Ellen Ripley has long being celebrated as a feminist icon and one of the earliest female characters in cinematic history to have been an ass-kicking hero who doesn’t require a bro to save her. Since her debut into cinematic history, there have been a lot of fierce female sci-fi characters who we remain completely in awe of. Including our girl Ripley, here’s our ranking of the ten fiercest female characters in sci-fi history.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? So the good news is that Broad City is returning for a fifth season. The bad news is it’s going to be the last one. We know, we know – it’s not what you wanna hear. Set to air in 2019, one of Comedy Central’s best shows from creators, showrunners, directors, and stars Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson will hopefully end with a worthy conclusion for our favorite skint New Yorkers.
The Shadowhunters yarn unravelled further over the weekend as the fandom took its campaign to save the venerated show to the San Diego Comic-Con. In case you have not yet been following this ongoing saga of legendary proportions, back in June, Freeform announced the cancellation of the genre show despite execs being “very happy creatively” – a decision that was based on “economic reasons”.
James Gunn – director and writer of the GotG Marvel movies – who has been forced out of his position at the helm of the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 after a series of distasteful tweets resurfaced regarding topics such as pedophilia. Whatever your take on this whole mess is, we’re going to go right ahead and suggest a number of women who we think are more up to the job.
Earlier this year, critics and audiences alike found themselves blushing at the sight of a hot and primal lesbian love scene between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams in Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience. The sight of Weisz passionately spitting in McAdams’s mouth, is one that will stay with us for a long time and has been praised as being one of the best sex scenes of the past twelve months by critics.
Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was released ten years ago and the film (along with his subsequent sequels) remains a divisive relic of 00s movie madness. Scores of preadolescent girls developed major feelings for sparkling vampires and Kristen Stewart was basically tasked with being the human equivalent of a heart-eye emoji as meek mortal Bella Swan opposite brooding undead babe Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). However you feel about the films, there’s no denying they didn’t offer much of a role for Stewart to sink her teeth into.
From the Twilight franchise alone, it’d be difficult to see any glimmer of skill or talent from Stewart beyond her ability to bite her lip suggestively at a blood-guzzling beau. But both prior to and following the young adult vampire films, Stewart has enjoyed a career full of gutsy roles and masterful performances that prove she’s genuinely one of the greatest young actors in the industry. Here’s our ranking of her ten best so far.
10. On the Road (2012)
Released towards the end of the Twilight Saga’s tight grip on the hearts & minds of teenage girls (and grown-ass women) everywhere, On the Road saw Stewart delivering a transformative performance. Playing free-spirited Marylou in Walter Salles’s adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s revered beat classic, Stewart gleefully danced off the shackles of mainstream Hollywood.
9. Panic Room (2002)
Only the gutsiest 12-year-olds have the opportunity to work with David Fincher (Zodiac) for a lead role, which is exactly what Stewart did as the daughter of Jodie Foster’s Meg in Panic Room. She’s tough, resilient, and daring, squaring up to the men who have broken into her home (Jared Leto & Forest Whitaker) with all the confidence of someone twice her age.
8. Certain Women (2016)
Alongside Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World) and Laura Dern (The Tale), the movie tells the story of three trailblazing women whose lives intersect in a small-town. Though her role isn’t as major in the movie, Stewart is sweet and restrained as a lawyer struggling with the demands of her job.
7. Camp X-Ray (2014)
G.I. Jane aside, it’s rare to see portrayals of female soldiers in a lead role. As Cole – a soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay who befriends a man imprisoned there – she offers a magnificent blend of strength & vulnerability, proving women can also throw on Army fatigues and display as much corporal tenacity as the dudes (as if anyone ever had any doubt!)
6. American Ultra (2015)
After showing off her credentials in numerous dramatic roles, Stewart let loose a little in American Ultra as a stoner striving to protect her government agent boyfriend who has been marked for extermination. Her performance is the most playful of her career to date, and an absolute hoot to watch.
5. Lizzie (2018)
Having premiered at Sundance in January, Lizzie is still yet to be released to the masses. However, the psychological thriller in which Stewart plays the maid and occasional lover of Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) is still a gutsy choice of role. An infamous murder mystery with a side of illicit lesbian romance? Yes, K-Stew!
