25 Must-See Movies With Fierce Female Leads

There are many dazzling movies with powerful female leads, like Promising Young Woman and Kill Bill. However, some films have actresses and female characters that surprise you with their excellence and strength. Just because a movie isn’t about female empowerment, that doesn’t mean it can’t include bold and inspiring women. Check out 25 movies with an unexpected but welcome feisty leading lady or ladies.

1. Fargo (1996)

Fargo (1996)
Image Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

Fargo is a movie by the Coen brothers that follows the story of a man desperate for money and a sheriff looking to solve a triple homicide in her small town. Frances McDormand plays the sheriff, and she delivers a complex and compelling performance as a sweet midwestern pregnant woman with a brilliant mind and unrelenting determination.

2. The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy (1999)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Rachel Weisz is a force in this classic movie about an ancient mummy returning to life. While Brendan Fraser is as wonderful as always, the movie would be nothing without the stubborn and witty character of Evie that Weisz passionately brings to life.

3. Arrival (2016)

Arrival Amy Adams
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Amy Adams is known for playing endearing roles in romantic comedies and emotional dramas, but she reaches new heights in this science fiction flick. Her character is truly amazing and inspirational, and she delivers the best performance in this gripping movie.

4. The Sixth Sense (1999)

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Yes, Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are wonderful in this chilling thriller. Still, Toni Collette is just as if not more magnificent. She plays a distraught and confused mother trying to figure out what is wrong with her son, and it’s one of the most convincing performances I’ve ever seen.

5. The Money Pit (1984)

The Money Pit (1986)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Money Pit is a hilarious and cheeky comedy about a couple who buy a seemingly stunning house only to find out it’s a dump. Tom Hanks is the lead, but his wife, played by Shelley Long, is positively hysterical. She simply dazzles in her funny role and doesn’t get enough credit.

6. Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom get all the credit for these movies, but Keira Knightley is an incredible force in these films. Her character is not some damsel in distress but a competent and sassy woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to take risks.

7. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Image Credit: Orion Pictures.

This one might be more obvious, but Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs is a revelation. Sure, Anthony Hopkins is terrifying, but Jodie Foster delivers a powerful and intense performance that always has me on the edge of my seat, even though I know how the movie ends.

8. Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window (1954)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

No one is claiming that James Stewart and Raymond Burr aren’t amazing in this iconic film, but Grace Kelly is just as fabulous. Her performance is stellar, and she portrays her character as a fierce and intelligent woman who is full of heart and spirit.

9. Zootopia (2016)

Zootopia (2016)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Zootopia is an adorable kids’ movie that tackles tough themes like racism, prejudice, and corruption. The lead character, Judy Hopps, is a determined little rabbit who wants nothing more than to protect people and foster peace. She is a fearless and inspiring character.

10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is another film where the leading guys get all the credit, but there are a few fantastic women in it, too. Mia Sara and Jennifer Grey both portray captivating characters who are hilarious, honest, and interesting. Without these lovely ladies, the film wouldn’t be as even and entertaining.

11. Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates in Misery
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

I think Kathy Bates as Annie in Misery is so terrifying that people don’t even like to talk about it, but it’s easily one of the best female performances of the 90s, if not all time. Stephen King wrote a great story, but Kathy Bates truly brought it to life and struck fear into all our hearts.

12. River Wild (1994)

The River Wild (1994)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

River Wild is a criminally underrated movie starring the always-amazing Meryl Streep. Kevin Bacon, John C. Reilly, and David Strathairn are all phenomenal, but they can’t hold a candle to Meryl Streep’s intense and powerful performance that will give you chills.

13. The Addams Family (1991)

The Addams Family (1991)
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

All the actors in The Addams Family are excellent, but Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci are the standout performers, in my opinion. Between the cold passion Morticia Addams offers to the creepy but hilarious portrayal of Wednesday, these ladies make the movie.

14. Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Image Credit: Neon.

Aubrey Plaza sparkles in everything she is in, but her performance in Ingrid Goes West is particularly impactful. She plays a slightly unhinged young woman who moves to California to reinvent herself, portraying a wide range of emotions and odd behavior that reels you in.

15. Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not (2019)
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Samara Weaving is not credited enough for her spectacular performance in this exciting thriller. She plays a new bride who is horrifyingly being hunted by her new in-laws. Weaving’s performance is funny, strong, and emotional, hitting all the right notes to make this movie incredible.

16. Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice (1988)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Michael Keaton and Alec Baldwin are great, but what would Beetlejuice be without Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O’Hara? These three deliver unbelievably distinct and compelling performances that range from rib-tickling to infuriating to heartbreaking.

17. Get Smart (2008)

Get Smart (2008)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

I love Steve Carell as much as the next person, but Anne Hathaway is just as important as he is in Get Smart. Anne Hathaway’s performance is funny, witty, and saucy, making her character extremely captivating and irresistible, without being a basic femme fatal or sidekick.

18. This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This movie is teeming with excellent actors, but I think Tina Fey and Jane Fonda are integral to the emotional side of this movie, which is prominent. From the racy jokes to the tearful confessions and every moment in between, these two ladies deliver raw and impressive performances.

19. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Tom Cruise is good, but I think anyone who doesn’t say Emily Blunt is the true star of Edge of Tomorrow is lying to themselves. Rita Vratasaki is easily one of the boldest and strongest female characters of the 21st century, and Blunt positively nails the role and exceeds my already high expectations.

20. The Mask (1994)

The Mask (1994)
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

This film is easily one of Jim Carrey’s best movies, but Cameron Diaz also shines in it. At first, her character seems like nothing but an attractive placeholder, but she proves to be a more complex and intelligent character than the men around her think, and the movie is elevated because of her performance.

21. Avatar (2009)

Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

When people think about Avatar, they typically give all the credit to James Cameron, but Sigourney Weaver practically carries the movie on her shoulders. And right beside her is Zoe Saldana, who delivers a moving and raw performance that makes the three hours fly by (sort of).

22. Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn After Reading (2008)
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Another sensational performance from Frances McDormand, her character in Burn After Reading is funny, intelligent, and very genuine. She’s not necessarily a fierce lady, but her performance is highly relatable and inspiring while also hilarious.

23. Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out (2019)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Knives Out is full of fabulous leading ladies, from Ana de Armas to Jamie Lee Curtis to Toni Collette. All of the wonderful women in the movie deliver balanced and captivating performances that add flair and emotion to this otherwise male-dominated movie.

24. The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Of course, Antonio Banderas is exceptional, but what would The Mask of Zorro be without the charming and saucy Catherine Zeta-Jones? She may be surrounded by talented male actors, but she truly steals the spotlight in every scene as the feisty Elena Montero.

25. Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs (2020)
Image Credit: Neon.

Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons are excellent in the lovable time loop movie Palm Springs. However, Cristin Milioti is beyond impeccable in her quirky and stubborn role as Sarah. And beside her is Meredith Hagner playing the annoying and superficial misty, a performance she delivers perfectly.

Source: (Reddit).