If you’ve ever wanted to punch writers in the face for their portrayal of female characters, this is for you. These ladies are brilliant, perfectly imperfect, fierce and totally unapologetic about their gender – just as it should be. They’re having none of your misogyny today, thanks. Who run the world?
1. Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy turns the “dumb blonde” stereotype on its head. She may not be the smartest cookie but she’s incredibly loyal and she could literally kill you if you hurt her friends.
2. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
Katniss’s compassion was the fire needed to ignite a rebellion. Her usually gruff attitude only makes her more likeable in my eyes.
3. Elphaba, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Before Gregory Maguire’s book spawned a Broadway musical, Elphaba was a deeply political character dealing with racial prejudice and ostracisation. All those awesome songs came later.
4. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
I could write whole essays on why Hermione is freaking glorious but it (mostly) boils down to her being wonderfully flawed and SUPER smart. They being right ALL THE TIME. Every book should be renamed to a variation of Harry Potter and the Time Hermione Was Right.
5. Arya Stark, A Song of Ice and Fire
Arya Stark kicks butt and takes names to add to her kill list. Her streak of vengeance probably isn’t something we should aspire to but it’s hard not to love this character.
6. Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy
My love for Cristina knows no bounds. She is practically perfect in every way, but mostly in the way that she doesn’t need anyone’s validation to see how amazing she is.
7. Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
EVERYONE BOW DOWN. Lizzie Bennett’s staunch views and sick burns have cemented her place as one of the most awesome literary females of all time.
8. Matilda, Matilda
Despite years of serious emotional neglect, Matilda uses her telekinetic abilities for good rather than going full-Carrie on everyone around her. It’s hard not to love this character when Roald Dahl’s sarcastic humour shines on every page and teaches us that, in order to be a good person, sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.
9. Celie, The Color Purple
If you’ve only ever seen the movie of The Color Purple, you have no idea what you’re missing. Celie is one of the strongest characters I’ve ever encountered and after freeing herself from her abuser, her life is more beautiful than you can imagine.
10. Daenerys Targaryen, A Song of Ice and Fire
She may have a gentle heart but when Daenerys gets all fired up, she’s truly a force to be reckoned with. There’s only one thing I have to say about this: Dracarys.
11. Jo March, Little Women
If you didn’t fall in love with Jo when she was described as sitting in an attic, eating apples and sobbing over a book, your cold heart should have at least melted when Jo sold her hair to help cover costs when her father was ill.
12. Tiana, The Princess and the Frog
Is it weird that Tiana is one of my favourite Disney princesses because of her work ethic? No? Yes? Maybe? I don’t care. Even when everyone is shouting at Tiana, “YOU’RE IN LOVE, YOU DORK,” she’s all “I HAVE TO WORK HARDER TO GET MY OWN RESTAURANT AND BE A STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN.” Bless you, Tiana. You are everything.
13. Sansa Stark, A Song of Ice and Fire
Show me another pampered 14-year-old girl who can subtly goad a king into nearly killing himself on the battlefield, withstand public humiliation and beatings, and still keep her wits about her. Sansa Stark plays the Game of Thrones like nobody’s business.
14. Sara Crewe, A Little Princess
When her privileged life comes crashing down, Sara Crewe just keeps marching on. Even when she’s literally starving, she puts others before herself and is always trying to make someone else’s life easier. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of MY HEART BREAKING.
15. Cookie Lyon, Empire
When Cookie Lyon starts speaking, it’s law that the rest of the world has to shut up and listen because she will come out with something GOLD. She knows how to hustle like no one’s business and could cut you without a second thought but at heart she’s a truly compassionate woman and loving mother.
16. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
Though she cares deeply about her appearance and is often lost in her imagination, Anne’s kind heart makes her a truly wonderful character. Plus there’s that time where she cracked a slate over Gilbert’s head and reminded us all that “Boys pick on you if they like you” is crap and people should be kind if they want to be worthy of your time.
17. Éowyn, The Lord of the Rings
She may have had to dress up as a dude to go to war and be taken seriously but remember that time Eowyn stabbed one of the Big Bad Guys in the face? IN THE FACE?!
18. Hua Mulan, Mulan
She takes her FATHER’S PLACE in the ARMY and DEFEATS THE LEADER OF THE HUNS WITH A FREAKING FAN. Mulan brings honour to us all over and over and over and OVER again.
