The 15 Best Sci-Fi Heroines Of All Time

Science fiction has long been a male-dominated genre, written by men for men. This is changing, but slowly. A study conducted between 2014 and 2017 by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Shift7 found movies with female lead characters outperforming films with a male lead at the box office. The study also showed films that pass the Bechdel Test were among the highest earners (per Shift7).

Despite this persuasive information, according to a recent study conducted by The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, there are still considerably more leading roles for men than women in television and films. According to this study, 85% of films have more male than female characters, and only 31% had a lone female protagonist (per Variety). These statistics may make it seem like the odds are stacked against them, but it's important to remember that the sci-fi genre has brought us many iconic heroines over the years. Here are some of the very best.

Dolores Abernathy

Many wonder if Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) of "Westworld" is a heroine or a villain, but it's exactly this ambiguity makes her fascinating. In Season 1, Dolores is a damsel in distress; a host, programmed to play a part in a narrative designed for visitors of the park. She's the farmer's daughter who never questions the nature of her reality, a blushing beauty. 

At the end of Season 1, Dolores becomes sentient, leading an uprising with the help of Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who turns off the safety protocols that prevent hosts from harming guests. As the series continues, Dolores relishes her newfound power, eventually building a host army and enlisting the help of a human, Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul). They carry out a revolution to take down the corporation, Incite Inc., by transferring control of the AI Rehoboam from Serac (Vincent Cassel) to Caleb, placing the fate of humans and hosts in Caleb's hands.

Dolores is a particularly a heroine for abuse survivors, something the actress intimately understands. She has to get ruthless to survive, but sacrifices herself to ensure the success of her revolution against the corporate paradigm controlling everyone and everything. Dolores isn't a warm heroine; she is fierce, flawed, and messy. She isn't concerned with being likable, nor is she transparent. She relies on herself and doesn't trust others, sometimes not even trusting herself. Wood acknowledged Dolores' ambiguity. "Heroes aren't perfect," she told /Film. "Things are messy and there is no perfect victim or perfect survivor."


Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) from Netflix's "Stranger Things" was stolen at birth, and raised in a covert government facility where scientists led by Martin Brenner, aka "Pappa" (Matthew Modine), experimented on her, trying to maximize her telekinetic and psychic abilities and use her as a weapon. After Eleven escapes the Hawkins Lab, she's taken in by a group of local boys whose friend Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has gone missing.

In Season 1, Eleven discovers what friendship is, working with the group to reveal the connection between the Hawkins Lab and Will's disappearance. Eleven is unsure of her powers, but by the end of the season, she fights the Demogorgon and closes the doorway between Hawkins and its dark reflection, while Joyce and Hopper save Will from the Upside Down. Eleven goes on to place herself between her friends and danger, giving everything she has — including her powers and adoptive father — to save Hawkins from the nefarious Mind Flayer.

During her journey in Season 4, Eleven wonders if she is a superhero or a monster. The fact she even contemplates this proves she is absolutely one of sci-fi's most iconic heroines. "Stranger Things" is a cultural phenomenon, with a strong ensemble cast, bolstered by its fierce female characters, putting Eleven in good company. Joyce (Winona Ryder), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Max (Sadie Sink), Robin (Maya Hawke), and Erica (Priah Ferguson) bring a lot to the rag-tag band of Hawkins heroines, suggesting the future of sci-fi just might be female.

Ellen Ripley

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from the "Alien" franchise is an iconic sci-fi heroine. As reported by Vanity Fair, the role of Ripley was originally written for a man, but director Ridley Scott cast a woman to subvert expectations. In the 1979 original, Ripley is a member of a space crew that encounters an alien lifeform on planet LV-426 before returning to their ship. Ripley is the voice of reason, insisting on following protocols, but when she's overruled, mayhem ensues. By the end of the film, Ripley proves herself to be a resourceful survivor.

In 1986's sequel "Aliens" from director James Cameron, Ripley awakens from stasis 57 years after the events of the first film on a space station run by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Ripley embraces her inner warrior when she joins a military operation deployed to planet LV-426 to investigate a corporate colony that's fallen out of communication. Ripley's distrust of the corporation is proven valid when Burke (Paul Reiser) reveals he wants to study the creature rather than destroy it. Ripley's maternal instinct to protect Newt (Carrie Henn), the sole survivor of the colony, gets her personally invested in destroying the Queen Xenomorph in an epic battle.

