Tis’ the season for journalists to generate lists of the best cinematic events of the year, or in many ways for film twitter to get opinionated when Joker is high up on the rankings. Sure, there have been numerous films in the past year (let alone the decade) that have captured the true essence of what we love about cinema – original storytelling – however, with the rise of digital platforms such as Netflix and perhaps the money-making entertainment that is Marvel studios raising questions, times appear to be hard for the industry.
The one thing you can’t deny is the many unique, diverse and captivating performances by Hollywood starlets in the past ten years. Though, it’s still a major discussion that females are still underrepresented in films. Even with Time’s Up, an organisation set up with the aim of voicing the importance of equal pay and opportunities, it appears there’s still slow movements in an already male-dominated industry. According to a study by the Centre of the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, only 35 percent of films in 2018 included female characters in speaking roles, an increase of 1% from 2017 (Males accounted for 65% of speaking characters).
And while we’ll leave you to think about those statistics, here are some of the most alluring female characters of the decade:
REY – STAR WARS
“Something inside me has always been there, but now it’s awake”
Daisy Ridley gave a new wave of fans a fresh new heroine to inspire to be when she debuted in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Unknown of her upbringing, Rey overcomes all obstacles of being an Orphan in a harsh environment to become a force to be reckoned with in the Resistance. The force is clearly with her.
AMY DUNNE – GONE GIRL
“You’d think I’d let him destroy me and end up happier than ever? No fucking way. He doesn’t get to win!”
Rosamund Pike brought to life one of the decade’s most alluring and captivating characters, Amy Dunne, in David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Amy wasn’t the typical drown your sorrows kinda girl after finding out about her husband’s affair, instead, she played missing in an extraordinary act of revenge.
BLACK WIDOW – THE AVENGERS
“Even if there’s a small chance we can undo this, I mean, we owe it to everyone who is not in this room, to try.”
Natasha Romanoff, known more as Black Widow, was the MCU’s first female hero and paved the way for others to follow. Portrayed by Scarlett Johansson for nearly a decade, Black Widow proved to be one of the strongest and most intelligent Avengers. And while her character deserved better following the events of Endgame (2019), there’s more to come for the character with a solo film set for release in 2020.
CYRIL WOODCOCK – PHANTOM THREAD
“Don’t pick a fight with me. You certainly won’t come out alive. I’ll go right through you, and it’ll be you who ends up on the floor. Understood?”
Paul Thomas Anderson’s female characters always are well written and portrayed, but Lesley Maville’s performance as Cyril Woodcock in 2017’s Phantom Thread is enough to give you chills. Unnerved by anyone’s opinions, even her brothers (played by Daniel Day-Lewis), her bluntness and constant stares to camera demand attention from audiences. Manville was robbed of Best Supporting Actress.
CAROL DANVERS – CAPTAIN MARVEL
“This isn’t about fighting wars. It’s about ending them.”
Marvel’s first female-led film was a success, mainly because of its leading protagonist projecting some badass energy. Carol Denver’s (Brie Larson) had to fight Jude Law and Annette Benning to find the truth about who she is, but that’s okay because she came out of it stronger and more powerful than before. All those Avenger’s folks were definitely shook.
ADELAIDE WILSON / RED – US
“Once upon a time, there was a girl and the girl had a shadow. The two were connected, tethered together.”
Lupita Nyong’o delivered two incredibly strong performances in Jordan Peele’s sophomore film as Adelaide Wilson and her tethered self, Red. Adelaide’s protective motherly instincts are a far cry from Red’s almost animilastic behaviour. But as the truth begins to unravel you’re not sure who to feel for more.
CHRISTINE MCPHERSON – LADY BIRD
“I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time.”
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut brought to life one of the best young characters all us gals can relate to at some point in our life. Exploring issues such as losing virginity or having family issues, Lady Bird is someone figuring out who she is at a crucial time in her life. Just like most of us, it’s about experiencing and exploring.