4. The Runaways (2010)
The musical biopic marked a departure for Stewart from mainstream teen idol to a rebel with range. Starring opposite Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) & Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Stewart sported a messy mullet to play rock icon Joan Jett and delivered a performance full of swagger and unkempt, sapphic desire.
3. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
It’s no surprise Stewart’s most critically-acclaimed performance was in Olivier Assayas’s story of a film star (Juliette Binoche) coming face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself. The actor collaborates well with the director and in Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart holds her own against powerful performances from Binoche and Chloë Grace Moretz (I Love You, Daddy) by maintaining a measured intensity throughout.
2. Welcome to the Rileys (2010)
If you’re going to step into the acting ring against James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), you’ve got to have some big moves to keep up with him. Playing a troubled stripper named Mallory, Stewart showcased her capabilities as an actor who – at the time – was unfairly ridiculed for her apparent lack of range. Stewart stepped up to her criticisms in the role, showcasing serious range alongside some truly unnerving restless energy.
1. Personal Shopper (2016)
Assayas’s mournful horror balances emotional, pensive drama with unnerving, supernatural exploration. At the heart of the story is Stewart, who juggles all of these thematic swords with effortless finesse as Maureen – a young woman desperate to make contact with her recently deceased twin brother.
The annual Female Eye Film Festival is a competitive event dedicated to highlighting the best of new, emerging, and established female filmmakers from around the globe. Since 2001, this badass fest has showcased high caliber indie flicks made by top female filmmakers. Attendees can enjoy an eclectic selection of features and shorts in all genres directed by women that are not found in mainstream cinema.
The FeFF’s aim is to bridge the gap between the written, visual, and media arts with an eclectic program of film screenings, script readings, an FeFF photo exhibit, as well as an Industry Initiatives Program of panels, workshops, and pitch sessions. All in all it’s the place to be if you’re a budding or established female filmmaker, scriptwriter, or if you’re a film fanatic looking to network with industry professionals.
The Female Eye also holds a Script Development Program – a three tier program comprised of the Good To Go (a pitch session for screenwriters with scripts that are good to go), the Script Reading Series whereby ACTRA members read main scenes from scripts selected, and a script reading in front of a live audience including industry delegates who provide feedback to the writers.
Handcrafted engraved statuettes are presented for the best selected films at the Closing Awards Ceremony, including Best of Show, Best Foreign Feature, Best Canadian Feature, Best Documentary, Best Debut Filmmaker, Best Short Film, Best Animation, and Best Experimental, while Screenplay Awards are presented for Best Screenplay, Best Reserve, Best Low Budget Feature, Best Fresh Voice, and Audience Choice Award.
Choreographer turned filmmaker Leslie-Ann Coles founded the festival, thus creating Canada’s one and only annual competitive international independent female directors’ film festival. As the FeFF’s executive and artistic director, Coles has also mentored young aspiring female filmmakers and Aboriginal youth at risk, producing 42 short experimental films for The Female Eye that have premiered at the festival.
In an interview, Coles noted the fest’s most notable success is that it introduces films directed by women to the general public, industry members, and stakeholders, and by doing this, helps to dispel the myth that women create films for a femme-centric audience. “In other words, we help break the stereotype that women make ‘chick flicks’. Also, although we present films directed by women, our Script Development Program is open to both men and women. Scripts must feature a female protagonist.”
The FeFF is praised for its intimate atmosphere, great programming, and accessibility, which attracts a hodge-podge of film enthusiasts – from emerging and internationally recognized directors to screenwriters, seasoned industry professionals, celebrities, and decision makers in film & TV. Speaking on the event, screenwriter Mark Daniels mused, “My screenplay was selected for this festival. The entire time I spent there was amazing – great films and workshops. Everyone was wonderfully supportive. I cannot recommend this festival strongly enough.” Meanwhile, filmmaker Eva Colmers wrote, “Amazing films, fantastic workshops and panels, and ample opportunities to network with other filmmakers and industry members. It’s one of my absolute favorite festivals.”
Revenge is a dish best served with a side order of badass. Coralie Fargeat’s hard-hitting thriller Revenge dropped in theaters back in May, and for those of you who missed the hype, it was one of the buzziest films at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, offering a fresh, bloody, and raw take on the rape-revenge narrative.
