There’s a good chance that your first celebrity crush came from science fiction. For longer than most people on Earth have been alive, sci-fi movies and TV shows have presented us with super smart, super strong, and super attractive women –
often with them being all three at once – and when we first saw them, our monkey brains went into overdrive.
We’ve hung their posters up on our walls. We’ve printed out their pictures and taped them to our lockers. We’ve had long, meaningless conversations about who was cooler or tougher or hotter with our friends. And sure, their skimpy or form-fitting outfits are what first drew us to these women, but as we’ve matured, we’ve come to see so much more in them. They aren’t just metal bikini-wearing hotties, they’re leaders of rebellions. They aren’t just pointed eared cuties, they’re smart as hell scientists. They aren’t just underwear wearing alien killers, they’re blue collar monster killers.
For many of these women, the first impression may have been their looks, but the thing that has kept them in our minds and hearts is so much more. The characters they played represent the best – and worst – of us. They didn’t just show us their beauty, they showed us the failures and victories of humanity, all while wearing some horribly uncomfortable looking clothes. Well, when they were wearing clothes. Sometimes they were very much not wearing clothes.
Here, for your mental trip down memory lane, are some of the coolest, smartest, and sexiest women in science fiction.
15. Kirstie Alley As Saavik (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Five years before she became a sly businesswoman with a serious inferiority complex who had to deal with the endless sexual harassment of a retired MLB pitcher on Cheers, Kirstie Alley got her big break in one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, and easily the best Star Trek movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
In the movie, Alley played Saavik, the Vulcan protege of Mister Spock who, like her mentor, was consistently confused by human emotions. Alley’s straight-faced, emotionless responses and stern glare set hearts a flutter on and off screen.
Alley never wears anything skimpy in The Wrath of Khan. Her sexiness comes from the character and her handling of it. Saavik is smart, cool under pressure, and ready to fight if needed.
Alley also has the honor of being the first person in the Star Trek universe that we ever see take the Kobayashi Maru test – the unwinnable situation that Captain Kirk, when he was a Starfleet cadet, cheated on, making him the first person to ever beat it (he doesn’t believe in no-win situations).
14. Sigourney Weaver As Ripley (Alien)
No one on the Nostromo expected to die at the hands of an alien, but that is exactly what happened to all but one of the crew. Maybe if the rest of them were as awesome as Warrant Officer Ripley, played by the forever cool Sigourney Weaver, they would have made it to the sequels like she did.
While the character was genderless in the script for Alien, leaving the casting open to men and women, Weaver’s Ripley captured the hearts of teenage boys when, at the end of Alien, she ends up in just a belly shirt and some underwear as she and that damn cat have to deal with the Xenomorph that is still on the ship. Over the course of the four Alien movies, Weaver turns Ripley from an understandably frightened blue-collar worker dealing with monsters to a full on bad-ass who kicks Xenomorph butt while space marines cower in fear.
13. Tricia Helfer As Six (Battlestar Galactica)
The 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica was a huge hit with critics and fans, and for good reason – the show was well made with solid writing, directing, and acting. It was also sexy as hell, and the face of that sexiness was Tricia Helfer as the Cylon called Six.
Helfer’s sexiness is the opening piece of the character as she honeypots super genius Gaius Baltar into unwittingly helping the evil robots destroy the human race, but as the series went on, Helfer was able to show that she was more than just hot.
Helfer’s Six quickly became the face of the show, and under that spotlight, her acting had to be top notch – lucky for us all, Helfer was up for it. With the help of the writers and directors, Helfer turned Six into more than just a sexy robot and into a fully fleshed out character with a lot of humanity and heart.
12. Carrie Fischer As Princess Leia (Star Wars)
It took a long time, but the world has finally figured out that Leia Organa, daughter of Anikan Skywalker, Princess of Alderaan, and leader of a revolution was one kick ass lady. For decades, the character was relegated to a secondary status behind Han and Luke, but a quick rethink of the original Star Wars trilogy makes one thing clear – Leia is tough as nails.
She stands tall against Vader. She insults Storm Troopers before shooting the hell out of them. She watches her home planet explode and pushes aside her feelings because there’s a revolution that needs leading. While Luke moans abut having to train and Han whines about a bounty on his head, Leia leads the rebels against the empire, all while creating some of the most iconic hairstyles in film history.
