Sarah 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
Olivia 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
Katniss 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