You know the drill, for every superteam that makes the jump from print to the big screen, there’s usually just the one token female member surrounded by male counterparts. Up until 2017, it was pretty much a given that any comic book movie would feature only one female superhero. Many of these characters have played larger roles in some of the most important stories in comic book history, such as Jean Grey becoming Dark Phoenix, Scarlet Witch cursing “no more mutants” and Batgirl forming her own crime-fighting team along with Black Canary and Huntress, becoming the Birds of Prey.
While we know that most superhero teams on television and in movies are composed of brawny, genius-level men, more often than not it’s their female counterparts that end up stealing the spotlight. With the motion picture power of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Hollywood has definitely taken notice that audiences are ready to see more female superheroes brought to life. Upcoming projects will fuel the fire even more by including more female heroes such as Captain Marvel, Wasp, and Dazzler. CBR takes a look at some of the most powerful female heroes who have appeared in television series and movies that have outshined their male teammates.
15. JESSICA JONES, THE DEFENDERS
Jessica Jones is a relatively obscure, yet tragic, character in the Marvel Universe. An on-and-off again Avenger with PTSD issues, attitude to spare and a penchant for blacked-out rage ended up making an interesting private investigator. Jessica has been a part of Marvel comic book history for years, no more so than in the award-winning series Alias, an imprint of the short-lived Marvel MAX imprint of the early ’00s.
Embodied by the charismatic Krysten Ritter, Netflix’s Jessica Jones is generally regarded as the best Marvel show on the streaming service to date. Jessica’s appearance in 2017’s The Defenders was one of the show’s few highlights, especially the relationship she develops with Daredevil. Her strength puts the rest of the guys on the team to shame, at one point saving Luke Cage and Iron Fist from a plummeting elevator car by simply holding on to the cable with her bare hands.
14. QUAKE, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Originally a member of the Avengers whose look in the comics was modeled after Angelina Jolie’s character in Hackers, Daisy Johnson (aka Quake) has become a favorite among fans. With her ability to create earthquakes and project shock-waves, Quake went on to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and eventually lead her own team, the Secret Warriors.
Portrayed by Chloe Bennet for the past five seasons on ABC’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., audiences have witnessed the origin story of the character of Quake. Originally starting out as an investigative journalist with no powers, Daisy learned of her Inhuman heritage and went through the Terrigen Mist transformation herself. With her earth-shaking powers and fighting ability she learned at the hands of fellow agent Melinda May, Quake has become the most powerful member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team.
13. SUPERGIRL, SMALLVILLE
Superman’s cousin, Supergirl (aka Kara Zor-El), was originally sent to Earth to protect her younger cousin but her space-pod got knocked off course. She ended up in the Phantom Zone for a period of time, later breaking free and finally landing on Earth, but after her cousin had grown up. She’s been a member of various teams throughout DC history, including Justice League and Legion of Super-Heroes.
Kara’s origin was slightly altered for Smallville, as she actually makes it to Earth to help train her cousin in the use of his powers. She possesses the same abilities as Clark, but has mastered the Kryptonian power of flight. Despite multiple training throughout the course of the season, we don’t see Clark take flight as Superman until the final episode.
12. SCARLET WITCH, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
The mutant daughter of Magneto and sister of Quicksilver and Polaris, Scarlet Witch has been a mainstay member of the Avengers for decades. With her ability to manipulate “Chaos Magic”, she uses her mystical powers to cast spells against foes, create force-fields and levitate objects. She would also go on to have an on-and-off-again romance with the android Avenger Vision, eventually giving birth to twin boys, Wiccan and Speed.
Elizabeth Olsen has portrayed the character in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Although her powers have been downgraded to simple telekinesis, she also has the ability to warp other people’s realities by manipulating their minds. Starting off as an ally of Ultron, Scarlet Witch uses her mind-altering powers to take down Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk.