Princess Leia, who was brought to life by the amazingly talented Carrie Fisher, will forever live in the hearts and minds of sci-fi fans not because of her bikini, but because of her skills.
11. Gwyneth Paltrow As Pepper Potts (Iron Man)
You may want to argue that the Iron Man movies aren’t sci-fi, but come on – they’re about a dude with an exo-suit who fights robots and aliens. These are sci-fi as all hell.
And in the Iron Man movies, in all the Marvel movies, only one person has ever put Tony Stark in his place – Pepper Potts. Introduced to audiences as Tony’s assistant who is secretly in love with him, across the three movies, Gwyneth Paltrow turns the character from a damsel in distress to the hero who saves Tony Stark’s life.
Pepper is smart, witty, strong, and beautiful. Across the three films, as well as in the first Avengers movie, Paltrow is given more and more to do, and she shows that, if Marvel wanted, she could handle a movie on her own. From running Stark Industries while Tony goes off to fight aliens to beating the tar out of Aldrich Killian, Pepper Potts is as tough as she is cool.
10. Nichelle Nichols As Uhura (Star Trek)
Nichelle Nichols had one hell of a hard job. As the character Uhura on Star Trek, she had to handle two major things in Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a better tomorrow – Nichols showed TV viewers that people of color and women are just as capable as any white dude. Today, that message isn’t controversial, but in 1966, many people in America weren’t ready for it. Some TV stations even threatened to pull the show over a kiss shared between Uhura and Captain Kirk.
For twenty years, Nichols owned the role of Uhura, the communications officer who specialized in linguistics, cryptography, and philology as well as making Spock uncomfortable with her overt sexuality. In a time when women were expected to stay home or be little more than secretaries, Nichols showed little girls of all races that a career in the sciences was worth going after.
9. Jane Badler As Diana (V)
For us older chaps, it can be hard to explain just how amazing the original V mini-series, and it’s sequel V: The Final Battle was (the 1984 TV show that spawned from it was not so good). There were two characters in V that stood out to everyone: Marc Singer as heroic reporter Mike Donovan and Jane Badler as the evil visitor called Diana.
Badler played Diana like an evil stepmother from any good fairy tale – her sharp cheekbones and raven black hair make it clear that she’s up to no good, but damn if she isn’t sexy. Well, when she isn’t swallowing guinea pig whole, she’s sexy – though I wouldn’t be shocked if some people who grew up with V ended up with some weird fetish.
As the second in command of the alien fleet that comes to Earth, Badler’s Diana isn’t just sexy – she’s smart and ruthless, tricking humanity into trusting her right up until they see her true lizard looks.
8. Charlize Theron As Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)
With a metal arm and a buzz cut, Charlize Theron created a sci-fi icon the likes of which the world had never seen in Imperator Furiosa. The first character in the Mad Max series that Max ever treated as an equal, Furiosa is, if we’re being honest, way better at fighting in the wasteland than Max is.
Theron, with the writing and directing of George Miller to help lead her, made Furiosa into such a strong character that before the movie came out, Miller was talking up the idea of giving her a solo flick. After we all saw Mad Max: Fury Road, we understood exactly where Miller was coming from. Furiosa is, to use the parlance of the movie, shiny and chrome. For the first time since Max Rockatansky was brought to audiences over thirty years earlier, we finally had a new road warrior to cheer for. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her adventures one day.
7. Gina Torres As Zoe Washburne (Firefly)
Despite only having fourteen episodes and a movie that didn’t do all that well at the box office, Joss Whedon‘s Firefly has managed to stay front and center in sci-fi fandom for fifteen years. One of the things that makes Firefly such a hit with the sci-fi crowd is Gina Torres as Zoe Washburne.
Second in command of the ship called Serenity, Zoe is Captain Malcolm Reynold’s closest confidant as well as the wife of pilot Wash, which really makes her stand out in science fiction.
There aren’t many married couples in sci-fi, and when there is, usually the wife is secondary. In Firefly, Zoe is clearly the main voice of the wedded couple, with Wash more than happy to do what she says, and with good reason. Zoe is an expert fighter, a skilled strategist, and way out of Wash’s league. I mean, look at her, then look at him. He is one lucky fella.