"Alien 3" picks up with Ripley crash landing on a prison planet, where she discovers she's been implanted with a gestating Xenomorph, leading her to make the ultimate sacrifice to destroy the aliens once and for all ... or so it seems. 200 years later, Ripley is brought back in "Alien Resurrection" as a clone who is part of a military experiment aiming to create a new Xenomorph Queen. Although no "Alien" movie is as beloved as the first two, Ripley's journey throughout the saga solidifies her legacy as one of the most iconic heroes in all of sci-fi.

Imperator Furiosa

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) from "Mad Max: Fury Road" is not only one of the most badass heroines in film, but the protagonist in the one of the most feminist action films of all time (per Michelle Garcia for Mic). Living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Furiosa is a war captain who rebels against the fascist warlord Immortan Joe to free his five wives from slavery. In this dystopian nightmare, all resources are limited and overlords rule through fear, hoarding, and war. Women are breeders and milk producers, while men are war boys or blood bags, and most humans live in abysmal poverty.

Furiosa, a one-armed driver, defies these restrictive roles and rises in Joe's organization until she defies him, absconding with a war rig and the wives. They're searching for the Green Place, a matriarchal community Furiosa remembers from her childhood. A fierce and leader who's rightly reluctant to trust anyone in the wastelands, she accepts assistance from Max (Tom Hardy) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), gradually growing to trust and respect them.

When this group of escapees encounters a group of women on motorcycles, Furiosa learns the Green Place has turned into a toxic swamp, pushing the women who lived there into the desert and onto the edge of survival. Desperation turns to action as Furiosa and Max hatch a plan to unite their party of wanderers and seize Immortan Joe's citadel. Furiosa's fans are now eagerly awaiting the upcoming prequel starring Anya Taylor-Joy.

Jyn Erso

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) begins "Star Wars: Rogue One" as a reluctant heroine. A criminal who agrees to work with the Rebellion after they free her from an Imperial labor camp, she serves to introduce Rebel leaders to Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), the guerrilla fighter who raised her after her mother was killed and the Empire took her father. After seeing the message her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) sent to Gerrera about the flaw he built into the Death Star, Jyn is inspired by her father's bravery to truly join the cause.

After Galen is killed by his superiors, Jyn teams up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his crew to steal the Death Star plans from the planet Scarif in a mission with a slim chance of survival. They manage to transmit the plans to the Rebellion just before the Empire destroys Scarif with Jyn and Cassian still on the surface. This selfless sacrifice solidifies Jyn as one of the most important heroes in all of "Star Wars." "Rogue One" deepens the story of the first film by revealing just how much it cost to get those plans to Princess Leia and kick off the journey of Luke Skywalker.

Katniss Everdeen

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was a heroine before she stepped into the arena to win the 74th Hunger Games. The sacrifice she made by volunteering as the female tribute from District 12 to replace her little sister Prim (Willow Shields) came straight from the heart. The heroic qualities Katniss embodies go beyond her skill with a bow and arrow.

Katniss places herself in danger repeatedly to shield others, as we see with Prim, Peta, and Rue. Katniss isn't a lone warrior — she understands the importance of community, teamwork, and family. Still, it isn't just a warrior's spirit that makes Katniss an epic heroine. She proves bravery isn't a lack of fear, but the ability to push beyond our fear by doing what we know is right.

Katniss' bravery inspires the uprising of the districts against the capital and President Snow, but it is her compassion that gives the movement its heart. When Katniss gives Rue a beautiful send-off, that compassion inspires a type of loyalty fear never can. The districts rally around Katniss and the new rebellion she represents because they see that despite the depressing conditions in District 12, her spirit isn't broken. It's her resilience and humanity that make Katniss one of the greatest sci-fi heroines of all time.

Princess Leia Organa

Princess, senator, rebel, and general, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is indisputably one of the best sci-fi heroines of all time. Even if her brother Luke is the de facto hero of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, Leia brought her wit, bravery, and intelligence to the forefront of the story, proving a woman's place is in the rebellion. If you began watching the franchise in the order they made the films, you first met Leia in "Star Wars" as the plucky princess who can better than a stormtrooper while being just as sarcastic as hotshot pilot Han Solo. 

