20 Perfect Female Leads Who Completely Stole the Show

Female protagonists have recently been very popular in Hollywood, but these aren’t the first feminist icons and complex female leads to have graced our fictional worlds. A recent internet survey wanted to know, “Who is the best-written female protagonist and why?” We collected the 20 best answers:

Ellie Sattler (Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

“I doubt most people would even know that paleobotany was a field of study without her, plus she’s never treated as a token female; she never has to PROVE she’s as good as or better than her male peers; she simply is—on par with the others and better in her own field.”

Sarah Connor (The Terminator, 1984)

Photo Credit: Orion Pictures.

“She starts out as just another young waitress without a care in the world. By the end of the movie, she’s found enough courage to defend herself and to try and kill the Terminator.”

“By the next movie, she’s forced herself to become someone that her son needed her to be.”

Agent Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

The Silence of the Lambs Orion Pictures
Photo Credit: Orion Pictures.

“A great character. Strong, flawed, and emotional at times, but wickedly smart and capable. I really like it at the end when she knew she was talking to Buffalo Bill, but he puts his hand over his mouth and laughs to himself because he thinks he’s got her fooled.”

Ripley (Alien, 1979)

Alien Brandywine Productions
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

“I agree. But Ripley didn’t lead because she was a woman, or despite being a woman, Ripley led because she was always the toughest (mentally) and smartest person around.”

“She’s not the protagonist because of her female traits; she has the skills/fortitude to survive.”

Liz Lemon (30 Rock)

Photo Credit: NBC.

“She eats night cheese, unloads her dishwasher one piece at a time, spends her vacations playing Boggle, wears non-sexy clothing 99% of the time, and dates lots of idiots.”

“There’s an episode about her seeing herself as a nerdy outcast when she’s just a mean girl.”

Evelyn (The Mummy, 1999)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

“Her character has autonomy, intelligence, humor, a believable story, and isn’t a Mary Sue or being otherwise shoehorned into the story! I love her.”

“I loved the actress and character so much. I stopped watching after she left the franchise.”

Dana Scully (The X Files)

Photo Credit: FOX.

“Yeah, they subverted normal gender tropes by having her be the stoic, intellectual one and having the male lead be the emotional one. At least in the earlier seasons.”

“The ‘Scully phenomenon’ inspired huge numbers of females to enter science/math careers.”

Ruth Langmore (Ozark)

Photo Credit: Netflix.

“All the women in that were great, but she’s the best. Her tough-as-nails act was necessary for her survival. She was intelligent and always one step ahead, outsmarting so many people. She was quick-witted, mouthy, a viper, and a murderer, but she also loved and protected fiercely.”

Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul)

Photo Credit: AMC.

“She has her own storylines that aren’t related to Jimmy’s, is a very successful attorney despite being an introvert, and has her own realistic flaws that lead her to make bad decisions.”

“Her stress and then going into a state of depression afterward was portrayed so well.”

Eleanor Shellstrop (The Good Place)

Photo Credit: NBC.

“She’s flawed but likable and grows as a person tremendously by the end of the series. She has agency in the story, typically leading the charge and making active choices. She has a love interest but isn’t defined by it and has unique and interesting relationships with others.”

Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures.

“She gets stepped on because she’s just a little girl, but she knows how to play the antagonists.”

“She’s up there for me. As the child of adult narcissists, her story was always so important to me. It gave me hope things could be better.”

Chihiro (Spirited Away, 2001)

Photo Credit: Studio Ghibli.

“She feels like a scared little girl who FINDS the strength needed to brave the bizarre and scary spirit world. She has to work so hard and do some terrifying things.”

“Her kindness helps her make connections with various beings who end up helping her.”

Brienne of Tarth (Game Of Thrones)

Photo Credit: HBO.

“She is my favorite in a series with tons of characters. She’s kind of tragic; in a world where men become knights and women are ladies, she’s neither. She’s not the son who can carry on the family name, and she’s not a lady who can be married off to secure land or alliances.”

Keeley Jones (Ted Lasso)

Photo Credit: Apple TV+.

“Kind, great at her job, vulnerable, confident, ambitious, great friend, great girlfriend, stylish.”

“Such good writing, such great characters. Unpredictable character development, and not really any traditional twists, but something continues to make the show extremely unique.”

Anne Shirley (Anne of Greene Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Photo Credit: CBC.

“I was looking for this one, one of my favorite characters and stories of all time.”

“I love how Anne is just an ordinary girl in ordinary circumstances, and she is lovely for it. She’s completely herself but also just like other girls. We don’t get enough characters like her.”

Toph Beifong (Avatar)

Photo Credit: Nickelodeon.

“A helpless, spoiled, pampered blind girl on the outside, but in reality an extremely capable Earthbending warrior, who is the undisputed greatest who ever lived by the end.”

“In spite of her power, you see that she still has a lot of insecurities and trust issues.”

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown)

Legally Blonde – MGM Studios
Photo Credit: MGM Studios.

“She showed you could be a strong, independent, professional woman and still be girly. You can like feminine things and be taken seriously. Her friends are all supportive, too.”

“She manages to be funny and well-written. The novel has a great message; it’s really slept on.”

Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

Photo Credit: Focus Features.

“She held her own (and won) in arguments against the esteemed Lady Catherine De Bourgh.”

“She overcomes her pride and gets to know the man behind the image she’s built; she learns his flaws and the reasons for them, then helps him to grow and confront his prejudice.”

Mulan (Mulan, 1998)

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

“Her determination is endless. She defied what society expected and became an accomplished warrior and hero for her country. I loved her character so much.”

“Mulan is easily at the top of my list. There is no one better than her.”

Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell by Masanume Shirow)

Photo Credit: Production I.G.

“It’s not just her strong suits that make her interesting; this is a character who faced metaphysical conflicts completely unique in fiction, questioning the meaning of self and identity in a world where these things were under threat of being stripped away.”

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

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Robin Williams - Good Will Hunting Miramax
Photo Credit: Miramax.

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Alan Harper (Two And A Half Men) Warner Bros. Television
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

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Avengers_ Endgame
Photo Credit: Marvel Studios.

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T-1000
Photo Credit: StudioCanal.

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