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The Ladies of SciFi and Fantasy Before 2000

Ladies have come a long way in the world of Sci-Fi/Fantasy movies. It used to be that they were only there to be captured by the villain and then subsequently rescued by the hero.

Then a little movie called “Star Wars” came out and we were introduced to Princess Leia Organa. It seemed like we were right on track with things. The Princess had been captured by the bad guy, Darth Vader, and our hero, Luke Skywalker had snuck into the spaceship to rescue her. Upon finding the Princess he announces, “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you!” Then things don’t go according to typical movie-going scenario.

The group gets pinned down by storm troopers and Princess Leia yells, “This is some rescue! You came in here, and you didn't have a plan for getting out?” She then grabs a blaster herself, blows a hole in the grating and announces, “Somebody has to save our skins!” Apparently that someone is going to be the Princess herself.

And so begins our list of Top Ladies of Sci-Fi and Fantasy with Princess Leia.

Our 2nd, incredibly worthy lady is actually the star of this series of movies. She’s smart, she’s tough, she’s beautiful, and she is brave enough to go running back into a space station that has an acid-dripping alien on it in order to rescue a cat. Yep – I’m talking about Ellen Ripley.

Played by Sigourney Weaver, Ripley’s character managed to break every stereotype there was of women in movies. She was decisive, she was brave, she was caring, and she managed to be all of this while still retaining her femininity. Through every “Alien” sequel, the character of Ripley grew stronger but never lost her sense of “maternity”. In fact, it was this feminine, maternal instinct that often gave Ripley the strength and courage to face off against whatever horror awaited her next.

Speaking of maternal instinct, 3rd on our list is “Terminator’s” Sarah O’Connor. This is a female character that didn’t even know herself that she was capable of doing the things that she did. But the man that traveled back through time for her did – and so did the enemy. Destined to become the mother of the man that would eventually save the human race from the machines, Sarah learns much about herself throughout the movie. She then passes this knowledge and courage on to her son in subsequent movies.

Technically a villain, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in “Batman Returns” is one of those women we all wish we could be anyway. Pfeiffer goes from being little, mousy Selina Kyle to a seductive and dangerous anti-hero. She’ll stand up for any woman, but if you are a man – get out of her way! She oozes sensuality right before she knocks your lights out. 4th on the list, Catwoman is the epitome of what all of us women would love to be able to be and do – let our dark side out to play at night.

Although not as flashy as the ladies before her, Ellie Arroway of “Contact” is just as strong and courageous in her own way.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Ellie discovers that an alien race has made contact with Earth through our satellite system, and has left instructions for us on how to build a machine to get back in touch with them. As a scientist, Ellie has been laughed at much of her career, and so now feels she has a chance to prove herself right. Yet she hasn’t bargained for politics, and finds herself still on the outside.

This movie shows strength of character that is completely relatable, even if the circumstances are not. Ellie feels like a real woman, not someone in a movie. She feels like the girl that every single one of us has been at some point in our lives. The struggle with finding peace within herself even when the rest of the world is laughing is heart wrenching and absolutely familiar.

If Ellie Arroway is close to what we already are, then the woman who is 6th on our list is more like who we dream we can be; Trinity from “The Matrix”.

In fact, Trinity is something of a dream herself – she is the mental projection of how she imagines herself to be inside the Matrix. (If you didn’t understand that, you haven’t seen the movie, yet – and you really, really, need to!)When I referred to all our other women as strong, I was speaking of their character and mental strength. Trinity, however is strong enough to take out an entire police squad with just a few roundhouse kicks. She’s lean and lethal and totally dedicated to protecting the man that she believes is “The One”, not only because he is destined to free mankind from the computers that enslave them – but because she has fallen completely in love with him. In fact it is her love that ultimately saves them, not her prowess with weaponry.

That’s it for our 1st half dozen ladies, those that came before the year 2000. Be sure to check out my second article to see who I chose for the last 6 to round out our list of ladies from films after 2000.

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