Men have dominated the lead role category in nearly every film you’ve ever watched so I figure it is time to change it up a bit and show some of these awesome ladies their rightful praises. I also want you guys to have a clarification that this list is not for just leading ladies (even though most of them are), but any female movie character I personally find has/will test the dawn of time as the best female characters in cinema.
Remember, this is a personal list of female characters I like the most. It is not based solely on performance or who is acting, but the lasting impact these characters had on me. The main criteria is that they are female characters.
10. Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs – 1991)
What makes such a great character is that she vulnerable, but still able to hold her own in one of the most iconic films of all time. Jodie Foster gives a performance that can withstand the Oscar-winning performance by Anthony Hopkins and proves that women are needed in law enforcement of all levels because sometimes you can’t send a man to do a woman’s job.
9. Tiffany Maxwell (Silver Linings Playbook – 2012)
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most incredible actresses of our time and it was when she played the layered and complicated Tiffany Maxwell in David O. Russell’s film that I found her to be the most engaging. Sure Katniss Everdeen is one of her most popular roles and rightfully so, but I found to be the most enthralled by her performance in this particular film which she then won the Oscar for.
8. Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars – 1977-present)
I like because she’s feisty! Though I will confidently admit she has some annoying characteristics about her which make her come off whiny in certain scenes, but she is independent, actually gets sh** done and isn’t just some damsel in distress and in some scenes out does anyone she is around and all this makes her iconic.
7. Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz – 1939)
It kills me that I actually know people who don’t like the Wizard of Oz. They’re those types of people who are like “OH the flying monkeys are scary!” you know what I’m talking about? Well, Dorothy played by Judy Garland is one of my favorite roles for one of my all-time favorite films and one of the best films ever made. Her supporting cast hall of fame worthy, but it doesn’t work without her to play off of.
6. Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road – 2015)
You might all be wondering why so soon to put her on this list, but guess what? Fury Road is arguably my favorite film of this entire year and Charlize Theron is showing why she is world-class. It makes no remarks to why she is as good as she is, they let her actions do the talking in this over the top, high-octane action film. She also has a metal arm and pulls of a buzz cut with no effort at all.
5. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter franchise 2001 – 2011)
Nothing would be what it is without Hermione Granger and Emma Watson’s performance. She is secretly the star between two boys, but is endlessly likable and charming that we all cheered when she punched Draco Malfoy in the face with no issue at all. She comes up with the plans, executes the plans, and still has that gentle touch for when Harry and Ron are in their darkest and toughest places as wizards.
4. Mulan (Mulan – 1999)
I never said these characters needed to be live-action. Mulan is more or less the Ronda Rousey of China, but you know, is actually tolerable to watch in her movies (burn!). As she constantly takes on the challenge of being a soldier in a time when women were never even considered to be more than ornaments to their homes, she fought for her country and became an honored hero, and had some wickedly good songs along the way. I love me some Mulan.
3. Cheryl Strayed (Wild – 2014)
This film alone was one of my favorites of 2014 and will stay with me for as long as I am alive and for good reason. As a man, you can’t fully comprehend the fear and turmoil of a woman from her perspective and when you see Reese Witherspoon so vulnerable along with versatile in this story of rediscovery and reawakening, you can’t help but be taken in by the heartbreaking story along with Witherspoon’s better effort if not her best.
2. Ripley (Alien franchise 1979-present)
Sigourney epitomizes bad-ass women in all the right ways and not only is a bonafide action star, but a Hollywood great for always commanding the scenes she is with an intensity that can only make you want to watch her and that’s something she is born with. She kicks major booty, but also seems to stay sophisticated in every role she is recruited for and Ripley is one of those characters. She does science fiction better than any man or woman out there and has proven it time and time again and will proceed to do that in years to come.
1. The Bride (Kill Bill: Volume 1&2)
Quentin Tarantino brought us one of the most, not only iconic, but most developed and fun characters (not just female) of all time in his homage to Eastern cinema and the classic revenge film, Kill Bill. Not only is Uma Thurman near perfect in her performance as the revenge filled Bride, but she gives a lasting performance that goes beyond the yellow jump suit. The blood splattering violence and action is nothing this woman can’t handle and she does it with a flair not many men could ever pull off by bringing a subtlety many women can bring to life and especially on the screen. She is also not afraid to take on any man or woman who has wronged her and overcome the barriers that block her towards her final goal in killing Bill.
I definitely know people will be shocked to not see classic roles like Holly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Sarah Connor from The Terminator franchise, but this is my list, and these women are absolutely deserving to be on any other list including another list of my own. Also, anything Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett has done would also likely have a place on another list along with the occasional Halle Berry role or most of Julianne Moore.
I’d LOVE to hear some of your favorite female film characters so let me know in the comments and tell me what you think of my list!