Ladies First: The Best Female Characters Of Sci-Fi Film And Television

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SarahConnorSarah Connor (The Terminator)
When we first meet Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, in James Cameron’s 1984 tech-noir classic The Terminator, she’s a meek waitress at a diner, just sort of drifting through life without much of a goal or even any discernible direction. Her subsequent transformation into one of cinema’s, and television’s, most badass characters, male or female, is nothing short of astounding. When we first see Sarah in the 1991 sequel, Judgment Day, she’s a completely different person, physically as well as mentally. She’s honed her body in every way possible, in this case by doing the psych hospital equivalent of prison-yard pull-ups, and she has dedicated her life to protecting her son John, and preparing him to be the savior of the human race.

No mother wants to imagine that her child is going to live a life of hardship and danger, let alone know that for a fact, but over the span of multiple movies and a too-short-lived TV show, we’ve seen her grapple with this knowledge. At times knowing the future comes damn close to overwhelming her, but time and time again, we see Sarah steadfastly, ferociously defend her family and the future of the human race. Compassionate, kind, and tough as fucking nails, Sarah Connor is hands down one of our favorite characters, movie or TV, man or woman, sci-fi or otherwise. And next summer we’ll get to see a whole new incarnation as Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, a badass in her own right, takes over the role and makes it her own. – Brent

OliviaOlivia Dunham (Fringe)
Few realms on television have been as male-dominated as law enforcement, and the women who do manage to penetrate the boys’ club, even in this supposedly enlightened era, still have to deal with a heaping pile of shit along the way. One of my favorites is Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) from Fox’s gone-too-soon sci-fi procedural Fringe, who not only navigated this treacherous realm, but did it without taking shit off of anyone — not superiors, not monsters, not even alternate versions of herself.

That alone is serious business, but when you take into account the kinds of chaotic, crazy adventure Liv and her team dealt with, her gets that much more awesome. They face off with all manner of nasty creatures, jump from one universe to another and back with impunity, and manage to save multiple realities from complete and total destruction. And she gets to hang out with a legitimate mad scientist. Sure, Walter may be the reason why multiple planes of reality are crumbling to pieces, but that’s the kind of thing that mad scientists are supposed to do, right? If you can deal with that kind of madness day in, day out, for five seasons, including a jaunt to the future, all without batting an eye, you are definitely not someone to be trifled with. – Brent

KatnissKatniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Both on the page and onscreen, Katniss Everdeen is the pinnacle of the current crop of young sci-fi heroines (despite an obviously ridiculous name). There’s a reason that The Hunger Games is the undisputed ruler of the dystopian YA landscape that is so popular, and that reason is her. For all the attempts, thus far no one has been able to come close, and until they have a protagonist who can hold a candle to Miss Everdeen, they’re going to continue to fall short, not just in book sales and box office receipts, but in overall quality.

Katniss is by turns incredibly tough when she needs to be, but also incredibly kind; equally as strong as she is fragile. Compelled by forces beyond her control to kill, she does what she must in order to survive, but at the same time, this isn’t something she takes lightly. The lives she ends haunt her, as do the consequences of her actions as a symbol of rebellion, revolution, and freedom in the oppressed districts of Panem. She’s very human, very real, and very overwhelmed by the weight of her decisions, and she still manages to be brave and heroic when necessity dictates. If I had children I can’t adequately express how much I’d rather them become infatuated with Katniss than just about any other YA characters out there, especially sparkly fucking vampires. – Brent

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  1. Glen says:

    This isn’t so much a list of the best, more just a list of female characters. Still, they’re all awesome.

  2. Nathaniel Bacon says:

    Where the Hell are Buffy Summers and Xena of Amphipolis?… This is inexcusable.

  3. Joelle says:

    I’m the biggest Buffy fan ever, but didn’t put her on the list because she’s not really sci-fi–she’s more fantasy. But yeah, she deserves a spot on any list!

  4. Denise Nader says:

    Hi there! I see you missed Samantha Carter from Stargate… She blew up a sun and saved Earth more than a couple of times whith science. Plus, she could kick ass in battle.

    Anyways, I’m glad to see Ivanova there. And Aeryn Sun. And Roslin!

  5. trekkie says:

    Where is 7 of 9.

  6. MrSatyre says:

    No Major Motoko Kusanagi?

  7. Johan Andersson says:

    See a lot of my favourite characters here, but no one from Stargate series at all? and way to few from Star Trek universe…

  8. kabienvenue says:

    I know this is just SciFi but where are some of the Doctor Who Companions? Sarah Jane Smith? River Song?

  9. Trickster says:

    River Song?

