For decades, female film characters have been portrayed as damsels in distress – always waiting for the man to come along to rescue them from their unfortunate dilemmas. But in more recent times, the plot has twisted and we’re now seeing more strong, independent women on the big screen.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating five of our favourite female film characters.
1. Ellen Ripley
Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is one of the most iconic women in film. Ripley was the only survivor of the xenomorph attack on the Nostromo. Film critic John Scalzi perfectly summed up the character in 2011 when he wrote: ‘She’s not a sidekick, arm candy, or a damsel to be rescued. Starting with Alien, Ripley was a fully competent member of crew or ensemble – not always likes and sometimes disrespected but doing her job all the same. As each film progresses, she comes to the fore and faces challenges head on – she’s the hero of the piece, in other words, Ripley isn’t a fantasy version of a woman. Science fiction film is filled with hot women doing impossible things with guns and melee weapons while they spin about like a gymnast in a dryer…..Ripley, on the other hand, is pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself.’
2. Hermoine Granger
Harry Potter would have never been able to defeat Lord Voldemort if it wasn’t for the help of Hogwarts smartest student Hermoine Granger (portrayed by Emma Watson). From her very first year, Hermoine was on top of every strange situation that befell the magical school – while Harry and Ron had Quidditch and Chocolate Frogs on the brain, Hermoine was in the Restricted Section of the library reading about Nicolas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone – ultimately solving the mystery. When Tom Riddle (Voldemort before he was Voldemort) opened the Chamber of Secrets, unleashing the mighty Basilisk, Hermoine left Harry and Ron an important clue – even while unconscious – having scribbled down ‘pipes’ in her final moments before being Petrified to help her BFFs figure out how the beast manoeuvred through the school. Then, in her third year, she mastered time travel and literally turned back time to save the day. Her love of learning led her to acquiring the extremely useful Time-Turner and while it helped her get to all her lessons, it also helped her save Hagrid’s beloved Hippogriff Buckbeak and Harry’s wronged godfather Sirius Black.
3. Leia Organa
Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa ranks among the galaxy’s greatest heroes. Fearless on the battlefield and dedicating her life to ending the tyranny of the Empire, the daughter of Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker, wasn’t one to be taken lightly. As soon as she is broken out of her prison cell aboard the Death Star, she’s calling the shots, leading the Rebellion against the Empire. And her fight for justice didn’t stop there, as she later went on to become a General in the Resistance against the First Order.
4. Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has been a major player in many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films through the years, beginning with Iron Man 2 and most recently Avengers: Infinity War. She’s part of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and rightly so – she can stand against monsters and magic with nothing but guns and gadgets.
5. Imperator Furiosa
The film may be titled Mad Max: Fury Road but it really is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa’s story. In this apocalyptic world, she is a war captain under Immortan Joe but turns against him to free ‘The Five Wives’ --- and she has no equal when it comes to driving and shooting.