I was going to write a post listing my favourite movies vs my least favourite, that changed halfway through my brain perusals as I soon realised just how much I was a fan of the female protagonist.

There is something beautiful about strength exuding from a woman. In an era where women in the film industry are still fighting for respect and the equal pay that comes with that, where I am a man whose favourite movie happens to be Aliens, I thought it fitting to shift the focus there… So there… Let the rankings commence…


The Official soztheo.me Top 10 Rated Female Protagonists in Film

The woman listed below were the main characters in their respective films, and in that they delivered performances that will forever set the stage for the next generation – I have of course chosen movies and performances that I appreciate, so we hereby accept that this is just a matter of opinion – of my chauvinistic, mysoginistic, male opinion, based only on those performances which sit front and center in my mind right now, at this moment (I haven’t gone back to before Soz-Mas), while I type – so really, they’re just suggestions, and worthy of your challenges, comments and suggestions, but please do take a peak… I may just surprise you!


1. Lieutenant Ellen Louise Ripley – Alien (the Full Quadrilogy)

“I’m no Ripley. I had doubts that I could play her as strongly as she had to be played, but I must say that it was fun exploring that side of myself. Women don’t get to do that very often.” – Siguorney Weaver

I have already expressed my appreciation for these movies on this blog (click here) this week, and for me the  success thereof relies completely on the strength of Siguorney Weaver’s shoulders – one of many strong independent characters she has played in her career, Lieutenant Ripley as brought to life is her cinematic work of art bequeathed to the History of Cinema.


 2. Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs

“I’m not sure I know how to play weak. I really don’t know how.”  – Jodie Foster

Another one of my favourite movies of all time belongs in the cannon of another one of the Hollywood Greats, Jodie Foster. The amazing thing about this performance is that Clarice Starling is as damaged a character as the villains in the piece (a special kind of damaged if you consider the full scope of the character’s trajectory in literature… Unofficially it is the arc that the character took in the books that stopped Jodie Foster from participating in the sequel).

It is an amazing performance because the strength of the character rests in a still performance. A focused FBI agent, still in training, forced to face the exact antithesis of her structured and controlled being. Strong. Sharp. Smart. But flawed, and struggling with the fact that while she may be out of her depth, she has to swim because the sharks are circling… It’s a role and a performance which has been mimicked repeatedly since…


3. Evelyn Couch, Imogene “Idgie” Threadgoode, Ruth Jamison, Ninny Threadgoode – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe 

“See, now is a time for courage. I guess you already know that there are angels masquerading as people walking around this planet and your mom was the bravest one of those.” – Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson)

And in a single moment, Whoosh! All the manly men disappear… During my teen years I suffered from insomnia, and so I stayed up with my trusty pal the television and watched whatever was on (a relationship with the TV which was born in my youth). This movie amazed me, so much so that I went out, bought and read the book, which merely by it’s construction and approach to storytelling was a revelation for me… 

This is the first ensemble presence in this list series (and it won’t be the last)… I recommend this movie to anyone who is prepared to take the risk. Sounds ridiculous, but this kind of movie really is a challenge for many, men and women, cos you gonna deal with racism, sexism, ageism, homosexuality, abuse, murder, menopause… Even during the adaptation of the novel certain aspects were muted, only hinted at (yet obvious) in the telling. I’ll tell you this, every female character in this movie has earned their place, great performances of strong women… I await the day when someone I know tells me that I am wrong, because I have recommended this movie to many people over the years… Soppy maybe… But definitely not wrong…

It’s hysterically funny and heartbreaking… Quite simply… “The Secret’s in the Sauce”


The Bride

4. “The Bride” – Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2

“I get shot in the head, raped, kicked, beaten and sliced by samurai swords… The movie should have been called Kill Uma.” – Uma Thurman

And because I’m a guy we boomerang right back to beautiful girls with guns and knives and things – I may be sentimental, but I still love a good action movie, and enjoy balance, nothing is more un-chick-flicky than a Quentin Tarantino Masterpiece (and isn’t every Quentn Tarantino movie a masterpiece?)…