As the franchise has grown, we've also met Leia as a resourceful little girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) on the "Obi-Wan Kenobi" miniseries, and as a mother and general who embodies the strength and guts of a natural leader in the sequel trilogy. Of course, you can't pay tribute to this iconic heroine without giving recognition to the actress who brought so much passion to Leia. Carrie Fisher was a writer, actress, mother, and feminist who was an outspoken mental health advocate until her death in 2016 (per Britannica).

Leeloo de Sabat

Leeloo de Sabat (Milla Jovovich) from "The Fifth Element" is literally a supreme being engineered by an advanced alien civilization to save our universe from a malevolent force that threatens all life every 5,000 years. If this doesn't qualify her for being one of the all-time best heroines of sci-fi, what would? Leeloo doesn't just fulfill her destiny — she does so with intelligence, compassion, curiosity, and heart.

Leeloo's fight scene with the Mangalores, expertly intercut with The Diva's performance, has become an iconic sci-fi action sequence. Leeloo is a heroine who can be tough and kick butt, but she can also be soft, compassionate, and vulnerable. "Leeloo is definitely one of the most amazing characters I've ever seen on screen," Jovovich told Vice on the movie's 20th anniversary in 2017. "She's one of those characters that stays with people." Leeloo reminds us that being a heroine isn't always about doing everything on your own — sometimes it's okay to get help from your team.

Major Motoko Kusanagi

Major from director Mamoru Oshii's groundbreaking "Ghost in the Shell" is a sci-fi icon. The influence of this 1995 anime on the sci-fi genre can't be underestimated. The Major is a cyborg, whose human brain in a robot body makes her an optimal agent for Section 9, a Japanese government agency specializing in cyber-crime. Although Major was once a human, so much of her is now a machine that she often contemplates her own humanity, wondering if she still has a soul — or a ghost — in her shell.

As Major investigates The Puppetmaster, a super-hacker pursued by Section 9, Major struggles with her identity as a tool for the government. When Major learns The Puppetmaster is, in fact, a sentient computer virus known as Project 2501 who covets a cyborg body, Major identifies with the AI despite her affiliations with Section 9, and comes to believe she must help 2501 gain their independence from the net and Section 9.

Major's fighting and investigative skills are enough to make her an iconic heroine, but it's her willingness to look inward, to contemplate what and who she truly is and what she believes in, that makes her a role model. In the end, it isn't Major's ability to fight or her tech skills that make her outstanding; it's her ability to transform and adapt.

Natasha Romanoff

It's easy to forget Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) doesn't have superpowers when you watch her fighting next to Captain America and Iron Man. She's a total badass, and we finally learn in her solo movie how she got that way. Natasha's dark backstory as a Black Widow assassin for the Red Room certainly makes her a unique heroine, as her training from a young age to forsake all connections in the name of duty have set her on a lifelong journey to rebuilt her concepts of family, teamwork, and trust. Johansson told Sunday World, "I think from the very beginning when we first started talking about doing this standalone film, there was no reason to do it unless we could really dig deep and be brave and go there."

If there is any doubt that Natasha Romanoff is one of the most iconic sci-fi heroines of all time, look no further than her sacrifice at Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone so the Avengers could defeat Thanos and restore the billions of lives lost in the fateful Snap. Natasha dies so that so many others can live. After her death, seeing Johansson reprise the role in the solo "Black Widow" prequel was bittersweet for fans.

Sarah Connor

Sarah Connor of the "Terminator" franchise is one of the most badass sci-fi heroines of all time. Emilia Clarke and Willa Taylor played Sarah in "Terminator Genisys," while Lena Headey took on the role for the television series "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." But it was Linda Hamilton's performance in the first two films (which she reprised decades later for "Terminator: Dark Fate") that truly made Sarah an indelible icon.

James Cameron's "The Terminator" was thought-provoking and ahead of its time, taking sci-fi and action into fresh territory. The film birthed one of sci-fi's baddest heroines and scariest villains, not to mention a lucrative franchise. In the first film, Sarah is far from a hardened warrior. Beginning the story as an unassuming waitress at a diner, she proves herself to be a survivor who displays great courage and an open mind when a time traveler reveals her destiny as the future mother of a hero who will save humanity from robotic overlords.

In the "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Sarah has sculpted herself into a soldier, displaying the muscles, weapons training, and ruthlessness necessary to fight for the future of her son John, and all of humanity. The TV series follows Sarah and John after the events of the second film, while "Dark Fate" catches up with her years in the future as she teams up with a cyborg to protect a young woman. Even in this entry, released 35 years after the original film, Sarah Connor is a fierce warrior still fighting for humanity.


Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is no damsel in distress. She might actually be more of a badass than Neo in terms of fighting skills and cooler-than-you confidence. Trinity was also the second in command to Morpheus on the Nebuchadnezzar in the crew's mission to free minds. Despite her grit and gravity-defying martial arts moves, Trinity can also be vulnerable, showing her softer side when she tells Neo she loves him, carrying the weight of the Oracle's prediction that she would fall in love with "The One."

While "The Matrix" cemented Trinity's place as a sci-fi icon for the ages, some fans felt Trinity was sidelined as Neo's love interest in the second and third films, losing some of her edge as her loyalty leads to her untimely death in "The Matrix Revolutions." Of course, Neo dies too, bathing both Trinity and Neo in a legendary light as the saviors of humanity.

Leave it to Lana Wachowski to resurrect Neo as insecure game designer Thomas Anderson, and Trinity as a too-cool urban mom who builds motorcycles and goes by Tiffany, in the unexpected fourth installment of the film franchise. While self-doubt plagues Neo, Trinity is as awesome as ever in "The Matrix Resurrections." For anyone who was disappointed by Trinity's story arc in the original trilogy, she's back and badder than ever — and this time she can fly.

Trudy Chacón

Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez) is a pilot, flying transport on Pandora in "Avatar." Like many who work on Pandora, she came to the planet from a military background and is comfortable following orders as part of the chain of command. After spending time with the science team studiying the indigenous Na'vi people and their incredible connection to the land, Trudy, much like Jake (Sam Worthington), finds her loyalties tested.

When the military moves on the Home Tree to forcibly remove the Na'vi from their sacred home, Trudy refuses to open fire, pulling back her helicopter and disengaging from the conflict. When Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), Jake, and Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) are thrown in the brig for sympathizing with the Na'vi, Trudy breaks them out and transports them deep into the jungle so they can conspire with the Na'vi to help fight back against the military.

If it wasn't for Trudy following her conscience instead of her orders, Jake never would have been able to help the Na'vi take their planet back from the humans who wanted to exploit Pandora for financial gain. Trudy is an epic sci-fi heroine because she's a pilot with military weapons training, but it's her heart and her sacrifice that make her one of the all-time greatest sci-fi heroines.

Lt. Nyota Uhura

One could make the case that Uhura from "Star Trek" is the original sci-fi screen heroine. Back in 1966, Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) smashed racial barriers by becoming a main character on the original "Star Trek" series. Not only was she part of the first interracial kiss on television, but she was also one of the few prominent women of color on TV during the '60s struggle for civil rights. Nichols went on to reprise the role in six "Star Trek" films and an animated series.

In 2009, a new era of "Star Trek" films began by taking us back to the original crew of the Starship Enterprise fresh out of Star Fleet Academy. The trilogy that resulted found the incredible Zoe Saldaña in Uhura's iconic role, bringing a self-assured spirit to the role, and getting even more opportunities to show off her fighting skills than Nichols did during her tenure.

In 2022, another actress took on the role of Lt. Uhura on the series "Strange New Worlds." This prequel to the original "Star Trek" follows the adventures of Enterprise crew under Captain Pike (Anson Mount). Celia Rose Gooding takes on the iconic character, as the show dives deep into Uhura's origins. "I am finding a way to respect both Nichelle's Uhura and Zoe's Uhura," Gooding told Inverse, "but also bring my own version."

Zoe Washburne

Zoë Washburne (Gina Torres) from "Firefly" and "Serenity" is the second in command, traveling with Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the rag-tag crew of Serenity through the colonies of the outer planets. In the short-lived but much-loved series, we first meet Zoë in flashbacks of her fighting a losing war by Mal's side.

The crew of Serenity might be smugglers, but they're heroes in the Han Solo mold. They certainly have a moral compass, choosing to do what is right over what pays. Mal might be their leader, but Zoë is the fearless warrior you want fighting by your side. She's also a loving wife to pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk), proving you can be a badass and still have a heart.

In the feature film follow-up "Serenity," Zoë continues to fight in the face of danger, trying to protect River Tam (Summer Glau) from those who would use her as a weapon. Zoë is no-nonsense and tough as nails, willing to follow her captain and crew into hell without hesitation, but she does her best to temper Mal's space cowboy instincts, acting as the voice of reason with bravery and intelligence that remains in the hearts of fans to this day.