Wonder Woman hit theaters this month, becoming the DCEU’s first unqualified success – and a huge one, too. The origin story broke box office records, enjoyed sold-out women-only screenings, and is sitting comfortably at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a huge moment for DC fans, but it’s also a big step forward for female superheroes… and just plain female characters! One of the most telling reactions to the film are the reports of women crying in the cinema – tearing up not just at the sad scenes, but during scenes on Themyscira, as they watch the Amazons training, fighting, and representing powerful women everywhere. There’s absolutely no doubt about it, Wonder Woman is a movie that is inspiring women all over the globe.
What makes it so inspirational isn’t just the ass-kicking that Wonder Woman doles out from start to finish. It’s the combination of Diana Prince as a warrior, and as a woman driven by a sense of justice, compassion, and love for those that she protects. Wonder Woman is so much more than just a survivor, she’s a true hero… and if you are looking for more inspiring, uplifting, asskicking warrior women after watching the movie, we’ve got you covered.
15. Peggy Carter (Agent Carter)
Like Diana Prince, Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was introduced to the world in a superhero period piece – the origin story of Captain America (Chris Evans). Since her appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, she’s gone on to front her own TV series (Agent Carter), telling the story of how SHIELD was created. Like Diana, she has to forge her own path in a male-dominated world, and is constantly working harder than the men around her to prove herself capable… and boy is she capable!
A spy, a linguist, a fighter, a charmer, and investigator, and so much more, Peggy keeps pushing forward with humor and grace, and with no hesitation when it comes to fighting her own battles. Her show may have been canceled after only two seasons, but there are still plenty of fans who would love to see her back on the air and finishing the story that she started.
14. Babydoll (Sucker Punch)
Before Zach Snyder launched the DCEU with Man of Steel, he created a very different kind of film: Sucker Punch. This dark and beautiful movie tells one story over multiple different realities, the world as it is, and several versions of the world in the mind of the lead character, Babydoll (Emily Browning).
Dumped in an asylum by her murderous stepfather, Babydoll has to fight her way out, but it’s not just her sword-swinging action scenes that make her an incredible female warrior. As the film evolves, Babydoll begins to realize that saving herself may not be as important as rescuing some of the other young women trapped in there with her. Her final sacrifice is gut-wrenching, but it isn’t in vain. From her desire to protect her younger sister in the opening scenes, right until the final moments of the film, Babydoll is always fighting to protect those who can’t protect themselves.
13. Selene (Underworld)
The Underworld franchise has grown from the original tale of a blood feud between vampires and werewolves to a huge epic – all centered on warrior vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale). Initially, she uses her skills as a Death Dealer, a vampire who hunts and kills werewolves after they killed her family. But Selene’s tale becomes so much more than a simple revenge story as the franchise evolves.
Selene becomes a fierce protector of those that she loves, her lover Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), and eventually, their daughter, Eve (India Eisley). As she unravels the complicated schemes of the oldest vampires, she forges her own path, determined to seek out the truth and find real justice instead of simply swallowing what she has always been told by her coven. She is powerful, incredibly strong, and a talented fighter, but she is also driven by her love for her family and her desire to do what is right, which is what makes her so inspiring.
12. Merida (Brave)
This independent princess bucks the classic Disney formula by having absolutely no interest in her royal duties… or in finding her one true love. Instead, Merida (Kelly MacDonald) captures the free spirit of the warrior woman, preferring riding, exploring, and her own weapons training to dancing and embroidery. Like the others on this list, however, she’s not just a tomboy with red hair and a bow and arrow.
Brave is driven by love, even if it isn’t romantic love. Instead, Merida’s story is about familial love, and the relationship between the young princess and her mother – who often seems to embody everything that Merida does not want to become. She learns to balance her warrior nature with patience and selflessness, putting her kingdom’s needs on the same level as her own desires. With her young age and the family-friendly nature of the film, Merida is the perfect warrior woman to introduce to young girls.
