Recently, there was news that Black Widow almost had a solo film, long before Avengers, but studio execs saw recent failures like Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux and decided that audiences didn’t have interest in a female protragonist sci-fi type film. What backwards thinking! It’s always about the film or tv show’s overall quality and execution. People love strong female leads. We were able to quickly come up with 16 of the most prominent ones, seeded them and put them in the below brackets.
This week, we’re asking YOU to vote on who the best female character in sci-fi and fantasy is. All you have to do is vote. Each week the matchup votes will be tallied and half the contestants will be out. Read on to see the matchups and cast your vote! And if your favorite female character isn’t represented? That’s kind of our point. There’s TONS of great examples from popular culture but they’re still treated as rare.
Match 1: Ellen Ripley and Michonne
Sigourney Weaver’s powerful yet motherly Ripley appeared in all four original Alien films across three decades. A good leader, smart, with an iron will. She basically epitomizes all the positive qualities of the “Final Girl” that survives horror films. The fact is, audiences would still jump at a chance to see Weaver play Ripley again. She will next play the character in some downloadable missions for the video game Alien: Isolation, set during the original film.
Michonne is arguably the most popular character in the Walking Dead comics and show. A true survivor, she will do whatever it takes to survive but still holds on to just enough humanity to remain empathetic. In the comics, it was established that she used to be a lawyer. When the other survivors first meet her, Michonne is carrying along two “pet” zombies to keep the walking dead from coming near her. Those two zombies were her fiancee and best friend!
Match 2: Arya Stark and Captain Janeway
Arya Stark, from the Game of Thrones novels and HBO show, used to be a noble. After her father was murdered in front of her, she had no one watching her and she wasn’t even a teenager yet. She took on identities as a boy thief, a kitchen aid and more just to survive. She rode the land with a dangerous failed knight and crossed an ocean to learn how to be an assassin. She may be young but she’s dangerous.
Captain Janeway was the first female captain of a starship to lead her own Star Trek show, Star Trek: Voyager. In a series often criticized for inconsistent writing, Janeway remains a popular character thanks to her take charge attitude, scientific smarts, friendly relationships with her crew and a powerful will that encourages a crew not to give up on their dream of getting home. P.S. We were totally tempted to include Deep Space 9’s Kira Nerys here instead but we opted to aim for high-profile lead characters whenever possible. It just goes to show how many great options there are out there!
Match 3: Hermione Granger and Buffy Summers
Hermione, from the Harry Potter novels and films, was book smart. She knew it and didn’t let anyone discourage her from exploring her talents. She was also a good friend, a good student, and a good co-leader.
Buffy Summers started the show Buffy as a shallow cheerleader, but empowered with super strength to battle vampires and other demons. She grew to become a caring friend, a team leader, and a surrogate mother to her young sister.
Match 4: Olivia Dunham and Dana Scully
Olivia Dunham was an FBI agent on Fringe who investigated crimes using fringe, or advanced, science. She was smart and capable in the field. Every version of her we met was so, in fact, because we met an Olivia from a parallel world as well as older versions of Olivia through the show’s run. She never let the insurmountable hurdles in front of her (gaining powerful superhuman abilities, losing her lover and daughter, facing the end of the world) stop her from doing her job.
Scully began The X-Files as the skeptic but she also never got in her partner’s way. She performed her duties as an FBI agent from a scientific point of view and was frequently the voice of reason. Eventually, she came to believe in the existence of the supernatural but she never gave up on her medical background or government responsibilities.
Match 5: Katniss Everdeen and Xena
Katniss, from the Hunger Games books and movies, was born into an unfair world. She found a way to exist and even thrive within it. When a corrupt government was about to consign her younger sister to certain death in a brutal deathmatch, she stepped up and took her place. Eventually, she grew into a symbol for resistance and while it was a role she did not want, she did not shirk her responsibilities to making the world a better place.
Xena started as a villain, but had a change of heart and spent the rest of her life working to balance the scales. A powerful warrior, she was also smart, caring, and supportive. And she fought monsters while doing it.
Match 6: Sarah Connor and Ellie
Sarah Connor started in the Terminator film as a simple waitress. She grew to become an ass-kicking cyborg killer, dedicating her life wholeheartedly to raising her son to be a leader that could one day defeat Skynet and its goal of wiping out humanity. She was arguably a bit insane but when faced with the proof of a coming apocalypse for humanity, I think we can cut her some slack. She got to display more sides to her complex personality through two seasons of the underrated Sarah Connor Chronicles tv show.
Ellie is one of the two protagonists from the video game The Last of Us. She’s a 14-year old who happens to be immune to the Cordyceps Fungus that’s annihilated the world. Despite her youth, her wits keep her and her travel companion Joel alive against killers, cannibals and monsters. Somehow she retains a sense of humor and optimism within a bleak post-apocalyptic world. She inspires hope in those around her and exhibits bravery beyond her years.
Match 7: Starbuck and Storm
Starbuck from Battlestar: Galactica can out-pilot and out-drink any of her male pilots. She’s the best and she faces seemingly insurmountable odds to secure the freedom of what remains of humanity. Despite the tough exterior, she’s a caring lover and a good comrade. Her complex history with the Adamas provides some of the most interesting character work in the series.
Storm from X-Men is one of the most well-rounded female superheroes around. Nothing about her is cliche. She grew up a pickpocket but came to be a leader of the X-Men. She understands being a minority but constantly encourages acceptance and unity. She has covered many roles – teacher, leader, friend, lover. Smart, powerful and with a strong mission, Storm is complex.
Match 8: Princess Leia and Sarah Jane Smith
Princess Leia, of Star Wars fame, was born into nobility. But she dedicated her life to justice for the entire galaxy, becoming a leader in the Rebel Alliance. She was smart, brave, cunning and a crack shot. She made the tough calls and could live with them. She fought a war, killed a gangster and looked good doing it.
If there is one companion in Doctor Who‘s 50 years that everyone loves, it was Sarah Jane Smith. A journalist who accompanied both the Third and Fourth Doctors throughout time and space on adventures, she was loved because she didn’t put up with any superiority from the Doctor. She was his equal, not just a sounding board. She was so popular, she returned to meet the 10th and 11th Doctors in recent years and headed her own spinoff until the actress’ unfortunate passing.