A girl can spend years and years of her childhood in the wilderness in preparation for avenging her mother’s death. A woman can come face to face with a deadly alien that has wiped out her entire crew. Ten more inspirational female characters, whether they are protecting your family from a natural disaster, super-equipped to destroy the undead, or even nursing a man through his past and to his end. Learn from these females, as life takes its toll you can still have the lust for dancing across the streets of New York to Bowie’s “Modern Love”.
Hanna Heller – – – Hanna (2011)
Joe Wright’s swift shift in direction (in both technique and genre) displays his comfortable ability to produce a rather compelling action thriller. Saoirse Ronan is the MVP here though, still on the journey from childhood to adulthood, the actress is both ice cold and sympathetically warm in her characterization of Hanna, a girl who grows in the wild. Her father is ex-CIA (Eric Bana), and he has dedicated much of his time training Hanna into, well, an assassin.
Cate Blanchett better watch out. And anyone who gets in Hanna’s way. Either on the run or chasing, Hanna has to survive in a world she is not accustomed to, befriending another teenager girl and her family, when not knocking seven bells out of guards and killers. Still somber and sedate at the end, Hanna soon gets her revenge. – – – Robin Write
Ellen Ripley – – – Alien (1979)
For four decades Sigourney Weaver has gone from saving the world from alien devastation to a ghostly apocalypse. Whatever her role is savior, leading lady, or just a bad-ass Weaver has prove herself to compete with and even outmatch her male counterparts. Ripley from the Alien franchise is arguably her most recognizable role and by far her most impressive work. She went into hand to hand combat with a twenty foot Xenomorph queen and she ultimately destroyed it not once but twice. Weaver kicks ass and instills a sense of confidence to those follow her, that with her on their side victory is not only a possibility but an inevitability. – – – Mike Austin
Kitty Foyle – – – Kitty Foyle (1940)
The film Kitty Foyle is not literally The Natural History of a Woman as its sub-title might suggest, but it certainly narrates heavily, though completely accessibly, on the social standing and gender life roles expected in those times. Kitty’s story is told partly in flashback when she was an aspiring teenager, and also in the present were her dilemma appears to be choosing whether to run off to her old flame, or marry the new man in her life, a doctor. Their meet cute as she pretends to faint after setting off the store alarm is a great moment.
Kitty has a turbulent events and a critical society seemingly against her, but the strength of the woman is never in doubt, ultimately making her own way and decisions. Ginger Rogers, as you have never seen her before, is perfect, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress, and setting off sartorial trends back in the forties. – – – Robin Write
Felicia – – – Shampoo (1975)
Felicia is having a rough day. True, her husband is having an affair but outside of financial concerns and public appearance, which matters little as she is doing everything she can to guard her own claim. Her paramour hairdresser seems set on jumping the bones of every female he encounters, including her husband’s mistress and her own daughter.
Lee Grant operates in a measured and barely contained frenzy as she swarms from one location to another, preparing for a “political thing” in Hal Ashby’s political satire that culminates at a banquet on the night of Richard Nixon’s election to the Presidency. Grant deftly, and hilariously, maneuvers her character through a minefield of lust, jealousy and the determination to maintain control in a rapidly deteriorating situation.
Audiences may have been a bit baffled by Ashby’s intentions with Shampoo, but they certainly recognized Lee Grant’s Felicia, the matron desperately clinging to the last vestiges of authority. “The headboard. The headboard, honey…Could you put your hand up there…and hold it? That’s right, because.That’s… That’s… Jesus! Oh! That’s right. Jesus H. Christ!”. – – – Steve Schweighofer
Idun Karlsen – – – Bølgen (2015)
For those not familiar with Norwegian, the English-language title of Bølgen might tell you more about what is essentially a disaster movie. The Wave depicts a small town in danger from a potential avalanche, and then devouring tsunami. As catastrophe strikes, our protagonist Kristian, a geologist who predicted the event, sets out to reunite with his family. His wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) works at the local, and grand, hotel.
