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The 100 greatest female characters in movies

60. Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins)

The Character: Practically perfect in every way, Mary's the nanny who puts imagination first and to hell with health and safety.

The Actress: The Broadway star of My Fair Lady was a shoo-in to play Eliza Doolittle in the film, until producers decided she wasn't bankable enough. Disney swooped in to make Mary Poppins her film debut.

The Performance: Practically perfect, etc. Prim and proper on the outside, but a whirlwind of twinkly mischief within, Andrews got her revenge on the My Fair Lady team by scooping the Best Actress Oscar.

59. Mildred Pierce (Mildred Pierce)

The Character: Formidable mother who raises herself up to become a restaurant owner to provide for her daughter - even though the latter loathes her.

The Actress: Joan Crawford, one of the stars of the 1930s, who had been absent from the screen for a few years and fancied Mildred as a suitable comeback vehicle.

The Performance: Crawford's volatile relationship with her own daughter would later be dredged up in biopic Mommie Dearest, which makes you wonder how much of herself Crawford threw into the role.

58. Margo Channing (All About Eve)

The Character: The star attraction on Broadway, at least if it wasn't for a scheming protege trying to make the story All About Eve. It's going to be a bumpy night.

The Actress: Bette Davis, at the time the most Oscar-nominated actress but with a reputation for prickliness and fading fortunes in recent years. Perfect casting.

The Performance: Tapping in every actress' fear of growing old and being cast aside, Davis' way with a bitchy one-liner is an imperious reminder that great actresses get better with age.

57. Adrian Pennino Balboa (Rocky)

The Character: Rocky Balboa's long-suffering girlfriend, then wife. Outwardly timid, but a consistent fighter in Rocky's own corner.

The Actress: Talia Shire, Francis Ford Coppola's sister, was already well-known as The Godfather's Connie Corleone when John G. Avildsen cast her as another Italian-American wallflower.

The Performance: Authentic. Shire downplays for maximum realism, even borrowing her mother's maiden name, Pennino, for Adrian's own. With five films in total, she's the most sequelised actress/character in this list.

56. Nikita (La Femme Nikita)

The Character: Convicted junkie retrained by French intelligence to become an assassin.

The Actress: Luc Besson chose statuesque Anne Parillaud, kickstarting a brief if ill-advised dalliance with Hollywood. The later American TV series cast Peta Wilson. Contrary to popular belief, though, Bridget Fonda's big-screen character wasn't Nikita but Maggie.

The Performance: Tres chic amidst Besson's designer violence, Parillaud also convinces as a woman slowly learning to undo her training and give herself options.

55. 'Baby' Jane Hudson (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?)

The Character: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The one-time child star who had to watch aghast as her sister Blanche overtook her fame in adulthood. At least now they're old and Blanche is wheelchair-bound, she has a chance at payback.

The Actress: Robert Aldrich somewhat cruelly cast Golden Age icon Bette Davis against her real-life rival Joan Crawford, hoping to get fireworks. He got 'em.

The Performance: Davis must have realised that her part was tantamount to character assassination, but she also recognises a great part at goes for it, unafraid to look haggard and relishing the slanging match with Crawford.

54. Summer Finn (500 Days Of Summer)

The Character: Free spirited indie kid with immaculate taste - which makes her both an ideal and an impossibility in romance over the (500) Days of Summer.

The Actress: Zooey Deschanel - kooky, leftfield character actor, singer in She & Him - is basically Summer in real-life. Not a stretch.

The Performance: Director Mark Webb intentionally made Summer a man's-eye view of the perfect girlfriend, but that's not exactly difficult when Deschanel is so adorable.

53. Judy Barton/Madeleine Elster (Vertigo)

The Character: The object of Scotty Ferguson's (James Stewart) obsession. A seemingly haunted beauty, who's really a wrong'un pretending to be one, no wonder Scotty suffers from Vertigo.

The Actress: Vera Miles, or would've been if she hadn't become pregnant. So Kim Novak got the part, to Alfred Hitchcock's apparent disdain.

The Performance: Shifting with ambiguity, Judy's true feelings remain an enigma more than fifty years on (largely thanks to Novak's subtle understatement).

52. Debby Marsh (The Big Heat)

The Character: Gangster's moll in The Big Heat whose growing friendship with the cop on his tail causes her bad boyfriend to throw boiling coffee in her face.

The Actress: Gloria Grahame was the Hollywood starlet who didn't fit the mould. Too brassy and bad-ass to play romantic leads. Film noir suited her perfectly.

The Performance: It's the coffee everybody remembers, but Grahame mines a strikingly tragic seam as a woman who has made a pact with the devil because she's experienced worse.

51. Amelie (Amelie)

The Character: Whimsical do-gooder whose benign interference helps out friends and neighbours, but who then has to help herself when she falls in love with a stranger.

The Actress: Audrey Tautou came to fame winning an X Factor-style acting contest on French television, which is weirdly apt for a character whose daydreams become reality.

The Performance: Tautou's elfin look meshed as perfectly with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's off-kilter sensibility as her infectious joie de vivre.