You know this movie is about the breakdown of Fox Force Five right? Check that Sh!t out…

The Bride, a character created by Q&U, originally (unoficially, but c’mon) conceived in a scene in Pulp Fiction in which Uma Thurman’s character Mia Wallace speaks about a failed TV pilot she did… A premise developed and brought to life year’s later in this masterpiece…

Revenge is the subject central to many a great story, and this ode to Japanese Martial Art films, comprised almost entirely of the most entertaining set of strong, fast, high-flying female characters, is the stuff of every fanboy’s fantasy – and yes I know that this is about the girls, and to that I say that compared to the admittedly entertaining schlock of the Charlie’s Angels endeavors, this movie is the true zigga-zig-a of girl power…


5. Celie & Nettie – The Colour Purple

“The way I played Celie was to stand back from her. There’s a theory that an actor should identify with the character. Well, I loved her, but I didn’t identify with her. Celie is so far away from me, it was easy to allow her pain to be there, because her life has so little to do with mine.” – Whoopi Goldberg

The Colour Purple

I have never read Alice Walker’s masterpiece, but it does exist alongside my favourite kind of literature (FYI, Favourite Author is Toni Morrison). So what is it about this movie? Hear me out…

I am a brother. I have three sisters. I remember once watching an interview in which Maya Angelou spoke about how she was challenged for some reason for participating in the Million Man March, to which she replied, and this is not verbatim (probably the biggest hash-job I have ever done paraphrasing, but it was a long time ago), ‘I am the daughter of a man, the sister of a man, the mother of a man, the spouse of a man, this is why I march…’ I’ve totally messed it up, but the essence of it has always stuck with me.

Nettie and Celie. Two sisters. A bond that is physically severed at the beginning of the movie, but which remains the one constant longing throughout, strong in memory and heart, separated by hatred and oceans, the l
ove of two sisters, the sacred love of family, the strength and tale of one woman’s journey to her best self, to emancipation from a form of slavery born out of the legacy of slavery. This single girls journey to womanhood is set alongside fellow members of her sisterhood, in which her acquisition of strength within her own self runs parallel to other women who come into her life.

The movie boasts Oscar Nominated performances for not only Whoopi Goldberg in the titular role, but also for Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey. Not only was the film nominated for 11 Oscars (of which it won a big fat none), but three of those nominations belonged to African American Women, nominated for acting Oscars, from a single movie, a whole 16 years before Halle Berry would win her Best Actress Oscar for Monster – these figures speak to the power of the movie, the power of the story, and of the power of the players in their respective roles. Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of Alice Walker’s novel; oft referred to as an inferior work; woefully denied its justice at the Oscar’s; is a movie that in our household has been, and is, and will always be, a sacred and constant piece of enlightenment, contemplation and appreciation.


6. Police Chief Marge Gunderson – Fargo

“At least three times a week I’m approached by someone who says something about Fargo. Or, I’ll pass someone on the street in New York and someone will throw a line at me. People love to drop in ‘you betcha’ often as they can.” – Francis McDormand

It was in 1996 that a small town, with a small crime, introduced us to a largely pregnant, small town police chief named Marge Gunderson. It was the role of a lifetime for Francis McDormand, written and directed by the power pair comprised of her husband and brother-in-law (they of the genius Coen brothers), it earned her a well deserved Academy Award for Best Actress, but beyond that the character and film have gone on to surpass the more loftier and over the top creations by team Coen to be the masterpiece for which they will most probably always be remembered – a large part of that result rests solely on the shoulders of the genius that is this character who sits at Number 6 on my list.

