In the Disney interpretation of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent makes her first appearance. The evil fairy shows up uninvited during the infant Princess Aurora's christening, then punishes the court for excluding her by placing a curse on the infant, declaring that on her sixteenth birthday Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. After she leaves, her curse is modified by the youngest of the Three Good Fairies so that Princess Aurora will fall instead into a deep sleep rather than die, a sleep that can be broken only by true love's kiss. The Three Good Fairies take Aurora into hiding to protect her from further harm by Maleficent; for the next 15 years, Maleficent searches for Princess Aurora but is unable to find her. Finally, Maleficent's raven happens upon Aurora, and Maleficent learns that the Princess has already met the true love whose kiss will instantly neutralize Maleficient's curse.
Maleficent comes up with one of the nastier schemes: she kidnaps the Prince, intending to keep him captive and alive until he is withered with age and then, only then, allowing him to kiss the sleeping Princess Aurora. This way, Princess Aurora will awaken to the sight of her true love as a decrepit, ancient old man with little life left to him, and Maleficent will still have her revenge.
The Three Good Fairies help the prince escape Maleficent. Maleficent puts many obstacles in the way of the prince, but thanks to the Three Good Fairies and his own courage, the prince prevails. Infuriated, Maleficent turns into her dragon form, but with the power of the Three Good Fairies, the prince wins the battle and pierces Maleficent in the heart with his sword.
Maleficent is in every sense of the word evil. Her hunger for death and destruction are staggering throughout all of her appearances: she is cruel and petty and shrewd and shows no real affection to anyone other than her pet.
Lightning - Maleficent has shown that she can shoot lightning out of her staff as well as control it from the sky.
Teleportation - She has also shown that she can teleport, turning herself into a green ball of magic and it eventually fades.
Curses - Maleficent also has the ability to cast curses, such as the death curse put on Aurora.
Creation of Thorns - Maleficent surrounds the entire castle with huge briars of thorns.
Dragon Form - Maleficent is able to transform into a terrifying black dragon.
Differences from the Original Fairy Tale
There are a number of versions of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, but one thing they all have in common is that the fairy who curses the princess is always a sentient Force of Nature rather than a Villain. Once the fairy places her curse upon the princess, she always disappears from the tale, never to be seen again. However, Disney's version has become so influential that almost every version of the tale since then has followed the Disney film interpretation rather than any of the older sources.