The film received rave reviews upon its release, with Variety describing the movie as “a tense, bloody, riveting cat-and-mouse game that embraces the slick tracking shots and can-you-top-this nastiness that’s come to define the French horror brand.” In the wake of its release, we’re taking a look at some of the best female revenge films from the past several decades. Load ‘em up, girls – it’s hunting time!
Hard Candy (2005)
Never underestimate the power of a teenage girl. This crime thriller plays out what most people wish upon the lurkers who groom young girls on the internet, after a fourteen-year-old female vigilante traps and tortures a man whom she suspects of being a sexual predator. It’s brutal, savage, and completely satisfying to watch.
Paul Verhoeven’s brazenly brutal thriller sees a stunning performance from Isabelle Huppert (Souvenir) as a successful businesswoman who turns the table on her attacker and gets caught up in a game of cat & mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. This film is more than just a tale of revenge, tackling the protagonist’s psychological trauma with tact and complexity.
Ms. 45 (1981)
Back in 1981 Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) unleashed his shocking crime thriller into the cinematic realm, about a timid and mute seamstress who goes insane after being attacked and raped twice in one day. Filled with rage and vengeance, she takes to the streets of New York and takes down men with the titular .45 caliber pistol. While some might argue it borders on the exploitative, Ms. 45 is more enjoyable than it has any right to be and beneath the provocative scenes, the film contains a surprising level of intention and purpose.
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that South Korea knows how to do a vengeance film. In Jang Cheol-soo’s directorial debut, the protagonist Kim (Seo Young-hee) is tortured and molested by her husband and his brother and berated by her aunt and the village elders. The build up is intense, making the breaking point all that more satisfying as Kim takes bloody revenge on everyone who wronged her.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
You can’t make a female vengeance list without giving Kill Bill a mention. Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) is 100% badass in Quentin Tarantino’s empowering tribute to Japanese genre films, and since there are too many best-bits to mention, instead we thought we’d crack on the 5,6,7,8s and have a boogie!
Natalia Leite’s SXSW hit gives an unrelenting tale of rape denial, seeing Francesca Eastwood (True Crime) as an art student who is sexually assaulted at a party. After receiving no support from her college to find justice and cope with her psychological trauma, she decides to take matters into her own hands and thus, an unlikely vigilante is born.
As high-school misfits, we all probably fantasized about taking revenge on the douchey a-holes at school. Luckily we had Carrie, so we could enjoy such fantasies without winding up in jail. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel of the same name, Brian De Palma’s supernatural horror centers on a girl who starts out as a shy, sheltered teen and winds up a murderous prom freak who uses her telekinetic powers to unleash pain and suffering amongst the a-holes who bullied her.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
Pedro Almodóvar’s psychological thriller about a plastic surgeon and his guinea pig “patient” is both shocking and entertaining, weaving together a complex and unpredictable story that breaks the conventions of the rape-revenge narrative, showing how obsession with seeking vengeance can either drive a person to insanity or act as a justification tool for the actions a person takes (or both).
Baise Moi (2000)
In what might be one of the most controversial films of the 21st century, directors Virginie Despentes & Coralie Trinh Thi were completely unapologetic about their portrayal of rape, sex, and violence in their New French Extremity crime thriller. Featuring porn performers in leading roles acting out real-life sex scenes, the story follows two women who embark on a relentless crime spree after being gang raped. This one’s not for the faint-hearted.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
As the third installment in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) carries out an intricate and meticulously planned mission to take revenge on the paedophile murderer who stole years of her life, not just on behalf of herself, but on behalf of the parents whose lives he ruined. With jet-black humor and artistic finesse, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a true cinematic masterpiece.
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
The reigning queen of female vengeance films, Meir Zarchi’s original I Spit on Your Grave (the less said about the 2010 remake, the better) centers on an aspiring writer who is brutally gang-raped before systematically hunting down her attackers to seek revenge. For most people vengeance is a dish best served cold – in the case of Jennifer (Camille Keaton), it’s served brutal, bloody, and totally unrelenting.
