International Women’s Day is upon us and we are celebrating women’s achievements and the meaningful contributions they’ve made to the world by ranking the top 10 female superheroes of television and film and not only are we celebrating the heroes, we’re also celebrating the actresses who play them.
10. Sailor Moon ( anime cartoon)
Sailor Moon is a feminist icon from the 1990’s based on a Japanese Manga called Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. The series was dubbed into English for American audiences and it was a real hit from 1995-2000.
At first glance the series appeared to be the opposite of feminism, almost sexualizing the 14 year old protagonist, but the show focused on female empowerment and the power of female friendships.
The series was fairly progressive for the times with a lesbian relationship on an after-school cartoon for kids.
Sailor Moon taught 90’s kids that it was ok to be emotional and to stand up for yourself in the face of evil and showed us that five highly dissimilar girls could be the best of friends, support each other through thick and thin, and accomplish seemingly impossible tasks as a result of their united front.
9. Diane Guerrero’s Jane
Jane, on HBO Max’s Doom Patrol, is the dominant personality of a person named Kay, who has 64 distinct alternate personalities, each with their own super-power.
Jane seems like an absolute train wreck and for all intents and purposes, she really is, but when needed, her personalities step up and save the day with their powers.
Kay was abused by her father starting at age 5 and because of that trauma she developed multiple personalities. We don’t get to know every single one of her 64 personalities, but we meet a handful several times including her protective persona named Hammerhead, Lucy Fugue who had electrokinetic abilities, Flit, who can teleport, and Dr Harrison, who can control minds, just to name a few.
Jane is on this female superheroes list because even with all her traumas and imperfections, she is a force to be reckoned with. Diane Guerrero does an amazing job slipping between so many roles within this one character.
8. Regina King’s Sister Knight
When Academy Award winner and Golden Globe winner Regina King hosted Saturday Night Live on February 13, 2021 she joked in her monologue, “If you’re Black you probably know me from being in some of your favorite movies. If you’re white you probably know me from Watchmen or this monologue.” King plays Detective Angela Abar aka Sister Knight in HBO’s Watchmen.
As a young child Angela lost her parents to a bombing, after years in an orphanage, her grandmother came to rescue her, but then tragically she died as well.
Angela channels her trauma into her police work. She is an ordinary human without any superpowers, but she is a skilled fighter, an expert acrobat, and a master Martial artist in peak physical condition with police training.
Angela is married to “Cal,” who is really Dr. Manhattan. Regina and Sister Knight made this list because Sister Knight is an absolute badass and she is just fun to watch and the relationship between her and Dr Manhattan/Cal is one of the most romantic love stories ever told.
7. Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones was orphaned at a young age and was adopted. Shortly after she was adopted, she discovered she possessed superhuman abilities seemingly triggered by the fatal car crash that killed her parents. She tried to live the life of a superhero, but was unfortunately enslaved by a vicious man with mind control abilities for several years until she was ultimately able to escape from him.
The experience left Jones suffering from PTSD and unable to continue pursuing a career as a superhero. Jessica Jones put aside her trauma and managed to kill the maniac with the help of some friends. Jones’ powers include superhuman strength and endurance, and flight (Although she doesn’t like to because she’s not good at it). Krysten Ritter was an amazing choice for this role.
Her facial expressions and eyerolls are priceless. Jessica Jones is the kind of female superhero that many women can identify with because no matter what traumas she has persevered, she will always have her strength.
6. Nafessa Williams’ Thunder
Nafessa Williams plays Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce’s (Cress Williams) eldest daughter, Anissa Pierce. Anissa is a social justice activist and student with metahuman superpowers of her own.
Like the comic book character, she’s gay, which makes her one of the few queer people of color on broadcast television.
Thunder can increase her body density at will, making her immovable and almost completely invulnerable. She is also bullet proof and can create shockwaves by stomping on the ground, as well as her thunder clap.
After accidentally sparring with her father because neither knew the other had metahuman abilities or alter egos, the two began training together so Anissa could learn to control her powers better.
She and her father disagree about the best ways to proceed in the fight for equity and justice. Jefferson believes in working within the system while Anissa doesn’t.
When asked what playing TV’s first Black lesbian superhero means to Nafessa Williams, she told Hello Giggles, “The reward is seeing how Brown women and girls relate to the character, whether it’s her hair, her attitude, her fearlessness.”
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5. Karen Gillian’s Nebula
While she originally started off as a Marvel villain, Nebula quickly changed her stance once she discovered that she and her sister were actually on the same side against their father, Thanos. When first introduced, Nebula was brutally, physically fighting against her sister Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana.
