Female characters have been severely lacking in superhero movies over the years — at least in comparison to their male counterparts, that is. These days, they’re becoming more prominent, with the likes of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel set to get their own movies, and the likes of Black Widow and Scarlet Witch already playing important supporting roles in major Marvel Cinematic Universe story arcs. They have, however, been in short supply as a general rule.
Most importantly, however, is that there have been enough to produce a strong list like this one — a list that ranks said female characters in terms of their level of power.
Let’s just make one thing clear before we start, though: characters like Black Widow, Mystique, Sif, the various live action Catwomen, Gamora and Nebula will miss out on this list. They’re extremely skilled and, in some cases, possess a decent level of super-strength, but they don’t possess overall power on a level anywhere near those we’re going to feature.
Some characters just missed out, like Hellboy’s Liz Sherman, X-Men: The Last Stand’s Arclight, and the two Fantastic Four portrayals of the Invisible Woman (possibly due to how awful the movies were in the latter’s case more than anything else, as we try to wipe them from our minds!). Here’s our ranking of the sixteen most powerful female comic book movie characters. Why sixteen? Well because this list is SWEET!
16. Kitty Pryde
For the bulk of the X-Men movie franchise, Kitty Pryde has been largely underwhelming. The character has been played by Sumela Kay, Katie Stuart and, most prominently, Ellen Page in the franchise across four different movies. She has mainly been shown as being able to do nothing more than phase herself and others through objects, by turning herself and those she’s in physical contact with intangible.
However, in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, we saw her displaying a very impressive new power. Kitty was able to send Wolverine’s mind back in time, using a power called chronokinesis, in order for him to prevent Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask, which led to the shape-shifting mutant being captured and revealed the threat that mutants could pose to normal humans. This power was an extension of her phasing ability, as she essentially “phased” Logan’s mind back fifty years (in the movie’s timeline) to 1973. While it’s not an offensive power (hence Kitty not placing higher), you can’t deny that it’s an incredibly impressive and potent one.
Callisto is, more than likely, the most minor character on this list. Played by Dania Ramirez, the only movie Callisto has appeared in is 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and she was only a supporting character in that. However, she certainly demonstrated enough power to warrant her place on this list in her sole appearance.
Callisto is a mutant speedster. She possesses superhuman speed and a body that can withstand the rigours that come with it. In The Last Stand, she was able to blitz Storm for the most part, prior to Halle Berry’s character finally getting hold of her, throwing her against a fence, and electrocuting her. In addition to her super-speed, Callisto was also able to detect the presence of other mutants, as well as being able to identify the level of mutant power they possessed. As a result, she was an extremely useful member of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants in more ways than one.
14. Emma Frost
Like Callisto, Emma Frost has only appeared in one X-Men movie — X-Men: First Class in her case — but she was certainly an important character who displayed an array of powers worthy of a place on this list. Played by January Jones, Frost was a mutant ally of Sebastian Shaw for the duration of the movie, before joining Magneto at the very climax, and she proved herself to be someone worthy of standing at the side of both hyper-powerful mutants.
Not only was Frost a telepath who could use her powers to communicate telepathically with others, create realistic illusions, and fire powerful psionic blasts, but she could also assume a diamond form. In said diamond form, Frost was obviously incredibly durable, but she was also immune to the telepathic and psychic powers of others, and her strength was increased to the point that she could send a grown man flying several yards by pushing him with a single arm.
13. Angel Dust
It’s all about the X-Men franchise so far on this list, although, in this case, we’ve come to our first non-mutant character. Played by top class former MMA star-turned actress Gina Carano, Angel Dust — who appeared in 2016’s Deadpool — was a human whose strength and durability had been vastly augmented by a procedure carried out on her by the same organisation that gave the titular Deadpool AKA Wade Wilson his regenerative healing factor.
An associate of and henchwoman for Ajax, Angel Dust is pretty unique on this list, in that she is strong enough to make it onto it based on physical strength and durability alone — such is the level of them she possesses. She was able to overpower, hurt and take hits from the mighty Colossus with relative ease, and even survived being on the end of powerful blasts from Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
12. Ellen Brandt
We now come to our first non-X-Men franchise character. Ellen Brandt might not be the most recognisable name on this list, but you’ll certainly remember her. She was a supporting character in 2013’s Iron Man 3, and one of the successful recipients of the Extremis virus, who worked as an agent of A.I.M. Brandt possessed all of the powers that came with Extremis and was, therefore, a very formidable woman. She was, however, killed by Tony Stark while he wasn’t even wearing his Iron Man armour.
With Extremis, Brandt was granted superhuman strength, a moderate level of enhanced speed and agility, a potent regenerative healing factor (most notably, this enabled Brandt to regrow the lower left arm that she lost whilst fighting in the United States Armed Forces), and exothermic manipulation — meaning she could consciously raise the temperature of parts of her body to a level that would easily melt through steel.
A lot of people forget that Supergirl — a 1984 spin-off of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies — even exists, because it was so underwhelming, but it definitely does exist, and it had a pretty powerful character as its villain. Faye Dunaway played Selena, who was created specifically for the movie in question and doesn’t even exist in other DC media.
