I love sci-fi. It’s a genre that has endless possibilities. But here’s the thing. Sad as it is, there are not nearly enough badass women in sci-fi movies. Don’t get me wrong. The ones here definitely stick out, like Ripley from Alien. But when coming up with this list, I quickly found out that the truly noteworthy women in sci-fi really are few and far between.
Now, truth be told, I actually got the idea for this list from a video I watched about black women in sci-fi from a group called Multicultural Sci-fi Org. So, when you’re done with this article, you should check out the video. It made me think about how there’s not nearly enough diversity in sci-fi, but I already wrote an article about that. Oh, and before you start wondering where Leeloo is from The Fifth Element, I already have the actress, Milla Jovovich on here for another film series, which I think is more appropriate for this list. But enough of my yammering, pew pew! Destroy. Destroy.
10. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – Edge of Tomorrow
The “full metal bitch” (what they call her. Not me). The “Angel of Verdun”. You can often tell how awesome a character is by the nicknames other people give them, and Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt) from Edge of Tomorrow deserves every last one of her monikers.
Rita definitely deserves to be on this list because she’s of the tough breed of sci-fi action heroes. She makes darting around in that high-tech weaponry look easy as she destroys those creepy-looking Mimics. And while she’s not the main protagonist (that would be Tom Cruise), it’s great to see a female fighter who can go toe to toe with any SOB who stands in her way. Go find her when you wake up.
9. Alice (Milla Jovovich) – Resident Evil Series
Remember when I said that Leeloo wouldn’t be on this list? Well, it’s because I thought Milla Jovovich deserved to be here for her portrayal as Alice from the Resident Evil movies instead. And why not? She starred in the role for six movies, and changed quite a bit throughout her tenure as the character.
What do I mean? Well, she starts off as somebody with amnesia (but is still able to kick dogs in the face), but then starts becoming highly proficient in combat until she’s leaping all over the place after getting exposed to the T-virus. It gets to the point that by Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, you’re actually a little bored with her character since you know nothing is going to take her down. She’s just too powerful. That said, she’s definitely left a mark on sci-fi. She’s not even in the games, but her role is so iconic in the films that you sometimes kind of forget. So yeah, I’m looking forward to the reboot, but as a longtime Resident Evil fan, Alice will always have a place in my heart.
8. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) – The Hunger Games Series
Ah, yes. The girl on fire. Being such a huge YA book series, it’s sometimes easy to forget that The Hunger Games is even sci-fi at all. But it definitely is, and Katniss Everdeen (played by J-Law) is a mainstay in the medium. I mean, how could she not be? How many badass female archers do we have running around in the woods like Rambo and hunting for survival? Just the fact that she had to fight in TWO Hunger Games is all the evidence you need that she deserves to be on this list.
But Katniss is just awesome. From victim to the leader of a movement, Katniss’s character arc is phenomenal, and you know she’s going to topple the Capital. And I’m here for it.
7. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) – Mad Max: Fury Road
Speaking of toppling something, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), is so badass that she steals the movie from the title character (Just like Judge Anderson does in Dredd), and becomes the hero of the movie herself. And guess what. She’s going to topple the patriarchy if it’s the last thing she does.
Formerly a war captain under Immortan Joe, Furiosa stands up against him to free “the Five Wives.” And the best part about Furiosa is that she took this very male, very violent series, and basically turned it into a feminist decree. And all the while, everybody (probably even the most chauvinistic pig) was like, “YEAH! KILL THOSE GUYS, FURIOSA!” which just shows you the power of great storytelling. It can make a feminist out of all of us! At least for a little while. Looking forward to the spin-off!
6. Lena (Natalie Portman) – Annihilation
Okay, so you might be wondering how the hell Lena from Annihilation ended up higher than some of the others on this list. Well, I’ll tell you. Not only is Lena (played by Natalie Portman) tough as nails and fearless in the face of an alligator shark (!). She’s also really smart (a cellular biologist!), so that also gives her a leg up.
Plus, she’s in an all-female band as she and a few other women go to investigate a lighthouse. They didn’t have to enter the shimmer, which is a weird kind of alien goo, but they did anyway in the interest of science and discovery. And look, I don’t know about you, but I think science is cool. And when it comes to bodacious badasses, Lena is the coolest.
5. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) – The Matrix series
Pretty much making black spandex the coolest get-up ever, first mate (on the Nebuchadnezzar) Trinity broke free of the Matrix just so she could kick some Agent ass. A former hacker, it’s pretty hard to think about The Matrix without thinking of Trinity. Pun not intended, but she’s basically part of the sci-fi holy trinity when it comes to Morpheus, Neo, and herself.
Trinity can just do it all. And while a lot of people instantly think of that famous Keanu slo-mo move when they think of The Matrix, they probably also remember Trinity’s slo-mo, crane-like jump kick from the first movie, solidifying her place in sci-fi history. I’m not really sure what she’s doing in the next Matrix since she, you know, died and all in Matrix: Revolutions. But we shall see. Hopefully sooner than later.
4. Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols OR Zoe Saldana) – Star Trek series
Okay, so before I say why Uhura is so amazing, I just want to tell a little story about her history. First, Uhuru means “freedom” in Swahili, and she got the name because she had the 1962 book, Uhuru on her when she auditioned for the part (Gene Roddenberry changed the “U” to an “A” presumably since it sounded more feminine). And secondly, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge fan of the show, and when Nichelle Nichols told him that she was going to leave after the first season, Dr. King requested that she stay since she was in a role as an equal and not just as a black character. Powerful stuff.
But, groundbreaking history aside, Uhura rocks because she has such a prominent role as the translator and communications officer on the Starship Enterprise. Given the many alien species Starfleet encounter, Uhura is essential to better understanding said species. And while most would pick the OG Nichols over Saldana, I’m Zoe all day. Because I love her. But don’t tell her I said that.
3. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) – Star Wars series
Ouch, Star Wars over Star Trek? Please don’t kill the messenger. Princess, Senate Member, and (depending on whom you ask) Rebel Scum, Leia can hold her own in any situation. Even when it means having to be a slave for the criminal underboss, Jabba the Hutt.
Leia is of Jedi blood as the daughter of Darth Vader, and it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get to see more of her Jedi powers after Carrie Fisher’s death in 2016. But look, love Star Wars or hate it, there’s no denying how iconic she is as a character. If you’ve ever seen a movie before, then you know who Princess Leia is. That’s just how it is.
2. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
There have been multiple Sarah Connors, but the best one is Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator: Dark Fate. She’s like the ultimate pissed off Mama. And she’s so tough, that not only does she give birth to the future savior, but also takes on Terminators all by herself. I mean, hot damn. How can you beat that?
There are many tough women on this list, but Sarah Connor is by far one of the toughest. And what’s great about her character is how far she comes from being the scared damsel in distress in the first Terminator to the no-nonsense Terminator fighter in Terminator 2, and Terminator-hunter in Dark Fate. There’s only one female sci-fi character who could be higher than Sarah Connor, and you already know who it is.
1. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – Alien series
Fun fact: My favorite female character in sci-fi is actually Samus Aran from the Metroid Nintendo series. But there would be no Samus Aran without Ellen Ripley. In fact, there likely wouldn’t be most of the characters on this list if not for Ellen Ripley. She crawled so sci-fi women could run. For their lives!
But here’s the reason why Ripley deserves to be on the top of this list. She didn’t just run. She fought. And won. I find it kind of interesting that James Cameron, who directed the great sequel Aliens, also directed Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It just shows you that he has a knack for crafting kickass female characters. Because, look. Ripley takes on Xenomorphs, okay? Terminators are scary and all, but a Xenomorph? Come on now. For Ripley to stare that Queen Xeno down and call her a bitch (right to her face!). I mean, yeah. No contest. Ripley ends up on top. Still!
And that’s the list. But are there any sci-fi females that you feel that I left off this list? I’m well aware that I didn’t really put any comic book characters on here—So yeah, no Captain Marvel—but I feel that could almost be its own separate list. For now, this is what stands. But I would love to hear your thoughts. Please sound off in the poll or the comments section down below who you think is the greatest female character in sci-fi movie history.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.