10 Best Female Movie Characters

Actresses are always complaining that there are no good parts written for women, but this list of the 10 best female movie characters proves that just the opposite is true. From washed up actresses, to a gold digging party girl, to a mysterious nanny, these are some of the best roles in the history of Hollywood for any gender.

  1. Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins.” Like the measuring tape in her carpet bag says Mary Poppins is, “Practically perfect in every way.” And while Disney’s governess could have come off as saccharinely sweet, Julie Andrews captured the naughty side of the magical nanny in a part that earned her the Best Actress Oscar.
  2. Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” Gloria Swanson was ready for her close-up as the washed up movie star Norma Desmond “Sunset Boulevard.” The role of the more-than-slightly askew former leading lady with the dead monkey was the part of a lifetime for Swanson, earning her one of her three Best Actress Academy Award nominations and tops the list of Best Female Movie Characters.
  3. Alex Forrest in “Fatal Attraction.” When Glenn Close took the role of jilted lover Alex Forrest in “Fatal Attraction,” the ending of the film was different. Forrest didn’t go after Dan Gallagher’s wife in the original script but committed suicide instead. Despite Close’s concerns that Alex was self-destructive not homicidal, the ending was reshot. Audiences didn’t agree with Close and her psychotic editor was embraced as one of the best female movie characters of all time.
  4. Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” It’s hard to imagine the role of Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” played by anybody but Audrey Hepburn. Still she was not the first choice for the part. Both Marilyn Monroe and Kim Novak were considered. But Hepburn ultimately played the sensitive socialite with the questionable past, landing not only one of the best female movie character roles but securing her position as a fashion icon.
  5. Sophie Zawistowski in “Sophie’s Choice.” It’s hard to choose just one of Meryl Streep’s roles for the list of best female movie characters because, frankly, no matter what the film she makes the part seems amazing. But of all of the talented actress’ characters, Sophie Zawistowski is the most complex and tragic.
  6. Baby Jane Hudson in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Baby Jane Hudson is easily one of the best female movie characters of all time and was ranked 44th on the American Film Institute’s list of 50 Best Villains of American Cinema in 2003. Bette Davis is terrifying in her portrayal of the alcoholic with a violent streak and a whole lot of pent up hostility toward her sister.
  7. Annie Hall in “Annie Hall.” The part of Annie Hall is the quintessential ditzy, urban, romantic comedy leading lady. Diane Keaton was writer Woody Allen’s muse–her birth name is Hall and her nickname is Annie–so it’s no surprise she nailed the essence of the part and won a Best Actress Academy Award along the way.
  8. Norma Rae Webster in “Norma Rae.” Sally Field won the part of union organizer in “Norma Rae” and the Oscar. Yes, the Academy members liked her, they really liked her – although her legendary acceptance speech with words to that effect was actually for her second Oscar win when she played Edna Spalding in “Places in the Heart.”
  9. Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” Barbra Streisand was already a singing sensation when she took on the role of Fanny Brice in the 1968 film “Funny Girl.” The part of the Vaudevillian comedienne in a lesser actress’ hands would most likely still have made the list of best female movie characters. But in Streisand’s grasp, and with hit songs like “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” it was a career making movie role.
  10. Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Clarice Starling was a poker faced and steely FBI agent until serial killer Dr. Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter got the best of her. Jodie Foster captured the emotion bubbling just below Clarice’s surface in the role best enjoyed with “some fa-fa-fava beans and a nice chianti.”
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