borg’s Best of 2022–Kick-Ass Genre Heroines

Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, savvy, 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.  Want to see previous years’ kick-ass genre heroines to see how 2022 compares?  Here are 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or just human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against sword, gun, laser fire, or disease.  And they all show what a tough, kick-ass, often badass, character is about.

This year we add nine women from the future, thirteen from the past, thirteen teenagers, nine warriors, nine space travelers, eight monster hunters, seven superheroines, seven military officers, seven scientists, four students, a god, a Viking, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, an archaeologist, a noblewoman, a bounty hunter, a movie agent, a princess, a werewolf, and a witch, with only eight characters we’ve never seen in any medium before.  Credit goes to both the writers, animators, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

Ensign Charly Burke (The Orville: New Horizons).  Characters in ensemble sci-fi shows never get this kind of layered writing.  Ensign Burke has a special kind of genius brain that allows her to have the ship act and react faster than an ordinary person.  She’s also holding a heavy grudge against the Kaylon for the death of her lover.  Yet somehow the Captain gets her to change, first by saving Isaac, then by sacrificing herself for everyone.  If someone like Burke can change, anyone can. (Hulu, Disney+)

Lt. La’an Noonien Singh (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds).  She survived the Gorn, and helped the crew of the Enterprise survive them again.  First standing in for Number One, she then took over the job of head of security, becoming a more formidable force than even Worf would be years later.  She’s also smart, often solving the group’s disaster at hand before anyone else.  And they’ve barely even gotten into her backstory yet. (Paramount+)

Freydis Eriksdotter (Vikings: Valhalla).  The half-sister of Leif Eriksson, and a worthy successor to Viking queen and Valkyrie Lagertha, she was driven to avenge her own torture.  She defeated all the shield-maidens to become one herself, and then she defeated Jarl Karé. (Netflix)

Captain Carter (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness).  After an entire TV series, all the Captain America movies, the Endgame movies, and a What if? animated show, finally Peggy Carter donned the supersuit and shield in live action–only to be killed off at least in one timeline.  But it’s well past time everyone sees her for the badass she is, whether you know her as Captain Britain, Captain Carter or Agent Carter. (Disney)

Jade Wesker (Resident Evil).  As a teenager Jade was a bit of a disaster, ultimately responsible for her sister’s dark fate.  Smart and savvy, she also made mistakes, and lost her family in the process.  She is a survivor, and one who could confront Evelyn Marcus’s schemes plus a clone father, zombie-like threats and even massive kaiju.  She’s a force to be reckoned with in the game and on TV. (Netflix)

Nancy Wheeler (Stranger Things).  Finally!  Nancy Wheeler got to shine after the abysmal plot that had her getting railroaded and ridiculed in the workplace in Season 3.  This season she takes charge.  She doesn’t hesitate to enter the Upside Down to rescue Steve Harrington, and she proves adept with an oar to fend off the Demobats.  With newfound friend Robin she’s able to defeat the Vecna and bust out of the Upside Down, and the day is saved–for now.  (Netflix)

Nori Brandyfoot (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power).  Nori’s heroism is in her ability to break free of the norm of the pastoral life of the Harfoots.  That meant making bold choices, like helping a strange visitor instead of minding her business, fighting for him when no one else would, and leaving her people when needed elsewhere. (Prime Video)

Dr. Jane Foster aka Thor (Thor: Love and Thunder).  Audiences have known Jane Foster in the MCU for even longer than Wanda Maximoff, but most had figured Jane gone for good.  Adapting a Donald Glut and Rick Hoburg idea from a generation ago, Marvel gave audiences a heroine like no other, and she made a fierce fight against cancer to get there.  Tying up one of the last threads of the MCU’s first phase, the only question is why didn’t Marvel keep her around for more? (Disney)

Kai (Halo).  This Spartan was the only character in this video game tie-in series to capture some of that badassery of the second Battlestar Galactica, which the series seemed to try to be channeling.  At first she was subject to mind control, but once she removed her implant the first thing she did was express her own individuality by dyeing her hair.  She proved she could do her job even if the Chief turned his back on her, and she hunted down her oppressor solo, coming out ahead in the end.  Her size and strength made her formidable, but her arrival at happiness for the first time was the high point of the season. (Netflix)