The character survived years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her adoptive father Thanos, who would sadistically force the sisters to fight each other. Every time Nebula would lose, he would torture and mutilate her by replacing her body parts with cybernetic enhancements.
When Infinity War ended and End Game began, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Gamora were left stranded in space. The two passed the time together playing games and Tony gave her the first fatherly external validation she apparently ever received in her life. He said, “and you won, congratulations.”
She then cared for him and extended his life as long as she could until help could arrive and rescue them.
Nebula is a deeply damaged individual, who has proven herself to be a hero several times throughout the films, up to and including murdering an alternate version of herself in order to save the universe.
4. Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau
We don’t know Monica Rambeau’s superhero name at this time in the MCU. It could be Photon, Pulsar, Spectrum, or maybe something completely different. We first met Monica as a child in Captain Marvel and most recently we’ve seen Teyonah Parris’ Rambeau.
Monica was snapped out of existence when Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet and then was resurrected in the Blip 5 years later only to discover that her mother passed away in her absence. Shortly after the Blip, Monica rejoined her associates at S.W.O.R.D. and aided them with a phenomenon in a town called Westview created by Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff.
When the commanding officer wanted to attack, Monica had empathy for Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and tried to help her and deescalate the situation. Something happened to Monica when she passed through the wall of Wanda’s Hexagon and it triggered the ability to manipulate the phase of her body.
Monica Rambeau valiantly stepped in front of several bullets to save two children and proved herself to be an ally to the Scarlet Witch. Teyonah Parris is an incredible addition to the MCU cast and we can’t wait to see her in the next Captain Marvel movie in 2022.
3. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow
We were first introduced to Black Widow in Iron Man 2 as the alias Natalie Rushman sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. to assess Tony Stark for the Avengers Initiative. Natasha/Natalie/Black Widow doesn’t have a superpower.
She is a human Avenger whose “superpower” is her extensive KGB training, more than likely combined with S.H.I.E.L.D. training as well. She was originally a target, but was instead recruited by Clint/Hawkeye, who is also a human member of the Avengers.
After Thano’s snap, Nat took over as the “leader” of the Avengers, as she tried to keep some semblance of normality after the devastatingly traumatic events that occurred in Infinity War. In Endgame, Black Widow proved herself to be the ultimate hero as she fought against Clint so he could survive for his family.
Johansson’s Nat was a major backbone of both Infinity War and End Game. The new Black Widow, scheduled for release May 7, 2021 takes place between Civil War and Infinity War and will hopefully clue us all in to what exactly happened in Budapest.
2. Danai Gurira’s Okoye
Danai Gurira is Zimbabwean-American and was able to bring her own cultural experiences to the role. Okoye is the head of Black Panther’s personal bodyguards, the Dora Milaj. Okoye doesn’t have any superpowers like Black Panther does.
She is a martial arts expert and strategy and tactical genius. She single-handedly saved Wakanda after The Snap wiped out trillions, including Black Panther in Infinity War.
Okoye isn’t just a member of the royal guard, she is also King T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) right hand woman and is involved in everything that he does. Danai Gurira’s performance made Okoye the fierce and feminine superhero that she really is.
In End Game when Spiderman (Tom Holland) handed Captain Marvel the Infinity Gauntlet, Spiderman said, “I don’t know how you’re going to get it through all that.”
Captain Marvel was then joined by other female superheroes Scarlet Witch, Valkyrie, Okoye, and Rescue, among other fearsome females in the film and Okoye said, “She’s got help” and they protected the Gauntlet.
1. Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman
Diana of Themiscyra aka Wonder Woman is the personification of strength, compassion, and fearlessness, who became a feminist icon long before she made her appearance on the small screen. Most people would agree, Wonder Woman is THE character we think of when we think of female superheroes.
We wouldn’t have the multitude of female superheroes we have today if it wasn’t for Lynda Carter paving the way with her embodiment of Wonder Woman.
While Gal Gadot is breathtakingly beautiful, she pales in comparison personally because someone who plays a hero who desires world peace probably shouldn’t pray for any military to be successful against their fellow human targets.
From 1975-1977 Lynda Carter spun into our living rooms and showed us that women could be anything they wanted to be. The show was campy, silly, and fun, and we loved it and we love Lynda Carter.
Wonder Woman 1984 featured a Lynda Carter cameo that seemed to tease she might be in at least one more DC Wonder Woman film in the future.
While fictional characters, the actresses who breathe life into these female superheroes are very way. They inspire us and remind us of the struggle that women around the world have faced, and are still facing, and will continue to fight against inequality and injustice.
Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.