Historically, the patriarchal nature of Hollywood studios have tended to relegate female characters to smaller, side roles. They were rarely placed up front, and when they were, they were just one part of a larger, all-male team. For instance, when the modern era of comic book movies kicked off with 2000’s X-Men, we saw the powerful Rogue now depicted as a damsel in distress. Truthfully, Bryan Singer did give us upfront strong versions of Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). However, despite their star status, they were far from the lead characters in the film. When you think about this, and when you realize that we’re entering a new chapter in superhero films, studios and filmmakers are beginning to rethink the traditional structure. Many of these same characters are now playing larger roles in what will be remembered as some of the best films the genre has to offer.
We have grown used to seeing most television and movie versions of our favorite superhero teams featuring the tough, chiseled, square-jawed male heroes front and center. Now, we are beginning to see their female counterparts stealing the limelight. Take 2017’s Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot. This powerful award-winning film made audiences, and studios, take notice. We, as a movie-going society, are ready to see our share of powerful female superheroes on screen. Join us as we take a look back, and in some cases forward to the near future, and attempt to rank the 30 most powerful female superheroes ever depicted on screen.
Mantis lacks many social skills due to her many years of isolation living only with the Ego the Living Planet. Though she might easily be dismissed as weak, as we witnessed in the movies that she starred in, Mantis is both physically resilient, and mentally strong.
As a powerful empath, what she lacks in physical strength she makes up for in her ability to sense other people’s feelings and, in some cases, alter them. However, we’ll have to wait and see what other abilities Mantis, portrayed by Pom Klementieff in the MCU, possesses when the Guardians return.
29. HIT GIRL
Chloë Grace Moretz was only eleven when she received critical acclaim for her portrayal of the costumed superhero and overall icon in 2010’s Kick-Ass. In the original comic book she was a supporting character, but thanks to Moretz, she ended up getting her own comic.
Hit Girl’s persistent, foul-mouthed crimefighting dynamo is a definite highlight of the film. Her expertise in martial arts and assassin-like skills make her a formidable adversary. We can only hope to one day see her again. It would be nice to see her a little more grown up, with a deadlier persona.
As of yet, the only live-action version we have of Batgirl is Alicia Silverstone as seen in 1997’s Batman and Robin. It was a forgettable film and the character was not much to applaud. Batgirl came off as a thrill-seeking wannabe who dug dressing up in tight leather.
While the Batgirl of the comics might have ranked much higher in this list, unfortunately, Silverstone’s portrayal ranks lower. However, the character may soon be redeemed as a new live-action role is in the works. With names like Katherine Langford, Jane Levy, and Margaret Qualley being mentioned as frontrunners to portray the hero, we might soon have to revise this list.
27. JESSICA JONES
Originally a somewhat minor character, her story was nonetheless tragic on the pages of the series Alias. The sometime-Avenger ended up translating well from comic book to screen. Krysten Ritter brought the angry and tortured hero to life in a way that fans loved. Despite her icy loner status, she forged new relationships with Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
Vixen is a fan-favorite DC superhero. She is one of the first African American heroes and she debuted in the early 1980s. She possesses the gift to channel the abilities of any creature in the whole animal kingdom.
The character has appeared in various animated series and currently can be seen on the live-action show Legends of Tomorrow. Vixen is portrayed by Maisie Richardson-Sellers, and is a WWII-era Justice Society of America member who joins the team of time-traveling crimefighters. Her animal abilities make her one of the most powerful members of the team.
25. NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD
In Marvel Comics, Negasonic Teenage Warhead was a mutant with telepathic and precognitive powers. The on-screen version, portrayed by Brianna Hildebrand in 2016’s Deadpool and 2018’s Deadpool 2, is a totally different take on the character.
Selected because they liked her name, her look was changed and her given powers became the ability to deliver high-impact kinetic charges. Her others powers include disapproving stares, surly comments, and goth-like tendencies, which are all quite formidable! As a young trainee in the first film and then a full-fledged member of the X-Men in the sequel, look to see her stock rise hopefully in future films.
24. KILLER FROST
Caitlin Snow was the victim of a freak lab accident which granted her ice-casting and manipulating powers. With her birth name being a little on-the-nose, the newly-powered Killer Frost would go on to vacillate back and forth between being a force for good and at times an evil-doer. Her small-screen depiction is much the same.