11. POLARIS, THE GIFTED
In the comics, Polaris starts out as a misguided villain but eventually joins the X-Men and becomes an integral part of the team’s history. While her origin has gone back and forth on whether or not she is the true daughter of Magneto (at last count, she is), Polaris has consistently been on the side of good, eventually becoming leader of the X-Men’s sister team X-Factor.
Emma Dumont plays a version of Polaris on Fox’s The Gifted, who starts out as co-leader of the Mutant Underground (who have basically replaced the now-MIA X-Men). We see her powers grow throughout the season, from moving police cars to ripping an airplane apart thanks to a pregnancy power surge. In the season finale, we see Polaris give into her darker side by following in her father’s footsteps and joining a reformed Hellfire Club.
10. KAROLINA DEAN, RUNAWAYS
As the daughter of supervillains who happen to also be aliens, Karolina Dean became a fan favorite in the pages of Marvel’s Runaways. The only lesbian character on the team, Karolina is literally the light of the team with her optimism, as well as her ability to manipulate solar energy. She had a brief flirtation with fellow teammate Nico Minoru and had a short engagement to fellow alien Xavin.
Portrayed by newcomer Virginia Gardner, the Karolina Dean in the live-action version of Runaways is the daughter of a cult-like church run by her mother. She eventually learns of her abilities when she takes off the power-inhibiting bracelet that she has always worn. With the ability to fly, create blinding rainbow-colored light and shoot beams of pure energy, Karolina is the most powerful member of the team.
9. VIXEN, DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW
One of the first African American DC superheroes, Vixen debuted in the early ’80s and has been a fan favorite ever since. A dedicated member of the Justice League, Justice Society of America and even the Suicide Squad, Vixen uses the ability to channel the powers of any animal to fight evil. She’s appeared in various media throughout the years, from animated series to several live-action appearances.
On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the Vixen featured as a member of the time is actually a time-displaced hero who was formerly part of the WWII-era Justice Society of America. Portrayed by Maisie Richardson-Sellers, she uses the same power fighting beside the rest of the time-traveling Legends. Her ability to channel the powers of anything found in the animal kingdom makes her the most powerful member of the team.
8. KILLER FROST, THE FLASH
A former adversary of the superhero Firestorm, Killer Frost reformed and joined the Justice League in 2016. Gaining ice-manipulating powers from a freak lab accident, Caitlin Snow went on to become a member of various good and evil teams throughout the DC Universe including the Suicide Squad, Injustice League and eventually redeeming herself by joining the Justice League. Despite her previous antihero demeanor, she’s quickly become an integral part of the team.
The same Caitlin Snow is depicted by actress Danielle Panabaker on The CW’s The Flash. Caitlin starts off as just a scientist working alongside Barry Allen at S.T.A.R. Labs, but after a second particle accelerator blast she slowly gains her icy powers. Developing almost a second personality, Caitlin is continually at odds with Killer Frost, though her ability to conjure anything out of ice makes her a powerful fighter.
7. KATANA, SUICIDE SQUAD
A master samurai with a sword called Soultaker, which allows her to communicate with the people who have been killed by it, Katana is one of the most prolific fighters in the DC Universe. She’s been a member of various teams, including Batman’s Outsiders, Suicide Squad and Justice League of America. She’s also one of the rare comic book characters that have appeared in live-action on both a television show and feature film.
Karen Fukuhara portrays Katana in 2016’s Suicide Squad, basically acting as a chaperone to Harley Quinn and Co. on their mission to stop Enchantress. A curious balance of integrity and stealth, Katana simultaneously has morals and honor to live by, but also has the ability to cut down 100 people without taking a breath.
6. JEAN GREY, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
A founding member of the X-Men and one of the most popular superheroines of the Marvel Universe, Jean Grey has had a varied history throughout the years. Her telekinetic and telepathic powers left her susceptible to the Phoenix Force, a cosmic entity of destruction and rebirth that eventually drove her made. Her character would later be resurrected, rejoining the original X-Men as a member of X-Factor.
