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Strongest Female Characters in Film

Following in the pattern of summer movie trends, this summer will bring us the usual load of loud, visually stunning popcorn flicks.  Yet this summer we are also being treated to a notable rarity: strong female characters.  From the looks of it we will get to sit through some female butt-whooping in a number of this summer’s blockbusters.  Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway are suiting up to take out evil in The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, respectively, all while Pixar brings us their first female protagonist in Brave and the second Snow White pic of the year, Snow White and the Huntsman, shows Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron duking it out in an epic battle of good versus evil.  Also, let us not forget about Theron (she’s loving the strong females lately) and Noomi Rapace going sci-fi in the not-prequel Alien prequel, Prometheus.  This is truly a treat.  Typically, females are subjected to love interests or forgettable secondary characters, but now times are a-changin’.  Katniss may have recently shown audiences how much damage a strong woman can do, however strong women were out there long before The Hunger Games.  So in case you forgot about these fierce women I am here to countdown some of the strongest women in film.  Well, let’s take a look at the women I have chosen for the 10 Strongest Females in Film.

This list is in no particular order.

Hermione Granger

In honor of the late, great franchise of Harry Potter!  No matter how annoying Hermione may have gotten in the early part of the series, she was still Harry’s most reliable ally.  And let’s face it, Harry would not have come close to defeating Voldemort were it not for the help of this frizzy haired genius.  J.K. Rowling did a superb job of creating this fabulous character, and Emma Watson does an equally superb job of translating the character’s strength to the big screen.  Thankfully Hermione found love in the end, unlike most of the women on this list, and had the most heartwarming romance with Ron.  Hell, with her strength, brains, AND beauty it was crime that she didn’t find it earlier.

Here’s a look at her in action (no magic needed this time):


Who said superhero movies couldn’t produce great performances?  Michelle Pfeiffer gives an iconic performance and looks incredibly sexy while doing so.  Burton’s Batman Returns gives us a rogue Catwoman, who at times aids Batman as well as defies him, in the most delightfully campy adaptation of Batman.  There is something so wonderful about this catsuit crime fighter that will keep you transfixed for days.  Heath Ledger’s Joker blew away Jack Nicholson’s performance, so is it possible that Hathaway’s Catwoman will do the same to Pfeiffer’s?  It is hard to say, but Hathaway sure has her work cut out for her.  Halle Berry failed miserably in her rendition, but I think we can rest assured that Hathaway will at least do a better job than that.

Take a gander at this crazy cat lady’s crime fighting skills:

Little side-note: Pfeiffer seems to take such joy in running around as Catwoman!

Scarlett O’Hara

Is it possible to bring up strong females without discussing Scarlett O’Hara?  The literary hero is brought to life by Vivien Leigh, who gives what is arguably the greatest onscreen performance of all-time.  Whether it be starvation, heart ache, or even a civil war, Miss O’Hara lets nothing get in the way of her living her life as she becomes the trademark for female strength in both literature and film.  This woman became an icon for anyone who suffered through the Great Depression and she still lives on today.  Gone with the Wind may be pushing eighty, yet it has aged gracefully and ranks high among Hollywood’s finest creations.

This scene proves that Scarlett is more than just a spoiled rich girl and shows that she will do anything for her and her family’s survival:

Lisbeth Salander

A character that is fresh in all moviegoers minds.  Rooney Mara just starred in Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the character was first introduced to film audiences with the Swedish version of the film with Noomi Rapace.  This computer hacker with a violent streak may not be a role model for young girls, however, she is someone with incomparable strength and determination.  Despite suffering an abusive childhood, Lisbeth does not see herself as a victim but rather uses her traumatic past to fuel her to do the things she must do.  Noomi and Rooney pull of the cold, complicated role magnificently in the film.  Thankfully, there are still two more American installments of the series left so fans of the books can flock to the theatre again to see Lisbeth do what needs to be done.

