Top 5 Movie Guide: Heroines in Film

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we decided to look into the film "Snow White and the Huntsman" for inspiration. We played around with a couple different themes and genres present in this film, but ultimately, we decided to focus our efforts on Kristen Stewart's performance as Snow White, and take a look at some other films that have had leading ladies that commanded the screen.

Originating in Greek culture, the word Hero (Heroine) was first used to describe demigods - beings that were half mortal and half god. These characters were more powerful than any others that walked the earth, and ushered respect from all walks of life. Over time, the word has matured and now has a broader meaning focusing more on characters who, in the face of danger and adversity, display courage and the will for self sacrifice; basically willing to give themselves (in whatever capacity that requires), for the greater good of humanity.

For these films below, even that explanation above isn't the end-all outline for these lists. Generally, these lists did focus on the women in film that sacrificed a part of themselves for something greater, but that wasn't a complete requirement. Overall, just look for films which we felt contained strong leading ladies that proved stronger than maybe others expected they could be.

Nonetheless, hit the jump to get a full plate of female courage and toughness!

Alex Schopp -
Overall, I felt like this list was spoiled by the 'Alien' and 'Terminator' franchises. Once you get a taste of the awesome female characters in those movies, everything else just kind of pales in comparison.

     1. Aliens (1986)
She's no doubt the leader of this film. She represents everything I want in a female character. She saves the day (for herself and one other person at least), and she shows those aliens what's up with no hesitation!
     2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
She's maybe a little more of the focus character in the first film, but she's so much more bad-ass in this movie. She's not worried about anyone doubting her anymore, she just wants to get out there and destroy some robots.
     3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
I know this film didn't go over very well, and overall quality speaking, this one isn't even close to the next two films on my list. But for me this movie is so easy to watch, Angelina Jolie is looking so good (crap, I think I just took this list back 30 years with that comment... Way to ruin the point of this, Alex!), and I love adventure/treasure movies. This is the closest to a female Indiana Jones we'll get.
     4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Such a strong character here. I went with Noomi Rapace's film over Rooney Mara's because I felt her version of Lisbeth Salander was more rounded and felt a little more full to me (granted, I realize that Mara going for a character that was completely cold was probably more realistic for this role). But I thought Rapace did a fantastic job and was very strong.
     5. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I didn't know what to put in this slot. I had like eight different movies that would have worked here, so I just went with the one I felt was the "best". Jodie Foster does do a fantastic job here though. She's surrounded by men who don't think a woman can handle what they do, but she takes on a difficult case, goes into a scary situation, deals with one of the creepiest people of all time, and hunts down an insane killer. She's way tougher than I'll ever be! One look down the prison dungeon that housed Hannibal Lecter and I'm out.

Ben Foutch -

     1. Aliens (1986)
I would follow Ripley into battle any day. Well, on second thought, things don't work out so nice for the supporting players.
     2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Nancy gave Freddy a run for his money. Too bad she wasn't involved in the first sequel. Man that was awful.
     3. Kill Bill (2003)
Don't $@*& with The Bride.
     4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
"Her yabos scoff at gravity."
     5. Kick-Ass (2010)
Hit Girl is a force to be reckoned with.

Derek Clem -
"Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor Hell a fury like a woman scorned." -William Congreve, 'The Mourning Bride' (1697)

     1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The transformation we see in Sarah Conner from the first film to the second is enormous. Watch out machines, she's here to take you down!
     2. Aliens (1986)
This scene really says it all. Watch out aliens, she's here to take you down!
     3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)
You're gonna want your valley girl cheerleader to have some slaying chops. Watch out vampires, she's here to take you down!
     4. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Fear any woman who knows the five point palm exploding heart technique. Watch out Bill, she's here to take you down!
     5. Mulan (1998)
Talk about some real bravery on Mulan's part! Plus, thank you Donny Osmand for this song! Watch out Huns, She's here to take you down!

Nathan Hinds -
I had a really tough time making this list. Partly because I had trouble really figuring out how I wanted to define the list, and also because when I broke down the term "leading heroine" to the truest form, I found out that my choices were a lot of movies that I wasn't really that fond of. So I was a little more lenient and instead went with my five favorite female protagonist roles, being the lead wasn't required.

     1. Kick-Ass (2010)
Chloe Moretz's role in this movie came out of nowhere and instantly blew me away in what is easily my favorite performance by a girl of all time. I could watch every scene with her in this movie over, and over, and over again and never get tired of it. It's even more impressive taking in the fact that I generally can't stand roles where kid actors are made to be able to hold there own against adults in fights. It almost always comes off as fake and lame to me. Definitely not with this girl. She kicked some serious ass! Lame pun intended.
     2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
There is no other way to put it, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is a fucking rock star. Another role that blew me away. This is a flawless character, I mean perfect. She hits on so many different levels here, and I think this is one of those characters that will only gain more appreciation over time. Taking all nostalgic value and personal bias away, I think this is the greatest female character of all time. There, I said it.
     3. Aliens (1986)
If you looked up "Leading Heroine" in the dictionary, there isn't another character I would expect to see besides Ellen Ripley. This character is one of the great icons in film history, and rightfully so.
     4. Mary Poppins (1964)
She isn't battling aliens, mob bosses, or killers; all she is doing is making a family better people, but that is good enough for me. Another one of the most legendary female roles of all time, and a hell of an on screen debut for Julie Andrews.
     5. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
My all-time favorite horror film, and one of my favorite films in general. Even though it's Anthony Hopkins who gives the legendary performance in this one, that doesn't happen at all without Jodie Foster's character.

Andy Schopp -
Personally, I wouldn't mess with any of these girls - too much bad-ass for me! Well, except maybe Jessica Rabbit, I'd mess with her.

     1. Aliens (1986)

     2. The Terminator (1984)

     3. Kick-Ass (2010)

     4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

     5. Barbarella (1968)

There we have it. Our favorite films featuring some version of a leading heroine! Lots to go through here, so we'll start with the strongest film featured, and that was James Cameron's "Aliens". This film was the only one that appeared on all five lists, and also took the #1 spot on three of them. Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley in this film, and almost single-handedly steps up to the plate and saves our world from these aliens when no one else could or would. For this film we do have the luxury of knowing that she'd dealt with them before, but nonetheless, she doesn't back away from the challenge, and almost goes at them with a vengeance. An incredibly strong character, played perfectly by Weaver. If you want to see what a heroine should be in film, start here.

Outside of that film, there were a handful of films with multiple hits, but overall, there was a lot of variety featured and not a ton of duplicates. There weren't any films that showed up on four lists, and only one, "Kick-Ass", that hit one three. Hit Girl is a unique character for the genre, but no doubt that she's tough as nails and willing to go up against anything presented to her. This is a great modern representation from the subject, and, if nothing else, something that newer audiences should be able to embrace. Otherwise, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "Silence of the Lambs", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" all made the cut as films with multiple appearances, each with two.

Hopefully all of the different film selections listed above can help you to expand your knowledge on some of the best films this genre has to offer, and guide you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!