Skip to main content

The 100 greatest female characters in movies

40. Mindy 'Hit Girl' Macready (Kick Ass)

The Character: Raised to become a Kick-Ass vigilante by mad Dad Damon - aka Big Daddy -it's no wonder Mindy wields weapons and drops C-bombs without ever worrying about detention.

The Actress: Chloe Moretz first showed her remarkable wiser-than-her-years cool in (500) Days of Summer. Director Matthew Vaughn merely added blood.

The Performance: Inevitably controversial and consistently hilarious, Moretz's unblushing poise made her surely the youngest action-movie icon of them all.

39. Chihiro Ogino (Spirited Away)

The Character: Ten-year-old girl worried about changing schools... until she gets bigger things to worry about. Namely, her parents get transformed into pigs and she gets Spirited Away.

The Actress: Rumi Hiragi did voicework in the film's original Japanese; Daveigh Chase took on English dub duties. But the real performers are the impeccable Studio Ghibli artisans drawing under the direction of Hayao Miyazaki.

The Performance: Chihiro becomes the definitive Miyazaki girl heroine (against some pretty stiff competition) thanks to the voice artistes replicating the cartoon's wide-eyed wonder with real awe.

38. Mia Williams (Fish Tank)

The Character: Troubled teen in the Fish Tank of a council estate who has to grow up fast when she gets a little too close to her mother's new boyfriend.

The Actress: Untrained Katie Jarvis, famously auditioned after a casting agent spotted her having an argument with her boyfriend.

The Performance: Filmed in chronological order, Jarvis' reactions are naturalistic and plausible expressions of listless working class life without slipping into melodrama or condescension.

37. Jessica Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)

The Character: She's not bad. She's just drawn that way.

The Actress: The unmistakable husky tones of Kathleen Turner, sending up her own sex-bomb status. But Amy Irving supplied the singing voice and Betsy Brantley was Jessica's live action stand-in. Note: she looks nothing like Jessica Rabbit.

The Performance: The curviest curves and the fanciest fantasy. But Turner walks the tightrope between post-modern joke and genuine allure so well Jessica still appears on Sexiest Movie Star lists despite being a cartoon.

36. Older Daughter (Dogtooth)

The Character: One of three siblings kept in surreal isolation by their parents in Dogtooth. Forced sex and animal abuse are normal; the discovery of Rocky and Jaws on VHS a life-changing moment.

The Actress: Thirty-something Aggeliki Papoulia, an up-and-coming Greek talent.

The Performance: Raw and subversive, Papoulia has to make the most shocking stuff seem part of her reality. The most shocking thing is how easily she pulls off that illusion.

35. Ursa (Superman 2)

The Character: Cruel Kryptonian who follows General Zod on a path of destruction in Superman 2, primarily as an excuse to beat the crap out of men.

The Actress: British telly actress Sarah Douglas beat 600 other hopefuls to the role of Ursa, and survived the behind-the-scenes that saw Richard Lester refilm much of the original footage she'd shot with Richard Donner.

The Performance: No mean feat standing out alongside Terence Stamp and the giant that is Jack O'Halloran. But Douglas achieves it simply by being so fabulously sneery in wreaking havoc.

34. Ann Darrow (King Kong)

The Character: Life imitates art. Ann's an actress who agrees to film an adventure movie on Skull Island, only to become the object of lust for its simian ruler, King Kong, for real.

The Actress: Ah, the vicissitudes of the studio system. When RKO couldn't prise first choice Jean Harlow from her contract with MGM, the role went to its latest signing, Fay Wray. Later Anns were Jessica Lange and Naomi Watts.

The Performance: Inevitably upstaged by her stop-motion star, but it's Wray beauty that sells Kong's love - and her scream who sells his scariness.

33. Betty Elms / Diane Selwyn (Mulholland Drive)

The Character: An aspiring Hollywood actress on the up... or possibly a fantasy her failed Doppleganger. Mulholland Drive is a David Lynch film, after all.

The Actress: Reportedly, Lynch auditioned indie actress Naomi Watts based on a photograph, and cast her after seeing her dolled up and dressed down.

The Performance: A revelation. Watts plays on her lack of recognition by playing Betty as a naive simpleton... and then unleashing unguessable layers of subtlety and range.

32. Scarlett O'Hara (Gone With The Wind)

The Character: Gone With The Wind's Southern belle who doesn't let a rogue like Rhett Butler, or the small matter of civil war, get in the way of getting on with life.

The Actress: The biggest casting call of them all... and anyone who put money on British stage actress and Hollywood virgin Vivien Leigh probably made enough to retire.

The Performance: Faultless in accent and fearless in emotion, it's no wonder critic Andrew Sarris later said "she lives in our minds and memories as a dynamic force rather than as a static presence."

31. Coffy (Coffy)

The Character: Foxy nurse-turned-vigilante who uses her sexuality to seduce and destroy.

The Actress: Director Jack Hill had already cast Pam Grier in several women-in-prison movies, so he knew she had the goods to deliver on his blaxploitation thrill-ride.

The Performance: Forget ghettoisation. Grier's fierce determination made her a role model for women of all races.