I apologize for the poor video quality, but here’s a clip of Lisbeth doing some serious butt-whopping in the second film in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire: 

Ellen Ripley

The then up and coming director, Ridley Scott, wanted to find an unknown actress who could go on to become the surprise heroine in his new sci-fi horror film, Alien.  Sigourney Weaver answered his calling when she blew him away during screen tests.  What a great casting decision!  The role of Ellen Ripley is brought to life with such strength that you would think Weaver is Ripley in real life.  You have to have an endless amount of strength in order to take down an alien monster by your lonesome after it kills all your crewmates.  Ripley is graced with a tremendous character arch and grows so much throughout the course of the series.  Even the Academy recognized this and gave her an Oscar nomination for her performance in the sequel, Aliens.  

Below is a short and simple clip of the best line from Ripley:

Little side-note: Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi this summer with Prometheus and I am beyond excited to see what his latest film brings us.  Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace star in the film, and I wonder if their characters could go on to become the next Ellen Ripley.  If so, it would make this summer that much better!

Margo Gunderson

How many women do you know that could solve three mysterious and violent murders during their pregnancy?  Well, the only one that comes to mind is Margo Gunderson of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo.  This filmmaking duo sure has an ironic view of the world and somehow Frances McDormand fits into their style without missing a beat.  Her performance in this film went on to win her a much deserved Oscar for her immense humanity and subtle, yet hilarious, humor.

Below is a clip of her discussing the events with the much sought after killer:


James McTeigue has yet to match the success of his directorial debut, but he will not be forgotten after the great success of V for Vendetta.  The film made a huge splash back in 2005 and has gained a massive following since.  This would never have happened were it not for the film’s heroine, Evey.  Natalie Portman brought the graphic novel character to life and rocked that shaved head while doing so.  Evey becomes allies with the mysterious V and goes through a number of hardships to gain his full trust, including being trapped in a prison as a lab rat.  She suffers immensely during her time in the prison yet never loses hope.

Here is a clip of Evey leaving the prison and overcoming the horrors she has just lived through:


Disney may not be the first place to look for strong females, but they sure changed things around in the 90s with the release of Mulan.  The tale follows a young Chinese aristocrat who, after discovering that her elderly father is being summoned to join the army, decides to disguise herself as a man and take his place.  Mulan faces plenty of adversity, yet never does she quit fighting on the behalf of her father.  Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty may have pretty dresses and songs, but Mulan is one of the best role models for young girls, and boys for that matter.  Hopefully Pixar will learn from Disney’s success and give us an equally impressive heroine in Brave.

 And here Mulan saves the day:

Veronica Sawyer

John Hughes may have dominated the 80s, but he sure as hell never created a female character as badass as Heathers’ Veronica Sawyer.  High school is tough for everyone and if you hate your friends, it’s hell.  Rather than talking to someone about it, Veronica takes drastic measures as she begins to knock off her fellow classmates, starting with her “best friend”.  A mysterious new boy at school plants the idea of killing off the students in her head and it is only a matter of time before their malicious friendship becomes too much.  Winona Ryder started to gain attention after her unique performance in Bettlejuice, and this film was just the boost she needed to catapult her to stardom.

Here is a little clip of Winona drawing the line when the killing becomes too much:

Little side-note: The Burn Book from Mean Girls has nothing on the stunts that Heathers pulls off.   

The Bride

And last, but not least, we have Tarantino’s revenge flick, Kill Bill.  The Bride was beaten and nearly killed on her wedding day before falling into a four year coma.  Foolishly, the assassins that attacked her did not make sure she was dead and after her comma the Bride makes it her mission to kill each and every one of them.  Uma Thurman is a perfect fit for the role with her wicked death-stare and mysterious ways.  Plus, she makes that yellow track suit look crazy good.

If you need any convincing on the Bride’s strength, just watch the clip below and be blown away:

The more I think about this summer, the more excited I get over the wonderful films that are getting released.  There is something for everyone this summer!  Do not wait to watch the movies at home, get out and indulge yourself in the movie theatre experience.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  Happy movie-going!


One comment on “Strongest Female Characters in Film

  1. nediunedited
    May 6, 2012

    Awesome list! I agree with all of them (good choice with Mulan)!

    I would add Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) from Silence of the Lambs. She is extremely intelligent and courageous. In a profession dominated by men she holds her own (as well as with the formidable Dr. Lecter). And although you get to see her vulnerable and fragile–she has an inner strength that propels her forward past her fears. Starling is on my list as one of the all time best female roles and Foster nails it!

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