AWFJ WONDER WOMEN: 55 Best Fictional Female Characters

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To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our orginzation’s inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact, social influence and long legs since the earliest days of cinema.

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Our members celebrate every imaginable liberated woman among their choices of our top 55 women characters, including a factory worker who demands her rights from her employer, a widow who founds her own successful company in the very unequal 1940s, a woman with no legal property rights who schemes to hold onto her family home, and two friends who take “Give me liberty or give me death” quite literally.

The full list was revealed in weekly posts during August, 2016, as a countdown from number 55 to number one. The order of preference was determined by AWFJ members who voted for the films. Each film is annotated by one of the AWFJ members who voted for it. The results are interesting, insightful and entertaining:

However, as Wonder Woman Project leader Marilyn Ferdinand points out in her compelling commentary, when the full list is considered in chronological order, it not only serves as a timely reminder that dynamic female characters have populated the silver screen from cinema’s inception to the present, but also shows the evolution of representative women’s images, gives a glimpse of whom we’ve needed to see during various eras and reflects historical shortcomings in stories about women of color and elderly women, among others, and the need for gender parity and greater diversity on screen.

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AWFJ’S WONDER WOMEN IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:

Lola-Lola (The Blue Angel, 1930)

Jo March (Little Women, 1933, 1949, 1994)

Nora Charles (The Thin Man series, 1934-1947)

Mammy (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (Ninotchka, 1939)

Hildegard Johnson (His Girl Friday, 1940)

Eve (The Lady Eve, 1941)

Ilsa Lund (Casablanca, 1942)

Mildred Pierce (Mildred Pierce, 1945)

Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)

Norma Desmond (Sunset Blvd, 1950)

Emma “Billie” Dawn (Born Yesterday, 1950)

Rose Sayer (The African Queen, 1951)

Princess Ann (Roman Holiday, 1953)

Sally Bowles (I Am a Camera/Cabaret, 1955, 1972)

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, 1964)

Martha (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966)

Jean Brodie (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1969)

Maude Chardin (Harold and Maude, 1971)

Rebecca Morgan (Sounder, 1972)

Alice Hyatt (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, 1974)

Mabel Longhetti (A Woman Under the Influence, 1974)

Ripley (Alien series, 1976-1997)

Leia Organa (Star Wars series, 1977-2015)

Annie Hall (Annie Hall, 1977)

Norma Rae Webster (Norma Rae, 1979)

Doralee (9 to 5, 1980)

Aurora Greenway (Terms of Endearment, 1983)

Sarah Connor (Terminator 1 & 2, 1984, 1991)

Lucy Honeychurch (A Room with a View, 1985)

Loretta Castorini (Moonstruck, 1987)

Jane Craig (Broadcast News, 1987)

Annie Savoy (Bull Durham, 1988)

Tess McGill (Working Girl, 1988)

Louise Sawyer (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Thelma Dickinson (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

Ada McGrath (The Piano, 1993)

Marge Gunderson (Fargo, 1996)

Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown, 1997)

Laine Hanson (The Contender, 2000)

Yu Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series, 2001-2011)

Paikea (Whale Rider, 2002)

The Bride (Kill Bill 1 & 2, 2003-2004)

Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006)

Ree (Winter’s Bone, 2010)

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games series, 2012-2015)

Olivia (Boyhood, 2014)

Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015)

Ma (Room, 2015)

Elle (Grandma, 2015)

For AWFJ notes on individual films, check the countdown links presented above or type the film title in the search box.

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