It is a sad fact that the superhero industry (whether it be comics or film) has been dominated by men essentially since its inception. Through such iconic characters as Batman and Captain America, manly men have managed to corner the superhero market. While the comic industry has made progress in recent years concerning the prominence of a main female protagonist, films and TV programs have not progressed nearly as far.
In order to celebrate those female heroines who have made it from the comic books to the big screen, this list will count down 8 Superhero Movies and Shows With Female Leads, and 7 That We Need to See.
Encompassing some old fan favorites, as well as some highly anticipated films which are still being filmed, readers should be able to appreciate the many contributions that women have made to the superhero film industry. The only requirement for this list is that a female must play the show/films main character(s).
15. Already Out – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Admittedly, Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. features storylines pertaining to all members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, but it is obvious to anyone who has watched the show that the character Skye played by Chloe Bennet is meant as the main protagonist.
This was true during the first two seasons when she was a mere hacker as part of the bigger team, and it is certainly true now that she is one of a handful of superpowered persons who power the squad.
Overall, I would recommend this show to anyone who’s a fan of superhero programs. While S.H.I.E.L.D. does not have the overall appeal of other shows on this list (Daredevil, Jessica Jones), it is a must see for anyone who has a deep appreciation of the superhero industry.
14. Dying to See – Hawkgirl
When I started writing this entry, I did not know that a Hawkgirl character has already been featured on the TV program Arrow. After watching a few clips from her performance, I am even more convinced of the viability of this character.
I’m not so sure if Hawkgirl would be a compelling character on TV, but I think her particular brand of heroism would be perfect for the big screen. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hawkgirl character, she spends a lot of time kicking ass. With this as a baseline, a Hawkgirl movie is just an intriguing villain and some creative writing away from being a box office hit. Producers could then, of course, transition her into inclusion in the upcoming Justice League films.
13. Already Out – Elektra
Just because an entry makes our list of Superhero movies with female leads, doesn’t mean that film was any good. In fact, it could be just the opposite. Such is the case with the #13 entry on our list, 2005’s Elektra.
Meant as a sort of sequel to the 2003 Daredevil film starring Ben Affleck, Elektra took an already collapsing franchise and provided the death stroke. There is nothing about this Elektra film that was entertaining; the plot was confusing, the fight scenes were lackluster, and none of the principle actors seemed to standout (including Jennifer Garner as Elektra, who was downright terrible).
12. Dying to See – Elektra (Netflix)
Much in the same way that Charlie Cox has revived the Daredevil character, Elodie Young has the potential to resurrect Elektra. Young recently portrayed Elektra on the Netflix Daredevil TV series.
Following the Jessica Garner debacle, expectations were pretty low, but Young was able to breathe serious life into the character and make her more than just Daredevil’s love interest.
For that reason, Netflix should seriously consider giving Young (and the Elektra character) their own original series. We have already seen the streaming websites willingness to enter into the Marvel Universe (Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc.), and an Elektra series would already come with a built-in fan base from Daredevil.
11. Already Out – Catwoman
Much like with the Jennifer Garner Elektra film, the #11 entry on our list wasn’t anything to write home about. Not only was Catwoman an epic failure in regards to critic and viewer ratings, but the film didn’t bring in nearly enough box office revenue to compensate for its humongous costs.
This was the first widely publicized attempt to have a superhero film with a female protagonist, and it is largely the reason why it took so many of the other entries on this list so long to get picked up by studios.
10. Dying to See – Huntress
Perhaps the least known entry on our list, I think that the Huntress character would be perfect for a live action film or series. A relative unknown in pop culture, Huntress has been the lead character of several popular DC Comics series.
For lack of a better description, she is similar to a female Batman. Lacking any inherent superpowers, she uses her wits, physical strength, and an array of gadgets to fight bad guys and protect her city. With her lack of powers, the character and storylines involving Huntress are typically very realistic.
As we have seen with the shows Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this realism easily translates into movies or TV. Add in the intricate backstory of the Huntress character, and you’re left with a strong core with which to base your programming on.
9. Being Produced – Wonder Woman
It seems that DC Comics is gearing up for Wonder Woman to be a giant blockbuster, much in the same way as 2016’s Batman vs. Superman was. With the second class nature of many superhero films starring women, it’s nice to see DC and the studio treating the Wonder Woman film like such a big deal.
Not only this, but Gal Gadot seems to be perfect for the Wonder Woman Role, hopefully preventing the backlash that other DC films have been subject to (Green Lantern, Catwoman, etc.).
If the film is as successful as many are predicting, expect Gadot and the Wonder Woman character to be heavily featured in the first (and future) Justice League film. This would allow the film Wonder Woman to occupy the upper echelon of DC heroes, much in the same way that she does in the comic universe.
8. Dying to See – Scarlet Witch
Since the original Avengers debuted in 2012, the show’s producers have slowly added additional team members to make up for the departure of premier heroes Hulk and Thor. In the handful of underlings, very few are worthy of their own standalone film.