She is portrayed by Danielle Panabaker on The CW’s The Flash. Snow works alongside Team Flash at S.T.A.R. Labs and, despite her anti-hero status, is an integral part of the team. Her icy abilities make her a powerful ally or a potent adversary.
23. LIZ SHERMAN
At a young age, Liz Sherman accidentally incinerated her family with her uncontrollable fire-starting abilities. Alongside Hellboy, she eventually hones her powers and becomes a dominant force for good as a field agent.
Sherman’s powers are quite extensive. An example of this is when she was shown in a flashback as having nearly incinerated an entire building when she loses control. While her power is great, her control is not, thus her current ranking is not as high as a fully-matured Sherman could be.
22. BUFFY SUMMERS
Buffy Summers was introduced to the live-action cinema in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Kristy Swanson. Joss Whedon’s original script was watered-down and the gritty, dark superhero was relegated to a stereotypical Valley Girl in a vampire satire. It would be a few years before Whedon’s vision could be realized and it worth the wait.
Buffy was reborn in a TV series, courtesy of Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar, as the vampire-slaying, butt-kicking, wise-cracking hero we knew she could be. Her superhuman strength and agility, not to mention her skill with a wooden stake made her a threat to any and all paranormal entities. Despite all this, her kindness and empathy kept her human and made the viewers love her even more.
21. WHITE CANARY
Originally a character on The CW’s Arrow, Sara Lance, sister to the original Black Canary, Laurel Lance, has gone on to be a central figure on Legends of Tomorrow. Portrayed by Caity Lotz, Lance is trained as an assassin by the shadowy League of Assassins, where she gets a lot of her skills. The White Canary is in peak physical condition and, despite her petite frame, possesses extraordinary strength, honed senses, and swift reflexes.
Elektra was originally depicted on the big screen by Jennifer Garner, as Elektra Natchios appeared in 2003’s Daredevil and 2005’s Elektra. Her martial arts skills were portrayed as quite intimidating but the lack of decent story writing made the portrayal of her forgettable.
When Elodie Yung assumed the role on Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders series, Elektra was redeemed. The character showcased her ruthless assassin skills that made her so dangerous a foe. Though the character goes back and forth between a superhero and a supervillain, either way, she’s dangerous!
19. BLACK WIDOW
Despite the prowess of White Canary and Elektra, the most dangerous assassin-turned-hero, for our money, has to be the Black Widow. When Scarlett Johansson debuted as Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, in 2010’s Iron Man 2, fans were impressed. Though a well-known actress before, Johansson’s portrayal of the Black Widow in the MCU propelled her even further to super-stardom.
Though she doesn’t possess any superhuman abilities, she has shown herself more than capable of taking on and defeating foes much more powerful than herself. She’s highly trained and extremely dangerous, and she is a legend to all those in the spy world.
The Black Widow might be the pinnacle of human assassin-turned-hero, but if we expand that galaxy-wide (probably more like multi-galaxy), we’d have to put Gamora just a notch above. We first met her on screen in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, where she was portrayed by Zoe Saldana.
Gamora was raised to be a living weapon who was both merciless and ruthless. She has the reputation of being the deadliest woman in the galaxy. However, she is also a skilled tactician, often preferring to employ a strategy to achieve her goals. She possesses heightened agility, durability, and stamina. Her cybernetic enhancements give her physical capabilities far beyond those of humans.
How did Domino rank higher than Black Widow and Gamora? On paper, both could easily defeat her, and honestly, they could do it quite easily. However, if we factor in the hero’s mutant ability, luck would probably have it that Domino could hold off them both off, if not luck herself into defeating either in a fight.
Portrayed by Zazie Beetz in 2018’s Deadpool 2, Domino possesses probability-altering powers. Basically, she’s lucky, very lucky. This, compared with her amazing fighting skills allows her to be one of the best fighters around.
Princess of Wakanda and sister of King T’Challa, Shuri is the advanced nation’s chief innovator. Portrayed in 2018’s Black Panther by Letitia Wright, Shuri is a tech genius and responsible for creating much of Wakanda’s futuristic technology.
With the aid of the rare metal Vibranium, she managed to forge a number of technological improvements and weaponry. She has also shown that she’s not just a brain, but can fight too. She showed no fear in taking on the deadly Killmonger by herself and proved her fierceness by surviving.
