We partnered with Under Armour on this post that proves women don't need permission to be awesome, and that powerful onscreen roles can inspire how you live your life off screen.
You know the moment you're watching a movie and the female lead totally nails it? It's not always just the actor, but the director or writer who helped create that moment together, leaving us feeling a bit breathless and totally empowered. These are the female roles that shape who we are, push us to be who we want to be, and alter how we perceive women around us. This list could go on and on, but we selected 13 that definitely left a strong impression on us over the years. And some for reasons that might surprise you.
Source: Disney, Lionsgate, Orion Pictures, Warner Bros.
Alien came out in 1979, a time when women were often depicted with feathered hair and short shorts, lilting about while fluffing up the background. But when Sigourney Weaver came on screen with her big guns and white tank top, we all paid attention. She's a superheroine, confident and powerful, leaving us feeling like even we could take on scary monsters.
Source: 20th Century Fox
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Quentin Tarantino knows how to push boundaries, and in Jackie Brown, Pam Grier leads the movie as a sexy, confident femme fatale. If you're looking for a female character who exudes empowerment, this is a smart action movie that doesn't degrade women.
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For any goth/nerd/outcast kid, Lisbeth Salander is your female hero.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo lets her strengths shine while showing Lisbeth's quiet and reserved caring side in a role that changes how we perceive beauty and strength.
Source: Columbia Pictures
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Up against grisly evil Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling must overcome the challenges of being in an all-man world, proving she can get the job done — all while facing many of her own demons.
Silence of the Lambs is a gripping movie, led so well by Jodie Foster, sending a clear message that women can do anything.
Source: Orion Pictures
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This movie is just so good. Everything about it leaves you white-knuckled and on edge thanks to Hillary Swank's portrayal of Maggie Fitzgerald.
Million Dollar Baby follows a determined female boxer challenging herself to be the best with the help of a crusty Clint Eastwood. Her pure desire to overcome anything is what's so empowering about this movie. But be warned. It's a tearjerker.
Source: Warner Bros.
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Depicting a difficult situation that's somewhat taboo,
Juno follows a young couple coping with a big decision. But Juno herself, played by Ellen Page, steals the movie as the supersmart and pregnant 16-year-old, flipping stereotypes and embodying empowerment — all while still in high school.
Source: 20th Century Fox
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Sure, Captain Jack Sparrow steals the movie in
Pirates of the Carribean, but Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swan is who really caught our attention. We meet her as a privileged young woman, but her inner hellion prevails, proving she's tougher than any of the pirates she ends up leading — and that's pretty awesome.
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Smart, sensitive, and also so caring, Hermione Granger challenges the preconceived perception of young girls in the Harry Potter movies. Along with speaking her mind and being true to herself, she also fights against evil alongside her friends without any concern or question.
Source: Warner Bros.
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Selfless, smart, and able to do crazy things with a bow and arrow, Katniss Everdeen became an empowering figure to women of all ages in
The Hunger Games. Unwavering and unwilling to stand down, Katniss fights her way through unbelievable situations while staying true to those she loves. You've gotta love that.
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The Iron Lady
The fact is Margaret Thatcher herself was an amazing and empowering female, making the movie a must see for learning more about her important life.
The Iron Lady features Meryl Streep, shares some of the difficultly Thatcher was up against while balancing the crazy-intense workload of being a leader of a powerful nation and the needs of her family. Now that's a workload.
Source: Pathé International
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Fargo in itself is a must see, but Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson is classic. She's the police chief, also pregnant, and has the smarts to outthink all the bad guys. She's comical and feminine, and she carries a gun.
Source: Gramercy Pictures
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Really, the entire cast of
The Help is empowering, making it an all-star must watch if you're in need of some inner feel-good feelings. All these strong women bond together, challenging the racial divide in their community. But Emma Stone's depiction of Skeeter Phelan encourages us all to fight for our dreams, and for other people.
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Julia Roberts expertly portrayed this tough-as-nails single mom on a mission in 2000, which won her an Academy Award (among other accolades). Erin doesn't just exist on screen though — the real Erin Brockovich kicks just as much ass off screen, too, showing that no matter where you come from in life, you can make a difference.
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