Star Wars’ Princess Leia, played by the ever-feisty Carrie Fisher, surely paved the path for female leads in fantasy and sci-fi films everywhere. She proved that female actors can kick ass and command the screen. Her historic achievement opened doors for others to wow audiences with women’s ability to save the world or (re)create it:
Sarah Connor, The Terminator (1984)
Linda Hamilton’s transformation from ordinary gal to Skynet’s archenemy captivated audiences and has withstood the test of time. Her appearance in the sequel let women everywhere know change is possible.
Ellen Ripley, Aliens (1986)
Ah, Sigourney Weaver—your portrayal of this badass chick facing down aliens that just kept coming inspired audiences everywhere. Plus, Ripley got to do it in space, so there’s that too.
Ellie Arroway, Contact (1997)
Jodie Foster gave this character the self-belief, strength, and wonder that spoke to audiences far and wide. Arroway reminds us all that we know what we know—even if no one else believes us.
LeeLoo, The Fifth Element (1997)
When your entire purpose is to keep evil at bay, you’re the definition of amazing. Milla Jovovich ran with this character literally and metaphorically, making her equally goofy and brilliant, outsmarting and outshooting those she comes across on her mission to save the world.
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter Series (2001)
Who doesn’t love a good witch? Emma Watson’s commendable skill embraced Hermione as the true heroine she is, and made thinking coveted again. Never ashamed of her natural ability, Hermione embraces it and shows a patriarchal culture that women can be more than mere equals to men: they can be superior.
Adele, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010)
Louise Bourgoin’s portrayal of this affable Indiana-Jones-with-a-skirt is simply fun to watch. Adele’s adventures are truly extraordinary and remind the audience to take what life throws at you in stride as you move forward through mummies, ancient evils, and mysterious monsters.
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games (2012)
Jennifer Lawrence’s measured yet feisty approach to Katniss Everdeen endeared this character to her audiences. This David vs. Goliath story reminds everyone that movements can begin with a single action and grow until they cannot be ignored. And hunting with a bow? That takes some skill.
Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When the world falls apart, you can fall apart with it or choose to survive it. Charlize Theron’s memorable Furiosa character not only survives but cleverly thrives in a futuristic world where little does. And where you’d think you’d need two hands to rise to the top, Furiosa does it with one.
Rey, The Force Awakens (2015)
Princess Leia paved the way for Rey, the newest heroine in the Star Wars universe. Daisy Ridley’s contribution to a Universe where women are just as likely to be rulers as to be rebels exists as a heartsong to women everywhere.
Louise Banks, Arrival (2016)
Amy Adams never made mastering science as desirable as she did in this movie. From the beginning of this film until the end, the audience is there with her on a journey of discovery filled with twists and turns.
This list is by far not exhaustive! From Kate Beckinsale’s werewolf-fighting Selene to Angelina Jolie’s continent-hopping Lara Croft, many amazing fantasy and sci-fi actresses are gracing the screen. A shout out goes to all the female leads within the Firefly, Star Trek, Divergent, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, and DC Comic universes as well. Always remember: women can save any world every day of the week—and will.
Who would you add to this list of amazing female leads in Fantasy and Sci-Fi films?