  10. ram says:

    The idea of having this list without Kira from DS9 is ridiculous.

  11. Palious13 says:

    What about River Song from Doctor Who? She should totally be on the list.

  12. Yahraah says:

    Where is Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter?

  13. Singanddance says:

    You have missed 7 of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager, while apparently ODing on Battlestar Galactica. Blech.

  14. Sarah Jane Smith says:

    You completely ignored any Doctor Who ladies. Bad bad bad… Surely River Song and/or Sarah Jane Smith deserves on this list.

  15. Dona McAdam says:

    Why didn’t you include Sam Carter from Stargate SG-1? She blew up a sun for cry in’ out loud!!! Saved the world A LOT!!!

  16. Mitch S says:

    Ripley needs to take a flamethrower to the AdExcite people.

  17. je says:

    What about Capt Janeway–Voyager, or Aeon Flux, or 7/9, or the original space babe Barberella, the blonde girl form the Maxx, or La Femme Nikita–tv series. he lady from Buck Rodgers, or even Xena- Warrior princess.

  18. Harriet says:

    How about Vasquez from Aliens?. Sje was the baddest, but she never got he respect she deserved …

  19. Lloyd Thompson Campbell says:

    No Janeway? WTF.

  20. James Verdejo says:

    Where the hell is Mila Jovovich/ALICE??

  21. dave says:

    what about River Song from Dr. Who?

  22. Brus says:

    They forgot Buffy.

  23. ffontao says:

    Nobody mentioned T’Pol of Star Trek: Enterprise! Kira Nerys of ST:DS9 is worth mentioning too, a real badass and not hard to look at either. But Ripley is the all-time winner badass of sci-fi!

  24. Francis Sanchez Rivera says:

    Uh… What about Sarah Walker from Chuck? and Agent Romanov aka Black Widow?

  25. Cee Ees says:

    Where on Earth (and the Milky Way) is Sam Carter??? I mean, really.

  26. Ashley Beeching says:

    I would of added Judge Anderson from 2012 film Dredd, as played by Olivia Thirlby.
    A very well rounded character and action heroine.
    Great list though. 🙂

  27. Spirit Sixtyseven says:


  28. Kristi Kinch says:

    Uh, no Samantha Carter from SG1? oookaaay then.

  29. kon says:

    I only know Ripley and Sara Connor..All the others are not so famous to the world. PS where is Xena the Warrior Princess anyway? When I hear kick ass women my mind goes straight to Xena..

  30. Vinnicius Dantas says:


  31. Ollie Walton-harrod says:

    Princess Leia Organa is definitely worthy.
    I get to Ellen Ripley: “Wait, why does the list continue”. – She’s so good.
    I get to Aeryn Sun “Yes”. I’m surprised Farscape is remembered here because it’s not too famous a series. But I’m glad; and she is definitely a good character. And I prefer her to Zoe and River, I think actually (Zoe, only just, though).
    River Tam – Yes, obviously. It’s ‘Firefly’. Though I hadn’t actually thought “oh, they’re definitely going to be on there” when I read the introduction.
    Trinity – I suppose, is badass. But I don’t like ‘The Matrix’, Possibly, mainly because, I don’t like the acting of Keanu Reeves (Neo) or Carrie Anne-Moss (Trinity) in it; I found both their characters boring. If only Will Smith had accepted the offer of the role of Neo.
    Nyota Uhura – Isn’t she just as good as anyone working on a spaceship console? I don’t think she’s anything special. – Other than, of course, being controversial at the time by being a black woman, but that wasn’t her character, that was her.

    Zoe Washburne – I would certainly not put as the best. I do really like her. But I prefer Aeryn, Leia and Ripley.

    I don’t think much of ‘The Hunger Games’ but Isuppose Katniss Everdeen’s character is a strong one; despite her inability to deal with telling a guy she doesn’t like him. – I’ve only seen the first ‘The Hunger Games’ film.
    I can’t really remember the ‘Terminator’ films.

  32. jeffrey says:

    what about SEVEN OF NINE or Captain JANEWAY

  33. Mathias says:

    Where the f*ck is Buffy Summers ?! This list is meaningless without her.

  34. Daniel Learmouth says:

    No Major from Ghost in the Shell?

  35. Awesome list! I had a really hard time putting together my top 10. I wanted to add Zoe and River but my list was about movies and I think they are more associated with Firefly and not Serenity. Check out my list over at New Geek Protocol!

  36. Daniele Fernandes says:

    Where is Samantha Carter? Or any lady from Doctor Who? There are some great characters on the list, but c’mon, Sam Carter is one of the best sci fi character from all time!