It’s been a strong year for the leading ladies of the silver screen, with three of the past year’s most major blockbuster hits – Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Beauty and the Beast – featuring female actresses front and center. However, it’s also been quite a year for women behind the camera too – at least in terms of independent cinema. With some of the best films of the past 18 months having been directed by women, we can’t help but wonder what these magnificent talents could do if given a big budget movie to work with. Here are ten fierce female filmmakers who deserve to be given big-budget films to direct.
Ultimate funny girl and owner of our hearts, Alia Shawkat is having her moment following film festival success with her feature writing debut Duck Butter, about two women (Shawkat’s Naima and Laia Costa’s Sergio) who are dissatisfied with the dishonesty they see in dating and relationships and make a 24-hour sex pact, hoping to find a new way to create intimacy. Having shown her comedy chops in shows such as Arrested Development and Search Party, we would have the utmost confidence were she to helm a satirical feature flick.
Greta Gerwig has warmed our heart cockles and tickled our funny bones for years with her writing, particularly when collaborating with co-writer and director Noah Baumbach for films like Mistress America and Frances Ha. But it was her directorial debut Lady Bird that really blew the world away – a stunningly crafted coming-of-age film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as a teenager trying to navigate herself through kidulthood in the unglamorous setting of Sacramento, California.
We were lucky enough to speak to writer-director Natalia Leite about her 2017 revenge horror M.F.A., a film that follows Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) – an art student brutally raped by a potential love interest – who takes justice into her own hands after being failed by the system. Speaking on female directors in the horror genre, Leite explained, “I hope there are a lot more women who feel empowered to go into this genre. It’s a fact that there’s not a lot of us doing these types of films.” We have no doubt Leite would absolutely slay were she to direct a major horror blockbuster.
Another leader in the horror genre, Anna Biller directed The Love Witch, proving her oddball flair with a film about a beautiful young witch on her quest to find the perfect mate. With clear visual panache and styles echoing sexploitation films of the 60s and 70s, we’re hoping to see more kooky characters from this undeniable auteur in the years to come.
Writer for hit comedies such as Master of None and The Chi and an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s recently released Ready Player One, Lena Waithe is absolutely changing the game on screens both big and small. While enjoying her moment in Hollywood, Waithe’s breaking records while she’s at it, having become the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. More of this, please!
Alice Lowe has been making us laugh with her acting roles for years, from Sightseers to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace to Hot Fuzz. But it was all about her writing & directing debut Prevenge, following a pregnant widow who finds herself at the whim of her murderous, demonic unborn child. Imagine Rosemary’s Baby as a comedy, throw in some sharp British humor, and you’re there. Lord only knows what Lowe would come up with were she in charge of a blockbuster budget – we can but dream.
Cathy Yan made her directorial debut Dead Pigs in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, focusing on a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an ambitious expat architect, and a disenchanted rich girl who collide when thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai. It’s a unique and quirky film, but we’re rooting for the director even more since she was pitched as the unexpected director of DC Comics’s unnamed Harley Quinn film. We’re keeping our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed this dream is made a reality!
Dee Rees made Oscar history this year after becoming the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for her breakout hit Mudbound. A masterpiece in its own right, the film is an epic story of two families pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape, portraying racial conflict in postwar Mississippi. With other hits such as the 2011 drama Pariah, the outlook is strong for this skilled and determined filmmaker.
Anyone who’s bingewatched the new Brit comedy Fleabag in one sitting will know that writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story) is one talented woman. As funny as it is dramatic, the show follows a self-confessed pervert as she comes to terms with her friend’s death while dealing with life in London. Perhaps a feature length writing debut is on the cards in the near future? We sure hope so.
Although she’s best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan has been making waves with her coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Highly praised at this year’s Sundance, the narrative centers around a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion center after being caught hooking up with the prom queen. As Clare Binns suggested, let’s give Akhavan a blockbuster to direct. You know it makes sense!
In the wake of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct scandal, gender equality remains a central theme within the industry. While female filmmakers like Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig, Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, and A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay may be recognized as some of the greatest talents working today, a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film suggests Hollywood still has a long way to go.
