There are some real misconceptions in Hollywood about gender and gender roles. Seems anytime someone wants to cast someone as a hero, they just naturally go with a male. But why is that? Some think it is an after-effect of film making from the golden age of Hollywood. Classic archetypes that could not be broken. Man as hero, woman as damsel in distress. But for those who pay close attention, there are film makers who are brave and forward thinking enough to dash that stereotype on the rocks and make their female leads the true heroes of the film. Though it may seem harder to find examples, as you will see from the movies and characters we chose, these are remarkable female characters who have since gone on to inspire a whole bevvy of new female leading ladies who will be saving the day (even if they are not always given top billing). We hope with lists like this that will all change and women will get the credit they deserve. Here are 5 movies where it is the female clearly saving the males (even if the movie itself is trying to convince you otherwise).
Hermione from Harry Potter Series
You look at a movie like Harry Potter and you walk into it and walk out of if thinking you know who the hero is. But if you pay attention to some crucial moments in the series, it was Hermione who saved the day and pulled off the miraculous on more than one occasion. Take most of Prisoner of Azkaban, for example.
It is her ‘time turner’ in the film which makes the whole film possible (being in two places at once and such). If you look at the Prisoner of Azkaban as a whole and realize that if the trio had not triumphed in that story, Voldemort would have won. Really. If they lost in that story, the series would have ended there. Yet, they did not, and that is because Hermione was like Doctor Who, controlling time like a master and manipulating it just so our heroes always had a positive outcome. Now imagine that chapter without Hermione.
Yup, everyone dies.
Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road
What was such a gem about this gender flip was that many people went at this most recent Mad Max movie already outraged that women had been featured quite minimally in the series thus far. People went into the new one expecting some sexist garbage, and they got Charlize Theron as Furioisa. CLEARLY the star of the film. Max is basically just along for the ride. Furiousa is trying to free the “breeders” and ultimately, her people, from the reign of Immortan Joe. Though Max does a great deal of butt kicking and head bashing in the movie, there are countless occasions when SHE saves Max’s life.
Add that to the ending when she shows up (SPOILERS) and ultimately becomes the god to her people, and you look down and see Max just shuffling away, off in the crowd. That scene alone said so much about gender roles on this film. You went into to one of the manliest summer movies only to be blown away by the power of the females. Yes Hollywood. More of that, please?
Claire from Jurassic World
Okay, one minor gripe aside: why did she not take off her heels? I know other sites have said this, but come on. That felt a bit archaic and 1960’s to me. BUT, if you got past that, you realized that as much as the movie may have started with Claire being the “smart but scared” woman in distress, it ended with an evolved Claire who could somehow outrun T-Rex’s and save Chris Pratt’s backside one more than one occasion.
The other thing they did (that most may not have noticed is), they also evolved her as a character. If you recall, in the beginning she wanted nothing to do with her family and was mainly professional. But by the end, she had lost that selfishness and became a warmer, more genuine human by SHOWING us that humanity. That was important because often, when women are portrayed as strong they are also portrayed as cold. To see Claire get warmer AND stronger at the same time was a nice way to develop the character and make her rise up as a hero.
And if she can pull it off in heels AND make it look good, more power to her.
Ripley from Alien series
It would have been easy to put Ripley at the front of the list, but also a bit too obvious. When people think of female heroes from film, it is impossible not to think of James Cameron films. From this to The Abyss to Titanic to Terminator, the man always writes and casts remarkable females who steal the show and save the day. But when choosing just one from his amazing films, I had to go with Ripley from the Alien movies.
Think about her progression across the course of the first film alone. Comes to in panties, is the only female, and is as frail and vulnerable as can be. None of us have any idea that, among this grizzled crew of space marines, that she will be the lone survivor. But she rises up to take that role because she has NO CHOICE. The Alien forced her hand. Killed everyone. Ripley then rose up to be the hero, and continued to be for most of franchise. It could actually be said that Ripley IS the blue print for the female movie heroine.
Elizabeth from Pirates of the Caribbean Series
Another movie where you are misled by the casting of the leads. You may be one to think that Elizabeth (played wonderfully by Kiera Knightley) will be the damsel in distress, and there may even be moments in these films where they make it look that way on purpose. But just like some of Hermione’s simple gestures in the Harry Potter series, Will and Jack would’ve been killed at least ten times over were it not for some of Elizabeth’s handiwork with a sword and some quick thinking.
A perfect example of this is in Curse of the Black Pearl. Will and Jack are getting beaten up, and if she did not throw the medallion to Will, things would have played out very differently in the rest of that scene. And that is only one example of the many times she rises up and saves the butts of the boys who are supposed to be the heroes.
So the next time you think you want to write off Hollywood for making so many movies where the males are the leads and heroes, maybe you just need to look a little further below the surface to realize the real heroes of these movies ARE the women, and the smartest of us recognize that. They just deserve top billing on the poster now. That is an issue for another day, though. Baby steps.