It is the subtlest and smallest of performances, yet it is a presence in cinematic history that cannot be ignored because of its genius subtlety. From the quaint execution of the Mid-Western dialect, to the ever looming fact that the character’s pregnancy seems to be so huge yet is actually acknowledged briefly in the narrative of the movie (I mean, stamps got more conversation time than the pregnancy – And yet… M-Net; South Africa’s Pay-For-TV Service which provided a monthly program guide which include film blurb’s of the month’s movies in English and Afrikaans, had this entry under Fargo in the Afrikaans blurb, I remember because the tears rolled and pants were nearly pee’d, I quote, “Die polisie-hoof is swanger.”, ie direct translation: The Police Chief is pregnant)…

Francis McDormand’s Marge, out to solve a kidnapping, is faced with a criminal element and level of dishonesty which just does not compute as rational in the mind of the character… She’s just a cop, doing her job, baby on the way, living her life, appreciating the little things, and it is from that space that the humour exists… A true duck out of water, from a pond we could all learn to swim in…


7. Erin Brockovich – Erin Brockovich

“I have great admiration for what she stands for. A lot of women in our culture are facing being a single mother, trying to make ends meet. They are the heroes of out time, aren’t they?” – Julia RobertsErin Brockovich

And from the fictional beauty residing in the perceivably simplest of women to the a real, larger than life woman, who stood fast and beat the odds. From an expecting working mother-to-be to an actual unemployed mother of three. From understated to over the top. From small town crime, to fighting for, defending and ultimately uphelding the rights of an entire poisoned town against the corruption of a big business chemical company, we land at Erin Brockovich. To Justice.

It was always going to be but a matter of time before Julia Roberts won that Oscar, but that matter of time did take its sweet time, with amazing career cementing performances just not hitting the mark – the amazing thing about this performance is its effortlessness, it’s Julia Roberts at her most seemingly natural, like the role was simply meant for her. And it’s entertaining, it’s fall down funny delivery, it’s gut-wrenching tragedy, it’s real life David and Goliath-ness – except David actually wears stilletto’s and way to revealing clothes (for her office colleagues, I rather liked her outfits, especially her blouses – there I had my man moment), Erin Brockovich is not just a movie hero, she’s the real deal, and Julia Roberts does the real deal real justice


8. Sarah Connor – T2: Judgement DayTERMINATOR 2 : JUDGEMENT DAY DE JAMES CAMERON LINDA HAMILTON

“It’s not about the fame – it’s about the very nature of Sarah Connor who is a savior. I know people don’t necessarily buy it was the truth, but I go out in the world for all of these years and people stop me and say, “Hey I Love you!” It’s kind of an insidious thing because they think of me as the person who saved the future. It’s subtle how it works on people, but I just go out and people treat me like I’m a hero. It’s a wonderful feeling and it’s really great to be Linda Hamilton. I really think it’s because on some level that character I played is working on them in their subconscious.” – Linda Hamilton

In the first Terminator Sarah Connor was a deer in the headlights, on the run from the machine, round two came around and Sarah Connor was ready to hand it to them – she was tougher, stronger, crazier, pissed off, and she weren’t no victim!!! I mean check out those guns, as a Madonna fan, I like to think of her as a trendsetter, but Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor version T2.0 was a mean MoFo!

I love Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I need to watch that movie again, like soon, there’s no mistaking the fact that James Cameron is at the helm of this movie and Aliens, the female characters of James Cameron’s Sci-Fi Fantasies are It! That piece of acknowledgement to the man behind the scene done, the Sarah Connor on this list really is all about Linda Hamilton, the originator…

Hopefully… one day… She’ll be back…


9. The Rockford Peaches – A League of Their OwnA League of Their Own

“There’s no crying in baseball!” – Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks)

It’s the story of a team, it’s a sports movie, about girls (ahem… women) playing baseball while the men are off fighting The War – a fictional dramatization of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Yes, we enter into the Penny Marshall directed movie with sisters Dorothy “Dottie” Hinson and Kit Keller, but this really is a movie about the team. It’s about Marla Hooch, “All the Way” Mae Mordabito, Doris Murphy, Betty “Spaghetti” Horn, Evelyn Gardner and their Coach Jimmy Dugan – it is a movie which in 2012, was cited as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and was accordingly it was elected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

