Drawn to Comics: Ranking The 40 Coolest Women in Superhero Comic Book Movies

by rory midhani

by rory midhani

I love making lists. And I love watching awesome ladies in superhero comic book movies (well, in pretty much all movies). So, I thought, why not combine the two? I thought about all the superhero comic book movies I had seen and thought about the women in them and decided to list my 40 favorite. Just to be clear, this is a ranking of fictional characters, not the real women who play them.

In making this list of women in superhero comic book movies, I only looked at theatrical releases, and only movies based on English-language comics, so that means no manga. Also, I’ll admit that I have a few blind spots. I’ve never seen any of the old Superman movies and I haven’t seen Big Hero Six yet. And as much as I wanted to include all of the awesome ladies from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, I couldn’t bring myself to call it a “superhero” movie.

Blink in Days of Future Past via Screen Rant

Blink in Days of Future Past via Screen Rant

You might notice how dreadfully few women of color are on this list. And it’s not like there are a ton of women of color in comic book superhero movies I could have included. There are some minor characters in the X-Men movies, like Blink, Lady Deathstrike and Callisto, and some terrible characters like Halle Berry in Catwoman and Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four movies, but not much else.
Hopefully in a few years with Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, The Inhumans, Painkiller Jane and others all getting movies, there will be a bunch of awesome ladies to add to this. With all that being said, here’s my list.

40. Jean Grey (played by Famke Janssen in the X-Men franchise )– I never really warmed to her character in the comics (perhaps because of her close proximity to Cyclops) and the movies just cemented that opinion of her for me.

39. Silk Spectre (played by Malin Ackerman in Watchmen )– This movie was really pretty, and I think Malin Ackerman is a funny actress, but it seemed like Zack Snyder kind of just put her in the movie to have her stand around and look nice.

38. Angel Salvadore (played by Zoe Kravitz in X-Men: First Class )– I was really excited when I heard that Zoe Kravitz would be playing this character, but then I watched the movie and saw how she barely had any lines at all.

The Antique Store Owner via aveleyman.com

37. That Old Woman Who Owned That Antique Store in Captain America (played by Amanda Walker in Captain America: The First Avenger)– Badass old lady working for a secret spy organization? Definitely awesome.

36. Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises )– Definitely not the best Catwoman ever, but also not the worst.

35. Supergirl (played by Helen Slater in Supergirl )– This is a pretty awful movie, but it was the first female superhero movie ever, so she deserves a spot on the list.

34. Jet Girl (played by Naomi Watts in Tank Girl )– Wait, she was played by Naomi Watts??? I just watched this movie the other day and had no idea until I started writing this. That’s awesome.

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33. Private Lorraine (played by Natalie Dormer in Captain America: The First Avenger )– I mean, come on, Natalie Dormer is just plain great.

32. Mariko (played by Tao Okamoto in The Wolverine )– She could have easily been a damsel in distress (that’s kind of what the movie wanted her to be), but she was somehow able to overcome that.

31. Moira McTaggert (played by Rose Byrne in X-Men: First Class )– She does a pretty good job holding her own among a bunch of mutants and sexist men and plays her part in preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis.

30. Mary Jane Watson (played by Kristen Dunst in Spider-Man 1, Spider-man 2 and Spider-man 3 )– Honestly, she’s my favorite part of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy.

29. Maria Hill (played by Cobie Smulders in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier )– The badass second-in=command to Nick Fury, without her, SHIELD wouldn’t be half the organization it is.

Agent 13 via enstarz.com

28. Agent 13 (played by Emily VanCamp in Captain America: The Winter Soldier )– She’s cool enough to effortlessly flirt with Captain America and brave enough to stand up to HYDRA with a gun pointed right at her and not even flinch.

27. Darcy (played by Kat Dennings in the Thor movies )– Not only is she smart and capable, but she’s also the funniest person in these movies.

26. Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and The Amazing Spider-man 2 )– Honestly, my favorite part of the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man movies.

via imdb

25. Princess Nuala (played by Anna Walton in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army )– I adore these movies, but this brave elf princess injected some much needed femininity into the Hellboy franchise.

24. Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman in the Thor movies )– She’s not just Thor’s love interest, she’s also a super brilliant and super brave scientist. She’s even able to figure out Asgardian technology after just a quick glance!

23. Aunt May (played by Sally Field in The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and The Amazing Spider-man 2 )– I know Uncle Ben usually gets all the credit (and he deserves a lot of it), but without Aunt May, there really would be no Spider-Man.

22. Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3 )– In the first two movies she’s definitely Tony’s better half, being way more competent than he ever was. By the third movie, she’s a better superhero than he is too.

21. Hit-Girl (played by Chloe Moretz in Kickass and Kickass 2 )– There’s a lot that I hate about these movies, but I kind of really like Hit-Girl. And she’s definitely the best superhero in either of these movies.

The Bowler

20. The Bowler (played by Janeane Garofalo in Mystery Men )– Once again, the only woman on the team is also the most competent member.

19. Liz Sherman (played by Selma Blair in the Hellboy movies )– A super powerful pyrokinetic who is able to hold her own against the much larger than life Hellboy.

18. Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson in a bunch of Marvel movies)– Is it controversial that I have her ranked this low? I don’t know. And don’t get me wrong, I think she’s pretty cool, and she’s especially really cool compared to the other Avengers. And number 18 is a respectable spot.

Ma-Ma

17. Ma-Ma (played by Leana Headey in Dredd )– Have you guys seen Dredd? Oh my gosh. Not only are two of its three leads women, and not only is it freaking gorgeous, but it’s also one of my two favorite American Action movies from the past 20 years (the other is Hanna ). And Ma-Ma is a freaking terrifying villain. She’s one of the most ruthless crimelords I’ve ever seen on screen.

16. Yukio (played by Rila Fukushima in The Wolverine )– I didn’t really like this movie, but Yukio was totally awesome in it. She was totally Wolverine’s equal when it came to fighting and without her, he would’ve been totally lost.

15. Faora (played by Antje Traue in Man of Steel )– The one woman among the evil Kryptonians in the film, Faora was so cool you guys! Maybe I just really like awesome lady super villains?

14. Lady Sif (played by Jamie Alexander in the Thor movies)– As great a warrior as any of the The Warrior Three, and she isn’t relegated to having to fight with Jane Foster for Thor’s affections.

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13. Kitty Pryde (played by Ellen Page in the X-Men movies)– I would have loved to put her higher, but unfortunately, she was stuck in a really bad movie (X-3) and then was almost a tertiary character in a pretty good one (Days of Future Past, where she should have been the star, as in the comics it’s Kitty who travels back in time, not Wolverine). So until she has a larger role, I can’t really justify putting her higher.

12. Mystique (played by Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence in the X-Men movies)– I liked Mystique well enough in the first three X-Men movies, but then when Jennifer Lawrence started playing her, she became even more of a favorite of mine.

11. Judge Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby in Dredd )– Seriously, if you haven’t seen Dredd yet, you need to go see it now (although a warning: it has a ton of stylized, but graphic violence). It’s probably my favorite comic book movie. Judge Anderson, played by the openly bisexual Olivia Thirlby, doesn’t wear a sexualized costume, she’s not anyone’s love interest, she doesn’t need to be rescued by the male lead (kind of the opposite, in fact) and she’s just totally awesome in every way.

10. Storm (played by Halle Berry in the X-Men movies)– Again, I would have loved to put Storm higher, but in the movies she’s a shell of her comic book self. Even still, she’s still way more badass than the majority of the mutants in these movies.

Rogue via Geek League of America

9. Rogue (played by Anna Paquin in the X-Men movies)– In a lot of ways, she’s the main character of the first movie. She’s both the character the audience is supposed to empathize with and she’s the character who the entire plot revolves around. She’s one of the few characters I feel like they got right in the X-Men movies.

Agent Peggy Carter via Lytherus

8. Agent Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell in Captain America )– I am so glad she’s getting her own TV show. She was so cool in Captain America, helping to recruit and train Steve Rogers, helping him sneak past enemy lines, and defeating a bunch of Nazis. What more can you ask for in a woman?

Nebula via Screenrant

7. Nebula (played by Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy )– Now, I know I said just a minute ago that Kitty Pryde wasn’t prominent enough to be higher on the list, and Nebula is the second bad guy in just one movie. But I think if you’ve seen the movie you would understand just how freaking cool she is. She tears her own hand off just so she can get away to fight another day! I wish that we were getting a Nebula and Gamora spinoff movie.

6. Kitty Kowalski (played by Parker Posey in Superman Returns )– This is my sleeper pick. Superman Returns is kind of a trash movie (although I do love Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luther) but Parker Posey makes me love it. She’s hilarious, a great dresser and she’s much smarter than Lex gives her credit for. She’s like, the most comic-booky character in the history of comic book movies.

