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The 100 greatest female characters in movies

70. Sally Albright (When Harry Met Sally)

The Character: From college graduate to career woman, the one constant in Sally's life is 'friend' Harry... but can men and women really be friends?

The Actress: At the time, the not-quite It girl of the 80s, with a celebrity partner (Dennis Quaid) and decent credits (Innerspace) but lacking that killer role. No wonder she pressured Rob Reiner to cast her as Sally.

The Performance: Ryan's girl-next-door charm cut against the vogue for stern yuppie types, but she still managed to show edge by faking an orgasm in a restaurant.

69. Bonnie Parker (Bonnie And Clyde)

The Character: Bored, amoral waitress who reckons smooth-talking bank robber Clyde Barrow might be a better bet... until the exhilaration of their crime spree evaporates into bloodshed.

The Actress: Faye Dunaway - a contract player without a hit to her name - was at the top of nobody's list, but when Bonnie and Clyde producer/star Warren Beatty reckoned casting his troubled lover Natalie Wood would be too much hard work, Dunaway got the nod.

The Performance: Ground-breaking. Dunaway looked amazing in a beret and a gun, and her diffident rebellion confirmed the times were a-changing for a generation of actresses.

68. Ada McGrath (The Piano)

The Character: Mute Scotswoman sold into marriage in New Zealand with only her garrulous daughter and The Piano for company.

The Actress: Holly Hunter was famous primarily for her fast-talking Southern twang. So Jane Campion's ability to see beyond that and use her in a non-speaking role verges on genius.

The Performance: Commanding. With next to nothing on the page, Hunter conjures up a world of feeling - and a mood of defiance against her treatment by men - through body language alone.

67. Shoshanna Dreyfus (Inglorious Basterds)

The Character: Jewish survivor of her family's massacre by Nazis, who vows revenge, even if it means losing her prized movie theatre in the process.

The Actress:Tarantino wanted Inglorious Basterds to be a multi-lingual movie and needed a Frenchwoman at its heart. When Melanie Laurent was cast, she had to abandon rehearsals for a play she was scheduled to direct.

The Performance: Shosanna is the archetypal Tarantino heroine - a deadly movie buff. But Laurent plays her with such Gallic sang-froid Shosanna become a celebration of cinema's ability to create the impossible as she warps history onto a new path.

66. Alice Hyatt (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)

The Character: Widowed mom who decides to pack her bags in search of a better life and, if she doesn't find one there, well, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore either.

The Actress: Fresh off The Exorcist, Ellen Burstyn had the power to get her own project green-lit. And, unusually for a film with such a strong female voice, she selected the emerging master of male violence, Martin Scorsese, to direct it.

The Performance: The gamble paid off. Scorsese's edgy realism helped Burstyn's portrayal of a woman refusing to put up and shut up a landmark in screen feminism, and brought her home an Oscar to boot.

65. Lee Holloway (Secretary)

The Character: Self-harming depressive who takes a job as a Secretary to try and get by, only to find out a) her kinky boss is into S&M and b) she kinda likes it.

The Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal was in the shadow of brother Jake - her most famous credit was as Donnie Darko's own sister - when she made waves at Sundance with Secretary.

The Performance: The kind of role that doesn't come along very often, Gyllenhaal echoes Lee's liberation-through-punishment by bringing a wryly subversive enjoyment to the film.

64. Barbarella (Barbarella)

The Character: Futuristic space cadet from an era when people thought sex could solve all of the world's problems. An era called the 1960s.

The Actress: The original comic book series had used Brigitte Bardot as its model. But director Roger Vadim didn't even bother leaving the house... he cast his wife, Jane Fonda.

The Performance: Such is Fonda's kittenish appeal (especially her opening zero-G striptease) that she spent the entire 1970s trying to throw off the scent through scorching dramatic turns in Klute and Coming Home.

63. Annie Wilkes (Misery)

The Character: Nutzoid fan who decides to take drastic action when she discovers her favourite author is set to kill off his greatest creation, Misery.

The Actress: Kathy Bates had worked steadily with little fanfare throughout the 1970s and 1980s, ensuring audiences wouldn't know what to expect until it was too late.

The Performance: Folksly in manner and frightening in effect, Bates redefined the 'hagsploitation' model to show that women would wield as much hobbling power as the fellas.

62. Sylvia (La Dolce Vita)

The Character: Movie star on a press junket in Rome, whose narcissistic excesses draws journalist Marcello into a night of frolics in the Trevi Fountain.

The Actress: Busty Anika Ekberg was a major European sex bomb during the 1950s, making her arrival in La Dolce Vita something of a stunt casting.

The Performance: A fleeting cameo, really, but one that became the signature image of 1960s European sex appeal and a still-pertinent satire on the private lives of movie stars.

61. Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist)

The Character: 12-year-old who appears to be acting up for her movie star mother... until pea soup vomit, spinning heads and crucifix masturbation suggest the cause might be more diabolical.

The Actress: Not exactly the easiest role to cast, The Exorcist director William Friedkin went as far as considering using an adult dwarf until child actress Linda Blair impressed during auditions. Even so, the scary voice was supplied by veteran Mercedes McCambridge.

The Performance: Blair is terrifyingly convincing, and got under her skin enough to lead to drug troubles later in life. Fortunately, she exorcised those demons and is an animal rights activist today.