Selena was merely a would-be witch until she discovered the Omegahedron — a powerful magical item which imbued its wielder with incredible mystical abilities. As a result, she was able to pose a threat to the titular Kryptonian heroine herself, by casting spells and creating potions that enabled her to do amazing things. She was able to cast love spells on people, she brought a construction vehicle to life and had it do her bidding for her, she was able to cast Supergirl into the eternal void known as the Phantom Zone, she was able to transform herself into a “Princess of Earth”, and she was able to summon a giant monster to do battle against the titular heroine. She was an awful and poorly acted character though, it must be said.
10. Negasonic Teenage Warhead
So, that break from X-Men movie characters was pretty brief, right?! Who cares when the one we’ve come to now is so AWESOME!? Let’s be honest here, her name is NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD for goodness sake! In the words of Wade Wilson himself “What the sh*t?! That’s the coolest name ever!”
Played by Brianna Hildebrand, Negasonic Teenage Warhead appeared in 2016’s Deadpool, as a mutant member of the X-Men under the tutelage of Colossus. Her mutant power is essentially self-detonation. She can channel intense heat and pressure, then utilize and expel it in various ways on different levels. At lower levels, she was able to propel a car through the air, using is as a projectile, which crushed two enemies. She was also able to hurt the highly durable Angel Dust. At higher levels, she was able to level an entire scrap yard and destroy an aircraft carrier. The latter maneuver, however, did render her unconscious.
ANOTHER X-Men character?! Don’t worry, this is the last one for a while now, as we arrive at Storm AKA Ororo Munroe. Storm has been played by four actresses in the X-Men franchise; April Elleston-Enahoro (although her scene was cut from X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Elizabeth Wright and, more prominently, by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp at different ages and in different timelines (although they’re essentially the same character). She has appeared in five movies to date and is undoubtedly very powerful, as she can control the weather itself.
This atmokinesis enables Storm to survive in the kind of extreme weather that others would perish in. She also has an incredible level of energy perception and enhanced senses, is linked to the very environment itself — giving her incredible spatial awareness and the ability to detect life-forces around her — can use her power to simulate flight (via wind), can teleport through lightning and, more obviously, can cause it to rain and snow, form tornadoes, and generally do anything that mother nature can do with regards to the weather. She is, however, something of a “glass cannon”, as she has no superhuman durability to speak of despite her great power.
Played by Cara Delevingne in 2016’s critically-panned Suicide Squad movie, Enchantress was an ancient extra-dimensional witch who, having previously been worshipped as a goddess by humans in the past, possessed the archaeologist Dr. June Moone when she inadvertently awakened her from her slumber. Although the movie was poor and the character’s portrayal was much-maligned — thanks in no small part to her Gozer-esque characteristics in the movie’s final battle — there’s no doubting the fact that she was very powerful. She possessed the power to potentially take over the world, after all.
Enchantress possessed super-strength and durability, the ability to teleport, the ability to possess other beings, transformation abilities that enabled her to mutate humans into becoming her hideous and monstrous minions, regenerative healing powers, telekinesis, and telepathy. She was also able to create a mystical weapon that would have eradicated humankind, had the titular team of supervillains not managed to thwart her plans.
Supergirl is the superhero identity of Kara Zor-El AKA Linda Lee. She appeared in her own 1984 movie — a spin-off of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies — and was played by Helen Slater. While the movie itself was absolutely terrible, Slater’s performance as the character was actually quite endearing, and she was undoubtedly extremely powerful.
Like all Kryptonians powered by Earth’s yellow sun, Supergirl possessed substantial levels of super-strength, super-speed and durability, X-ray vision, heat vision, super-hearing, super-breath, and flight. The things that place her lower on this list than a couple of upcoming fellow Kryptonian characters are the simple facts that she was smaller in size, less experienced, less skilled in combat, and less ruthless than the others. She also didn’t have any combat showings against people as physically strong as her, which somewhat dampens her claims for a higher placing.
Played by Sarah Douglas, Ursa was a Kryptonian accomplice of Terence Stamp’s iconic General Zod in both 1978’s Superman and, far more prominently, 1980’s Superman II. She assisted Zod, along with the dimwitted Non, in his attempts to take over the Earth, and was known for her absolute hatred of men (Zod and Non aside, that is). Having been previously imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, she came to Earth when she was inadvertently released, and she proved herself to be every bit as powerful as the male Kryptonian characters in the Superman franchise.
Like all Kryptonians on Earth, Ursa possessed a high degree of super-strength, super-speed and durability, X-ray vision, heat vision, super-hearing, super-breath and flight. Somewhat more inexplicably, she was also telekinetic, which enabled her to move/stop objects with her mind — something Kryptonians are generally unable to do in most sources. Ursa was more than capable of giving Superman a run for his money, and she treated humans as though they were rag-dolls.