5. Tank Girl (played by Lori Petty in Tank Girl )– This movie is just plain bonkers. But it’s also pretty fun, and 97% of that fun comes from Lori Petty’s performance as the titular Tank Girl. I mean, sure, she has sex with a mutant kangaroo, but she also has an awesome haircut, makes out with Jet Girl, saves the world and never loses her spirit of fun no matter what.

4. Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy)– Gamora just kicks so much ass. She could have just been a love interest for Star Lord, but instead she has her own personality, her own motivations and back story (although I would have loved to see more of them) and she holds her own in a fight. She’s just cool and no nonsense and a great action hero.

via Blastr

via Blastr

3. Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams in Man of Steel )– You guys, the first time I watched the preview for Man of Steel, that part at the end where Lois is talking to Superman and she asks what the “S” on his chest means and he says something like “it’s not an ‘S,’ on my world it means hope” and she doesn’t hesitate for a second and snaps back with “Well, here it’s an ‘S’,” I cried. She’s sitting across from from the most powerful being on the planet and she doesn’t even flinch. She smiles and makes a joke. And that isn’t even the gutsiest thing she does in the movie! She’s like, the perfect Lois Lane, brilliant, brave, snarky and full of heart. This movie is kind of bleh, but she makes me actually want to rewatch it all the time.

2. Gabriel (played by Tilda Swinton in Constantine )– Gabriel is androgynous, and I’ve seen some people interpret them as being genderless, because angels don’t have human gender, but I like to think of them as a masculine of center, possibly genderqueer, woman. This movie had a lot of misfires, but Gabriel wasn’t one of them. If angels were portrayed this way more often you can be sure there would be a ton more Catholics. When Gabriel comes swooping down, wings wide open and stomps on Constantine, it’s pretty much the coolest moment in the movie.

1. Catwoman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns )– Who else could it be? She’s in a movie with famous scene-chewers Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken and still, it’s impossible to pay attention to anyone but her. On a surface level, she’s got that amazing leather catsuit and sweet whip, which is maybe the most iconic movie costume for any superhero, but more than that, she’s a super capable vigilante/villainess who successfully fights of Batman multiple times, takes revenge on the man who tried to kill her and lives by her own rules. Plus, she’s the root for a whole generation of queer girls who grew up on this movie.


New Releases (December 17)

Adventure Time Banana Guard Academy #6 (Boom!)

Lumberjanes #9 (Boom!)

Steven Universe #5 (Boom!)

Angel and Faith Season 10 Vol. 1 Where the River Meets the Sea TPB (Dark Horse)

Batgirl Vol. 4 Wanted TPB (DC)

Batgirl Vol. 5 Deadline HC (DC)

Catwoman #37 (DC)

The Kitchen #2 (DC)

Supergirl #37 (DC)

Wonder Woman #37 (DC)

Bob’s Burgers #5 (Dynamite)

Saga Vol. 4 TPB (Image)

The Wicked + The Divine #6 (Image)

Wytches #3 (Image)

Black Widow #13 (Marvel)

Captain Marvel #10 (Marvel)

Elektra #9 (Marvel)

Ms. Marvel #10 (Marvel)

Spider-Woman #2 (Marvel)

Storm #6 (Marvel)
There’s a new issue of Batwoman coming out this week, but due to the current storyline, and the writer’s defense of it, I’m purposefully omitting it.

Welcome to Drawn to Comics! From diary comics to superheroes, from webcomics to graphic novels – this is where we’ll be taking a look at comics by, featuring and for queer ladies. So whether you love to look at detailed personal accounts of other people’s lives, explore new and creative worlds, or you just love to see hot ladies in spandex, we’ve got something for you.

If you have a comic that you’d like to see me review, you can email me at mey [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 574 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. This is an amazing list. I really loved how you paid attention to the women who are so often brushed aside, such as Lois Lane. I actually never realized that, hey, she IS talking to some superbeing and still dishing out jokes without hesitation. Amazing.

  2. I would like to step forward with Cassie Williams (played by Dakota Fanning) from “Push”. While Nick Grant (Chris Evans) is supposed to be the leader of this ragtag group of superhumans, it just seems like Cassie is the one who’s actually the competent grown-up.

