Strong Female Leads

This one’s sure to ignite some controversy:  the Strong Female Lead.

One might think that any Not-A-Dick Flick by definition showcases at least one Strong Female Lead.  However, since we at DickFlicks are doing the defining, we’re choosing to be picky.  After all, a Not-A-Dick Flick calls for only one girl out of four lead characters, right?  Not very exclusive.  (And yet look how tough it is to earn that status.)

We don’t mean “strong” as in muscle, hard-headedness, or triple black belt tae kwon do skills.  The Strong Female Lead comprises three parts, and she must meet all three:

  1. She must be female.  (Duh.)
  2. She must be a LEAD character.
  3. Any romantic storyline(s) involving her must be incidental to the main plot.

The first part is simple enough:  girl.  Zeta-Jones is, Schwarzenegger isn’t.  Done.

The second point, simple in theory, can quickly devolve into a hideously grey murky muddle:  leading vs. supporting role.  To expand upon our first example, take “Chicago.”  The first two names that jump to most minds are Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  But according to the Oscar, BAFTA, SAG, and Evening Standard British Film Award trophies sunning in Ms. Zeta-Jones’ Bermuda bungalow, Velma Kelly is but a supporting character.  In all likelihood, the forces behind “Chicago” didn’t want their two stars to cancel each other out in the Lead Actress category.  Still, for the sake of consistency, DickFlicks will generally abide by the rule of Oscar and the like when a judgment call is required.  But by all means, jump into the debate and give us a compelling reason to reconsider. 

Point No. 3:  With or without love, she has to be pivotal to the story.  In other words, axe her romance entirely, and the film still stands.  And here comes the perfect illustration which will no doubt whip some fans into a righteous frenzy:  Linda Hamilton.  The Sarah Connor of “Terminator 2:  Judgment Day” passes muster for Strong Female Lead, but the Sarah Connor of “The Terminator” (the original) fails.  Before you upload a nasty virus to wipe out our site, check out our more thorough rationalization on the Sarah Connor vs. Sarah Connor dilemma.  But suffice it to say here that, while T2 bears not a whiff of a love story, the first Terminator film literally could not exist without it.

Oh, and one small caveat:  Title roles in biographical films count separately.

So who passes the test?  We’ve got a short list started below, but WE NEED HELP.  If you know of a Strong Female Lead who should be added to the list, nominate her!

  • Abigail Breslin:  Casey Welson, The Call
  • Alison Lohman:  Angela, Matchstick Men
  • Anne Hathaway:  Andy Sachs, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Anne Hathaway:  Kym, Rachel Getting Married
  • Carrie Fisher:  Princess Leia, Star Wars
  • Dakota Fanning: Ray, Uptown Girls
  • Debra Winger:  Jane Larson, Leap of Faith
  • Demi Moore:  Jordan O’Neill, G. I. Jane
  • Ellen DeGeneres:  Dory, Finding Nemo
  • Emma Thompson:  Elinor, Brave
  • Geena Davis: Samantha Caine/Charly Baltimore, The Long Kiss Goodnight
  • Hailee Steinfeld:  Mattie Ross, True Grit
  • Halle Berry:  Jordan Turner, The Call
  • Helen Slater:  Mary, No Way Back
  • Hilary Swank: Ellie Burr, Insomnia
  • Jennifer Connelly:  Alicia Nash, A Beautiful Mind
  • Jodie Foster:  Clarice Starling, The Silence of the Lambs
  • Jodie Foster:  Eleanor Arroway, Contact
  • Jodie Foster:  Sarah Tobias, The Accused
  • Judi Dench:  Mrs. Laura Henderson, Mrs. Henderson Presents
  • Kathy Bates:  Annie Wilkes, Misery
  • Kelly MacDonald:  Merida, Brave
  • Kelly McGillis:  Kathryn Murphy, The Accused
  • Kristy Swanson:  Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Linda Hamilton:  Sarah Connor, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Madeline Carroll:  Molly Johnson, Swing Vote
  • Melissa McCarthy:  Mullins, The Heat
  • Meryl Streep:  Sister Aloysius Beauvier, Doubt
  • Meryl Streep:  Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Natalie Portman:  Amidala/Padme, The Phantom Menace
  • Natalie Portman:  Mathilda, The Professional
  • Rachel McAdams:  Becky Fuller, Morning Glory
  • Sandra Bullock:  Ashburn, The Heat
  • Sandra Bullock:  Gwen Cummings, 28 Days
  • Sandra Bullock: Ryan Stone, Gravity
  • Sharon Stone:  Ellen, The Quick and the Dead
  • Susan Sarandon: Louise Sawyer, Thelma and Louise
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