It’s time for borg.com′s annual look at the year’s Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television. Again the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and cheer on. Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong (and, okay, sometimes evil), you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way. Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons, and some against gun and laser fire. And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass character is about.
In 2017 these characters broke new ground, and unlike last year’s great list, this year’s selections would not have worked had the characters been swapped for males. We had a pregnant gunfighter, a mutant mental patient, a double agent, a space pilot, an alien security officer, a pregnant former psychopathic killing machine, a cyborg assassin, a mythic warrior, a maverick mercenary, a warrior, a commander of armies, an alien slave turned teacher, an angry young mutant, and a teenage high school reporter.
These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2017:
Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp). Melanie Scrofano not only played Wynonna Earp as pregnant in this year’s second season, she actually was. And that didn’t slow her down, defeating all the evil Revenants in the town of Purgatory, and incorporating the discomfort of pregnancy made for great comic release all season long. Who had the tougher task, Earp or Scrofano? Either way, the series showed it’s a keeper and Earp the sharp-tongued, swaggering, tough-as-nails gunfighter we continue to love.
Valkyrie (Thor: Ragnarok). As cool and powerful as Cate Blanchett’s Hela was in this year’s pinnacle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the real scene stealer in Thor: Ragnarok was Tessa Thompson’s surprising new tough heroine, Valkyrie. Cocky? Yep. And she backed up that confidence with mad fighting skills and brains–enough of a combination to help Thor & Co. save the people of Asgard and get some revenge for the Valkyries who lost the original battle against Hela. As much as any other character, we’re looking forward to more of Valkyrie in next year’s ultimate team-up Avengers: Infinity War.
Luv (Blade Runner 2049). If Blade Runner 2049 is remembered for anything, it should be Sylvia Hoeks’ badass Replicant oddly (ironically?) named Luv. First unassuming, polished, and pristine in her mannerisms, she later reveals she can be the next best thing since Sarah Connor and the Terminators. Luv is a fierce, brutal borg whose villainy became the high point of the film.
Laureline (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). Cocky yet sympathetic, loyal and determined, the space pilot 50 years in the making made it to the screen this year and Cara Delevingne delivered a surprise performance as the co-lead and equal half of Luc Besson’s science fiction space duo. Her confidence was second to none, she stood up for what she believed and took what she wanted, and still had time to care for a lost rare species while making sure she protected her partner’s back. We’d like to think she dropped the creepy egotistical Valerian in her next adventure, but she did exactly what she wanted to, and seemed to have one of those modern romances that worked for her. Quirky, snarky, funny, and tough, she took out a room full of men with weapons and made it look like she wasn’t even trying. Laureline has it all.
Helena (Orphan Black). Of all the characters played by Tatiana Maslany in the series’ five seasons, who knew the sestra that would write the book on them all would be Helena, the once ruthless, psychopathic killing machine who once befriended a scorpion in prison? This year Maslany wrapped up what must be the best role for a performer in the history of television. No one has ever played so many parts in a series, and played them beautifully. Each character had her moment, but Helena would make our list if she was in any series.
Antiope (Wonder Woman). The opening minutes to this year’s DC film Wonder Woman finally adapted to film what comic book readers have seen all along–that the Amazons were a creation that should have been on the screen long before 2017. The envy of them all was the brave and strong Antiope, played by Robin Wright. It was the character that launched a thousand memes, and what greater way to illustrate the mentoring of Wonder Woman than via Wright’s ultimate warrior.
Commander Lin Mae (The Great Wall). Jing Tian’s Lin, commander of the Crane Corps who takes charge of the Nameless Order and staves off the Tao Tieh, may be the year’s most dynamic and talented superhero–not technically a superhero, she looked superhuman in all her battle scenes. She was decisive and cut through the nonsensical parts of the story. Her aerobatic skill in defending the Great Wall, leading the largest military force ever, and saving her people in the process makes Commander Lin an easy entry on this year’s kick-ass list.
Betty Cooper (Riverdale). It took 77 years but fans of Archie Comics finally got what they always wanted: a television series true to the characters generations have grown up with. CW’s Riverdale gave viewers 1.5 seasons to soak up Archie and his pals with a tremendously well-written story team led by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but best of all was the casting of Lili Reinhart as Betty and Camila Mendes as Veronica. Both were badass frenemies, but Betty’s story really allowed her to save the day time after time while taking the high road, even becoming a member of the Southside gang to help Jughead, and as intrepid school reporter, sleuthing out and taking down the town serial killer known as The Black Hood.