We’ve only briefly seen Mera in 2017’s Justice League, but she will reprise her role in this year’s Aquaman. Portrayed by Amber Heard, Mera has the ability to create and control water objects that can hit with the force of similar solid objects.
She is known to be powerful enough to control vast amounts of water, such as would be needed to wash an entire army off a shore. As an Atlantean living under the great pressures of the sea, Mera also possesses enhanced strength, durability, and other traits related to years of underwater living.
14. THE WASP
We first meet Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, in 2015’s Ant-Man. She is a skilled fighter, possesses a genius-level intellect, and has mastered the use of her father’s ant-communication and shrinking technology. All this was before she ever put on the super-powered outfit of the Wasp.
In 2018’s Ant-Man and The Wasp, we got to see Van Dyne in her all costumed glory. She’s able to reduce to the size of an insect utilizing her father’s Pym Particles. While small, she still maintains her full-size strength and durability. Also, the process by which she shrinks allows for compression of force and momentum which is augmented when used as she returns to full size. Plus she’s got some cool gauntlets that fire energy blasts and can fly. Bottom line: she’s one tough cookie!
13. KITTY PRYDE
We first officially meet Kitty Pryde in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, where she was portrayed by Ellen Page. She then reprised her role in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Though the comics have showcased how important and truly incredible her abilities are, the first film she appeared in initially relegated her to a second-tier hero even though she can walk through walls and that’s kind of unstoppable.
In the comics, Polaris mistakenly becomes a villain but eventually sees her potential and joins the X-Men. She’s also occasionally the daughter of Magneto (they seem to go back and forth on this point). On Fox’s The Gifted, Polaris is portrayed by Emma Dumont.
She’s the co-leader of the Mutant Underground, who have risen to take the place of the now-missing X-Men. When the series began, Polaris’ magnetic abilities (think of a mini-Magneto) are still developing. They eventually mature enough where she can throw cars and rip airplanes apart. Now that’s power.
11. KAROLINA DEAN
Karolina Dean is a fan-favorite from Marvel’s Runaways. She’s the daughter of alien supervillains and is portrayed by Virginia Gardner in the Hulu live-action series that fans have become obsessed with. Once she freed herself from the power-draining bracelet she has always worn, Dean learns of her amazing solar abilities.
She can fly, create blinding rainbow-colored light beams, and shoot rays of pure energy. She’s the most powerful member of the group and, like her teammates, she is determined to forge a path separate from the evil ways of her parents.
Born Anna Marie, this southern belle is more commonly called Rogue. Outside of her popular comic appearances, we first meet her on screen in the movie X-Men. Portrayed by Anna Paquin, she reprised the role in two sequels and then in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (though her appearance was mostly cut from the final edit).
Rogue is a truly powerful mutant but the films relegate her to a young damsel-in-distress who needs protection from the evil mutants. We are shown a version of Rogue struggling to understand her power-siphoning or life-draining abilities as well whether or not to “cure” herself of them altogether. If it wasn’t for this unfortunate storyline, Rogue would most definitely rank higher.
We’ve been treated to two great screen incarnations of this fan-favorite X-Men hero: Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp. Berry portrayed Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm, first in 2000’s X-Men, and subsequently in the two sequels, as well as 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Shipp more recently portrayed a younger version of the character in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Though the female hero archetype has too often been cast as second-fiddle to the patriarchy, Storm’s portrayal is the closest to her powerful comic counterpart. Her power is virtually god-like and she was actually worshipped as a goddess in Africa. Her weather-manipulation powers are incredible and she has to be very adept in their use. She is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Mystique is another anti-hero that we’ve been able to see two incarnations of on the big screen. Rebecca Romijn first portrayed her more villainous side in the original X-Men film, and the two sequels, as well as a cameo in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. In the comics, Mystique is a villain, but the more recent X-Men films have cast her in a heroic light (in the years before she turned evil). In these versions, she is portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence.
Mystique is a shape-shifter who’s relentlessly loyal to Magneto with a monumental disdain for non-mutants. She’s a complex character whose ability to mimic just about anyone at any time makes her into a very dangerous adversary.
For the past five seasons, Chloe Bennet has portrayed Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake, on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Viewers have watched her mature from a renegade hacker to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and then becoming a powerful Inhuman hero. Now, she has become a fan-favorite. Due to her Inhuman heritage, exposure to the Terrigen Mist granted her with earth-shaking abilities, powerful enough to be derisively nicknamed ‘Destroyer of Worlds.’
