There’s a deep moral message somewhere in the deep dark notion that if we are good to each other, look out for one another, we may well have to embark on all manner of troublesome, melancholic occurrences to get there. Cruel, I know. Some may even die trying. Some left exhausted, or grieving. Some glorious, or victorious. Whether it be going out of your way to support a friend in need, driven by fierce emotion, or inflict violence or physical force as a way to protect a community, or struggle to uphold companionship, means, your family’s class obsessions, during tough times. These characters, these women, whatever it is they do, however great or grim, their actions change what you feel about them.
Otilia Mihartescu – – – 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (2007)
There’s a grand human subtely to Otilia’s kick-ass status in Cristian Mungiu’s extraordinary 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days). A film so entangled in mortal sacrifice and suffering, you might have to take a step back to appreciate what Otilia abides here – huge credit given to the no-holds- barred turn from Anamaria Marinca. When her university student dorm-mate Găbița (Laura Vasiliu) is pregnant, Otilia springs into action to support her weary friend arrange an illegal abortion – a huge, huge no-no in Romania in the late eighties. But with an understandable chip on her shoulder.
Otilia scrounges from other students soap and cigarettes; she asks her boyfriend for money, but is uninterested in attending his mother’s birthday meal later; she begs, haggles, lies to find another hotel when the initial reservation is not to be found; and then has to sweet talk the irrational a-hole Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov) who is to perform the procedure on Găbița. As things snowball, the repulsed Otilia has meaningless sex with Mr. Bebe when they don’t have enough money.
As many of the day’s horrid little events are spawned from Găbița’s lies, it is a wonder Otilia continues to be so supportive – but she does. Even as far as disposing of the small bloody fetus. Later, when visiting her boyfriend, the whole emotional events channel a hole in her relationship which she is not shy to vocalize to him. In the film’s final scene, Otilia and Găbița reconvene in the hotel restaurant, Otilia tells her that they will never talk about this again, and the film ends with her turning to look directly at us. – – – Robin Write
Mrs. Robinson – – – The Graduate (1967)
“What’s that you say, Mrs Robinson?” Even though we never learn her first name, few film characters have had the cultural impact as Anne Bancroft’s icy, determined predator armed with a cigarette holder, martini glass and minimal conversation. An old family friend and wife to Mr Braddock’s business partner, it’s as though she’s laid in wait for Benjamin to grow into prey ripe for the picking. When Benjamin takes a shine to her daughter, however, everything goes off the rails. Bancroft takes command of every scene in which she appears, always dominant, sounding matter-of-fact, even slightly bored by the whole ordeal that is Benjamin twisting in his dilemma.
In Bancroft’s hands, Mrs. Robinson is not a soulless villain, however – we catch flashes of emptiness and longing, even of her protective maternal instincts. Ultimately, it is hypocrisy that undoes Benjamin’s trust in his parents’ world and his charted path, and Mrs Robinson’s hypocrisy that lights the fuse of his final rebellion. – – – Steve Schweighofer
Miho – – – Sin City (2005)
In Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation Sin City (co-directed by Robert Rodriguez) “The Big Fat Kill” chapter features Miho (played with sullen glory by Devon Aoki), a kind of slick ninja kitten not to be fucked with. When a small town is as corrupt as this one, with former police heroes and the mob seemingly on the same side of bad, the local enforcers, including a bunch of prostitutes and perhaps-hero Dwight, someone has to be stealthy and swift to clear up the mess.
Deadly Little Miho. Her initial presence in this indulgent noir is exhilarating: a hand is chopped off, swords pierce heads, and slices one other clean off. Rendered in black and white with splashes of color (gushing blood appears to be fluorescent white) makes such action sequences more graceful than gratuitous. Miho later saves Dwight’s ass a couple of times, pulling him up as he sinks into liquid tar, and silently sneaking up on the mercenary confronting Dwight before sticking it to him and twisting. “Miho, you’re an angel. You’re a saint.” – Dwight’s voice recalls, appearing more melodramatic than macho. – – – Robin Write
Amber – – – Green Room (2016)
You shouldn’t like a young white supremacist such as Amber, but by the end of the film, after she’s killed off a bunch of neo-Nazis and their flesh-eating dogs and escaped severely injured but still alive, you kind of do. Amber is an interesting character because if she hadn’t found herself trapped in the titular green room with the band, she probably would’ve been trying to wipe them out too.
But because things didn’t turn out as expected, she’s coaxed into forging a union with them for the sake of survival, and so in herself represents the fluidity of human behaviour. Surprisingly, she becomes one of the heroes of the film not because she drastically develops a moral conscience, but simply because she’s the best of a bad bunch. Moreover, she’s pretty badass at executing an ambush and wielding heavy weaponry around. – – – Rhiannon Topham
Shoshanna Dreyfus / Emmanuelle Mimieux – – – Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Whatever you think about Quentin Tarantino on any given day, there is no question about his imprint of character on his audience. A simply terrific performance by Mélanie Laurent portrays one of Tarantino’s finest, well-rounded characters, but more prominently here she has bigger balls and motivation than most of his male characters.
