Skip to main content

The 100 greatest female characters in movies

30. Kym (Rachel Getting Married)

The Character: Recovering drug addict who unwisely decides to work on her twelve-step programme at her sister's wedding, in Rachel Getting Married.

The Actress: Anne Hathaway had already bared boobs in Brokeback Mountain to escape her Princess Diaries past, but this was the role to demolish her good-two-shoes image.

The Performance: With Jonathan Demme shooting off-the-cuff, Hathaway had to live out Kym's self-destructive selfishness. Judging by this year's Oscar ceremony, she still hasn't come down.

29. Trinity (The Matrix)

The Character: The ultimate femme to have around when coping with pre-millennial angst: a kick-ass tech-noir action-hero in shades and leather.

The Actress: Jobbing Canadian actress Carrie-Anne Moss, who snuck into A-list contention because all eyes were on The Phantom Menace and not on The Matrix.

The Performance: Larry Fishburne's too distant, Keanu too Keanu-esque, leaving Moss to provide the film's cool wit. Shame she'd got consigned to sappy love interest by the third film.

28. Lady (Lady And The Tramp)

The Character: Posh spaniel who learns to live footloose and collar-free when she's inadvertently turfed out of the comfort of home and into the care of The Tramp.

The Actress: Silent star Barbara Luddy, who'd switched to radio and hadn't acted on screen for decades. Lady kickstarted a regular paycheque voicing characters for Disney.

The Performance: Luddy's tones capture just the right tone of elegance, but spare a thought for the character design of Joe Grant, whose sketches for Lady had been kicking around since the 1940s.

27. Louise Sawyer (Thelma And Louise)

The Character: The alpha female in Thelma and Louise, whose trigger finger kickstarts a girls' weekend of sex, murder and exploding gas tankers.

The Actress: Written as a younger woman, Ridley Scott went the other way, helped by the fact that Sarandon was both a better, and a sexier, actress in her 40s than anybody else.

The Performance: It's hard to distinguish between Sarandon and Geena Davis, but Susan's wry self-awareness and uncompromised womanhood exemplified the film's neo-feminist credentials.

26. Nina Sayers (Black Swan)

The Character: Ballerina whose meticulous style and girlish naivety are perfect for the White Swan... but can she exude the sexual menace of the Black Swan?

The Actress: Natalie Portman was getting Closer to shaking off her Princess Amidala image, but it took madness and weird lacerations to dispel it entirely.

The Performance: There's Method in Portman's madness, learning those arduous ballet moves and then throwing herself into lesbian clinches with Mia Kunis.

25. Enid

The Character: A social outcast and proud, Ghost World's heroine would much rather hang around with the weird guy who collects blues albums than be into boys or clothes.

The Actress: Thora Birch was on a high after American Beauty and--more importantly--totally looked like Daniel Clowes' comic-book creation.

The Performance: Still in her teens, Birch's attitude bounces off the screen. Alas, it was all downhill from here.

24. Rosemary Woodhouse (Rosemary's Baby)

The Character: Naive housewife who freaks out when the Satanists next door decide that Rosemary's Baby will be the antichrist.

The Actress: Mia Farrow got the role, despite the objections of director Roman Polanski (who wanted to cast his wife, Sharon Tate) and husband Frank Sinatra, who served divorce papers to her on set.

The Performance: The off-screen turmoil only intensified Farrow's waif-like frailty, to make Rosemary a thoroughly convincing victim.

23. Mrs Robinson (The Graduate)

The Character: The pros and cons of '60s sexual revolution. You get to have an affair with The Graduate, but he ditches you for your daughter.

The Actress: Anne Bancroft had won an Oscar for The Miracle Worker near the beginning of the decade, but Hollywood hadn't quite worked out what to do with her. So despite only being five years older than Dustin Hoffman, she jumped at the chance of a decent part.

The Performance: Some of Bancroft's understandable world-weariness rubs off on Mrs Robinson, who never seems all that happy with either her everyday reality or her extra-marital escapades.

22. Dory (Finding Nemo)

The Character: Yes, there's a fish called a dory. But this Dory's a regal tang. She's probably forgotten that. Lovely girl, of course, but so absent-minded there's little chance of her Finding Nemo.

The Actress: Pixar's ever-flexible approach to voice casting paid off when Andrew Stanton noticed Ellen Degeneres rapidly zig-zagging from subject to subject on a talk show.

The Performance: Degeneres had faced conservative flack ever since coming out in 1997. You can almost feel the liberation as she loses her as a kooky pixellated fish.

21. Veronica Sawyer (Heathers)

The Character: When the pressure of conforming to Heathers rules gets too much, why not try giving your teenage angst a body count? Made nihilistic through sheer boredom, Veronica is Generation X, before Generation X even had a name.

The Actress: Ryder was already a leftfield talent thanks to Beetlejuice, but Michael Lehmann made her a cult heroine for girls who were a little badder than John Hughes ever made them.

The Performance: Nowadays, after the shoplifting and drug troubles, it's hard not to watch Heathers and come to the conclusion that Ryder's tapping into real darkness to channel Veronica's acidic worldview.