In an industry ruled by men, strong female characters are severely lacking in film and television. We can have plenty of male heroes galloping around and saving the world, but when women do it, it’s suddenly “pushing an agenda.” Thankfully, we still have writers, directors, and studios who have laughed off that notion. This year, we have seen many types of female characters and stories on screen. Whether they’re saving humanity or themselves, these women do it with bravery and spunk—not letting any man stop them.
Here are 12 female characters who completely dominated in 2016:
12. Michelle– 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 years after the semi successful found footage film, Cloverfield, JJ Abrams surprised us with this hidden sequel. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Michelle, a woman who finds herself trapped in a bunker with a mentally unstable man named Howard (John Goodman). He assures her that he’s saving her from the oncoming apocalypse, and that the bunker is the only safe place.
The tagline for Cloverfield is “Monsters come in many forms.” In the first film, it was a literal monster destroying the city. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, the monster is man himself. In the beginning, Michelle is already running away from an abusive relationship and inadvertently goes into a new one. But she fights back with her survival skills and wit. J.J Abrams has said that he plans to make this an anthology series, but it would be a shame to let Winstead’s character go to waste. She could easily be this generation’s Ripley and take on the bad guys in both monster and human form.
11. The Goldstein Sisters- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
After almost six years, we have dived back into the Harry Potter universe with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While Eddie Redmayne is adorable as the awkward Newt Scamander, the women of the group are just as kickass. Tina and Queenie Goldstein are the first American wizards we come across in the universe; Tina is a former auror who focuses on logic and reason while Queenie is a bubbly mind reader. Together, they help Newt capture his beasts and discover what has been traumatizing the “No-Maj” side of New York. Without their help, Newt would most likely be in jail or worse.
10. Jyn Erso- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Even though Rogue One hasn’t been released yet, it’s safe to say that Jyn Erso one of the best parts of the film. In the trailers, we’ve seen her lead and motivate the rebels and also wreak terror on enemy lines. From the bits and pieces we’ve seen, it’s clear that this will be focused on the relationship between her and her father. With the emotional impact and action sequences, we’ll be looking forward to a strong female character who is layered instead of two dimensional.
9. Wonder Woman- Batman Versus Superman: The Dawn of Justice
In the lowkey garbage fire known as Batman Versus Superman, there was only one factor that was entertaining: Wonder Woman. Fans were nervous about seeing the famous superhero for the first time on the big screen, but their worries were quickly squandered. Despite having a small amount of screentime, she was the most memorable part of the whole film. From her seductive entrance to seeing her in action, she’s everything that Diana Prince should be. Her upcoming solo film gives us a look into her home and her (all female) warrior people. This should give us even more insight into how much of warrior she is.
8. Ghostbusters- Ghostbusters
The talented actresses in Ghostbusters have had quite a year. Their twitters were constantly filled with hateful and sexist rhetoric, so much that Leslie Jones temporarily quit Twitter. But these dudes didn’t know what they were missing. These brave ladies brought on the comedy and action similarly to how their male counterparts did in the 80’s. They showed little girls that they can do anything that the boys do. Because of that impact, Halloween was filled with mini female ghostbusters trying to save the world. While it may not have been the best movie, it proved that strong female characters can come in all shapes and sizes.
7. Judy Hopps- Zootopia
Who would have thought that Zootopia would have such a deep message? On the surface, it’s a cute children’s movie that has animals running around trying to solve a case. However, Zootopia has so many layers and is very relevant to our current social climate. Judy Hopps was just a small bunny who wanted to become a police officer, but had a hard time fitting in with the “predators.” She was constantly made fun of and forced to do the boring work. But no matter what shift she had, she exceeded expectations and proved that she was no mere critter. With all the odds stacked against her, she took on a missing persons (or animals?) case and solved it before the deadline. In a male dominated world, Judy kept on her own feet and proved to the men that she can be just as good (or even better) than them.
6. The Ancient One- Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange was already drowning in controversy by the time the film was actually released; Tilda Swinton was starring as The Ancient One, a traditionally Asian male role. While it was nice that they were switching up the genders, changing the race left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Asian Americans already don’t get enough representation in the film industry and having an Asian role go to a white woman didn’t seem right. However, that is quickly forgotten about when you see Swinton in action. As Stephen Strange’s mentor, she demonstrates her magical powers through astral projection. She’s able to travel through different dimensions and uses illusions to trap her enemies.
In a universe that is lacking strong female characters, The Ancient One is a breath of fresh air. Instead of having to be saved, she turns an arrogant doctor into the Sorcerer Supreme. She’s a complex character who toes the line between moral and grey.
5. Louise- Arrival
In a year burdened by depressing events, Arrival is the movie that we needed. Even though it’s centered around an alien invasion, Arrival is about acceptance of people who are different than us. Louise is a linguist who is hired to try to communicate with these strange beings. Through different exercises, she starts to grasp their abnormally complex language. Eventually, they become close and the aliens start to trust with more confidential information. Even though she’s one of the only lead women on the military base, Louise quickly takes over the project and makes sure that no one tries to attack her new friends.
4. Jaylah- Star Trek: Beyond
While the Star Trek reboots have fun, they have also been a bit testoerone heavy. Uhura was a great character, but she hasn’t been given much to do besides having an on and off relationship with Spock. Star Trek Beyond decided to change that by introducing Jaylah—a kickass independent female character. She proves that she can handle herself by defeating two enemies on her own; she’s also a handy mechanic and rebuilt an old ship all on her own. She may need the Enterprise’s help to accomplish her own goals, but she’s never a damsel in distress. She has her own emotional baggage that she deals with but never lets it get in the way of her usefulness.
3. Negasonic Teenage Warhead- Deadpool
Apart from having a name similar to the sour candy, Negasonic Teenage Warhead is one of the better female characters in the Xmen universe. When she’s not sending tweets on her phone, she is channeling internal heat to literally explode on her enemies. A
woman of few words, she uses her frequent eye rolls to communicate with Deadpool and Colossus. While she looks like an angsty teenager, she’s actually patient and good humored—eager to take on any enemy. She has great comedic chemistry with her co-stars because, while they think that they need to baby her, she constantly exceeds their expectations.
2. Moana- Moana
In the land of Disney princesses, Moana is a breath of fresh air. Instead of daintiness, she shows bravery and spunk, doing whatever it takes to save her land. She is very proactive and actively seeks out a cure for a blight on her land. Though Maui calls her a “prissy princess” who can’t do anything, she quickly proves him wrong by taking risks all on her own. One of most positive aspects of the character is that she doesn’t have a love interest; she’s not trying to impress or save any boy. As a princess, she feels that this journey is her duty for her people. She’s a fantastic role model, and I hope that Disney continues this tradition of strong, independent girls.
1.Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson –Hidden Figures
When people think of space travel, they think of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin—specifically, the male figures of the job. They forget about how much women have contributed to NASA’s history, especially women of color. Hidden Figures documents the history of three African American women and their triumphs in helping developing NASA’s first successful space mission. The film highlights a lot of familiar obstacles for women: sexism, racism, and harassment. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson overcame these hurdles (while working in the segregated division of the Langley research center). In 2016, it’s essential that we see these type of stories told on the big screen. It’s great to see women front and center, but we need see women of color take charge as well. I want to see Black, Asian, and Native American stories because they’re just as interesting (perhaps even more so) as white stories.