Some of My Favorite Female Characters in Film

Still images from A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Alien, Ovarian Psycos

This past semester the IU Cinema has shown a number of films depicting strong females. On Thursday, February 23 it screened A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), the first feature film by Ana Lily Amirpour. In preparation for this screening I co-wrote a blog post celebrating Amirpour’s work and her visit to the Cinema. Then on Tuesday, March 28 the IU Cinema screened 1979’s Alien, for which I also wrote a blog post—this time praising the film’s main character, Ellen Ripley. A little less than two weeks ago, Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s Ovarian Psycos (2016) played at the Cinema. These are only three examples from this semester’s fantastic line-up of films portraying incredibly strong female leads. However, looking back over these past three months or so, I’ve been thinking about some of the films I love that have also given me some great characters to root for. Here are four more films with some of my favorite female characters:

Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve.
  1. The Lady Eve (1941)

As in many of her films Barbara Stanwyck oozes confidence and wit. She is a perfect fit, and absolutely entertaining to watch, in this Preston Sturges classic. The IU Cinema recently screened another film starring Barbara Stanwyck from the same year, Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fireanother great film, but in my opinion, not quite as dazzling as The Lady Eve.

  1. Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Agnès Varda’s film is a glimpse into a day in the life of an incredible woman. It’s not a great day for Cléo (Corinne Marchand), but it is one that paints a beautiful picture of her AND the talent of the French New Wave’s only female director.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST
Still image from Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust [ AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE/WMG/GEECHEE / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]
  1. Daughters of the Dust (1991)

There is no one female lead in this film, but I think that’s part of why I love it. The Peazant women are STRONG, and Nana, their matriarch, played by Cora Lee Day, demonstrates the power of family, history, and tradition. The film played at the IU Cinema on December 9, 2016 and director Julie Dash was present for a Q&A afterward.

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.
  1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

A bit of a guilty pleasure, George Miller’s film has one bad-a** female lead. It’s entertaining and satisfies my need for a strong role model—you know, if I’m ever stranded in a postapocalyptic desert. Maybe some day we can see it at the IU Cinema…


Three more chances to enjoy strong women characters on screen: The Lure, Personal Shopper and Colossal screen this month at IU Cinema.

The Lure Personal ShopperColossal Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson, currently a third year legacy PhD student in Communication and Culture, studies film and media, genre (particularly the Western), gender, and performance. She has a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has been obsessed with film since the beginning.