Trubel (Grimm). When the Wesen become too much for Grimm’s Nick Burkhardt, the series’ other Grimm warrior Theresa “Trubel” Rubel came to the rescue. Reserved and measured in her actions, she also never hesitated to take someone’s head off to protect her newly found family. In the series finale this year she even took on Nick directly when she disagreed with his plan, only to help take down the Zerstörer after an ultimate confrontation team-up with the ghosts of Kelly and Marie, and Nick. What we’d give for a Grimm spin-off with Jacqueline Toboni bringing her character into new adventures!
Syd Barrett (Legion). Many viewers saw the twisted look at the X-Men in the new FX series Legion as the best of the superhero fare on television this year. The highlight of the show was Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett, who became girlfriend to series lead hero David Haller. Revealing a brutal dark side to being a superhero mutant, Syd’s powers won’t allow her to physically make contact with anyone, yet she makes it work anyway. She’s willing to use her powers to switch bodies with anyone she touches to save those she cares about, even at great pain and loss. Syd fights through her own doubts, uncertainty of reality, and those that have lied to her to break through and take what she wants. She’s a fighter and triumphant, with only more battles ahead as season two is just around the corner.
Martha/Ruby Roundhouse (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). She was a shy kid who got detention for objecting to phys ed class. But once she got sucked into the Jumanji video game, she became Ruby Roundhouse, “killer of men,” with the symbol of a karate fighter as her avatar. A badass in every way, she is a commando and deadly dancefighter, with mad skills in all sorts of martial arts. Just keep her away from venom–that is her single weakness.
Andrea/Andra’ath Quill (Class). We only had eight episodes to get to know Miss Quill on the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off series Class, but what we saw in Katherine Kelly’s alien slave turned teacher was the foundation for an incredible series that could have been. Quill made the ultimate break from oppressor Charlie, the last surviving prince of an alien war. That didn’t stop her from finding a way out, while taking care of the prince and the small class of would-be student heroes. Quill could have taken the show in infinite directions had viewers supported the series more. Regardless, Katherine Kelly’s Quill will always be remembered as a kick-ass heroine in a class by herself.
Lt. Alara Kitan (The Orville). Who knew the next great science fiction series since Battlestar Galactica would be half comedy and produced by Seth MacFarlane? Among the strife and misadventure, one crewmember had the greatest character arc in the series’ first season, and she was also the physically strongest person on the ship: Chief of Security Lt. Alara Kitan. Halston Sage didn’t skip a beat in portraying a futuristic officer on a starship. She didn’t begin the show as a leader, but learned the ropes and took us all along for the ride as she became that leader, revealing a sensitive and uncertain, very “human” side, who could still buddy around with the ship commander and save the day more than once.
Lorraine Broughton (Atomic Blonde). Next year will see a shift where the British treasure Doctor Who sees its first woman Doctor. Who knows if something like that will ever come of the other Brit icon, James Bond, but the closest anyone has ever come to that was Charlize Theron’s hardened and savvy spy Lorraine Broughton in the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City. Has any woman action star ever given this many punches in a movie ever? She took a pounding as well, but ultimately came out on top with some shrewd tactics. Lorraine Broughton–nobody does it better!
X-23/Laura (Logan/Logan Noir). The biggest surprise of the year was the great piece of filmmaking that was Logan, and more specifically the black and white version that arrived in theaters in limited release, Logan Noir, the swan song for both of the X-Men we got to know over the years as Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier aka Professor X. Incredible direction and cinematography created a film on par with any black and white classic. But the young actress that the film could not have been successful without was the young Wolverine in training, Laura aka X-23. What a fantastic actress was Dafne Keen as Laura that you almost forget it’s a little girl ripping all these bad guys’ heads off and digging her sharp claws into their skulls. And in the next scene she’s nonchalantly eating a bowl of cereal, or acting angry because of something Logan said. X-23/Laura was simply the best of the best of the list of kick-ass women characters revealed to movie fans this year. Please, oh, please, Fox or Disney, let’s see Keen reprise the character again soon, huh?
And that’s it. Keep coming back the rest of this month as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV and Best in Print, and our borg.com Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.