When you consider the rigorous filming the actresses went through to deliver the final product, that before even auditioning they had to pass a fitness and ball skill assessment, that for the purposes of stock footage for montages they had to play dozens of actual baseball games, that the Director’s Cut of the movie runs at over four hours (with many storylines cut that documented various characters arcs), and that by the end of the movie Penny Marshall felt sorry for the crew as, “Unfortunately everyone’s cycle synched up. The mood swings…”

This movie is a celebration of women surpassing expectations imposed upon them by society and by themselves, it is hysterically funny, while also dramatic – a really good piece of cinema…


Jen Final10. Frances “Baby” Houseman – Dirty Dancing

“I carried a watermelon…” – Baby

Yeah, Yeah… I hear you… But this one is for the girls, and the boys that were forced to watch it so many times that they actually, maybe, but we won’t admit that will we, kinda enjoyed it?

So, for context sake, me and my siblings (three sisters remember, and a much younger, fortunately for him not yet born) are children of professional dancers and dancing teachers, this movie was the first age-restricted movie I ever saw, it was required viewing in our house… Funny story, my dad lived in Rustenburg at the time (when the dorp was still but a few blocks wide) and we went to watch it at the two cinema complex called the Rustra – the ladies came with their hair did up eighties high, with sequins and shoulder pads, and when Patrick Swayze came on screen… My ears have still not yet fully recovered, nearly thirty years later.

Need more?

How about this… There are soooo many “chick flicks” out there, hate them much guys? Our ladies love them, and many of them have watched, re-watched and re-watched them again (and some times forced us to watch some really, really bad ones), these are their favourites, these strong women in our lives, these dreamers – it would be wrong of me to right a blog post like this and not include a real solid chick flick heroine (and in fact there are a couple I would have, and did, consider for this spot). I know this…

If I am ever fortunate enough to add a daughter to our family, I hope that she too has a romantic spirit, that she also wants to dream, and be a little girl of dreams… Drive us guys crazy with having to watch Dirty Dancing (although by that stage we’ll be in a bigger house and they can watch in the other lounge) – Lord knows, my daughter will also be raised on Aliens and Terminator as well, but girls will be girls – she is the elected representative for the honour of representing one of the biggest genres in the movie magic world, and for being the best within that huge genre of film… Could be worse, could be a Katherine Heigl movie (I think that’s how you spell it).

See the pictures I’ve added to this post? Nose be damned Jennifer Grey was hot (sorry Ladies)! That scene, in those shorts, up and down those stairs… And she was a good girl ultimately, selfless, kind, caring – and yeah, she owns this place proudly with all the dreams and eyes of little girls, little women, ladies, old girls and old women who have entrusted their hours of enjoyment upon this brand of Cinderella fantasy and escapism…

It’s that damn Patrick Swayze I tell you, he even made housewives bad…


So that’s my first list of the three… Coming Soon: The Bad; and The Ugly…

I actually come to the end of this list and I don’t know who it actually is for… This is just my opinion based on my life experience shaped appreciation. The fact is that there are certain fundamental truths that transcend beyond that which should define and separate us. These instead speaking to the commonality that exists in being members and equal participants in the human condition. I feel sorry for those that can’t or are unable to access that…

To end off, here are just a few movies that landed on and then fell off, and then were shuffled around, and ultimately lost out on appearing on this list but which own a spot in this mention:

Amelie; For The Boys; The Blind Side; Gravity; Clueless; Sense & Sensibility; Beloved; The Help; Scream; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Pretty Woman; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Girl, Interrupted – and finally, the one that I struggled the most with, the movie that was on and off and on again but which I just could not justify due to the lead protagonist not being the actual lead protagonist of the film – Mad Max: Fury Road…

Let me know what you think 🙂


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