KATNISS EVERDEEN – THE HUNGER GAMES
“I never wanted any of this, I never wanted to be in the Games. I just wanted to save my sister and keep Peeta alive.”
The savior of her dystopian society, Katniss Everdeen was every bit of a stubborn and natural-born leader. Jennifer Lawrence was only 21 when she was catapulted into mainstream media playing Katniss, a reluctant hero who leads a revolution in order to get what she’s always wanted for her society, peace.
DIANA PRINCE – WONDER WOMAN
“So I stay. I fight, and I give…for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever.”
Playing Wonder Woman comes with high expectations, but Gal Gadot triumphed in Patty Jenkin’s 2017 origin blockbuster. This version of Diana Prince gave a genre so male-dominant a hero that really shakes up the power ranking. With a down-to-earth protagonist, whose strength and fearlessness is a force to be reckoned with, we can’t wait for Wonder Woman 1984. We’ll just forget about the disappointment that was Justice League for a while…
JACKIE KENNEDY – JACKIE
“I never wanted fame. I just became a Kennedy.”
Playing a historical figure is never easy, but also neither is playing one as prestigious as a Kennedy. However, Natalie Portman proved that it can be done with both elegance and emotion. Portman’s attention to detail in terms of posture and accent is so precise that you almost think it is Jackie Kennedy herself. Again, another person robbed of that gold statue.
ROSE MAXSON – FENCES
“I’ve been standing with you! I gave eighteen years of my life to stand in the same spot as you!”
Viola Davis plays house-wife Rose Maxson in Denzel Washington’s third directorial effort, which is based on Augst Wilson’s play of the same name. Rose puts everyone else’s needs and feelings before herself, only for her husband to turn around and break her heart. Despite her heartbreak, Rose continues to support her family and raises her ex-husband’s child from his affair as if it were her own.
DANI ARDOR – MIDSOMMAR
“It’s in his tone, like you can hear it in his voice, he’s just working up the nerve to say something.”
Ari Aster films bring together horror and situations we may find relatable, such as a break up for example. Midsommar sees Dani (Florence Pugh) at a traditional Swedish summer festival in the midst of having problems with her uncaring boyfriend. A character full of anxiety and rightful emotion, the festival has her placed under the spotlight and the decision to choose if her boyfriend, ex whatever you want to call him is to be sacrificed. Long live our May queen.
SELINA KYLE – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
“There’s a storm coming, Mr Wayne.”
Let’s forget about Michelle Phiffer’s stint as Catwoman, and that of Halle Berry’s disastrous film back in 2004. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises alluded everything that the character is and brings to the Batman saga – bluntness, sexiness and of course, her acrobatic skills. While it’s sad that Hathaway wasn’t brought in to continue playing Kyle, Zoe Kravitz is next in line to take on the role in The Batman alongside R-Patz.
MAYA – ZERO DARK THIRTY
“I believe I was spared so I could finish the job.”
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty provides Jessica Chastain with a role that earned her a lot of recognition in Hollywood. Maya, a CIA analyst is the one tasked to track down al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in an extraordinary narrative about loss, humanity and how she maintained strength in a situation that had her life in the hands of others.
SHASTA FAY HEPWORTH – INHERENT VICE
“They told me I was precious cargo that couldn’t be insured because of inherent vice.”
This particular performance by Katherine Waterston in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice was captivating, even if it was in a minor role. Despite the lack of screen time for Shasta, the film’s duration is alluded by her presence and Doc’s fascination for her.
CAROL AIRD – CAROL
“Please believe that I would do anything to see you happy. So, I do the only thing I can…I release you.”
Let’s be honest, Cate Blanchett never puts a foot wrong. Todd Hayne’s Carol is just another film that contributes to the endless abilities she offers the industry. Her titular role in the film, based on the 1952 romance novel of the same name, is heart-breaking and one that highlights a forbidden love so true that she has to choose between her romance with Rooney Mara’s character Therese and her role as a mother.
JOY NEWSOME – ROOM
“Jack, there’s two sides to everything.”
