Aug 202014

According to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, even though women purchase just over 50% of all movie tickets only 13% of movies feature a cast where at least half of the characters are female. According to the study male protagonists outnumber female protagonists five to one. Need an example? Just look at The Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. Five to one.

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a gender bias issue but for those of us who love movies and want positive role models for our daughters it can be a daunting task to find worthy women among all the guys.

Fortunately they do exist. We’ve compiled a list of female characters with specifically heroic qualities: saving the day or overcoming adversity like a superhero regardless of how ordinary or extraordinary their lives. We’ve put these in order of age recommendation youngest to oldest ages 5 to 15.


Suck it up, Cinderella. Mulan is way better.

Mulan – Mulan (1998)
Rated G, recommended for ages 5 and up
Mulan is easily the most heroic of the Disney Princesses. She commits herself to saving her father, her family’s honor, and ultimately all of China. All she’s missing is a song as popular as “Let It Go”.

Kiki – Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Rated G, recommended for ages 5 and up
You need to find your place in the world. Sometimes that place involves honoring your commitments and being nice to people, sometimes it involves saving a friend from falling to his death from a crashed Zeppelin.

Mary Poppins – Mary Poppins (1964)
Rated G, recommended for ages 6 and up
Mary Poppins is a superhero. Of course we all know about the magical powers but she also has a wicked conceit that gives her a human edge, and that makes her “practically perfect in every way.”

Dorothy Gale – Wizard of Oz (1939)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 6 and up
All she wants is to go home and at times she’s too scared and tired to know that she’s doing the right thing, whether it’s helping her friends find their brains/heart/courage or weilding a bucket of water. The definition of a hero.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter (2001)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 7 and up
Sure everyone focuses on Harry, he’s the “chosen one” after all, but the people who matter (Dumbledore, McGonagall, Lupin, et. al.) respect Hermione for her intelligence and good judgement. Harry can’t succeed without her.

Elastigirl and Violet – The Incredibles (2004)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 7 and up
The best superhero stories use the characters powers metaphorically and The Incredibles is a great example. Elastigirl is a strong (and very flexible) mother who takes care of the family, while the shy Violet learns that with self-confidence her abilities make her a formidable hero.


Strong girls in repressive societies are awesome.

Wadjda – Wadjda (2012)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 9 and up
Do you want to wear high-tops with purple laces? Do you want to ride a bike? Wadjda is the story of a girl in Saudi Arabia who just wants to live life her way despite her culture’s expectations for how women should behave.

Chihiro Ogino – Spirited Away (2001)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 9 and up
After her parents are turned into pigs Chihiro must venture into the spirit world and risk losing her identity to rescue them. It’s creepy but imaginative and rewarding.

All the players – A League of Their Own (1992)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 10 and up
An engaging feel-good baseball movie focusing on a varied buch of underdogs struggling to gain respect in a world that only thinks of them as girls. The fact that this is a story based on true events surrounding the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II only serves to make the story that much more bittersweet.

Paikea Apirana – Whale Rider (2002)
Rated PG-13, recommended for ages 11 and up
Paikea is the latest in the line of Maori leaders descended from the legendary Whale Rider. The problem is, she’s a girl and her traditional father can’t accept that she could be the next leader. Pai needs to break through the prejudice and prove that she is worthy of the title.

Elizabeth Bennet – Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 11 and up
If Elizabeth is going to marry it’s going to be for love. By sticking to her principles, even though it may mean she and her family could be turned out of their own home by the obsequious and unpleasant Mr. Collins, she manages to overcome her prejudice (and the wealthy and handsome Mr. Darcy his pride) so that ultimately everyone can find their happy ending.

His Girl Friday

“Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.” Old movies are awesome.

Hildy Johnson – His Girl Friday (1940)
Rated PG, recommended for ages 12 and up
Rosalind Russell didn’t think she had as many good lines as Cary Grant so she hired her own writer to punch up her dialogue. Director Howard Hawks liked what she was doing and one of the all-time great classic movie women was created.

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games (2012)
Rated PG-13, recommended for ages 13 and up
Talk about overcoming adversity. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her younger sister from having to go to the teen-death-arena and uses her super archery and wilderness survival skills to win the day and become a symbol of hope for the oppressed people of Panem. Necessarily gory but undeniably heroic.

Jess – Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Rated PG-13, recommended for ages 13 and up
Another feel-good sports movie but with soccer this time (the Women’s World Cup is coming in 2015!). Jess’ parents want her to settle down but her love of soccer becons. She needs to find the balance between her Indian ancestry and her modern British life.

Erin Brockovich – Erin Brockovich (2000)
Rated R, recommended for ages 15 and up
Erin’s super powers are being loud, tenacious, and smart. Taking down corporate polluters is the way she saves the day. She has to make sacrifices along the way and she swears like a trucker but she is an excellent example of taking what life gives you and making the most of it.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>