There are many great heroes to pick from the impressive roster cinema has given us. Many men have taken up the mantle of the protagonist, but due to International Women’s Day having recently take place (March 8th, 2021), this felt like the best time to celebrate some truly exceptional heroines.

Ellen Ripley – Alien franchise

Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is perhaps the most iconic female lead in cinematic history. Her ability to face adversity not only with fear in her eyes but with a daring will to survive swirling around her entire being.

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

Ripley comes face to face with the Xenomorph, a deadly Alien race which will kill anything in its path.

Weaver’s performance as Ripley is like no other; her perfectly delivered lines and the acting against something that isn’t really there is a unique talent.

Her will to survive, despite her dread, spreads through everyone she’s around, even those who are finding it a bit tougher to stay calm.

What makes Ripley stand out is not just the fact that she battles adversity, we’ve all seen that before, but every time she is faced with death and decisions she simply takes the lead and gets the job done; she is a born natural leader.

Alice – Resident Evil franchise

The Resident Evil films date from 2002 to 2017, following Alice (Mila Jovovich) as she battles against the corporation known as Umbrella, who have taken over the world with their technology.

Mila Jovovich as Alice / Picture Credit: Constantin Film
Mila Jovovich as Alice / Picture Credit: Constantin Film

After being taken to The Hive, Umbrella’s underground facility, she learns that she was a security specialist for the corporation.

After discovering who she really is she retaliates against Umbrella, who unleashed a deadly virus upon the world, for the rest of the franchise.

We see her vulnerable in every single film; which is great as the movies don’t shy away from the idea that just because she can fight and has a personal vendetta against Umbrella, she must be alone and stone-faced.

Those working on the series knew very well how to combine a female character with action and violence with a caring and hospitable nature. It is an ingenious combination and one that makes Alice a formidable foe or useful ally – depending on who you work for.

She constantly makes new acquaintances and unlike some main characters, embraces the idea of being in a new group of people.

Alice’s character is just excellent – she knows how to use weapons and even replaces shotgun slugs with coins; she also has a genuine and warming personality which shows up often enough for the audience to realise she isn’t just a heartless killer.

There is an upcoming Resident Evil TV series on Netflix to keep your eye out for; hopefully we will see some more strong female characters to root for.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

Everyone’s heard of Lara Croft, right? A celebrated explorer seen through the use of a gaming console for most of her life.

Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft / Picture Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft / Picture Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite there being more than one film, Tomb Raider from 2018 is the only film worth watching.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) starts the film as a girl with a simple life, in spite of the fact she refuses to admit her father is dead; even though he left on a trip nearly 10 years ago and hasn’t come back.

Croft decides to find her father, and takes one hell of a journey to do so. Vikander is the perfect choice to play Croft as her tears and pain are so beautifully shown, and perfectly matches the video game Tomb Raider, on which the movie and main character is based.

This protagonist does not take ‘no’ for an answer. She has spent her life believing that she can be who she wants to be, not realising that she is already someone who will die trying at everything she does – it’s what makes her an ideal female protagonist.

Her grief and loss is what makes her human, and her young determination even more so.

Sarah Connor – The Terminator franchise

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a phenomenal heroine; she is portrayed two different ways in two different films, with two different attitudes about the recurring situation – a true icon.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor / Picture Credit: Lightstorm Entertainment
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor / Picture Credit: Lightstorm Entertainment

Connor, in The Terminator (1984), is being chased by a robot sent from the future to kill her because she will become pregnant with the future leader of the human resistance against machines.

The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has Connor in his sights and will not let her go; in this movie she is absolutely terrified, and rightly so. Throughout the film she is constantly running away and spending most of the time being afraid of everything.

This is a perfectly fine representation of a female hero in an action movie. Being afraid doesn’t mean you can’t hold your own.

In the second instalment in the franchise, Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Connor has changed quite a bit. She is now a badass who doesn’t let anything get to her – except that she knows The Terminator will be back for her and everyone thinks she’s crazy.

Connor is shown as a changed woman since the first film; she still faces the issue of dealing with a Terminator but she is mentally equipped and perfectly suited to take the lead – which she still was in the first movie despite her slightly softer character.

Elle Woods – Legally Blonde

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is without a doubt the epitome of beauty, poise and most of all, intelligence.

Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods / Picture Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods / Picture Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Legally Blonde follows Elle as, after her boyfriend leaves her and goes to Harvard Law School, she decides to follow him there and win him back.

Elle starts out as a predictably silly blonde, but she reveals to the audience and herself that she isn’t just the “dumb blonde” everyone thinks she is.

She is constantly reminded that she is just pretty and nothing else. Nevertheless she is always kind and charming, despite the amount of people telling her she should quit and go home.

However, Elle’s knowledge of fashion and a genuine interest in other people makes her the perfect lawyer; she is smarter than most people in her class and her journey to realising this really does make you want to get off the couch and apply for Harvard yourself.

She realises that the guy she’s been chasing has actually given her a brilliant gift – she knows who she is and she will move Heaven and Earth to prove everyone wrong.

Elle is simply delightful. Her preppy and pretty demeanour is who she is, and she gets tired of hiding it – who says you can’t be smart, charming, beautiful and blonde?

All these characters are strong, beautiful and more than enough to show that women really can do it all. From killers to mothers to lawyers – the list goes on. There is no shortage of bold female leads in cinema – thank God.

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal

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The 44-year-old actress starred in the 2001 movie as law student Elle Woods, and has now admitted the iconic character has been an inspiration to her in later life, as she praised her for having a “true sense of self”.

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