Receiving her first Oscar for her role as Joy aka ‘Ma’ in the 2015 drama Room, Brie Larson shines in this adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name. After seven years of being held captive, along with her son who was born in captivity, Joy missions to escape and allow her son to experience life for the first time.
PORPENTINA GOLDSTEIN – FANTASTIC BEASTS
“Yesterday, a wizard entered New York with a case. A case of magical creatures. And unfortunately, some have escaped.”
With a new era of magic among us, Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts has made room for a new strong female character. Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston, stands her ground in a role that alludes sensibility and mystery. It’ll be interesting to see how her character and Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) love story will pan out in the upcoming films.
HELA – THOR: RAGNAROK
“I’m not a queen, or a monster…I’m the goddess of death! What were you the god of, again?”
Cate Blanchett’s debut in the MCU had everyone shook (literally, we stan). In the role of Hela, she seeks vengeance of her brothers Thor and Loki in Taika Watiti’s epic Marvel directorial Thor: Ragnarok.
MILDRED HAYES – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
“What’s the law on what you can or cannot say on a billboard? I assume you can’t say nothing defamatory and you can’t say fuck, piss or cunt, is that right?”
In Martin McDonagh’s 2017 Three Billboards, Frances McDormand gives an Oscar-winning chilling performance as Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother who seeks an answer from police following the murder of her daughter.
MOTHER – MOTHER!
“You never loved me. You just loved how much I loved you.”
There have been many strange yet beautiful films in this decade, however, none will compare to as weird and compelling as Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! Jennifer Lawrence’s character depicts the torment of Mother Earth in a gripping drama about a wife whose writer husband is a form of God and creator.
TONYA HARDING – I, TONYA
“I mean, what kind of frigging person bashes in their friend’s knee? Who would do that do a friend? This is bullshit.”
From Summer Bay to Hollywood, Margot Robbie is definitely someone who has won big this decade. Her portrayal as disgraced former ice skater Tonya Harding is certainly one performance to take note of. In an award contender role, Robbie is both comedic and highly convincing during this fun drama of a scandal that rocked the sporting world.
VALKYRIE – THOR: RAGNAROK
“ I’ve spent years, in a haze, trying to forget my past. Sakaar seemed like the best place to drink, and to forget… and to die, one day. ”
Valkyrie (real name Brunnhilde) is the last remaining Asgardian Valkyryie, which was an elite group of female warriors. After watching her sisters all die at the hands of Hela, Valkyrie exiles herself until she crosses paths with Thor and is given the opportunity for redemption and, following the defeat of Thanos in Endgame, Thor names her King of New Asgard. Hail to the king, baby!
LOUISE BANKS – ARRIVAL
“Despite knowing the journey… and where it leads… I embrace it… and I welcome every moment of it.”
Denis Villeneuve’s cinematic adaptation of Ted Chaing’s Story of Your Life is more than just a typical sci-fi flick on how aliens have invaded us, but something more concerned with language and human relationships. Amy Adam received high praise as Louise Banks, a linguist whose emotional loss in the future is brought to her in visions when 12 alien pods land on Earth.
ALLY – A STAR IS BORN
“Because almost every single person that I’ve come in contact with in the music industry has told me that my nose is too big and that I won’t make it.”
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut didn’t disappoint, but what wasn’t surprising was how Lady Gaga stole the whole show. In her first feature length film, Gaga’s role as Ally a singer who is placed under the mainstream spotlight following her marriage to rock star Jack. And while we won’t get into the emotional ending of the film, we suggest you go and listen to the soundtrack now for some absolute bangers.
CLEO – ROMA
“I like being dead”
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma saw the director return to his traditional Mexican roots in this beautifully constructed black and white tale of a well-to-do household in early 70s Mexico. Newcomer Yalitza Aparicio deserves every praise for her performance as Cleo, a live-in-maid of Mixtec heritage who has to deal with pregnancy in the midst of protests and running the household of a middle-class family.
HARLEY QUINN – SUICIDE SQUAD
“Huh? What was that? I should kill everyone and escape?”