11. The Women of Firefly
It’s impossible to choose just one of the women who live on board Firefly‘s Serenity, as all four are inspiring warrior women in their own ways. Zoe (Gina Torres) is a soldier, the captain’s second in command, and a capable and fearless crew member. Inara (Morena Baccarin), meanwhile, fights her battles with charm and cunning, using her beauty and skills as a companion to achieve her ends, and refusing to take any disrespect along the way. River (Summer Glau) is the best fighter on the crew, with a genius-level intellect and training that allows her to slaughter entire enemy squads with ease. Even Kaylee (Jewel Staite), who seems very cute and sweet on the surface, is a warrior in her own way. She’s capable of understanding and working with the ship like no one else, and she rises above her fear to save the crew more than once.
10. Furiosa (Mad Max)
There aren’t many women in the world of Mad Max: Fury Road. There are so few, in fact, that in Joe’s Citadel, the only women we really meet are his wives, his most prized possessions, who are kept locked up and used for breeding. Furiosa (Charlize Theron), however, is very much not one of the villain’s wives. Having been kidnapped from her female clan as a child and now being used as a lieutenant, she’s brewing a revolution.
She manages to get the wives away, rediscovers her clan, and takes over the Citadel herself in the end. Furiosa is pure warrior woman, with an incredible ability to strategize and to fight, and with no hesitation to hurt those who stand in her way. This ferocity is balanced by her compassion, though, as she does not simply try to run away, but to rescue the other women that are trapped and abused. She believes in a better place, and when she cannot find it, she creates it herself.
9. Tulip (Preacher)
Fans of the Preacher comics may not recognize the on-screen version at first, as Ruth Negga is a far cry from the lovelorn blonde in the books. However, Negga’s Tulip is one of those true rarities – an adaptation that is far better than the original. This complicated, powerful woman isn’t afraid to be feminine, and she balances out her aggressive side with some phenomenal scenes of lighthearted, loving, and even maternal moments.
In one episode alone, she goes from winning a brutal fight in a moving car (in which she bites off her opponent’s ear) to taking care of a couple of children and teaching them to make a bazooka out of household items – so that she can bring down a helicopter singlehandedly. She cares deeply for people and protects the innocent, while maintaining no illusions about the world and holding her own against the men she meets. Strong and bitingly sarcastic, Tulip is a perfect modern warrior.
8. Hope Van Dyne (Ant-Man)
Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) made her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Ant-Man, and she’s going to be sharing the title of the sequel as the Wasp next year. While Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) may have been the ‘hero’ of the original film, but it was Hope who helped him get there. As well as being a board member of her father’s company, and a businesswoman and scientist herself, she is the one who unearthed a plot to create a weaponized version of her father’s suit. She’s physically powerful, too – as Scott discovered to his chagrin when he made the mistake of underestimating her in a sparring match – and is hyper-capable when it comes to controlling the ants and the suit that Scott is to wear.
Beyond her own talents, she is a phenomenal teacher to Scott, although she isn’t always the most patient tutor he could have. She’s driven by the desire to help people, and fans cannot wait to see her come into her own as the Wasp.
7. Lady Sif (Thor)
Another Marvel character who has a lot in common with Wonder Woman, Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is also from another world, a woman who wears armor and fights for justice with classic weaponry. That said, she’s far from identical to Diana Prince. Sif is Asgardian, not Amazonian, and as such, she faced a lot of opposition to her training in her early years. Thanks to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) being willing to look past her gender, however, she was able to rise through the ranks and become one of the most feared warriors in Asgard.
As well as being a phenomenal fighter, she is intelligent and adventurous, and she has more control over her emotions than the Warriors Three that she spends much of her time with. She is patient and cautious when she needs to be, always searching for the truth, and has a deeply ingrained sense of honor, justice, and loyalty.
6. Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
The poster-child for the revolution in Panem, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) starts out as a survivor, but becomes so much more than that. As a young woman in District 12, she learned to hunt and survive to help feed her family, but her life changed when she volunteered to take her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. From there, she went on to win the games, and to subvert them. She became the face of a revolution, albeit unwillingly. All she truly wants is to protect her loved ones, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
Katniss is a particular inspiration for those who are capable but not necessarily personable, and who doesn’t need to make herself liked in order to win her battles. Instead, it is her strength and her love for her family, and for another young tribute, Rue (Amandla Stenberg), that ignites the rebellion in Panem.
5. Eowyn (Lord of the Rings)
When Wonder Woman went over the top and took No Man’s Land, plenty of Lord of the Rings fans were thinking that she might echo Eowyn’s (Miranda Otto) famous line: “I am no man“. This shield maiden of the Rohan is well-trained with a sword, and is eager to fight from the start. She even tells Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) that she doesn’t fear pain, or death, but she fears a life lived without the chance of valor.
More than just a fighter, she is also compassionate and rebellious in equal measure, able to take an order to get the women and children to safety when she sees the need for it, but willing to disguise herself and ride into battle when she sees no reason to stay behind. She brings a Hobbit with her, too, seeing in him the same desire to help, and the same dismissal by the rest of the army that she experiences. And of course, she destroys the Witch-king in battle.
4. Brienne of Tarth (Game of Thrones)
Another sword-swinger who deals with the scorn of the men she serves with, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) rises above the hatred and thinks only of her own honor as a warrior and a lady knight. She is incredibly talented with a sword, capable of beating even the best warriors, and she served her king loyally as a bodyguard until he was murdered by magic. Her sense of honor is one of her most impressive traits, and she is willing to make sacrifices, to wait, and to lay down her life for those that she is sworn to protect.
Brienne is utterly uncorruptable, even though she has dealt with more than her fair share of pain in her life and wears as much metaphorical armor as the literal steel on her back. Like so many of the women in Game of Thrones, she is inspiring in her strength and her ability to carve her own path in a world ruled by men. She may very well be the finest swords(wo)man in all of Westeros.
3. Xena Warrior Princess
The original, and still considered the best by many fans, Xena burst onto the small screen in the ‘90s as a warrior battling her own past as well as the forces of evil in the world. Xena (Lucy Lawless) is a reformed villain, always doing her best to work for the greater good and to steer clear of temptation to return to her former ways.
Along with her partner, Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), who becomes an honorary Amazon (just like Wonder Woman!), Xena faces down any number of foes and always manages to come out on top. She acts as a mentor to Gabrielle and a protector to the weak as well as a fighter for herself, but it’s her internal struggle that really makes the character compelling. The desire to keep doing the right thing – even if it is the more difficult, less tempting path – is something that will always be inspirational.
2. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) started out as a cheerleader with a destiny dropped on her head, but over the seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, she rises to meet the challenge – and surpasses everyone’s expectations alogn the way. Unlike many of the other warriors on this list, she wasn’t just dealing with fighting evil, but also with all the stresses of high school, college, and real life. She saved her sister from being drained by a demon to open a portal to hell. Then, when she returned from the dead, she continued to raise her sister, taking minimum wage jobs to put food on the table while still slaying after her shifts. She balanced friendships and family with her duties, she was able to see demons as living beings rather than monsters that needed to be put down, and she kept on trying to do the right thing, no matter what.
1. LeeLoo (The Fifth Element)
At first glance, LeeLoo (Milla Jovovich) doesn’t have a lot in common with Wonder Woman, but their stories are surprisingly similar when you go a little bit deeper. Both have been created to save the world from evil, coming into the world with a powerful sense of their duty to fight the good fight. They are both well-trained, perfect warriors with incredible physical abilities beyond any normal human. They are both new to the world, and discover it with a combination of joy and horror – from a delight in delicious food to absolute shock at what war has become. And of course, they are both accompanied by a soldier who believes that he should be protecting the woman at his side – and who learns that she is more than capable of protecting him, instead.
LeeLoo, like Wonder Woman, finds her strength in love, and in the deep belief that good will triumph… and inspires us all along the way.
What other warrior women are out there saving the day and inspiring us all? Let us know in the comments.