6. SUE STORM
Otherwise known as the Invisible Woman, Sue Storm has been on seen on the big screen in a few incarnations. Neither film versions were very good, cinematically speaking, but if we had to discuss one over the other, we’d go with Jessica Alba’s portrayal in 2005’s Fantastic Four and the subsequent sequel in 2007.
As a member of Marvel’s “First Family,” Sue Storm has the power of invisibility and the ability to create and project force-fields. These force-fields come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it has been hinted that this is only breaking the surface of the extent of her powers.
5. SCARLET WITCH
With Fox’s mutant characters being brought under the Marvel umbrella, we might start to see a bit more story and exploration into Wanda Maximoff’s character, known as the Scarlet Witch. Cinematically we’ve seen her use her powers of telekinesis and levitation, as well as create force-fields and do some crazy reality-warping on people’s minds.
This makes her an extremely powerful combatant. Elizabeth Olsen portrayed Scarlet Witch in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, as well as 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Her abilities are even more extensive in the comics, so we’ll have to wait and see if the Fox merger means more Witch.
4. JEAN GREY
Arguably the most powerful mutant in the Marvel universe, Jean Grey possesses almost unlimited telepathy and telekinesis powers that, if unchecked, probably would dwarf those of Professor Xavier. Dr. Jean Grey was portrayed by Famke Janssen in the first three X-Men films, as well as a cameo in Days of Future Past, which retconned her demise in the third film. Her power by that point was limitless. This god-like power comes from the Phoenix Force, which, depending on how the films tackle it, is either an extraterrestrial essence that inhabits her or simply the unchecked raw side of her abilities that yearns to break free.
Regardless, 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix will tackle the issue as we will be treated to the metamorphosis of a new Jean Grey, portrayed by Sophie Turner. We caught a glimpse of the power level of her Phoenix persona at the climax of 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, where she single-handedly decimated Apocalypse when she let go of her mental safeguards.
We’ve been treated to a few live-action versions of DC’s Supergirl, though the most recent and best depiction is The CW’s Supergirl television series. In this series, Supergirl is portrayed by Melissa Benoist. The series stays pretty true to the comic book version, where the character is basically a female version of Superman (I mean, they’re both from Krypton).
As such, due to our yellow sun, she possesses superhuman strength, superhuman endurance, near-invulnerability, heat vision, ice breath, and she can fly. She’s basically overpowered when it comes to everyone else in the Arrowverse (and many characters have said as much). She’s definitely someone you want in your corner when battling bad guys.
2. CAPTAIN MARVEL
Captain Marvel is someone we’ve haven’t really seen in live-action before, but with her appearance teased in Avengers: Infinity War, as well the trailer for her upcoming film having been released, we felt it was safe to include her in this list. The bottom line is that she is the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We say this with the caveat that when Kevin Feige made that statement, he had yet to tackle the character of Jean Grey. With Fox’s franchise soon coming under the umbrella of Feige, it will be interesting to see how the pair stacks up. Captain Marvel’s name is Carol Danvers and she is to be portrayed by Brie Larson.
We have yet to see her MCU origin and the film will begin with her already possessing her extensive cosmic powers. Feige has never gone into detail about the minutiae of her abilities, but it should be similar to her comic counterpart. She possesses superhuman strength and the ability to channel vast amounts of cosmic power into energy blasts, plus she can also fly.
1. WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman is probably the most popular female superhero in comic history. She part of DC’s “Trinity,” with Batman and Superman. Since her debut in the early 1940s, she’s been a symbol of strength, hope, and justice; an icon. She was portrayed on television in her own 1970s series by the talented Lynda Carter. Now she’s been brought to the big screen and portrayed by Gal Gadot, who does an incredible job. Her breakthrough performance in 2016’s Batman v. Superman was a shining light in an otherwise drab film.
Wonder Woman, depending on how you look at it, is either a child of a god (a demigod, if you will) or a goddess herself. She’s gone head-to-head with Superman himself (remember, 2017’s Justice League) and came out without a scratch. Her super strength, speed, and resilience are as powerful as her empathy and hope for mankind. She is truly the most powerful female superhero we’ve seen on screen.
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