#8 – Shug Avery, The Colour Purple (1985)
Based on the 1982 Pulitzer prize winning novel of the same by Alice Walker, The Color Purple focuses on the life of black women living in Southern America during the 30’s. The main character is Celie (played by Whoopi Goldberg in an Oscar nominated role) who’s upbringing is nothing short of heartbreaking; by the age of 14, she has 2 children and is married to a local widower, Albert Johnson. When Shug Avery, one of Albert’s old flames, comes to live with them, she shows Celie the wonders of life and how it feels to be loved. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was nominated for 11 Oscars.
#7 – ‘The Bride’, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-4)
The Bride, who features in Quentin Tarantino’s bloody tale of an ex-assassin (Uma Thurman) who wakes up from a coma after being left for dead on her wedding day only to seek revenge on those responsible, is arguable the most powerful woman (at least in regards to violence, anyway) on the list. Remorseless, highly trained and with nothing left to lose, she lays waste to anyone who threatens to stop her from achieving her ultimate goal: killing Bill, the leader of the assassin group she once worked for. The film itself pays homage to a plethora of genres and styles, including Spaghetti Westerns and martial arts; The Bride’s attire in one of the most memorable scenes in cinema history is almost identical to that what Bruce Lee wore in Game of Death.
#6 – Brandon Teena, Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Now this is an unusual one. It’s based on true events of a teenage boy who moves to a small Nebraskan town where he attracts a lot of attention from girls and becomes quite popular. Thing is, he’s hiding one fact about himself: he was born as a girl. When his best friend finds out, Brandon’s life is torn apart and what follows is one of the most disturbing and heart wrenching stories of human ignorance. Like a lot of films on this list, it earned an Oscar for, unsurprisingly, Female in a Leading Role for Hilary Swank. The levels that the males in the film sink to has to be seen to be believed, and the strength of the female character comes from staying true to her beliefs and desire to be a man.
#5 – Erin Brockovich, Erin Brockovich (1997)
Julia Roberts gave an Oscar winning performance in the true story of an unemployed single mother who becomes a legal assistant and almost single handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting the water supply. A fantastic underdog story; It’s like The Rainmaker, but with a woman.
#4 – Manuela, Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)
Spanish Director Pedro Almodovar’s story of a mourning mother who, after reading the last entry in her dead son’s journal about how he wishes to meet his father for the first time, decides to travel to Barcelona in search of the boy’s father is dominated by female characters; a transvestite prostitute, a pregnant nun, and a lesbian actress to name a few. But it’s Manuela, the mother who travels to Barcelona, who is the strongest of them all, as she positively impacts each of their lives and puts their issues first whilst still coping with the devastation of losing her son. Translated as All About My Mother, the film has received the most accolades and awards in Spanish motion picture history, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.
#3 – Ellen Ripley, Alien series (1979-1997)
Frequently topping many lists of powerful females, Ripley deserves every bit of acclaim that she gets. First appearing in Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci Fi classic Alien, the character has been credited with being the first to challenge the role of females in movies. But it was in the sequel Aliens that she really showed us what she was made of, and subsequently Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Academy Award that year. A true heroine and an unforgettable woman, Ripley will never be surpassed in terms of female badassery.
#2 – Maggie Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby (2004)
The second entry by Hilary Swank, and another Oscar winning performance by her, Million Dollar Baby tells the story of Maggie Fitzgerald, a penniless waitress who decides to take up boxing. The film chronicles her rise, through her determination and support of her trainer, but she learns the hard way just how fragile life is. Watching her come from nothing to a force to be reckoned with in the boxing world is a joy, but it’s the final act where her real strength shows through.
#1 – Thelma & Louise, Thelma & Louise (1991)
The story of two women, Thelma and Louise, who decide to break away from their mundane lives and their men only to find themselves wanted for murder of a rapist was a critical and financial success, earning both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis Oscar nods. They lost to Jodie Foster in The Silence of The Lambs, but their roles are still praised to this day. What’s interesting about these characters is that they seem to epitomize the stereotypes of a ‘traditional’ woman, which is then juxtaposed with the more modern, headstrong mould for a woman. Ultimately though, yes there’s crime in the plot but the film is much more about the strong bond of friendship and in fact it’s a much more important film than was probably ever intended.