Faora-Ul was essentially the Ursa of 2013’s Man of Steel. In her case, she was an infamous Kryptonian war criminal and sub-commander of the Sword of Rao (the revolutionary movement to overthrow and replace the Kryptonian Law Council), who served as second-in-command to her superior officer, Michael Shannon’s General Zod.
She was played by Antje Traue and, together with Zod, she attempted to re-establish Krypton on Earth by bringing about an apocalypse through the terraformation of our planet. As with all Kryptonians in Earth’s atmosphere, Faora possessed massive amounts of super-strength, super-speed and durability, X-ray vision, heat vision, super-hearing, super-breath, and flight. For the most part, she was actually able to best Superman in combat, thanks to her lack of morality and superior combat skills (and the Man of Steel’s lacking combat experience, of course). In the end, however, Supes was ultimately able to defeat her by exploiting her temporary weakness of overloaded senses.
4. Wonder Woman
When you think of powerful female characters, the first one that generally springs to mind for most people is Wonder Woman, so she was always going to be on this list. The iconic Amazonian warrior has only appeared in one movie to date — 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — and that was only in a supporting role, but she has already displayed enough power to place her in this high position.
Played by the gorgeous Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince is a demigoddess from Themyscira and the daughter of the Amazons’ Queen Hippolyta and the Greek Olympian God Zeus (in this continuity, anyway). She possesses all of the classic powers associated with the character, such as incredible super-strength, speed and durability, as well as the ability to unleash powerful concussive waves of energy by clashing her trademark bracelets together. She is also a highly skilled combatant. There will undoubtedly be more to come from her — Wonder Woman is being released in 2017 and we’re particularly looking forward to seeing her Lasso of Truth in action, for instance — but she has already shown herself to be more than powerful enough to stand up to the monstrous Kryptonian beast known as Doomsday.
3. Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff AKA the Scarlet Witch has been played by Elizabeth Olsen in three MCU movies to date. Scarlet Witch possesses incredible amounts of power, in spite of the fact that her durability is that of a normal young human woman. She’s another prime example of a “glass cannon.”
She gained her power through Hydra — or, more specifically, Baron Strucker — experimenting on humans with Loki’s Scepter, which housed the Infinity Stone known as the Mind Stone. While her brother Pietro gained superhuman speed as a result of his exposure to the Mind Stone, Wanda gained an array of psionic abilities. She now possesses telekinesis (which, in turn, allows her and those around her to fly/levitate if she wishes), energy manipulation abilities (including energy blasts), force-field generation, telepathy and mental manipulation, and manipulation of a person’s fears. Even with all that in mind, the MCU has probably barely scratched the surface of Scarlet Witch’s powers to date.
2. The Ancient One
We’ve mentioned the term “glass cannon” a couple of times in this list already, but that description doesn’t fit anyone better than the Ancient One, played by the wonderful Tilda Swinton. The character has only appeared in a single movie — that being 2016’s Doctor Strange — and she won’t appear in any more, given that (spoiler alert) she died in it, but she has still managed to emphatically establish herself as one of the most powerful female characters to have ever appeared in a comic book movie. She was the Sorcerer Supreme and the leader of the group known as the Masters of the Mystic Arts. For centuries, the Ancient One protected the Earth from mystical threats, and helped others in need by educating them in the mystic arts.
Her own mystical skill gave her an abundance of amazing powers and abilities. She could expertly use spell books, mystical artifacts, and mystical weapons for a variety of purposes, as well as cast Eldritch Magic, which is a light-based magic that produces sparks and energy, which can be used to generate constructs of tangible energy, such as weapons and shields. She could also teleport and traverse dimensions, and was effectively immortal thanks to her drawing upon the energies of the Dark Dimension. Most impressive, however, was her ability to warp the very reality of the world around her on a whim.
1. Jean Grey
Given the prominence of characters from the X-Men franchise at the start of this list, it’s only fitting that it should end with one too. The most powerful female character in any comic book movie to date is undoubtedly Jean Grey. The character has appeared in six movies up to now (including cameos and flashbacks) and has been played by Haley Ramm (as a child) and by both Famke Janssen and Sophie Turner. Janssen and Turner appeared in the more prominent roles at different stages of the character’s adult life and in different timelines — although each incarnation is still essentially the same character.
All of Jean’s powers are mind-based. She possesses telepathy and telekinesis, both of which allow her to do a plethora of remarkable things. With her telepathy, Jean has detected and tracked the minds of others, restored the lost memories of others, controlled the thoughts (and therefore the bodies) of others, seen glimpses of future events in precognitive visions, fired psionic blasts to induce pain or injure opponents, suppressed the powers of others, blocked the telepathic intrusion of other psychics, and created realistic telepathic illusions. With her telekinesis, Jean has disintegrated objects and people at a molecular level, absorbed and manipulated various energies, fired waves of telekinetic energy, erected telekinetic shields, and even flown. When she unleashes the full extent of her powers as the Phoenix, she is truly devastating, and was responsible for the defeat of the mighty ancient mutant known as Apocalypse.
What do you think of our rankings? Did we forget to mention any other hyper-powerful ladies from comic book movies? Let us know in the comments.