  3. This list is weird as I don’t agree with any of the rankings (Maria Hill at 29? The entire top five apart from Catwoman), but that’s entirely cool because it’s your opinion. I love the fact that you’re throwing in some original choices and letting us all know what floats your boat. Plus it’s chicks in comic book movies, which is one of my favourite topics and you draw attention to Dredd, which is one of my favourite movies of all time. It just rocks.
    My top five would be: 5)Jean Grey 4) Maria Hill 3)Cassandra Anderson 2)Catwoman 1) Black Widow.
    And I’m really excited to see Wonder Woman on the big screen at long last. I’m all for giving Gal Gadot, who was both hot and awesome in the FF movies, a chance.

    • I understand this. I usually have pretty particular taste in movies, so it makes sense that my list doesn’t match yours. But isn’t Dredd amazing!? It’s so good and I totally thought about putting Judge Anderson higher. Maybe I’ll have to rewatch Maria Hill’s movies and rethink my position on her.

  4. Yes Peggy Carter! I’m excited to see more from her, not least because she is badass AND British.

    Actually, I just want to see more from the Marvel women in general. They’re so much better than the dudes.

  5. I’m super pleased to see Gabriel/Tilda Swinton on this list (and so high!). She was my favourite part of what was otherwise a pretty poor adaptation of an excellent comic. Admittedly, though, I adore Tilda in everything she does. She’s so fucking gorgeous.

  6. Well, I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not I should give Dredd a shot, so I guess I have my answer.

    But I gotta be honest, I’m surprised to see Gamora and Nebula so high (especially above Natasha Romanoff and Peggy Carter, but what can I say, they’re my favorites), because while I found them both really interesting, the movie did a horrible job with them. It should have been their show, and it wasn’t.

  7. Hey, Mey!

    An amazing article, as always, and I LOVE this list so much (esp. MaMa, Hit Girl, and Tank Girl), BUT…

    I was so reluctant to comment at first, but it’s been eating at me all day. I really, REALLY, don’t like your selection of Gabriel. As you pointed out, Gabriel as canonically been considered androgynous and genderless (the wikipedia article even goes out of its way not to gender them), so just brushing off that identity and saying you prefer to see them as a woman that MOC feels really… erasing. We non-binary and genderless folk get few enough characters to ourselves as it is, so having them shoehorned into a gendered list feels a little weird and more than a little hurtful. Coupled with that, the fact that everyone in the movie refers to Gabriel as a “he” kind of ignores the character’s context/identity entirely.

    I love your articles, so I wanted to help make sure identity erasure didn’t slip through the cracks. I don’t mean to nitpick and make a big deal out of this in an otherwise immaculate list of positivity, I’m just honestly bothered by the choice and, with MY thick skin, if I’m bothered by it, I can’t help but think some other non-binary folk are, too. I just thought it was worth pointing out. <3

    • Hi, I can see where you’re coming from, and I thought a lot about putting Gabriel on the list exactly for the reasons that you talk about. Ever since I first saw the movie in theatres, I interpreted Gabriel as a woman, which as a closeted queer Catholic, was amazing to me. And then when I was making this list, I looked at a lot of websites where people were talking about the character to see if Gabriel’s gender (or lack thereof) was ever canonically stated in the film. I saw several things that used “he,” some places that used “she” and most that used “they.” And I didn’t remember what pronouns they used in the movie. Some places said Gabriel in the movie was a male character played by a woman, some said that, in keeping with the Bible’s description of angels not being human, Gabriel was meant to be without human gender, and then others described the character as an androgynous woman.

      And so I think that coming from a Catholic background, I’ve always seen people who say the character is genderless as being conservative and traditional bible folks, and I didn’t think about what the character might mean to actual agender people. That was wrong of me and I’m definitely sorry about that.

      So I think in my excitement at the idea of a Catholic icon I had always been taught was male (or without human gender) being portrayed as what I interpreted as a woman (although a very androgynous version of womanhood) I latched onto that idea. So I’ve viewed Gabriel as a genderqueer, androgynous or non-binary woman, but still someone who is a woman. Does that make sense?

      None of this is meant as an excuse to why I think it’s okay to misgender an agender person, I mean it as a way to start a conversation with you about the character. And i definitely don’t think you’re being nitpicky. Your feelings about this are valid and it’s totally fair to bring them up. If I had seen anything that said for sure that Gabriel was not a woman or was agender, I definitely would have not put Gabriel on the list. And maybe if I talked with you beforehand about the character I wouldn’t have either. I hope what I’ve said has made sense, and I’d like to talk more with you on the subject.

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