The film follows four former prostitutes on the run following a justifiable homicide and prison escape, who later encounter difficulties involving bank robbery and Pinkerton detectives.
Cody, Anita, Eileen and Lilly work together in a brothel. When Anita is abused by a customer, Cody kills the man.
Narrowly escaping from a lynch mob, they are pursued by Pinkerton detectives hired by the widow of the man they'd shot. A man they meet on the road, McCoy, warns them of the pursuit.
They discuss riding to Oregon and starting a new life by taking up a claim to land inherited by Anita when her husband died of cholera. Cody offers to fund their new start from savings she has accumulated over the years. They go to the bank where Cody's savings are held. As she tries to close her account and make a withdrawal, the Pinkerton detectives catch up with her and try to arrest her. Leaving the bank manager's office, they find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery being staged by Kid Jarrett, a former lover of Cody. He helps her escape from arrest but takes her money and tells her to find him.
During the escape, Eileen is arrested. Cody decides to go after the money and Kid Jarrett, telling Anita and Lilly to wait in hiding. Anita and Lilly return to town to break Eileen out of jail.
Cody's meeting with Kid Jarrett and Frank Jarrett does not go well. Kid Jarrett has not forgiven her for running out on him. He flogs her. Later, she is found unconscious by McCoy, who brings her to a healer in town and puts the Pinkerton detectives off her trail.
McCoy, Cody and the other three women meet up on the ranch of a farmer who'd been guarding Eileen's cell (and whom they'd tricked into releasing her). Cody plans revenge on Kid Jarrett. They foil a train robbery and steal his loot, at the cost of Lilly being abducted. In turn, they abduct Frank Jarrett, Kid's father.
Regrouping again on the ranch, Anita leaves the others, frustrated with their revenge-motivated misadventures. She goes to a lawyer in town and finds out that the claim to land is only valid in the hands of her husband - as a woman, she cannot claim the land in Oregon.
Frank Jarrett antagonizes his captors until McCoy shoots him. Cody sends away McCoy. Meanwhile, Lilly is being raped by her captors. McCoy stages a one-man rescue attempt and is captured, but Lilly escapes.
Reunited, Cody, Anita and Eileen go to rescue Lilly and meet her on the road. When she tells them that McCoy has been captured, they continue towards Kid Jarrett's hide out, and offer to trade the stolen loot for McCoy, who has been flogged and tortured. Kid agrees, then shoots McCoy as soon as the loot is handed over. He gives Cody the money he stole from her.
While retreating, one of Lilly's would-be rapists taunts her, triggering a shootout that results in the deaths of Kid's entire gang.
After the shootout, Eileen marries the rancher, while Lilly, Cody and Anita head west to start a new life, overtaking the Pinkerton detectives en route.Madeleine Stowe – Cody Zamora
Mary Stuart Masterson – Anita Crown
Andie MacDowell – Eileen Spenser
Drew Barrymore – Lily Laronette
James Russo – Kid Jarrett
James LeGros – William Tucker
Robert Loggia – Frank Jarrett
Dermot Mulroney – Josh McCoy
Jim Beaver – Pinkerton Detective Graves
Nick Chinlund – Pinkerton Detective O'Brady
Harry Northup – Preacher Sloan
The film was written by Jerry Goldsmith, who composed the music as a cross between the style of his 1960s westerns and a contemporary sound. The soundtrack has been released twice; through Fox Records on 10 May 1994 and an extended, limited edition through La-La Land Records on 28 June 2011.
Track list for the La-La Land edition (tracks in italics also on the Fox release, asterisked tracks include previously unreleased material):
- The John (2:19)
- The Hanging (2:06)
- Which Way? (:42)
- The Snake (1:20)
- The Saw Mill (1:56)
- Keep Moving (:57)
- Bank Job* (5:16)
- The Gang/The Posse (:56)
- Return to the Fold (4:06)
- Don’t Hurt Me (1:45)
- Jail Break (3:27)
- No Money (2:09)
- The Guests (:36)
- Welcome to My Home (1:20)
- The Pleasure of Your Company (:48)
- Ambush (5:45)
- What’s Your Name? (1:18)
- The Claim (:25)
- Together (:39)
- I Shot Him* (2:46)
- Put It On (1:32)
- River Crossing (:34)
- Rescued (3:03)
- Josh’s Death (3:41)
- No Bullets (3:53)
- My Land/End Credits (6:53)
Bad Girls received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics upon its release and currently holds a 9% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 3.5 out of 10.
On April 22, 1994, Roger Ebert wrote for Chicago Sun-Times: "What a good idea, to make a Western about four tough women. And what a sad movie." Janet Maslin, in her New York Times review on the same day, ridiculed the film as "Cowpoke Barbie."
The film was released on VHS and on DVD, which contains an uncut extended version.