’re a fan of low-budget action and horror films old and new, the following actresses are likely to appear on your list of 10 best female stars of B movies. During the “Golden Age of Hollywood,” a B movie was intended as the shorter, second movie of a double feature. Today the term usually refers to low-budget, commercial movies that often include some experimentation in filmmaking.
Many actresses who got their start in B movies went on to prominent roles in A-list feature films or television. Others made a name for themselves almost exclusively due to the B movies in which they starred. Here, listed alphabetically, are the ten best B movie actresses of all time.
- Lucille Ball Lucille Ball, everyone’s favorite redhead, made her name in 1940's B movies before becoming a TV star. In fact, the famous actress and comedienne earned the name “Queen of the B's” because she was willing to take parts other actresses passed on.
- Karen Black Karen Black is another famous B movie actress. She sometimes sang themes and supporting songs for her movies. Her best known B movies include the 1975 film, “Trilogy of Terror.” One of her four different roles includes a woman tormented by a Zuni fetish doll.
- Sybil Danning Sybil Danning is an Austrian actress known for her roles in action and science fiction B movies. She made her debut in a 1968 German film, portraying the legendary “Lorelei” covered only by her long blonde hair. She starred with Raquel Welch in several movies and she has guest-starred on many American TV programs.
- Erika Eliniak “Absolute Zero” and “Strike Force” are two recent B-grade TV movies starring Erika Eliniak. The former “Baywatch” babe got her career boost as a “Playboy” Playmate in the late 1980s. She has appeared in a number of films and TV movies.
- Pam Grier Pam Grier became famous in the early 1970s as an actress in blaxploitation films, exploitation films created for black urban audiences. She also starred in a number of women in prison (WiP) exploitation films, including 1970s films, “The Big Doll House” and “The Big Bird Cage.”
- Jayne Mansfield Jayne Mansfield was one of the leading sex symbols of the 1950s. The platinum blonde with an hourglass figure starred in many B movies. Like Eliniak, Mansfield was also a “Playboy” Playmate. Television actress Mariska Hargitay, of “Law and Order” fame, is Mansfield’s daughter.
- Kitten Natividad Kitten Natividad is a Mexican-American B movie actress known equally for her cult films and her large bustline. Her best-known films include the 1979 sexploitation film, “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.” Natividad eventually moved on to pornographic modeling and films.
- Linnea Quigley No list of female B movie stars would be complete without Linnea Quigley. Known as the “scream queen,” she has starred in dozens of horror films. Her most notable film is the 1985 zombie comedy, “The Return of the Living Dead.”
- Jewel Shepard Jewel Shepard is a B movie actress best known for her roles in the 1980s comedies, “Party Camp” and “The Return of the Living Dead.” After some work in television, Shepard capitalized on her status by writing, “Invasion of the B-Girls,” a series of interviews with other famous cult actresses.
- Mamie Van Doren Mamie Van Doren rounds out the list of best female B movie stars. As a sex symbol, she was one of the “Three M’s”–Marilyn, Mamie and Mansfield. Van Doren starred in a number of 1950s and 1960s feature films. She also enjoyed many roles in “bad girl movies” with a wardrobe designed to reveal her figure. Her later work consisted mostly of low-budget B movies.