movies & entertainment

15 Breakout Female Characters In Superhero Movies And Shows

Karthika S Nair | Apr 05 2019
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Who wouldn't love to watch a superhero film?

The genre has been dominating the US and international box office for years. Sam Raimi gave a fresh take on popular superhero 'Spiderman'. Christopher Nolan, with his vision and in-depth narration, produced the 'Dark Knight trilogy'. It became a trend after the success of 'Iron man' which gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the most ambitious crossover in Hollywood.

Superhero, as a genre, targeted young boys and teenage male population. The female characters and their sidekicks were designed like so. In both films and TV shows, women's roles were limited to being a love interest or a damsel in distress. In time, women took their place in the genre, attracting more girls and women to the genre.

'Catwoman' and 'Elektra' failed at the box-office and the odds were not in favour for women to have another solo superhero movie. The studios sidelined the ideas for years until the release of 'Wonder Woman' which broke several box-office records. The success of 'Black Panther' neutralised the arguments which stated that women or minorities cannot give good returns at the box office.

There are many interesting female characters in the superhero universe, who gave the narration a feminist arc. Here are the 15 breakout female characters in superhero films and TV shows.

1. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

After a long wait, DC films released big screen 'Wonder Woman' in 2017 which went on to become one of the highest grossing films of that year. Gal Gadot starred as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman and her performance earned her critical lauds. The ‘No man’s land’ scene from the film is considered as one of the best scenes from a super hero film. Her appearance as Wonder Woman in 2016 film 'Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice' is lauded as one of the best introductions of a superhero.

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Wonder woman, a comic character, was created by William Moulton Marston in the 1940s. She was seen as the warrior princess from Themyscira. Marston, who was living a polyamorous life, said that Wonder Woman was inspired by his partners who were influential and strong in a man's world. In his own words, he wanted to inspire women by creating a character that is as strong as Superman but with feminine features and characteristics.

"Women are powerful. But they are despised due to the stereotype, which sees seeing as a docile and submissive being. Due to this even girls don't want to be girls. I hope this character is a remedy for this mindset. Wonder woman is strong and she is alluring which is what being a woman is," he said about the character. Wonder Woman was first adapted to screen in 1974 made screen show starring Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

2. Antiope

'Wonder Woman' is all about Diana Prince and her fight against the god of War Ares. Along with her lead, the one person who stole the show is her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright. Antiope is the one who trains Diana to become the warrior princess she became, even when her mother opposed. Her fight sequences received appreciations from the audience and the critics. She comes with her army when German soldiers attack Themyscira. She shoots the arrows one by one after sticking them to the ground. The most impressive moment which made her cult character is when she shoots three arrows at three soldiers after getting a boost from an Amazonian with her shield. Wright underwent horseback riding training, weight training and martial arts to do this role.


"You get to be a woman and strong in every way. This movie, apart from female empowerment is also about love and justice," said Wright about her character.

Antiope first appeared in 1984, created by Dan Mishkin as a mythological Amazonian.

3. Okoye


Danai Gurira made her mark in the blockbuster film 'Black Panther' as a proud Wakandan and traditionalist who is loyal to the crown. She is king T'Challa's personal bodyguard. She is a fierce warrior known for her skills with the spear and team attacks and is also skilled in various weapons and tools. Her casino fight scene earned her applause and attention. She used her wig as a weapon during the fight. Okoye is known for her dedication towards Wakanda and the crown which is evident when she tells her lover 'M'Baku that she is ready to kill him if necessary for Wakanda.

4. Hope van Dyne/Wasp

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After her introduction in 'Ant-man', Hope van Dyne finally becomes the Wasp in 'Ant-man and the Wasp'. Evangeline Lilly, who made her mark in the Hobbit trilogy as the lone feminist warrior, plays the role. Like Anti-man, Wasp is able to shrink herself to smaller sizes and has wings. Lilly learned a different form of martial art that looks elegant and graceful as opposed to masculine martial arts styles such as MMA style of fighting. The film was lauded as the first woman-centric Marvel movie until the release of 'Captain Marvel'.

In the comics, Wasp was first depicted as a supervillain named 'Red-Queen'.


5. Mera

Mera was first depicted as a supporting character to her superhero husband Aquaman. Writers eventually developed her into a superhero of her own right. The character has been adapted into the big screen and Amber Heard flawlessly played her in 'Justice League' and 'Aquaman'.


Mera possesses hydrokinetic powers which helps her bend water and turn it into different shapes and forms. A notable scene is where she bends wine from wine bottles into sharps spikes to fight her Atlantean guards. She has telepathic powers that allow her to control her aquatic environment and communicate with other Atlanteans. She is fierce and rebellious when it to her conservative royal community in Atlantis. Apart from that hydrokinetics, she has superhuman speed, strength and longevity.

6. Carol Denvers/Captain Marvel


Brie Larson broke the glass ceiling with the success of Captain Marvel which entered the billion-dollar club. Captain Marvel is described as the most powerful Marvel superhero. She is called as the last resort to face powerful supervillain, Thanos. Captain has a feminist backstory as a woman trainee in the military. She fought for her place in the airforce with her grit and determination and chose what is right and stood up for truth and justice. She flew across the galaxy to fight for the vulnerable. Larson was chosen for being able to balance her powerful self with her humane self. According to the producer Kevin Feige, she will be the central character in the 'Avengers Endgame'.

