Movies featuring a strong female character sometimes miss the mark with the writing — and come off as cheesy, unbelievable, and flat as a result. Here are 25 of my favorite female characters who bring the intensity and spunk I want in my leading ladies.
1. Alien (1979)
Ellen Ripley is the main character in Alien and one of the strongest female characters ever written. She fights for her life and tries to help the people around her without relying on any men for assistance. Ripley takes the cake for me when it comes to fearless female characters.
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
People love Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs because she doesn't act like a big, tough man. She is still a supremely strong character. She's mentally and emotionally strong and beyond brave, so she doesn't need muscles or testosterone to prove she's amazing.
3. Legally Blonde (2001)
Elle Woods is a feminist icon, and as one cinephile put it, “A woman who discovers her strength and voice without having to dress like a man or act like a dude.” Woods proves women can be bold and commanding without taking off the stilettos.
4. Fargo (1996)
The main female character in Fargo, one of my all-time favorite flicks, is not romanticized or unrealistic in any way. Marge Gunderson is a determined lady who has nothing to prove to the many men around her. She's not insanely beautiful or tough; she's just competent, driven, and great at what she does, which is catch dirty criminals.
5. Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Lilo & Stitch is an adorable kid's movie, but it also has strong female characters. While little Lilo is a tough cookie, I want to talk about her older sister Nani. Not only does Nani take over the role of parent as a teenager, but she keeps her cool when aliens invade her house! Strong female characters appear in more than just action movies and thrillers.
6. Mulan (1998)
Mulan is one of the toughest female characters to ever grace the screen. She impersonates a man to join the Chinese army, risking life and limb to save her father and protect her country from the Huns. She's a fighter who proves she is strong in every way, including emotionally, mentally, and physically.
7. The Mummy (1999)
Rachel Weisz is a sensational actor, and I don't think anyone could ever achieve the strength of character she brought to Evelyn O'Connell. While it may sometimes seem like her hubby is saving her all the time, she's the one who ends up saving the world more than once. Attempting to replace Weisz in the fourth movie was a crime.
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Another instance of Frances McDormand playing a superbly strong woman. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an emotional dark comedy where McDormand's character, Mildred Hayes, fights tooth and nail to get justice for her murdered daughter. Mildred is not afraid to hold the authorities accountable for the unsolved murder of her child and shows unmatched strength and determination.
9. Thelma and Louise (1991)
Do I even need to explain this one? The titular characters in this iconic movie leave behind their lives, escaping controlling men, police on their tail, and the mundaneness of everyday life. Both characters go through a transformation, and by the end of the film, they're independent and courageous women who don't back down for anything.
10. Arrival (2016)
Amy Adams' character in this movie is inspiring. She plays a brilliant linguist hired by the government to try and communicate with a recently discovered alien species. While the government enlisted her, she plays by her own rules and stands up for what is right every chance she can.
11. The Addams Family (1991)
Both Morticia Addams and Wednesday Addams are bold characters who don't listen to what men tell them to do. Morticia is brilliantly unique and unapologetic. Wednesday loves to surprise and disturb people as she marches to the beat of her own drum. Both the Addams ladies show how you never need to apologize for being who you are, no matter how weird.
12. Kill Bill (2003)
The Bride in Kill Bill is easily one of the strongest female characters in a film, as she pulls herself from a hospital bed and miraculously regains her strength. Over the course of two movies, she goes on a rampage, killing everyone who hurt her and taking no prisoners. While brutal, you can't deny her determination and grit.
13. Princess Mononoke (1997)
In one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies, Princess Mononoke's titular character, also called San, has the spirit of a fierce wolf. She was raised by wolves and obtained their natural strength and power, and she fights for what is right even when her life is at stake. She is a literal warrior, and her admiration and respect for nature are part of her power.
14. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When discussing strong females in Mad Max: Fury Road, most people think about Furiosa. However, the intense film is teeming with powerful women, including the brides and the old women throughout the story. These women can be brutal and violent but refuse to bow down to anyone, especially controlling men.
15. A Quiet Place (2018)
Emily Blunt has played more than her fair share of strong females, but my favorite is her character in A Quiet Place. She gives birth without making a peep after she had a rusty nail jammed into the sole of her foot. I genuinely don't know if it gets more impressive than that. And after it all, she loses her husband and has to save her family by herself.
16. Miss Congeniality (2000)
I love Sandra Bullock's Character in Miss Congeniality because she's strong but learns that softening can be a form of strength. Gracie Hart starts off as a tough, messy woman, who is already strong, but through her female friendships and makeover journey, she learns that you don't have to look and act like a man to be brave and formidable.
17. A League of Their Own (1992)
Almost every character in A League of Their Own is a strong female and I think this movie is one of the best films to show to young girls. It proves that strong women aren't all the same, and there is no mold for being a passionate, determined, and tough woman. Stars like Geena Davis, Madonna, and Lori Petty all bring a different kind of strength and pluck to their characters.
18. The Sound of Music (1965)
Maria in The Sound of Music is an unapologetic woman who goes where the wind takes her. She shows how being strong doesn't mean fitting into a societal box, as she's not afraid to stand up for her beliefs and speak her mind. Whether leaving the convent or defying Captain Von Trapp, Maria is always her authentic self.
19. Brave (2012)
Brave is one of the best examples of a kid's movie having a strong female lead. Merida wants to live her own life and doesn't care what her mother, father, or kingdom thinks about her. While she's physically tough, she also has a kind heart and loves her family dearly, exemplifying how strength comes in many forms.
20. The Hunger Games (2012)
Katniss Everdeen serves as a provider and protector from the start and when her sister's name is picked for the Hunger Games, she fearlessly volunteers in order to protect Prim. Katniss is strong even when terrified, and that's the true mark of a brave woman.
21. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In my opinion, Shoshana is one of the most impressive female characters. I'm obligated to agree with one cinephile who said, “Her incinerating a whole theater full of Nazis was glorious.” Her willingness to sacrifice and risk her life is commendable and moving.
22. The Help (2011)
The Help is chock full of sensationally strong characters, from the black maids who risk their lives to tell their story to the white writer who dares to defy her family and friends to help these women. The strength of these characters is undeniable when contrasted with the sniveling, cowardly women they're surrounded by.
23. Ella Enchanted (2004)
This movie is adorable and highly underrated! Ella Enchanted is about a girl cursed to be 100% obedient all the time, but she doesn't let this curse stop her from being herself. She fights her whole life to be free so she can live her life by her rules and remains headstrong despite having to obey the whims of everyone around her.
24. Moana (2016)
Moana is another amazingly strong female character in kid's movies. Her curiosity drives her to leave her comfort zone and defy her family. No matter who tells her “no” or who tries to stop her, she perseveres to help her people and find herself.
25. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Sometimes, the strongest women are perceived as cruel, while strong men are just seen as assertive and confident. All the women in this movie, including the timid Andy and the unforgiving Miranda, show marvelous strength of character and fortitude, no matter what anyone thinks of them.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.