Between back-flipping, high-kicking superheroes like Jessica Jones and level-headed brainiacs like Dana Scully, there is no shortage of strong female characters in geek fiction. For those times when you need a quick fix of girl power, here are geekdom’s 10 most badass female characters ever to grace the small and big screen—listed in alphabetical order.
For this list, we’re only covering live-action heroines, so animated characters (Vi and Jinx, we’re looking at you) are excluded. Members of an ensemble, such as Sisters of the Bene Gesserit, won’t be counted either. Sorry, ladies, it’s all about the solo stars this time around.
WARNING! Spoilers from here on out!
#1 Eleven (Stranger Things)
A teen with psychokinetic abilities, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is something Hawkins, Indiana, has never seen before. She routinely takes down fully grown men twice her size and can stop a Demogorgon in its tracks with just a glance. While she’s more than capable of combat, Eleven’s greatest asset lies in her ability to form meaningful relationships with the people around her. Fiercely loyal, she will sacrifice anything to protect those she loves, including her own life. Flipping vans with your mind is cool, but selflessness is the real superpower.
#2 Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) might begin the series as a scared girl who just wants to protect her sister and survive, but by its end, she is a freedom fighter and a symbol of resistance. Armed only with her bow and an unyielding determination to save her loved ones from the oppressive forces of the Capitol, she survives not one but two deadly Hunger Games tournaments. Oh, and she leads a revolution that topples the tyrannical President Snow. Not bad for a seventeen-year-old, if you ask us.
#3 Jessica Jones (Jessica Jones)
Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is not your typical superheroine in spandex—she’s a hard-drinking, tough-talking PI with a troubled past. Despite her distaste for costumed heroics, she never fails to lend a helping hand to those in need. Her superhuman strength and stamina allow her to take on a whole host of baddies, from street thugs to mind-controlling supervillains. But it’s the way she’s tackling her inner demons that makes her so admirably badass. Sometimes, the toughest fight is with yourself, and this is one battle Jessica won’t back down from.
#4 Leia Organa (Star Wars)
All hail the most badass warrior princess of any known galaxy, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher)! A skillful diplomat and a capable leader, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty fighting for a cause she believes in. She has sass, spunk, and all the best lines—”Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?”. Whether leading daring rescue parties or strategizing against the Empire, she’s never playing second fiddle to the men in her life. And let’s not forget she single-handedly killed the slimy space slug that is Jabba the Hutt. May the force be with her!
Celebrate strong women and support them, too, with a selection of artworks by Displate artists!
#5 Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon (The Witcher)
Heiress to several thrones, bearer of Elder Blood, and ultimate mage prodigy, Ciri (Freya Allan) is an undeniable force of nature. But even if you strip away her birthright and superior magical skills, she’s nothing short of a badass. Ever since she fled an arranged marriage at a mere 10—apparently, her princely suitor had really bad breath—she wouldn’t let anyone tell her how to live her life. Not even elvish prophecies dictating her destiny. Throw her Witcher training into the mix, and you have one of the most powerful female characters in recent fantasy lore.
#6 Ellen Ripley (The Alien Franchise)
The OG female action hero and the ultimate final girl, no list like this would be complete without the one and only Ellen Ripley. Played with brilliance by Sigourney Weaver, she’s a warrant officer aboard the Nostromo tasked with destroying an alien creature that threatens her crew. She may not be trained to fight, but Ripley is more than capable of taking on whatever the universe throws at her. Leading the charge through four installments of the franchise, she never gives up and even goes claw-to-claw against a Xenomorph Queen at one point. Who needs superpowers when you’re that badass?
#7 Dana Scully (The X-Files)
No nonsense? Check. Exceptionally smart? Check. Brave? Check. Special FBI agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) reporting for duty! A brilliant medical doctor and a declared skeptic of the supernatural, she is the perfect foil to Fox Mulder’s (David Duchovny) eager believer. But it’s not her onscreen persona alone that makes Dana Scully a formidable female character—it’s her real-world impact too. Credited with the ‘Scully Effect,’ she helped inspire a generation of women to pursue careers in STEM. If that’s not badass, we don’t know what is.
#8 Arya Stark (Game of Thrones)
Daenerys, Brianne of Tarth, Cersei Lannister, Melisandre—they all have their moments, but none of them screams “kick-ass queen of Westeros” quite like Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). A tomboy turned master assassin, the only needlework she enjoys is the kind that puts her enemies six feet under. Sometimes it means baking a few Freys into a pie, and sometimes it means saving the world from a zombie apocalypse. No dragons and fancy spells for Arya, just her trusty sword and never-say-die attitude to get the job done.
#9 Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
She’s the one with Slayer strength and a wisecracking attitude to match. Slinging puns and stakes with equal skill, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) can take down dozen of pesky vampires and still make your day with a snappy one-liner. Between slaying her fair share of supernatural villains and thwarting a demon-led apocalypse more than once, she finds the time to navigate high school and friendships. And even though she’s been off the air for years, her legacy as one of the most badass female characters on TV stands strong.
#10 Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)
Move aside, Superman; it’s time for Wonder Woman to show us how it’s done! Originally played by Lynda Carter and, more recently, Gal Gadot, this Amazonian warrior princess won’t hesitate to swing her Lasso of Truth or twirl into a flurry of punches when justice needs protecting. But, as her mother tells her, fighting doesn’t make her a hero. It’s her compassion and empathy that does. Helping a broken sniper realize he’s got more to offer to the team than just his rifle is just one example of the kind of heroine Wonder Woman really is: one we can all look up to.
Over to You!
So there you have it, the 10 most badass female characters in geek fiction. Though they may come from different worlds and fight different foes, one thing is certain—these women (and girls) inspire us to be our best selves and never give up.
And speaking of badass female characters, don’t forget to check out Displate’s selection of girl-powered metal posters that celebrate International Women’s Day. From Anne Stoke’s gothic pieces to DC bombshell heroines, you’re sure to find something that speaks to your inner geek.
Happy Women’s Day!