The study discovered the jaw-dropping statistic that women held just 18% of behind-the-scenes film jobs including directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers in the top grossing movies of the past year. The figures have hardly budged since 1998. Out of the 250 top-grossing domestic films, just 1% employed 10 or more women, while 70% employed 10 or more men. Furthermore, 30% of the titles featured zero or one woman in behind-the-scenes jobs, while none of the films had fewer than one man.
Rather than simply sitting back and despairing at these dismal figures, a series of organizations and initiatives have launched to encourage gender parity both in front of and behind the lens.
Seeking to prove actions speak louder than words are the Film Fatales – a community of female feature film & TV directors who meet regularly to share resources, collaborate on projects, and discuss relevant topics in their careers. Currently there are over 500 members in Los Angeles and New York, and hundreds more across Europe, Australia, and Africa.
Film Fatales Founder Leah Meyerhoff thinks the statistics for female filmmakers are too low. “Half of our society is women. Half of the audiences are women. Half of the creative content needs to be made by women. The more that women and people of color can see reflections of themselves on screen, and the more that straight white men can learn to empathize with other subject positions through watching a variety of stories unfold, the healthier our society will be as a whole.”
That’s where Film Fatales comes in. So far the company has programmed over 250 films directed by women at 90 independent theaters and organized over 100 panel discussions, workshops, and networking events in partnership with festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Toronto, and more. “By expanding the landscape of storytelling to include more underrepresented voices, Film Fatales continues to bring new and exciting films to the big screen.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Women Directors offers many programs to benefit its members. Chair of the organization, Jennifer Warren, claims that the non-profit’s primary goal is to achieve parity in the workplace for female directors. “As an organization, we are fighting for change in the hiring practices. One example would be our partnering with the ACLU in identifying discriminatory patterns within the studios.
“In addition, we have outreach to all the film festivals, which provides our members with various perks, including lower entry fees; we have affiliations with many of the professional organizations; we have educational programs and panels with high-visibility directors; and we have different kinds of shadowing programs all aimed at getting our members employment.”
Over in the UK, Women in Media provides networking opportunities and professional development for directors in the film and TV industries. Executive director Tema L. Staig outlined the company’s reason behind the launch of its female-focused IMDB-style list, the so-called WiMCrewList.
“For the longest time, we heard that people just couldn’t find women in the crew. For some reason, even though I knew tons of women, they were invisible to many decision makers. With the WiMCrewList, women can add their IMDB, resume, reels, SoundCloud, mini bio, if they are union / non union, and the rest. Our members can add all their credits, which is necessary when it comes to decision makers vetting new talent.”
The Director List is a hub for finding female directors and their work. As a filmmaker herself, founder and editor Destri Martino sought out the work of seasoned female directors to provide inspiration and guidance for her own projects, but was often disappointed by the low number of women she found.
“While doing research for a masters thesis back in 2005, I realized there were a lot more working directors than mainstream media coverage”. Out of this realization, The Director List was born. Since then, the list of female directors with demonstrable experience in features, TV, and/or large-scale commercials and music videos has jumped to 1,000 members and growing.
In addition to the database, the site provides news, photos, video, and a community focused on the film, TV, and video projects women are actively creating around the world.
Elsewhere, Reel Angels has been breaking boundaries as an agency that represents female technical crews for film, TV, and entertainment events. The company claims to promotes gender equality in technical departments by providing a credible and proven resource of top-end talent.
Lulu Elliott, founder of RA Agency, told Film Daily how the company exists at a time when there has never been a more opportune moment to employ female talent in film and TV. “By representing women, we see ourselves as leaders in the ongoing progress towards full gender parity across the industries.”
These organizations’ efforts haven’t been going unnoticed. Since 2016, Telefilm Canada, the powerful, well-funded film financing arm of the Canadian government, unveiled its ambitious drive to gender equality in the film sector by 2020. It seems the initiative is already having effect, as a 2017 study shows a 27% increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015.
While gender counting in filmmaking crews & casts will undoubtedly remain a hot topic in 2018, it remains to be seen whether a world in which crews maintain 50% representation between genders across the entire industry is actually desirable, or even possible. And what about those who identify as something else entirely? Film Daily recommends the underrepresented feline contingent in entertainment production create a non-profit to promote human-cat parity by 2026.