Female Heroes Dominating Film & TV
While we await ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Wonder Woman 84,’ here’s some kickass female heroes you can watch right now
2018 is a great time to be a female superhero fan; Marvel Studio’s much-awaited Captain Marvel just dropped its first trailer. At long last, they’ve decided to care about Black Widow beyond her usage as a romantic interest, giving her a solo outing with Cate Shortland (Lore, Berlin Syndrome) signed on to direct. The unpredictable Warner Brothers seems to be developing a Supergirl movie (penned by 22 Jump Street writer Oren Uziel), and an all-female Birds of Prey film starring Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. DC’s Wonder Woman sequel is in production, set in the vibrant Eighties and just roped in musical behemoth Hans Zimmer for the score. Unfortunately, there’s a long wait for these exciting projects to materialise. Until then, we’ve got you covered with an eclectic list of female heroes you can catch on television and film.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
In the late Eighties, Joss Whedon wanted to subvert the horror genre with a pretty blonde girl who seemed like a generic horror movie victim, but would end up killing the monsters herself. This led to the creation of a movie and a massively successful TV series where Sarah Michelle Gellar played the titular character, saving the world on countless occasions. It’s a quirky high school drama and an apocalyptic vampire thriller wrapped up in a single, addictive package.
Agent Carter is a spin-off series featuring Peggy Carter from the Captain America films. It’s a funny, action-packed thriller that makes great use of its 1940s setting, both aesthetically and culturally. Agent Carter’s superpower is kicking all kinds of ass while also battling rampant misogyny at the workplace, and British actress Hayley Atwell achieves a balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and emotional resonance. The stylish, unapologetically feminist show is sure to keep Marvel fans satisfied.
An alcoholic private detective with PTSD sounds like the kind of role that was tailor-made for the men of noir, so Jessica Jones comes as a breath of fresh air. The character’s enhanced strength and aggressive cynicism makes her intriguing, and Krysten Ritter plays her to perfection in a show that also features one of Marvel’s greatest on-screen villains. The mind-controlling Kilgrave is played by former Doctor Who, David Tennant.
After a lack-lustre solo film in the Seventies, Supergirl made her way back into the public consciousness with the popular CW show starring Melissa Benoist. Her Supergirl is impossibly endearing, embodying the Superman ethos better than the recent big screen adaptations of the character. A hero torn between two worlds and driven solely by empathy and love. This breezy, optimistic show also hosts some of the most well-rounded female relationships on superhero TV.
While Jennifer Garner’s Elektra was an eyesore, the assassin made an impact on the small screen years later, on the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil (and team-up show The Defenders). French actress Elodie Young nails the character, playing up Elektra’s sadistic traits and fluid fighting style. She also embodies a sense of vulnerability and mystery, making her the best part of a season packed with important Marvel characters like Punisher and The Hand.
Valkyrie (Thor Ragnarok)
Thor Ragnarok is like a good party, with its non-stop punch lines and gaudy Eighties vibe, populated with a large cast of outlandish characters: from Marvel staples Thor and Loki, to a talking pile of rocks and his giant insect friend. And yet, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie manages to be a scene-stealer. She used to be part of a race of elite Asgardian warriors, and is now a drunk bounty hunter with tons of sass. It’s a delight to watch Thor and Hulk crushing on her almost as much as the audience, and when they join forces, it rivals Marvel’s biggest team-ups.
Dark Angel was a sci-fi TV series in the early 2000s starring Jessica Alba, inspired by the Y2K conspiracy. It focussed on her character Max Guevara, a genetically-enhanced superhuman who escapes her military confines. Alba was just 18 when she got the role. She trained for a year in combat and bike riding, and it shows in the impressive action set pieces. It was James Cameron’s first foray into television, and is a slick, energetic ride with an underlying sense of dread.
Rey (Star Wars)
Much to the dismay of sexist geeks everywhere,The new Star Wars trilogy places a young female scavenger at its centre. While she remains controversial, and there is some legitimate debate about her characterisation and abilities, both Episode seven and eight have dedicated serious time to make her a force to be reckoned with, making British actress Daisy Ridley a fan favourite. Rey has proven to be a brave and resourceful figure. She is a capable fighter, made endearing through her affection towards the others and enthusiasm for space exploration.
Whether it’s the goofy Seventies series with Linda Carter, or the 2017 film starring Gal Gadot, you can’t really go wrong with Wonder Woman. Her earth-shattering reveal in the final act of 2016’s Batman v Superman built anticipation in audiences, and the highly entertaining solo outing starring Gadot expanded the character into a determined warrior with a heart of gold, with a moving romantic subplot to boot. Young women everywhere were surprisingly affected by Wonder Woman’s rich portrayal of female strength and its lack of unnecessary sexualization, making it a global event.
Catwoman (Batman Returns)
With four live action portrayals, Catwoman is an unstoppable anti-hero who remains an important character in the DC mythology (she recently tied the knot with Batman). The Dark Knight Rises version is forgettable, and the Halle Berry film is a hyper-sexualised abomination. For the fans of the classic Batman TV series, there’s Julie Neymar’s campy portrayal, but Michelle Pfeiffer takes the cake with a career-best performance in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, where she plays a timid secretary who dies and is brought back to life as the vengeful, unhinged Catwoman.