7. Jessica Jones


Netflix delivered slick and clever detective series based on this retired superhero Jessica Jones played compellingly by Krysten Ritter. Jessica Jones immortalised the phrase 'fight like a woman' with her cleverness, empathy and superhuman strength. Jessica got her powers from a science experiment which saved her from a deadly car accident. She works as a detective under the name 'Alias investigations' named after a club her late boyfriend wanted to open. In the comics, Jessica Jones was named as 'Jewel' and 'Power woman'. Jessica Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos. Writer Melissa Rosenberg created the Netflix series. The second season of Jessica Jones had an all-female directorial team.

8. Elektra Natchios


Elektra is one of the most popular characters from Frank Miller's Marvel stories. Elodie Yung played the feisty and daring character in the second season of 'Daredevil' and 'Defenders' as the antagonist. She is a martial arts expert with special weapons skills. She is known for her violent and mercenary style. She wields a pair of bladed sai as her trademark weapons. Actress Elodie Yung is a black belt in karate and her familiarity with the sport made her appearance as the character more compelling and is seen as the breakout character from the 'Defenders'.

9. Harley Quinn


Margot Robbie's interpretation as the supervillain Harley Quinn is one of the most attractive aspects of the film 'Suicide Squad'. People admired her eccentricities and image of her holding her weapon with a gleeful look went viral online. Harley Quinn was introduced as an accomplice and sidekick of the Joker who falls in love with him. She began a cult character that got her stories in the comics. Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn in 'Birds of Prey'.

10. Hela


Hela entered the list of the most badass female villains with her appearance in 'Thor Ragnarok'. Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett sets the screen on fire with her powerful portrayal of the goddess of death and Thor's older sister. Hela destroys Thor's weapon Mjolnir with her powers. She is shown to be a very ambitious and malevolent individual with determination.

11. Jean Grey/Phoenix

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The depiction of Jean Grey's powers in 'X-men: the last stand' came as a shock for the audience when the Phoenix in her takes over and sets to destroying everyone and everything around her. Jean is the most powerful character from the series who stands at par with Wolverine, Prof X and Rogue. She has telepathic that helps her control the movement of objects and people around her.

Famke Janssen played the charming hero and intimidating antagonist in the X men films. Sophie Turner gave her cents in 'X-men apocalypse' where she plays a role in defeating supervillain Apocalypse. She is cast to play the central role in the upcoming 'X-men dark phoenix'. The relationship between Jean Grey and her male counterpart Scott Summers is one of the notable attractions from comic books and its adaptations. Jean Grey is one of the favourite creations of the late Stan Lee.

12. Raven Darkholme/Mystique

Mystique was the main antagonist in the X-men series and an anti-hero who becomes a part of the X-men in the prequels. Mystique has amazing shape-shifting abilities that help her take the form of an individual when she desires. Her ability to take bodily form and voice and her capabilities to infiltrate any place makes her a very dangerous adversary. Rebecca Romijin Stamos plays a popular interpretation of the character who is loyal to Magneto. After she was abandoned by Magneto for losing her power in 'X-men: last stand', she turns against him and snitches him to the authorities.

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Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique in the prequel series who was part of the team. She joins Magneto and the brotherhood later on but goes rogue. Lawrence's version met with polarised responses but her star value and performance made her a central character in the series.

13. Selina Kyle/Catwoman


Michelle Pfeiffer stepped into the spotlight as the femme fatale and burglar who fights with style. Pfeiffer delivered the most popular interpretation of Catwoman until now with her style and skills with the whip. Catwoman is an anti-hero who warms up to Bruce Wayne. Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman in the 'Dark Knight Rises' as the antagonist who reforms at the end of the film. Catwoman is created by Billy Finger and Bob Kane. In the comics, she has appeared in the 'Gotham city Sirens' with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.


14. Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch


Scarlett witch entered the screen as a superhero who manipulated Iron man into her trap. She takes on all the Avengers. However, Hawkeye recognises the good in her and encourages her to fight for humanity. Scarlett Witch is one of the most powerful characters from the series. She singly took on Thanos in 'Avengers: Infinity War' and abilities to alter reality in unspecified ways make her a sorceress. Elizabeth Olsen played the Scarlett Witch and she will be making her television debut in 'Vision and the Scarlett Witch' which is an extension of MCU to the small screen. Olsen's performance in the role encouraged the makers to give her own platform. Stan Lee created the Scarlett Witch as a member of the ‘Brotherhood’ with Magneto.

15. Laura/X-23


Turning table on the damsel-in-distress, Dafne Keen fights like a girl as X-23 in 'Logan'. She stood at par with Hugh Jackman's compelling performance as Logan/Wolverine. Laura is aggressive, sharp and determined like her father and wants to find and unite with her superhero friends. She lauded as being a badass in her fight scenes with armed men. X-23 was a character created for the TV show 'X-men: Evolution' by writer Craig Kyle. Similar to Wolverine, she has retractable adamantium-coated bone claws in her hands and feet. Added to that, she has a regenerative healing factor and enhanced senses, speed, and reflexes.