As Idun, a colleague, and some guest, attempt to flee, the gigantic wave arrives too late and engulfs the hotel, killing many, and trapping others. Having found her son Sondre, Idun goes into full survival-mother mode. In a pivotal scene, Idun is forced to hold a man under water, who whilst panicking for his life was drowning Sondre. It’s a tragic moment, killing to save a life, but you understand exactly why she had to do it. – – – Robin Write
Alice – – – Resident Evil (2002+)
Full disclosure: I think the Resident Evil movies — save the third, Extinction — mostly suck, but Jovovitch’s Alice, the former security specialist at the UMBRELLA Corporation turned super-heroine thanks to the T-virus and a freedom fighter against the hordes of the undead, is the best thing about these movies. Thought these movies she’s handling all sorts of weaponry that would make Rambo blush, handles herself in fights as well as Jason Statham and she does all her own stunts, including running down a building with a harness in Apocalypse! In other words – she’s the baddest zombie-killer this side of Ash Williams…and even he might just be impressed by her level of skill slaughtering the undead. – – – Jonathan Holmes
Hana – – – The English Patient (1996)
In my view, The English Patient is a movie that is just not the sum of its magnificent parts. It looks gorgeous throughout, Gabriel Jared’s score is mmesmerizing and then there is the luminous Juliette Binoche – a deserving Oscar winner, one of nine amidst a very generous Academy hand-out. Binoche’s Hana, a nurse in Italy during World War II, is a natural vessel of kindness and spirit, who tends to the patient of the title (who is not English, but Hungarian it seems).
Just about keeping her wits about, Hana discovers old secrets, shares a love story with Kip, and administers a final, heavy dose of morphine at her patient’s request – a heartbreaking moment of brilliance from Binoche. In that final, beautiful shot as she leaves the dwelling, Hana has an undefeatable glory and a poise even through the undeniable heartache and struggle. – – – Robin Write
Ofelia – – – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
With Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón), and Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro), 2006 was a dominant year for the cinema of Mexico. And strong depictions of females in varying forms, but the real heroine though was 11 year-old Ivana Baquero’s portrayal of Ofelia in del Toro’s majestic, dark fairy tale of sorts. Ofelia, suspected to be the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, is a bright hope in the shadows of war and fantasy.
Embroiled within a labyrinthine garden, a strange but vivid world, occupying creatures and wonders, Ofelia is tasked by a faun creature to, in turn, find a key from the belly of a toad, retrieve a dagger from a child-eating monster, and bring her newborn baby brother to the labyrinth. Although she may regret the harsh consequences, Ofelia is somewhat defiant at times, still swayed by innocence, temptation, and a good heart. Surrounded by the brutality of the adult world, her mistakes, if you like, represent an admirable independence and bravery. – – – Robin Write
Margaret Hall – – – The Deep End (2001)
The fierceness of a mother’s love is on full display in The Deep End, and it’s one of Tilda Swinton’s most underrated performances. When Margaret Hall discovers that her son, Beau (played by Jonathan Tucker), is not only gay but in a relationship with a seedy nightclub owner named Darby Reese, she immediately tells him to stay away from her son. Goodness knows that this upper middle class family couldn’t be rocked by such an unsavory character!
When Darby dies in a scuffle with Beau, Margaret hides his body in a cove without hesitation, and then she encounters a blackmailer. The whole thing spirals out of control. The aspect of a woman protecting her child is obviously not a new theme or motif in a film, but Swinton delivers a performance of such quiet intensity and unwavering loyalty, that you can’t help but cheer for her no matter how questionable her actions. – – – Joey Moser
Frances Halladay – – – Frances Ha (2013)
Noah Baumbach’s muse Greta Gerwig gives it her all in possibly their finest collaboration. Frances is a New York dancer, whose best friend Sophie is about to embark on a new life, forcing Frances to reconsider her own life status. A little bit hopeless, a little bit vulnerable, Frances is all guns blazing with free spirit and a zest for life.
In the wake of struggling as a dancer, no money, no permanent residence, and a friction in her tight friendship with Sophie, the sprightly Frances stands tall, on her own two feet, and pursues a change in fortunes, via Chinatown, Sacramento, Poughkeepsie, even Paris, before returning to New York City. Her magnetic personality and big smile withstand the social turbulence she encounters. And we can’t help but wish her all the best. – – – Robin Write