6. Linda Hamilton As Sarah Connor (The Terminator)
If there’s any woman in science fiction who can give Ripley a run for her money, it may just be Sarah Connor. Played, in the movies at least, by Linda Hamilton, Sarah Connor starts off as a very normal young woman living in Los Angeles in the 1980s before becoming the baddest of the bad ass heroes, and she does it all in just two movies.
Hamilton, as the mother of the dude who would lead the revolution against evil robots, turned her damsel in distress character into an icon of strength and cool. How cool and strong is she? She easily holds her own as an action hero while in the same movie as the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his action hero status.
5. Jennifer Lawrence As Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Katniss Everdeen captured the minds of readers well before she made her way to the silver screen for a record-breaking series of movies starring Jennifer Lawrence. Her battle against an unjust government while dealing with two dimwits vying for her affection made many a young woman nod their head knowingly, and many a man root for the tribute from District 11.
With movies like Winter’s Bone and X-Men: First Class already under her belt, Lawrence was well on her way to superstardom, but it was The Hunger Games that shot her into a level so few reach. Across four films, with a bow in one hand and two fingers raised to the heavens on the other, Jennifer Lawrence took Suzanne Collins‘ character and gave Katniss a life off the page, building her into an icon for all of us to look up to.
4. Freema Agyeman As Martha Jones (Doctor Who)
Choosing just one woman from the Doctor Who lexicon is hard to do – the show has a history of strong supporting female characters that many a British boy dreamed of one day marrying. Still, we’re going with Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones because she’s the coolest of the cool.
From the moment we first meet Martha Jones, we know she isn’t like the usual companion for the Doctor. A trained doctor herself, Martha helps the Doctor get a hospital off the moon and back to Earth. Later in the series, when both the Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness have been taken captive by the Master, who takes over Earth, Martha leads the revolution against the evil Time Lord, saving all of mankind. Later in the series, Martha threatens to set off every nuclear bomb on Earth to stop Davros, the super evil leader of the Daleks from torturing and enslaving humanity.
3. Milla Jovovich As Leeloo (The Fifth Element)
With her orange hair and suspenders, as well as her endless innocence, love, and ability to kick serious amounts of alien butt, Milla Jovovich took what could have been a very flat character in Leeloo and made her one of the most beloved characters in science fiction. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is a movie of weird costumes and weirder ideas, but the humanity that Jovovich gives Leeloo, who isn’t human, keeps the story grounded.
Since the release of the movie twenty years ago, Leeloo has become a staple of cosplayers at conventions, and with good reason – her look isn’t too hard to recreate, but it sure stands out among the crowds. While the role helped Jovovich gain a die-hard group of fans, it would be five more years and the release of Resident Evil that would make her a bonafide movie star.
2. Caity Lotz As White Canary (The Legends Of Tomorrow)
The newest member of the sexy sci-fi club on this list, Caity Lotz’s White Canary is one of the best things in the CW DC Universe. As the leader of the Legends of Tomorrow, White Canary is a once dead super awesome assassin who kicks ass across time and space.
Lotz first took on the role of Sarah Lance in the second season of Arrow, replacing Jacqueline MacInnes Wood who played the role in the first episode of the series. White Canary was killed off in season three before coming back to life in time to join Legends of Tomorrow.
Lotz, who is a skilled martial artist trained in Taekwondo, Wushu, Krav Maga, Kali, and Muay Thai, is also a trained dancer who has toured with Lady Gaga, and has some real impressive Parkour videos on YouTube. All of this is to say that Lotz’s stunt-woman probably has a lot more free-time than the stunt-people for the rest of the Legends cast.
1. Gillian Anderson As Dana Scully (The X-Files)
Gillian Anderson, without knowing it, changed the world. One September night in 1993, she introduced science fiction fans to a wholly new concept – boxy business suits are hot. As Dana Scully on X-Files, Anderson is the most down to Earth sci-fi character here, but she’s also the most relatable.
While others on this list fought aliens or lived in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or duked it out with supervillains, Dana Scully spent most of her time on X-Files rolling her eyes at the conspiracy theories of her partner Fox Mulder while finishing up creepy autopsies. She dealt with the sudden loss of her father in a rather true fashion, even though part of dealing with it was talking to a killer who swore he could contact her dead dad’s spirit.
Dana Scully is smart, funny, and true. She believes in science. She believes in her partner, even if she doesn’t always believe in what he believes. She’s someone that, when we see her on our TV, we can believe exists. That’s about as sexy as it gets.