In honor of National Woman’s Day, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of my favorite female characters (in film or television) as well as some of my favorite actresses. This will just simply be a list rather than a ranking because, in all honesty, it would be way too hard for me to rank them.
Before I get into the list I’d like to just quickly point out that I would have loved to also put together a list of some of my favorite female directors. However…I don’t really know enough to make a list. Which is kind of sad. We need more female directors! I know there are a fair number out there that just don’t get much recognition, which is why last year I tried to make it a point to watch some of the highly regarded films that were directed by females. I didn’t make it too far unfortunately. But I did get to see a couple films that were pretty fantastic. One was “Mustang”, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. And the other was “Girlhood”, directed by Céline Sciamma. Both were foreign films, which I think says something about the tendency for U.S films to be primarily male driven. However, there is of course Kathryn Bigelow, director of both “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, two critically acclaimed films that I also happen love. Anyway, maybe next time I will have seen enough female directed films to make a list of my favorite directors. On to the main list we go.
Favorite Female Characters:
Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki is known for featuring strong female lead characters in a number of his films. Nausicaä is my favorite of his female characters. She’s strong and determined, yet only fights when it’s the last possible option.
Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Played by Daisy Ridley. Directed by J.J. Abrams.
There’s been some criticism that Rey is a “Mary Sue”, someone who has no flaws and knows how to do everything. What a stupid criticism. For one, in any movie you can usually categorize the main character in two ways: either they’re a flawed character that the audience can relate to because they see that they are only human. OR they’re a character that the audience looks up to as a model, as a fantasy that they wish they could be. Rey is a great role model for young woman because of how strong and talented she is. However, she isn’t just magically gifted. You can infer that she gained many of the skills you see in the movie by the fact that she LIVED BY HERSELF ON A DANGEROUS DESERT PLANET FOR MOST OF HER LIFE. Besides this fact, she isn’t completely perfect. She’s still a bit naive and childish and she still maintains a foolish belief that her parents will return for her. I’m sure we’ll see more of her flaws as the movies continue. But for now, her mix of awesome fighting skills and charming personality are enough for me to call her one of my favorites.
Yukio from The Wolverine. Played by Rila Fukushima. Directed by James Mangold.
Princess Leia from Star Wars 4-7. Played by Carrie Fisher.
Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies. Played by Evangeline Lilly. Directed by Peter Jackson.
Though the Hobbit films have plenty of issues, one good way in which they diverged from the book was to introduce a female character. Tauriel unfortunately gets tied into a pointless love triangle. But I did actually buy into all of her scenes with Kili, the dwarf. And I found her character otherwise to be very compelling: that of an elf in low rank compared to Legolas, but one that rebels in order to serve the greater good. Also, her fight scenes are just so great.
Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. Played by Charlize Theron. Directed by George Miller.
The real star of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Hit Girl from Kick-Ass. Played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
…..The real star of Kick-Ass.
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter 1-7. Played by Emma Watson. Numerous Directors.
The real star of Harry Potter….no but really just think about how many times Ron and Harry would be dead if she hadn’t been there….
Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Played by Karen Allen. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Celine from the Before Trilogy. Played by Julie Delpy. Directed by Richard Linklater.
Erin from The Office. Played by Ellie Kemper.
Though I honestly love pretty much all the female characters in The Office, Erin is easily one of my favorite characters in the entire show. Though, yes, she is kind of the just the “dumb” character whose stupidity you can laugh at (kind of describes most of the office characters, doesn’t it?) she’s also much more than that. She’s a genuinely nice person who puts the welfare of others above herself, yet sometimes has the tendency to be brutally honest with people. Almost every line she says makes me laugh.
Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec. Played by Amy Pohler.
Ok, there’s too much awesomeness to this character to try and describe in one quick paragraph. Just watch the show. She’s hilarious, flawed, and inspiring all at the same time.
Any of the female characters from Avatar the Last Airbender or The Legend of Korra
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with more amazing female characters than the Avatar series. It’s pretty amazing. Across the whole show we’re introduced to a ton of female characters, all of whom are very different from one another. All of whom have different fighting skills, personalities, beliefs, and nationalities. They could be a hero, or a villain, or neither. There’s Toph, Katara, Asami, Lin, Korra, Jinora, Azula, Kuvira. And that’s just to name a few. Though if I had to pick a favorite, I would pick Toph. If you haven’t seen the Avatar shows, brush aside the fact that they are primarily kids shows, and give them a chance. Because I’m telling you, these shows have more character depth than most adult oriented shows.
Ripley from Alien and Aliens goes without saying. But EVERYONE always talks about how great she is so I’m not featuring her with a big picture and description here.
Favorite Actresses Working Today
Many of the characters I listed above are played by some of my favorite actresses. But, rather than list them again here, I’ve put together a list of actresses that were not mentioned above, but that continuously impress me in every role they play.
- Brie Larson: Besides just being an overall great person, Brie has blown me away in movies such as Room and Short Term 12.
- Viola Davis: Has there ever been a movie she’s not been good in?
- Kate Mckinnon: Hilarious on SNL and my favorite part of the new Ghostbusters movie.
- Emma Stone: Has done some fantastic dramatic performances such as in Birdman. Hilarious performances like in Easy A. And a mixture of both in La La Land.
- Jennifer Lawrence: Maybe not doing quite as good anymore, but she’s displayed great range in all the different characters she’s played.
- Amy Schumer
- Hailee Steinfeld
- Tilda Swinton: Several times I’ve watched a movie, gotten to the credits, and seen Tilda Swinton’s name, only to say, “wait…she was in this movie?” On the one hand, that’s fantastic makeup. But it takes a great deal of acting talent to transform your voice and entire demeanor so much in a role that the audience has no idea it’s you.
- Saoirse Ronan
- Amy Adams
- Maika Monroe
- Octavia Spencer Awesome in everything she does. Underrated in Snowpiercer.
- Jessica Chastain