Although this definitely is not the case, you might default to thinking about science fiction as a genre fundamentally owned by men. But the truth is that since the dawn of sci-fi storytelling, there have been great female leads at the center of a number of major properties.
Have there also been plenty of stories about heroic male saviors who are destined to beat the bad guy? Of course, but that’s not an ironclad rule. These three films prove that sci-fi as a genre has plenty of room for movies with great female leads.
Perhaps the definitive sci-fi movie with a female lead, James Cameron‘s Aliens follows up on Ellen Ripley’s survival at the end of Alien by making her the center of a much more action-forward sequel. The film follows Ripley as she accompanies a new team who are confident in their ability to beat back the aliens.
Ripley, still dealing with the traumatic experiences from the first film, knows better, and tries to explain to her new team exactly what the stakes are. When the movie ends, Ripley is one of the last people standing, and it’s only because she knows how seriously to take this threat, and she’s acquired the skills necessary to take the fight to the aliens.
Another sci-fi sequel that manages to be just as good as the first installment, Catching Fire sees Katniss Everdeen attempting to recover from the first Hunger Games, only to discover that she’s about to be thrust into another.
The movie’s production values and action got a major upgrade for this second installment, and Jennifer Lawrence has never been better as the emotionally suppressed central character, a young woman who is just trying to find her way through the turmoil she’s been subjected to. Catching Fire is electrifying from start to finish, and knows exactly how to bring its final moments to a stunning, surprising climax.
Gravity is a space epic that takes the genre to new heights. It follows a woman on her first spacewalk who has to find a way to survive after she’s jettisoned into the vacuum of space.
The movie is thrilling from its opening moments to its conclusion, but none of it would work without Sandra Bullock anchoring the entire thing with a performance that perfectly captures how terrifying it would be to be trapped in space, desperate for survival. The effects in Gravity are plenty stunning all on their own, but when combined with the ferocity of its central performance, Gravity starts to feel like an all-time sci-fi classic.
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