The impact of the female lead and/or lead supporting actor in film cannot be overstated, especially when the performance is transcendent in application. For the ‘ying’ of every leading male there is the proverbial ‘yang’ of his female co-star, and sometimes it’s the strength of the female leading lady that drives the entire celluloid bus. In other words if a film is a brilliant cocktail, then the female acting contribution is the straw that stirs the drink. Idiots Guide has compiled a list of what we consider the ten greatest female characters and the actors who performed them for your review. You will notice the lack of hyper sexualized and/or exploited characters. The women on this list have made a lasting impact on the art of acting for film fans throughout the world. Please enjoy our retrospective of the work of these greats…
#10. Betty ‘Rizzo’ / Stockard Channing / Grease (1978)
Director Randal Kleiser‘s 1978 release of the comedy/musical ‘Grease’ was the genesis of what would become an American iconoclastic film franchise. Sure we all remember John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John and their love story, but for our money it was Stockard Channing‘s comedic performance as ‘Rizzo’ that provided a lasting impression from this film. Betty ‘Rizzo’ was humorous, and memorable.
#9. Bridget Jones / Renée Zellweger / Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
It is likely that ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ Director Sharon Maguire didn’t imagine the runaway success it would go on to achieve. A major reason for this film franchises popularity is the outstanding performance that Renée Zellweger delivered in bringing the awkward and oft self deprecating Bridget Jones to life. Fans of this film were able to relate to her angst and humanity. Excellent work from a great actor.
#8. Dorothy Gale / Judy Garland / Wizard of Oz (1939)
It goes without saying the abject pop culture iconic status of the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum‘s musical dramedy fantasy, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The film was an undoubted star vehicle for a talented, young Judy Garland, who portrayed ‘Dorothy Gale’. The film was also groundbreaking for it’s use of Technicolor, as well as it’s legendary off-beat characters, and pronounced musical score. In fact, had it not been for ‘Gone with The Wind’ as competition that same year, it probably would have secured even more Academy wins among the (6) six Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture. But the bottom line about this movie, it’s heartbeat per say, was Judy Garland’s performance. Memorable to say the very least, outstanding in a litany of ways.
#7. Mrs. Robinson / Anne Bancroft / The Graduate (1967)
There has been a significant change in cultural ethos since the 1967 release of Mike Nichols ‘The Graduate’. Today’s audiences may not find the plot that exposes the story of a 21-year-old recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, played by the great Dustin Hoffman, being effectively seduced by a sexy, smoldering older woman, named Mrs. Robinson, played by the incomparable Anne Bancroft. To be all that ‘racy’, but pushing the envelope is what critics said about this films in the mid- late 1960’s. Anne Bancroft is arguably the original film ‘M.i.l.f’ (acronym for Mother I’d like to…). Bancroft played this character to the hilt as it was believable, and most importantly effective on audiences the world over.
#6. Clarice Starling / Jodie Foster / Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The pairing of transcendent actors Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in Director Jonathan Demme‘s 1991 psychological thriller, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is noteworthy at the least, and amazing in every other sense. Foster was magnificent as FBI Agent trainee Clarice Starling, who’s charge is to deal with cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and by ‘deal’ we mean ask him for advice on a case. The acting was an at times esoteric tango of talented production with Jodie Foster not only holding her own, but exploded on the screen. A 1st rate performance for the ages, and masterful film.
#5. Sarah Conner / Linda Hamilton / The Terminator (1984)
As with more than a few films on this list, Director James Cameron‘s 1984 release ‘The Terminator’ is an all-time film with iconoclastic reach. It stars legendary strong-man actor and later California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He plays the Terminator, a cyborg killing machine sent back in time to destroy ‘Sarah Connor’ who is flawlessly portrayed by Linda Hamilton, whose performance was empowering for women and for the future of humanity as a whole. The Terminator turned into a huge box office smash, living at number one at the box office for two weeks in 1984. It also received wonderful critical acclaim, especially for the special effects, and action sequences. Hamilton was awesome playing double duty as doting mother and a**kicking patriot.
#4. Mia Wallace / Uma Thurman / Pulp Fiction (1994)
Uma Thurman‘s portrayal of mobster’s girl femme fatale ‘Mia Wallace’ in Director Quentin Tarantino‘s 1994 release ‘Pulp Fiction’ was outstanding. The film has been named one of the AFI top 100 of all-time and marks Uma Thurman’s best acting performance to date, and that’s saying a great deal. Thurman played the better half of underworld kingpin ‘Marcellus Wallace’ played by Ving Rhames, and she is remembered for her pivotal acting during an accidental overdose on heroin while in the company of John Travolta in the film. The film is a must see if you haven’t already, and not just for Thurman, although nobody would blame you if it was…
#3. Ripley / Sigourney Weaver / Alien (1979)
You can’t describe ‘Bad-Ass’ in Sci-Fi monster films without using the name Sigourney Weaver. Her portrayal of ‘Ripley’ in Director Ridley Scott‘s 1979 science-fiction horror smash picture ‘Alien’ is one for the ages and is the benchmark for female kick-ass authority in film. Weaver has gone on to be a major part of several more films in the franchise and each performance is as good as the original. Classic performances in each film.
#2. Scarlett O’Hara / Vivien Leigh / Gone with the Wind (1939)
It should go without mentioning that Director Victor Fleming‘s 1939 masterpiece ‘Gone with the Wind’ is an American film treasure. This epic historical romance film featured many great actors, but arguably none of them as wonderful as Vivien Leigh‘s. The film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell‘s 1936 novel of the same name was a David O. Selznick production and has lasted the test of time, even adding to our pop culture lexicon with several memorable quotes. Vivien Leigh was amazing in this picture and her performance is worth watching time and again…and again.
#1. Holly Golightly / Audrey Hepburn / Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
For my money, Audrey Hepburn is the most beautiful women in the history of film. Period. When you couple that with the fact that she is also one of the most talented actors in history, you have the hallmarks of a true icon and legend. ‘Holly Golightly’ was a fun character and Hepburn played her with a sublime complexity that supersedes all others in the genre, if not the entire world. Comedic film legend Director Blake Edwards’s 1961 release of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is without question one of the greatest American romantic comedies of all time, and a huge part of that is Audrey Hepburn’s performance. Transcendent is too small a word to describe her contribution to this film and the history of film as a whole…