Okay, no need to talk about the absolute flop that is Suicide Squad, but the only good thing to come out of that film was Margot Robbie’s role as Harley Quinn. Her overly over-the-top, dramatic yet girlishly comedic performance is a credit to Robbie’s talent to uphold herself strong through a film that was weak from start to finish. And with that said, we can’t wait to witness Harley freakin’ Quinn in Birds of Prey next year.
ANNIE GRAHAM – HEREDITARY
“Don’t swear at me, you little shit! Don’t you ever raise your voice at me! I am your mother!”
The OG of Ari Aster’s Pagan themed physiological horror marked an incredible performance by Toni Collette as Annie, a mother who is struggling with the loss of her mother, and her daughter’s sudden death. She soon finds her family is haunted by a mystery presence following the deaths. A load of weird things happen in this film, but it’s safe to say Collette was robbed of her Oscar glory.
OLIVE PENDERGHAST – EASY A
“So it was time to put an end to this once and for all by telling my side of the story. And that’s why I decided to do this webcast. So here we go. Part Five: Not with a fizzle, but with a bang.”
Sure, Emma Stone has won an Oscar and has proved to be one of the best actresses of our time. However, she will always be known for her comedic roots, especially for her role as Olive Penderghast, in one of this decade’s best American teen comedies, Easy A.
ABIGAIL, QUEEN ANNE AND LADY SARAH – THE FAVOURITE
“I dreamed I stabbed you in the eye…” – Lady Sarah.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s period black drama The Favourite highlighted female talent left right and centre with the director teaming up with Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. In a comedic and extravagant drama examining the relationship between two cousins, Sarah (Weisz) and Abigail (Stone) who are both pulling out the stops to win the affection of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). *Still crying over Olivia’s Oscar acceptance speech*
ELISA ESPOSITO – THE SHAPE OF WATER
“When he looks at me, the way he looks at me. He does not know what I lack or how I am incomplete. He sees me for what I am, as I am.”
Sally Hawkin’s portrayal as a mute cleaner at a Government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid amphibian creature was met with undeniable praise. Scoring her second Oscar nomination, Guillermo Del Toro and Hawkin’s depiction of Elisa finding her safe haven and love creates a warmth within The Shape of Water unlike anything in any other romance drama.
MARINA VIDAL – A FANTASTIC WOMAN
“ What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. ”
Marina’s boyfriend Orlando dies shortly after being taken to hospital after falling down the stairs in their home. Marina is subjected to transphobic remarks from Orlando’s family and is told to stay away from his wake and funeral and to move out of his apartment. Marina is visited by a Detective who specialises in solving sexual assault crimes and must prove her innocence. Marina is even subjected to being kidnapped and dumped in an alleyway by Orlando’s son after she attends the wake.
AMY AND MOLLY – BOOKSMART
“I have a secret for you. I once tried to masturbate with an electric toothbrush, but I got a horrible UTI.” – Molly
First there was Easy A, then Lady Bird, and now 2019 brought us Booksmart – the latest coming of age flick that seems all so relatable. Olivia Wilde’s directorial was always going to be a success let’s be honest, but it’s really Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein’s performances as Amy and Molly that steals the show. From goody-too-shoes to those breaking the rules, both character’s journey of self-discovery reminds us of our own.
GRACE LE DOMAS – READY OR NOT
“You said your family was fucked up, but you didn’t say psycho killers.”
Dark comedies have the tendency to be hit or miss. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s Ready or Not, however, serves to be one of the best and most twisted of the decade. Newcomer and former Home and Away alum Samara Weaving stars as Grace Le Domas, a new bride hoping to fit nicely into a family of in-laws who want to kill her in a ritual game. A new final girl has risen.
FURIOSA – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
“Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say. Now pick up what you can and run.”
We’ve had quite a few final girls in our time, but no particularly strong action heroines as critically acclaimed as Imperator Furiosa. Charlize Theron’s take on the character alluded strength and drive in George Miller’s 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road.
