Historically, the patriarchal nature of Hollywood studios have tended to relegate female characters to smaller, side roles. They were rarely placed up front, and when they were, they were just one part of a larger, all-male team. For instance, when the modern era of comic book movies kicked off with 2000’s X-Men, we saw the powerful Rogue now depicted as a damsel in distress. Truthfully, Bryan Singer did give us upfront strong versions of Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). However, despite their star status, they were far from the lead characters in the film. When you think about this, and when you realize that we’re entering a new chapter in superhero films, studios and filmmakers are beginning to rethink the traditional structure. Many of these same characters are now playing larger roles in what will be remembered as some of the best films the genre has to offer.
We have grown used to seeing most television and movie versions of our favorite superhero teams featuring the tough, chiseled, square-jawed male heroes front and center. Now, we are beginning to see their female counterparts stealing the limelight. Take 2017’s Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot. This powerful award-winning film made audiences, and studios, take notice. We, as a movie-going society, are ready to see our share of powerful female superheroes on screen. Join us as we take a look back, and in some cases forward to the near future, and attempt to rank the 10 most powerful female superheroes ever depicted on screen.
- Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is probably the most popular female superhero in comic history. She part of DC’s “Trinity,” with Batman and Superman. Since her debut in the early 1940s, she’s been a symbol of strength, hope, and justice; an icon. She was portrayed on television in her own 1970s series by the talented Lynda Carter. Now she’s been brought to the big screen and portrayed by Gal Gadot, who does an incredible job. Her breakthrough performance in 2016’s Batman v. Superman was a shining light in an otherwise drab film.
2. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is someone we’ve haven’t really seen in live-action before, but with her appearance teased in Avengers: Infinity War, as well the trailer for her upcoming film having been released, we felt it was safe to include her in this list. The bottom line is that she is the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We say this with the caveat that when Kevin Feige made that statement, he had yet to tackle the character of Jean Grey. With Fox’s franchise soon coming under the umbrella of Feige, it will be interesting to see how the pair stacks up. Captain Marvel’s name is Carol Danvers and she is to be portrayed by Brie Larson.
We’ve been treated to a few live-action versions of DC’s Supergirl, though the most recent and best depiction is The CW’s Supergirl television series. In this series, Supergirl is portrayed by Melissa Benoist. The series stays pretty true to the comic book version, where the character is basically a female version of Superman (I mean, they’re both from Krypton).
As such, due to our yellow sun, she possesses superhuman strength, superhuman endurance, near-invulnerability, heat vision, ice breath, and she can fly. She’s basically overpowered when it comes to everyone else in the Arrowverse (and many characters have said as much). She’s definitely someone you want in your corner when battling bad guys.
4. Jean Grey
Arguably the most powerful mutant in the Marvel universe, Jean Grey possesses almost unlimited telepathy and telekinesis powers that, if unchecked, probably would dwarf those of Professor Xavier. Dr. Jean Grey was portrayed by Famke Janssen in the first three X-Men films, as well as a cameo in Days of Future Past, which retconned her demise in the third film. Her power by that point was limitless. This god-like power comes from the Phoenix Force, which, depending on how the films tackle it, is either an extraterrestrial essence that inhabits her or simply the unchecked raw side of her abilities that yearns to break free.
Regardless, 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix will tackle the issue as we will be treated to the metamorphosis of a new Jean Grey, portrayed by Sophie Turner. We caught a glimpse of the power level of her Phoenix persona at the climax of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, where she single-handedly decimated Apocalypse when she let go of her mental safeguards.
5. Scarlet Witch
With Fox’s mutant characters being brought under the Marvel umbrella, we might start to see a bit more story and exploration into Wanda Maximoff’s character, known as the Scarlet Witch. Cinematically we’ve seen her use her powers of telekinesis and levitation, as well as create force-fields and do some crazy reality-warping on people’s minds.
This makes her an extremely powerful combatant. Elizabeth Olsen portrayed Scarlet Witch in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, as well as 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Her abilities are even more extensive in the comics, so we’ll have to wait and see if the Fox merger means more Witch.
6. Black Widow
The most dangerous assassin-turned-hero, for our money, has to be the Black Widow. When Scarlett Johansson debuted as Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, in 2010’s Iron Man 2, fans were impressed. Though a well-known actress before, Johansson’s portrayal of the Black Widow in the MCU propelled her even further to super-stardom.
Though she doesn’t possess any superhuman abilities, she has shown herself more than capable of taking on and defeating foes much more powerful than herself. She’s highly trained and extremely dangerous, and she is a legend to all those in the spy world.
Mystique is another anti-hero that we’ve been able to see two incarnations of on the big screen. Rebecca Romijn first portrayed her more villainous side in the original X-Men film, and the two sequels, as well as a cameo in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. In the comics, Mystique is a villain, but the more recent X-Men films have cast her in a heroic light (in the years before she turned evil). In these versions, she is portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence.
Mystique is a shape-shifter who’s relentlessly loyal to Magneto with a monumental disdain for non-mutants. She’s a complex character whose ability to mimic just about anyone at any time makes her into a very dangerous adversary.
Born Anna Marie, this southern belle is more commonly called Rogue. Outside of her popular comic appearances, we first meet her on screen in the movie X-Men. Portrayed by Anna Paquin, she reprised the role in two sequels and then in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (though her appearance was mostly cut from the final edit).
Rogue is a truly powerful mutant but the films relegate her to a young damsel-in-distress who needs protection from the evil mutants. We are shown a version of Rogue struggling to understand her power-siphoning or life-draining abilities as well whether or not to “cure” herself of them altogether. If it wasn’t for this unfortunate storyline, Rogue would most definitely rank higher.
The Black Widow might be the pinnacle of human assassin-turned-hero, but if we expand that galaxy-wide (probably more like multi-galaxy), we’d have to put Gamora just a notch above. We first met her on screen in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, where she was portrayed by Zoe Saldana.
Gamora was raised to be a living weapon who was both merciless and ruthless. She has the reputation of being the deadliest woman in the galaxy. However, she is also a skilled tactician, often preferring to employ a strategy to achieve her goals. She possesses heightened agility, durability, and stamina. Her cybernetic enhancements give her physical capabilities far beyond those of humans.
We’ve only briefly seen Mera in 2017’s Justice League, but she will reprise her role in this year’s Aquaman. Portrayed by Amber Heard, Mera has the ability to create and control water objects that can hit with the force of similar solid objects.
She is known to be powerful enough to control vast amounts of water, such as would be needed to wash an entire army off a shore. As an Atlantean living under the great pressures of the sea, Mera also possesses enhanced strength, durability, and other traits related to years of underwater living.