Science fiction movies have a ton of heroes. More than any other genre, it can be argued that the heroes in sci-fi are the most well-known and recognizable in all of film history. Part of that is because there are just a ton of different science fiction franchises out there. Some are in television, more are on the silver screen, and there are plenty of characters that people have looked up to over the years. One development that is relatively new in the grand scheme of things is to have bona fide science-fiction heroines. There was a time when leading ladies were mostly damsels in distress. That has changed in the last few decades. There have been some women that have been real trailblazers in the field.
These are the tip-top women in the science fiction genre. They are people who have blazed a trail that has allowed others to follow in those footsteps while having the freedom to get their own trail blazed. This is an elite class that had to stand out for a number of reasons, and it blazed a ton of trails.
Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia
When most people thought about a story that involved a princess — especially in the 1970s — she would have been a damsel in distress. Star Wars put that idea on its head with A New Hope. While Princess Leia was indeed a damsel in distress at the beginning of the movie, it soon became clear that she could more than handle herself if given half the chance.
Over the course of the Star Wars movies, Leia has become even more of a symbol of strength as she’s risen up the ranks to general and led the Rebel forces in their final fights against The New Order and their ilk. Standing in the face of an onslaught from the likes of Palpatine and Vader is impressive enough, but she really did help change the way her kinds of characters were written in science fiction and adventure films moving forward.
Sigourney Weaver / Ellen Ripley
It should come as no surprise that any women that is seen as highly influential in science fiction is seen that way because she managed to help change the way women were seen in these stories, period. When Ellen Ripley first appeared onscreen in the first Alien movie, she might have seemed like just another member of a somewhat forgettable cast.
However, as the Aliens movies continued to grow and get more popular, Ellen Ripley changed and grew as well. She became the only person who understood the enemy for what they were, and she was the one who knew how to stop them. She wasn’t a woman who needed to be saved; she did the saving. In fact, in some of the movies that followed her introduction, she managed to save dozens of people.
Gillian Anderson / Dana Scully
There’s very little doubt that the X-Files was one of the most impactful science fiction shows to ever appear on television. One of the reasons for that impact was because the show would take some truly weird stories of human beings who weren’t only human beings, but were also something else. The other reason the show was such a game changer is because of the two stars. David Duchovny as Fox Mulder was clearly supposed to be the big star of the show, but it took no time at all for Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully to overshadow him. One of the big reasons Scully made such an impact is because she wasn’t afraid to call her partner’s guesses and projections into question if they seemed more than a little weird.
While the point of the X-Files was to show that Scully was not always right and that Mulder knew there were things laying in the background, there were also times when Scully was definitely right. She also became important to women in sci-fi because, while Gillian Anderson was very pretty and many people wanted to see her and her partner eventually hook up, the show kept it professional. Certainly they were very close by the end of the series, but that wasn’t because they were in a romantic relationship. That’s a pretty big deal when it comes to big stars in television and movies. It allowed the audience to continue seeing her only as someone who should be respected for her mind and acumen.
Carrie Anne-Moss / Trinity
While Neo might have been “the one” in The Matrix, it turns out that Trinity might have been the more important character in that movie trilogy. First of all, there’s the fact that Trinity was doing it quite a bit longer than Neo was when it comes to fighting the “Agents.” She could also actually hang in those fights against the superhuman villains, and there were more than a few times when she really held her own. While it was later in the era of science-fiction, and there had already been women like Weaver and Fischer had already come before her, Moss made a real impact with her role.
There’s a reason why Moss was also a big part in a completely different role in the newest Matrix reboot. Trinity has been a sign of strength even when she wasn’t with Neo and was easily one of the most important characters in all science fiction history when everything is said and done.
Linda Hamilton / Sarah Connor
There is a bit a theme when it comes to the characters and the women who really left their mark on the sci-fi genre. Linda Hamilton and the character she’s best known for in Sarah Conner certainly fits that bill. Connor started Terminator as someone who was constantly running away from the killer robot, but as the movie and the series progressed, something changed. Terminator 2 is really where Sarah Connor went from a damsel in distress into someone who put other people in distress. She was willing to do what it took to protect herself and her son.
That character continued to grow into legend, and just happens to be the one character on this list that was actually played by more than one actress. While Linda Hamilton is seen as “the” Sarah Connor, the character has actually been played by four different actresses. Emilia Clarke and Willa Taylor played younger versions of Connor, and Lena Headey played Connor in The Terminator TV series. It’s impossible to argue how impactful to science fiction Hamilton and her portrayal of Connor was when someone looks at how many other actors have wanted to step into those shoes.