Strong Cinematic Females: Part II: Characters

Part II: Characters

                We continue this series on strong females, this time, focusing on cinematic (and a few TV) characters. I probably could have made this into a several part feature, because, just in my lifetime, I can think of about 100 females that have made an impact on me. From my childhood, for instance, there were the so-called “jiggle” heroines found on Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), and Charlie’s Angels, and the not so jiggley Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner). For brevity’s sake, I have limited my character selection to ones that have appeared in the last 20 years or so, therefore, this isn’t exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. And even though it was difficult, I’m only including 20 names. As always, these are personal favorites. Omissions will occur.

1)      Mikasa Ackerman and Annie Leonhart in Attack on Titan – This very popular anime is about a world in which giant Titans appear and begin eating and killing the regular sized citizens. The survivors go into military training so as to combat the threat. Mikasa is one of the lead characters, and she is the second fastest, most skillful fighters in the military. Annie, without spoiling anything, proves to be an even more formidable fighter. None of the females in this series are sexualized, and yet, if you go online, fanboys have decided to put Mikasa in a bikini. It’s a shame, really, because these women more than hold their own in this dynamic, binge-worthy series.

2)      Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) – Headey is one of the actresses that will be featured in Part III. If she’s in a film, you can guarantee that she’s going to be a force of nature. This character is the baddie in Dredd. She’s a former prostitute who after getting her face cut, retaliated by biting off the perps “jewels.” She is head of the criminal circuit in the Peachtree Towers, and she’s brutal, no-nonsense, and terrifying. You love to hate her. One of the best cinematic villains.

3)      Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – This “mother of dragons” begins Game of Thrones as her brother’s pawn, but as the series has progressed she has become stronger and more likely to take the throne. She has strength, confidence, and compassion. I am rooting for her!

4)      Chihiro – She begins Spirited Away as a whiny, spoiled brat. Over the course of the animated feature, she discovers her strength. Unlike her parents, she is respectful, compassionate, generous, and loyal. She’s a great role model for girls.

5)      Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) – On The X-Files, she was the yang to Fox Mulder’s (David Duchovny) yin. A scientist, she is logical, intelligent, and reasonable. That said, creator Chris Carter made her go all wonky when it came to religion and faith. Anderson has gone on to play several other noteworthy females, including her most recent, Det. Superintendent Stella Gibson on The Fall, and Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier on Hannibal.

6)      Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – What can I say about Ripley? She’s resourceful, capable, intelligent, a warrior, and a real survivor. She’s great in Alien, better in Alien 3, and superb in Alien: Resurrection. I know that a lot of people hate the fourth film, but Ripley is so badass in that one … I have no complaints. I wasn’t keen on how James Cameron made her a “mommy” in Aliens. I won’t ever forgive him for that.

7)      Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) – In Pacific Rim, she’s the ideal candidate for Jaeger fighting. I like that she isn’t sexualized, which is unusual when it comes to how Westerners portray Asian women. She’s very intelligent, a warrior, strong, and resourceful. In this same film, you have a female Russian fighter who, if you pay attention, has a superior fighting position to her husband. I told you that Guillermo del Toro was my hero.

8)      Nikita (Anne Parillaud) – She starts out as a strung out, street criminal, and ends up as a sophisticated, beautiful, and very dangerous assassin. In typical French fashion, Nikita has to be sexy, but I’m OK with this. This character clearly struck a nerve because Nikita has been remade by Hollywood on the big and small screens. No one really played her like Parillaud did, though.

9)      Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) – Tall, graceful, smart, and seriously dangerous, Trinity was a cyberpunk woman who was waiting for a hero. Too bad, because she was stronger than any male in The Matrix.

10)   Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace/Rooney Mara) – A techie, bisexual loner with serious anger management issues, Salander is smart and dangerous. Who doesn’t cheer when she gets her revenge on the man who raped her? I like Rapace as much as I do Mara in this role. I sure wish that David Fincher would film the second installment of this trilogy!

11)   Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) – This character has Angelina Jolie written all over her, and yet, she was played by Carano, who did a very impressive job. Kind of a female Jason Bourne, she spends the entire film shooting, kicking, and beating up her male opponents. I still think this could have been made into a franchise.

12)   Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) – Jolie has played so many strong, kickass female characters that she gets her own mention in the next section. Of all of them, though, I like Salt the best. Another potential franchise that never went anywhere. Smart, beautiful, strong, and combat proficient, Salt could probably leave Jason Bourne or James Bond weeping.

13)   Alice (Milla Jovovich) – Jovovich is another actress who gravitates toward strong, athletic characters. I love her as Jeanne D’Arc and as Alice. But then, I’m a huge Resident Evil fan. HUGE. Can’t wait for the fifth outing. They could make 100 films, and I would see them all on opening weekend. Jovovich gets props for doing most of her own stunts.

14)   Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) – There are two strong females in Prometheus, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Vickers. The latter was actually my favorite of the two. The scene during which she has emerged from cryo-sleep, and is doing push-ups … that was pure awesomeness. (Everyone else is throwing up.) I am still convinced that her character is a robot, which makes her even more endearing to me.

15)   Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) – I was a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica when I was a child; back when Starbuck was male (Dirk Benedict). Ronald D. Moore decided to make him a her, but still retain many of his characteristics. It worked well. She was a hotshot pilot who chomped a cigar, played cards, got into fist fights, and tumbled into bed with whomever she pleased. I like shows that push the boundaries.

16)   Fiona Good (Jessica Lange) – No matter which character Lange plays on American Horror Story, she’s fascinating and a tremendous screen presence. In the third season of this FX series, Lange plays a scene-stealing witch who is fighting cancer and being replaced as Supreme. I read that Lange is leaving the show after season four. I think when she goes, the show will wither. She is the reason for the show’s popularity. Talk about a career comeback.

17)   Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) – The best of the “Bond” girls, because she more than held her own against James Bond. It was almost as if she was immune to his charms. But then, this is Yeoh … who is an action film star in Hong Kong. I really wish that they could have spun Wai Lin off into her own film franchise. As far as I remember, she never appeared in a bikini nor was she sexualized. She was smart and could handle her own fights.

18)   Pam De Beaufort (Kristin Bauer van Straten) – The brightest spark on True Blood, Pam is sexy, smart, sassy, and a survivor. She is very no-nonsense and straightforward in her approach. If Pam ever died, I would probably stop watching the Showtime series.

19)   Michonne (Danai Gurira) – So far, Michonne hasn’t really been given much of a personality other than “kill first, never ask questions later.” She’s a katana-wielding badass who used to have armless zombies on chains as her companions. I wish they would spend more time on her, because she has a lot of potential. On a show that portrays women as dumb and useless, Michonne is a welcome exception.

20)   Lornetta Mace Mason (Angela Bassett) – Long ago, James Cameron and his then-wife Kathryn Bigelow made a film called Strange Days. In it, you find a sexualized female played by Juliette Lewis, and another one, “Mace,” who actually saves the life of the male protagonist (Ralph Fiennes). Even though I saw this back in the 1990s, I still remember several key scenes that feature this character. She made a HUGE impression on me, and I have had great respect for Bassett ever since.

Runners up: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games, Hermione Granger ( Emma Watson) in Harry Potter, and Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.

Author: Julien R. Fielding

Julien R. Fielding has been reviewing films, and covering the entertainment industry, for more than a decade. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, horror, action, and anime. She authored the book, Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second.

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