ZULA – COLD WAR
“I’ll be with you until the end of the world.”
Joanna Kulig’s performance as singer Zula is equally as stunning as it is heart-breaking in Pawel Pawlikoswki’s 2018 period drama Cold War. A tale of how a finding true love can have consequences.
THOMASIN – THE WITCH
“I am that very witch. When I sleep my spirit slips away from body and dances naked with The Devil. That’s how I signed this book.”
A24 are pretty neat with their arthouse horrors, and Robert Egger’s 2016 folk horror The Witch is one that defines that a film can still scare audiences without cheap tricks. Anya Taylor-Joy provides a charming performance as Thomasin, the daughter of a farmer in New England in 1630, who is accused of witchcraft. A film that delves into her troublesome relationship with her family, with member’s faith, loyalty and love becoming tested in imaginable ways.
ERIN BELL – DESTROYER
“I didn’t want you to be like me. I’m made, I’m still fucking mad, it’s burned a circuit in my brain.”
Nicole Kidman has a thing for wigs, but she snatched ours in 2018’s Destroyer. Her role as Erin Bell, a former undercover police officer who aims to get revenge on a gang years after her case was blown, has been deemed on her best. Essentially unrecognisable, Kidman’s performance as Bell adds an extra layers to a film’s narrative that impacts an already challenging narrative.
JESSE – THE NEON DEMON
“I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t write…no real talent. But I’m pretty and I can make money off pretty.”
Elle Fanning stars as an upcoming model in 2016’s slasher horror The Neon Demon. New to LA, Jesse is set to make it big in the modeling biz, but has to face the intense glare of two jealous peers who have set their sinister sights on her.
BILLI – THE FAREWELL
“I want to believe that it was a good thing.”
Awkwafina’s Billi in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is torn when she learns her Nai Nai has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer but her family have decided not to tell her – which doesn’t sit right with Billi. Against her family’s wishes, Billi flies out to China to attend her cousin’s wedding which the family are using as a final opportunity for everyone to spend time with Nai Nai.
JULIE – THE SOUVENIR
“I think we’re all as real as each other. There’s no competition. It doesn’t matter they they’re not real people. I mean, I’m not trying to make a documentary. I’m just- you know, I’m making a feature film.”
In a role teaming her with her mum Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton Byrne provides a memorable and ultimately heart-breaking performance as Julie in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir. Her love for an older man who uplifts her film-making dreams becomes questionable when she begins to learn about his bad habits.
MOLL – BEAST
“I’d like to make a toast. To my family. For everything you have done for me… I forgive you.”
TV director Michael Pearce’s feature debut Beast made room for a new British starlet to rise. Jessie Buckley receives critical praise for her part as Moll, an unhappy young woman who is struggling with family dynamics, with her mother who feeds her child-like discipline. Though, with an emotional and troubled past, her new relationship with a farmer who is suspected of murder of four women tests Moll in an unthinkable way.
JEN – REVENGE
“Women always have to put up a fucking fight. ” – Richard
After being raped by the friend of a man she is having an affair with, Matilda Lutz’s Jen is pushed off a cliff in the desert and presumed dead by the three men on a hunting getaway together. When they go back to dispose of her body and realise she is alive, the men split up and search the desert to find and kill her. Jen is determined to be the one doing the hunting and sets out to kill the three men before they kill her.
JUSTINE – RAW
“I’m sure you’ll find a solution, honey.” – Le père
Lifelong vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) starts the first year of veterinary school (the same one her sister Alexia also attends) and finds herself beginning to crave meat. Things take a turn when Justine begins craving and eating human flesh and things begin to spiral out of control.
TOM – LEAVE NO TRACE
“The same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me”
Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) lives in isolation in a public park with her father Will (Ben Foster), who is an Iraq war veteran suffering from PTSD. After social services get involved, Will and Tom move out of the forest but it’s not long before Will wishes to return to their life of isolation. Tom doesn’t feel the same but reluctantly stays by her father’s side until one day she decides she wants to be part of a community.