16. Sarah Connor (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
As mother to the future resistance leader and savior of mankind Sarah Connor's got quite a full plate. Sarah's entire life revolves around training her son in the art of war, and with Terminators running loose all over the timeline it is no simple task. Grappling with the enormity of her role in mankind's future amid her own health scares transforms this once-timid waitress into a ruthless survivor and hardcore warrior.
15. Olivia Dunham (Fringe)
Olivia Dunham is no ordinary FBI agent. As a member of the Bureau's Fringe Division, she faces a multitude of threats from a variety of alternate universes. That includes a twisted version of her very own self who pulls a swift one on Dunham's unsuspecting boyfriend. Dunham's too cool -- largely due to her chic ensemble of leather jackets -- to sink to her doppelganger's level; she keeps a level head and trusts her gut. Even when solving a case requires immersion in a sensory deprivation tank for hours on end.
14. Debra Morgan (Dexter)
Say what you will about Debra's questionable response to Dexter's confession, she manages to put aside her emotional fragility to face whatever unfathomable terror she's confronted with. Poor old Deb's been through it all. And by that, we mean dated serial killers, discovered she's related to a serial killer and... well, it's no wonder she can't utter a sentence without dropping the f-bomb, is it? Foul-mouthed or not, she's one hell of a detective.
13. Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)
Starbuck is a skilled Viper pilot, whose brazen confidence and cocksure attitude has kept her in check with her superiors. Often ruled by her emotions, Captain Thrace's rough-around-the-edges persona gets her in trouble, while shielding her from greater danger - a defense mechanism brought on by a difficult childhood. This tough cookie refuses to bow to expectation: she's just as likely to be puffing away on a cigar and knocking back the shots, as well as dishing out commands.
12. Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
Not many high schoolers would respond to the murder of a friend by investigating its mysterious circumstances themselves, but for Veronica Mars that's the only option. She opts to shoulder that burden, among many others, when she's not cramming for midterms and fostering a social life. Wit and perseverance see her through to catching those responsible, and she never shies away from the shady goings-on in her hometown of Neptune.
11. Sarah Manning (Orphan Black)
Sarah Manning's discovery that she's in fact one clone among many could easily have sent her into a booze-fuelled spiral. Instead, she uses this turning point to kickstart a new chapter of her life. Her no-bullshit attitude picked up from years slumming it becomes her most useful tool in tracking down the shadowy organisation behind her origin. Her clone sisters are naturally appreciative of her street smarts when it comes to ruffling up baddies, as well as her generous heart and unwavering loyalty to family.
10. River Song (Doctor Who)
Hello, sweetie! The gun-totin' companion to everyone's favorite time lord sure knows how to make an entrance; River Song brandishes her weapons with a devilish sense of camp. Blessed with the power of regeneration -- and a cheeky disregard for authority -- she's able to throw her weight around with little worry over the consequences. As evidenced during her jaunt in 1930s Berlin when she drops this barb: Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled, when I suddenly thought Gosh, the Third Reichs a bit rubbish, I think Ill kill the Fuhrer. Whos with me?
9. Arya Stark (Game of Thrones)
The pint-sized daughter of Ned Stark is a quick-tempered, fiery youngster. Eager to learn combat skills instead of the intricacies of sewing, her journey of vengeance is powered by a strong, steely determination that betrays her years. Even though she's diminutive in stature her sharp tongue more than makes up for her slight build. Along with her custom-built sword Needle.
8. Carrie Mathison (Homeland)
Carrie Mathison spends much of her life overseas serving her country as a high-ranking CIA intelligence officer. Getting close to targets is her game and she'll surrender her own safety to ensure she gets the intel. While her methods get regularly pushed to the limit of what constitutes work -- sleeping with informants, suspects, etc. -- in recent years, she's learned to trust her instincts. Even when no-one else believes her.
7. Sydney Bristow (Alias)
At first blush, CIA operative and SD-6 double agent Sydney Bristow seems to travel with a suitcase stuffed to the gills with only lycra onesies and immaculate wigs. While that's true to an extent, her real necessities for ass-kickery are her carefully-honed skills; she's a Krav Maga master and knows a thing or two about foreign languages. That enviable array of talents both physical and mental are what we love most about this roundhouse-delivering badass.