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

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MaxMax Guevara (X5-452) (Dark Angel)
I was a big fan of Dark Angel when it first premiered all the way back in 2000. The show was from James Cameron, it was science fiction, it starred Jessica Alba, and it featured bike messengers in the future. What was not to like? With a very solid first season, Dark Angel was one of the better new shows on television at the time.

Jessica Alba played Max Guevara, also known as X5-452, a runaway genetically enhanced super-soldier who spent her adolescence trying to escape from a government organization that was creating these child-soldiers in secrecy. Max was a tough bike messenger by day, trying her best to live a normal life in a post-apocalyptic world. When the government agency known as Manticore tracked her down, her training kicked in, and she had to fight to keep her friends safe from the truth about her past life. There has to be something said for wanting to keep your history out of the spotlight. It’s a quiet and reserved quality, but that’s what made Dark Angel interesting to me. It was a show about a woman fighting to be normal. There were many other people just like Max, who made every episode worth watching, as she tried to find each and every one of them.

But in the second season, things began to go downhill as the series shifted to the other mutant experiments Manticore created. Alba and her character Max were consistent throughout the series, but sadly the show’s overall quality declined. – Rudie

IvanovaSusan Ivanova (Babylon 5)
Ivanova was well known for her bleak Russian cynicism, but that cynicism was well earned. She lost her telepath mother early on after the suppressive drugs mandated by Psi-Corps drove her to suicide. She lost her brother during the Earth-Minbari War, a tragedy that spurred her to join Earthforce in his honor. As second in command of Babylon 5, she was forced to face off against her own people in a bloody civil war, one that came right after an even bloodier interstellar war between two ancient forces who primarily viewed humanity and the younger races as pawns in a millennia-old game of “Nuh uh!” And let’s not even venture near the subject of her love life, because oy.

Nevertheless, Ivanova soldiered through it all, growing from a dedicated but cold young officer into a seasoned badass capable not only of delivering the line “I am death incarnate…God sent me” without a hint of irony, but of backing it up with ruthless, decisive action. In a show that included many fascinating, dynamic female characters — Delenn and Lyta spring to mind — Ivanova has always been my favorite simply because she was so relatable. Thrown again and again into events of calamitous import, with the literal fate of the galaxy at stake, she is forever bemoaning her impending doom…but that never stops her from doing what needs to be done. For all that wry Russian wit, she never gives up, and she never gives in.

And like most of Babylon 5’s characters, she winds up in a very different place than she began, rising to the rank of General in Earthforce before taking over leadership of the Anla’shok at the request of Delenn. Even though actress Claudia Christian departed the show at the end of the fourth season, I’ve always loved that it’s Ivanova who delivers the final lines of the series, which sum up the theme of Babylon 5 in a nutshell:

Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future, and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future, or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don’t, who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly though, I think it gave us hope. That there could always be new beginnings…even for people like us.

LeelaTuranga Leela (Futurama)
From the opening of Futurama’s pilot episode, we knew a character like Turanga Leela was going to be interesting to watch. She was the pilot of the Planet Express Spaceship and future wife of the series’ lead Philip J. Fry. She’s one of the more likable and sympathetic
characters on the animated series, but she’s never afraid to fight. Actually, she’s usually the first to throw a punch or a dropkick before anyone else begins to act. Leela is the apex of badass on Futurama, and no one else is her physical equal. Throughout Futurama’s series run, we got to see Leela develop from a know-it-all and protective pilot to a true leader of the entire Planet Express Company.

One of my favorite episodes is “Less than Hero,” where Fry, Leela, and Bender discover Dr. FlimFlam’s Miracle Cream, which gives them all superpowers. Leela is at the center of the episode, trying to balance her life as a normal and a mutant. It’s one of the more touching episodes of Futurama, but as “Clobberella” Leela also gets to beat up the bad guys and saves the city from the team’s nemesis the Zookeeper. – Rudie

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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!