No matter how you feel about Sophie Turner’s portrayal of the character, Jean Grey is clearly the most powerful mutant in X-Men: Apocalypse. We see her fight alongside fellow mutants like Cyclops and Nightcrawler, but she is also instrumental in defeating Apocalypse during the final battle. Already exhibiting signs of the Phoenix Force, Jean steps out into thin air and uses her powers to help destroy Apocalypse once and for all.
5. LIZ SHERMAN, HELLBOY
A firestarter who becomes a ward of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense at the age of 11 after burning her family to death in a traumatic accident. Liz eventually hones her abilities and becomes a longtime field agent of the Bureau along with Hellboy and Abe Sapien. Liz and Hellboy develop a romantic relationship throughout the series.
Brought to life by actress Selma Blair in 2004’s live-action film, as well as its 2008 sequel, Liz is a dedicated member of the Bureau and already in a relationship with Hellboy. We see in a flashback that she once lost control of her powers and nearly incinerated a building. At the end of the sequel, we learn that Liz and Hellboy are expecting a child together.
4. HIT-GIRL, KICK-ASS
A young but effective vigilante trained by her father Big Daddy to become a costumed superhero and assassin. Originally introduced as a supporting character in the Kick-Ass comic book, she eventually becomes so popular that she receives her own solo series.
An 11-year old Chloe Grace Moretz was cast as Hit-Girl in 2008’s live-action film adaptation of Kick-Ass. Comparing her role as almost having an alternate personality, Moretz’s portrayal as the gritty, potty-mouthed crimefighter remains one of the highlights of the movie, as well as its sequel. She plays an integral part in the final fights of both movies, with the second leaving an opening for more adventures.
3. SUPERGIRL, SUPERGIRL
Staying relatively true to the character’s comic book origins, Supergirl finds Superman’s cousin becoming the hero of National City and also following in his journalism footsteps, becoming a reporter for CatCo Media. The television shows takes us along on Kara’s journey towards being as good a hero as her cousin, Superman (like you didn’t know), protecting the city from dangerous villains such as Livewire, Music Meister and Psi.
Along with her sister Alex, Kara works with the DEO in taking down criminals and patrolling National City. In one episode, we see her go up against the head of the DEO, J’onn J’onzz (aka Martian Manhunter), coming out on top. She was even able to defeat her cousin Superman after he was brainwashed by Mon-El’s villainous mother, Rhea.
2. INVISIBLE WOMAN, FANTASTIC FOUR
Part of Marvel’s First Family, Sue Storm gains the power of invisibility as well as the ability to create force-fields in a variety of shapes following her exposure to a cosmic storm on a space shuttle. She is the sister of the Human Torch and eventual wife of Mr. Fantastic. Along with the Thing, they make up the Fantastic Four. Invisible Woman is one of the classic female superheroes in Marvel history.
Say what you will about her acting, but Jessica Alba did the best she could with what she was given in the 2005 live-action film adaptation, Fantastic Four, as well as its sequel. The soul of the team, she’s also the most powerful, with Reed hinting at her being able to manipulate space itself with her abilities. She is instrumental in the final fights in both movies, helping to defeat Dr. Doom and drive away Galactus.
1. WONDER WOMAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE
Probably the most well-known female superhero in history, Wonder Woman has been part of DC’s Holy Trinity (alongside Superman and Batman), since the early ’40s. A symbol of hope and strength, she’s an iconic character who has been a mainstay member and occasional leader of the Justice League. Her romances have included civilian Steve Trevor and, more recently and controversially, Superman.
It took Gal Gadot’s breakthrough performance as the famous superheroine in 2016’s Batman v. Superman to inject some life into the DCEU. Her solo film broke box office records in 2017, inspiring women and children around the world. As an encore, she once again became the best part of a film with the lukewarm Justice League team-up movie later that year. As a demigod, she is more powerful than any other member of the team.
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