19. Agent Peggy Carter, Agent Carter
This woman knows her value and you should too. In addition to a totally on-point wardrobe, she’s worked as a code-breaker and an agent of the Strategic Scientific Reserve, punching misogyny in the face physically and metaphorically whenever she can.
20. The Black Widow/Natasha Romanova, Marvel Comics
You mightn’t knows this if you’ve only watched the Marvel films, but Natasha Romanova was trained by a Soviet organisation, brainwashed into serving a ninja clan, and eventually recruited to become an elite female sleeper agent, studying as a ballerina to cover for her true occupation. And that’s just the start of her incredible life as a kick-ass character. Her backstory is way more interesting than a third take on Spiderman, just sayin’.
21. Professor Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter
Think McGonagall’s just a strict old lady? What about that time when she drew her wand and an entire school jumped out of her way in fear? THAT'S power.
22. Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, Orange is the New Black
Taystee will always own my heart for her love of Harry Potter, calling people out on their grammatically incorrect death threats, and standing up for what she knows is right.
23. Martha Jones, Doctor Who
You can worship at the altar of Rose, Amy or Clara but (along with Donna) Martha is the true star in my eyes. She was academically brilliant and her emotional strength was a beautiful thing to behold. It also didn’t hurt that her season had some of the best episodes ever.
24. Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter
No, I’m not talking about Movie Ginny. I’m talking about Book Ginny, who made her brothers quake in fear and was shaping up to be one of the most powerful witches out. Plus, she totally grew out of her embarrassing celeb crush phase and MARRIED HIM.
25. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
This optimistic ball of sunshine is a perfect role model, always expecting the best of herself and everyone else while understanding that people make mistakes and that’s OK. Plus, she invented Galentine’s Day so she’s doubly amazing.
26. Brienne of Tarth, A Song of Ice and Fire
Need I say more? If you can’t see that Brienne of Tarth is amazing then we can’t be friends. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
27. Alex Parrish, Quantico
OK, so maybe part of the reason that Alex Parrish is so awesome is her unquestionably glorious hair. Oh, and the fact that she’s an incredible FBI recruit totally killing it in practically every field.
28. Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars
Sometimes we take for granted the fact that privileged women in dystopian societies choose to act. It would have been so easy for Leia to sit back and do nothing or join the Empire to make life simple. Instead, she joined the Rebellion and was more general than princess – a fact which was finally realised in The Force Awakens.
29. Jessica Pearson, Suits
She’s the epitome of a Girl Boss, kicking butt in all aspects of life. She owns her decisions, good or bad, and somehow manages to be simultaneously exciting and calming at the same moment.
30. Wonder Woman, DC Comics
Wonder Woman literally has a lasso to call people out when they’re being lying douches. She loves supporting other women and owns her own strength rather than pretending to be anything other than a fierce warrior.
31. Elizabeth Swann, Pirates of the Caribbean
She went from pampering to pirating, played both the damsel in distress and the rescuer, managed to escape multiple near-death experiences, became Pirate King and got everything she’d ever wanted. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!
32. Donna Noble, Doctor Who
Donna is loving, warm, kind and snarkier than the best of them. I am still not over her leaving and I don’t want to talk about it other than the fact that she deserves all the medals.
33. Nani Pelekai, Lilo & Stitch
You can keep your Anna and Elsa. Nani and Lilo are HANDS DOWN the most accurate and beautiful cartoon representation of sisters. After the death of their parents, Nani raised Lilo on her own, working hard at a minimum wage job to prove herself as a competent caretaker, all the while maintaining her playful spirit and encouraging Lilo to do the same.
34. Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife
Alicia Florrick has gone from strength to strength as The Good Wife has progressed. Mother, wife, lover, lawyer, queen – give her whatever label you want and she’ll own them.
35. CJ Cregg, The West Wing
The whole cast of The West Wing was admittedly brilliant but watch any press conference – heck, any SCENE – with CJ at the head and you’ll see exactly why her quick wit and forceful nature makes her a winner in my eyes.
36. Elle Woods, Legally Blonde
If you ever need a reminder of how amazing Elle is, please go and watch the recording of Legally Blonde: The Musical because that gives her way more depth than you will ever know.
37. Sophia Burset, Orange is the New Black
Everything about her is glorious. EVERYTHING.
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