In the world of film there have been some breath-taking leading ladies, some of which have been trail blazers for their gender in their profession, as genuinely amazing actors and kick-ass characters. Here is a rundown of ten of the most amazing silver screen seductresses to date:
1. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) – Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s Alien was released slap bang in the middle of the female empowerment movement of the late 20th Century and Weaver’s portrayal of the alien fighting space exploring protagonist Ripley, has long been described as symbolic of the social gender power shift within the culture of the time. The infamous image of Weaver surrounded by giant eggs is unapologetically representative and boldly celebratory of the growing power of females at the time.
2. Chihiro – Spirited Away (2001)
Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece sees a young girl being stripped of her parental guidance and protection and thrown into a world completely unlike her own, one which is inhabited by spirits and strange creatures and ruled by an evil bath house keeper/witch; Yubaba. What is most striking about the Chihiro character is the journey she goes through and how much she genuinely grows as a person throughout the movie, Miyazaki’s narrative has been woven with such skill and masterful craft the viewer is oblivious to the personal growth of the character right until the flash back scene at the end where it dawns on you like the warmth of the Japanese sun.
3. Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) – Erin Brockovich (2000)
The true story of an unemployed single mother bringing down a Californian power company is beautifully portrayed by Roberts in this unforgettable underdog tale. Brockovich is so instantly relatable for anyone who has felt trapped or helpless in their lives. A truly uplifting feel good story, one for which Roberts received a female’s record breaking $20 million fee for.
Maggie Gyllenhaal gives her most impressive and extraordinary performance to date in the critically acclaimed 2002 smash hit, Secretary. Gyllenhaul carefully and faithfully explores the lines of mental health through her character Lee Holloway as she embarks on a sadomasochistic relationship with her boss Mr. Grey.
5. Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) – The Exorcist (1973)
William Friedkin was celebrated as an absolute pioneer of the horror genre when his 1973 adaptation of the 1971 book of the same name hit the silver screens. The reason Linda Blair has to be added to this list is the fact that her rendition of the demon infested child, that performance that had people running out of movie theatres and passing out in fear, that performance that has had the film named scariest movie of all time, was executed by an actor of only 14, carving her place in horror history forever.
6. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) – All About Eve (1950)
The character Margo Channing is the quintessential matriarch, the undoubted queen bee of the theatre world in which she inhabits until she realises her way of life is coming to an end and a threat appears in the form of young actress Eve, played by Anne Baxter. The female characters in this 1950’s classic leave their male counterparts trailing in their coat tails and Bette Davis’ portrayal of a luxury loving, fabulous, glamorous diva of the time fits perfectly within the backdrop of the Golden Age of Film.
7. Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tattoo) – Amelie (2001)
The sweet Parisian tale of a young girl finding her way in a big city takes a slightly odd turn with the character of Amelie. This girl is not necessarily in the same world as everyone else since her suppressed childhood turned her into an inwardly expressive slightly wacky individual, the sole occupant of a realm of her own creation. It’s always a task for any actor to play a character who dances along the boundaries of sanity but Tatoo’s idiosyncratic facial expressions and lackadaisical air make her the one and only Amelie.
8. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Ofelia is another character on our list who has escaped into a world of fantasy but this time it is in avoidance of the Spanish Franco-Fascism growing around her. The darkness of the time for those living in Spain is flawlessly and imaginatively reflected in Guillermo del Toro’s fictitious world in which the protagonist, a young girl is entered, after mistakenly wondering into the woods. Ofelia’s strength and determination against a sadistic overbearing tyrant of a step-father make her the hero of this beautifully shot and finished masterpiece that perfectly combines elements of both bleak historic fact and a world of murky macabre fantasy.
9. Holy Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
The original rom-com is effortlessly played out by one of Hollywood’s best loved sweethearts and it is fair to say that Hepburn really found her niche with this film. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a feel good lark in which a party girl finds love.
10. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) – Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown is the definition of a streetwise, straight talking, quick-witted warrior woman. She single-handedly outsmarts two cops, her arms dealer boss and every other person unfortunate enough to get in her way. In true Tarantino style the plot takes the viewer through twists and turns of the separate lives that become somehow entangled and Jackie, being the protagonist falls target to the same Tarantino auteurship of a subtle ambiguity between good and evil but gifted with enough charm the audience simply don’t care.
The Greatest Female Protagonists was brought to you by UK cinema chain Vue.