Inglourious Basterds flips a portion of history on its head, which begins with Shosanna narrowly avoiding being picked off by the Jew Hunter, and closes with her, under the assumed alias Emmanuelle, burning the Nazi Germany big-hitters to their bones. I will never forgive Tarantino for the fate he chose for Shosanna after all we went through with her, but the big screen footage of Shosanna informing the Nazi audience they are being killed by a Jew is priceless. Fuck you Landa, Goebbels, Hitler et al. – – – Robin Write
Evey Hammond – – – V for Vendetta (2005)
This is perhaps an odd choice because, in the film adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel, she was more of a damsel in distress, but as the film movies to its middle section, she undergoes a physical and mental transformation which would break most people: Evey ends up captured by Norsefire’s state police and is given an ultimatum: surrender the whereabouts of the vigilante known as V, or face a firing squad.
From there, her hair is shaven off, stripped of her clothes and tortured daily in an attempt to extract the information out of her, and she still refuses to do so. Evey is released, only to learn her grueling ordeal was done by V himself in order to shed her from her fears. The moment where V takes her to the roof of his hideout pad in the rain, she realizes, despite how much animosity she holds for him for what he did, that she is a much stronger person because of it. It’s an incredible transformation in less than 10 minutes of screen-time, and it sets up the tail-end of the movie as the choice to end Parliament and the fascist state police Britain has been living under lies in her hands. – – – Jonathan Holmes
Imperator Furiosa – – – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Ferocious. Guileless. Strong. The most compelling feature of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa is not just how impeccably devastating she can and will be for any situation, but it is where that devastation resides from. The most compelling feature of Furiosa is her compassion and how her emotions guide and fuel her – consider some of the most iconic scenes of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, when Max first steals her war rig and comforts her cargo, The Wives, instructing them to keep moving unless everything around is capable of killing them.
Trusting in Max to help their cause to such a degree that they become a well oiled machine. On the final stages to what they thought was the oasis of the Green Place and of course, her screaming in anguish at realizing the truth of her destination. Furiosa’s amazing strength doesn’t come from her incredible ability to shoot enemies down and rip off their faces; it comes from her capacity to care for those who need her strength in the first place. – – – Tobi Ogunyemi
Rita – – – Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
The world was recently introduced to a relatively newcomer to the action genre, Emily Blunt’s Rita in Edge of Tomorrow took the world by storm. Initially the movie didn’t receive much traction pre-release and yet post release Blunt solidified herself as a badass female by whipping Tom Cruise into shape. As the leader of the human resistance against a self aware alien race, Blunt slashed and shot her way to become the “Angel of Verdun”.
Even at the most dire point of the film Blunt demanded herself to be allowed to end the conflict proving her capabilities to lead a film. The future is incredibly bright for Emily Blunt and we can sure expect her in leading roles for years to come. – – – Mike Austin
Rose DeWitt Bukater – – – Titanic (1997)
Rose DeWitt Bukater is a kick-ass character because she was a woman in a man’s world, dealing with a lot of emotional turmoil. Her decisions were made for her including having to be with a man in Cal Hockley that she didn’t love, and didn’t even want to be with. Also, she had to keep her opinions on this and moving to America to marry him to herself. This made her suicidal.
But then she met Jack Dawson, who helped give her the strength to decide for herself to say no to this, and instead choose to be with Jack. She fell in love with him, and decided to stand up for herself against her mom and Cal, the consequences of this being serious and even dangerous. He tries to kill Rose and Jack. But it didn’t really matter, because they were also dealing with an even bigger problem in that their ship was sinking and going into the icy cold water.
In the end, she survived even this, got rescued, and went on to have a long and fulfilling life. She discovered her inner strength during a time of crisis, and managed to come out the other side a happier and more confident person. – – – Al Robinson
Maria Braun – – – Die Ehe der Maria Braun (1979)
Anyone who can execute the line: “I’m really the best you’d be fucked by although I doubt you will ever get the chance when I’ve kicked you in your bloody old prick in your bloody balls which will drop off.” in her best English deserves to be on this list. The tragically short film career of the great New German Cinema film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder included a masterstroke with Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun) that was two-fold – for one, a fascinating, unforgettable female character, and then, a thoroughly captivating performance by Hanna Schygulla.
The Maria Braun marriage occurs in the very first scene, amidst a war-time bombing. From here the story is set for a journey of paradoxical loyalty and self-sufficiency, the domineering Maria has to, over the years, acclimatize to the horrors of war and post-war, as well as digging the way for her own life progress while her husband Hermann is off fighting and presumably dying. Maria garners wealth and do-well lifestyles, owing much to not just her blatant sexuality, but her cunning intellect.
She may take a couple of men into her bed but she bluntly pledges herself more than once as a married woman to Hermann. I mean, Maria kills a lover for him. Ultimately, whether this is being true or not, the long-term devotion contributes to Maria’s downfall in the end – “I never said I wanted to have it easy.”. A remarkable woman however you look at her. – – – Robin Write