I think the one exception to this rule is the Scarlet Witch character, played by Elizabeth Olsen. The second Avengers film touched upon her and (her now deceased) brothers backstory, but didn’t fully explain the circumstances which granted them their powers.
In fact, I can think of two possible storylines should Scarlet Witch be given her own film; one providing her and her brother’s origin story, and one based on current events (similar to how Iron Man is able to have standalone films in the midst of the overall Avenger’s storyline).
7. Already Out – Jessica Jones
As if the success of Daredevil wasn’t enough for Netflix to continue their array into the comic book world, for them to be able to follow it up with another great show like Jessica Jones was a major coup for the streaming website.
One of the lesser known superheroes to make TV programming, Jessica Jones relies on incredible writing to make its program successful. This makes it one of the few superhero programs that I feel completely comfortable referring to people who don’t like the superhero genre.
As far as female leads go, Krysten Ritter is exceptional in her role. Rather than ignoring the fact that they have a female lead, the writers of Jessica Jones adeptly make it critical to their storylines which is a refreshing change from typical superhero programming.
6. Dying to See – Wolverine Legacy
Beware of spoilers in this entry. If I had to pinpoint what was missing from this list so far, I’d have to say it is the lack of a badass female superhero character.
The 2017 Logan film resolved much of this dilemma, with the young hero Lauren providing all the grit and ferocity of her biological dad, Wolverine.
With the death of both Professor Xavier and Wolverine at the end of the film, writers have set up a new superhero sage starring the young Lauren. We have already seen (through Hugh Jackman’s monumental contributions) just how popular a Wolverine type character can be. Lauren would be able to continue this element of the X-men franchise. Plus who doesn’t like to see her carving up bad guys?
5. Being Produced – X-Men: Supernova
The newest installment of the X-men First Class franchise, the upcoming X-men: Supernova film will have as its main protagonist Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner. Make sure you sure you also check her out in X:Men: Apocalypse.
Speculation is that the storyline of the film will follow the famed “Dark Phoenix” comic book storyline. The storyline is one of the most famous from the X-men franchise, causing expectations for the film to reach a fever pitch earlier this year. With the film being so highly anticipated, it is interesting to see producers rely on a female lead, a first for the X-men franchise.
Producers were kind of forced into this choice (Jean Grey is the clear lead character of the comic book storyline, so a film based on that storyline requires that she be a central figure), however, it is still nice to see them stick to the female lead and not try and muddy the waters with other main protagonists.
4. Dying to See – Storm Origins
The Storm character, originally played by Halle Berry, was one of the “Core 4” characters in the original X-men film. Despite her preeminence in the films, she never got a major storyline the way that the other three X-men members had (Cyclops’ storyline was of course intertwined with Jean Greys).
With the characters recent reincarnation in the X-men: First Class series of films, the time is ripe for a standalone film for this character.
I would guess that part of the reluctance to do this film earlier was the perceived cost of paying an established star like Berry to be in a film, without the sure payout that a film starring a more popular character like Wolverine would bring. With the recent casting of Alexandra Shipp to play a young Storm, however, the potential benefits of this film would now potentially far outweigh the costs.
3. Already Out – Supergirl
I did not have high hopes when I learned they were producing a Supergirl TV show. Any program about Supergirl inherently brings with it all the problems associated with the Superman character (overpowered, lack of character depth, etc.), but in a whiny teenage girl package.
Despite my qualms, I have been pleasantly surprised with the show and it has become one of the few programs that I watch on a weekly basis (as opposed to binge watching it on Netflix or Hulu).
This is due in large part to the fact that the writers are able to make the character likable while at the same time filling her with the angst and insecurities that all young people share. It seems like this CW show is the model for which future female hero protagonist will be based.
2. Dying to See – Black Cat
Anyone who has watched Spiderman the Animated Series can testify as to how compelling the Black Cat character can be, in the right circumstances. A product of a serum modified from the one which gave Captain America his powers, this female heroine has all the powers and abilities of Cap.
For that reason, the Black Cat character could be introduced through a storyline with Spiderman (as was done in the animated series and the comic book), or through an Avenger’s storyline where she interacts with her predecessor.
The 2012 Spiderman film starring Andrew Garfield got closest to introducing the Black Cat character, with her alter ego (played by Emma Stone) being Peter Parker’s love interest in the film. This is the top female-driven superhero film that we need to see made.
1. Already Out – Suicide Squad
If you’re surprised to see Suicide Squad top our list, then you haven’t been on the Internet for the past year. Released in early 2016, Suicide Squad became immensely popular (I think much more popular than even its producers expected) and has already begun spawning a litany of sequels and spinoffs. Easily the major beneficiary of the Squad’s success was Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn.
Though this film did star both Will Smith and Jared Leto, I think it’s fair to call Robbie the star of the film. The recklessness (or insanity) and downright badassness of Robbie’s portrayal of Quinn had moviegoers buzzing for months after the squad’s release. This has served to make Robbie a household name and the current queen of on-screen superheroes.