Frankie Derwent (Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?).  In large part because Lucy Boynton inhabits the role created by Agatha Christie so seamlessly and superbly, Frankie is the ultimate heroine, an outgoing, vibrant, hilarious, sharp and savvy young noblewoman ahead of her time.  Eager to soak up all the gory details of a murder, she dives in and sleuths out the mystery with wit, style, and class. (BritBox)

Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness).  In the comic books no character is really as powerful as Wanda Maximoff.  In the movies her character arc is the most developed of any superheroine–or supervillain.  As the anti-hero in the MCU’s biggest film this year, all the oddity of WandaVision finally made sense, and audiences got to see the most powerful powered character let loose on everyone, everywhere. (Disney)

Mei (Pacific Rim: The Black).  Her full story isn’t finished yet, but already she’s established herself as the next generation of Earth’s future.  She’s a survivor in a dystopian future who can pilot giant battle bots against kaiju and dodge raptor-like creatures on the ground.  All her talents and programmed actions are nothing compared to her drive to find out her own origin story. (Netflix)

Tusken Warrior (The Book of Boba Fett).  We knew so little about the Tusken Raiders until this year when they encountered Boba Fett and he was trained in their ways, earning his gaffi stick after his work with this brilliant warrior in particular.  What was her story?  Will we ever know?  From our view, in the franchise her skills were only matched by Darth Maul. (Disney+)

Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials). She’s one of the greatest heroines in the history of fantasy.  At every turn she must conquer those trying to block her destiny as Eve.  Across three parallel worlds she overcomes every obstacle in her way, yet her personality draws the best to come to her aid, her trusty daemon, from witches to a physicist, and a boy named Will, and maybe she can take down the Magisterium, too.  (HBO Max)

Enid Sinclair (Wednesday).  She’s a fierce friend first and won’t give in easily.  There’s a wolf in there someplace, and she just might use it for the sake of saving her best friend.  Always a friend, never a frenemy.  And when she finally wolfs out, she saves the day for everyone at Nevermore, and becomes more badass than anyone. (Netflix)

Uhura (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds).  A great tribute to Nichelle Nichols with a character able to do all the things they didn’t think 1960s audiences were ready for.  It sucks to be hazed as a freshman and even worse that they still have hazing in the future, but Uhura is the smartest person in the room and “knows something about everything,” so she takes it in stride.  This incarnation of the Wesley Crusher role shows you don’t need an actual kid to reflect life as the new kid in town. (Paramount+)

Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel (Ms. Marvel).  She’s just a teenager trying to be a teen.  She’s also a big fan of Captain Marvel.  Who better to receive a special bangle bracelet and get her own powers?  A good kid who is smart with a thirst for adventure and wants to help others is a heroine we all need. (Disney+)

Fennec Shand (The Book of Boba Fett).  Sometimes you only need to look cool.  As a bounty hunter saved by Boba Fett, she makes a great lieutenant and henchwoman.  As an enhanced, cyborg human, she seems indestructible.  She’s an anti-hero of few words, straight out of an old Western movie, but when she speaks everyone listens. (Disney+)

Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk (She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law).  Half the credit goes to the unrestrained and unfettered team of writers, and the rest to Tatiana Maslany as master thespian for being able to pull viewers into a character with two very different sides.  As a lawyer she is one of the only believable practitioners of law in TV fiction, and as superhero she’s bold and refreshing.  It doesn’t hurt that she is completely faithful to the comics pages. (Disney+)

Elsa Bloodstone (Werewolf by Night).  Born into a family of monster hunters, her history predates the one-hour black and white film.  We only got a short time with her but what we saw we liked–a hunter with skill and savvy, ready to align with the other side if it makes sense.  Will we see her with Deadpool and Blade in the MCU as in the comics? (Disney+)

Kenari Leader (Andor).  She led a group of young people trying to survive in the forest, including a young Cassion Andor.  She looked like she would grow up to be a powerful rebel, but the writers cut her story short.  One of the few in the series who looked ready and able to fight for her survival, we wish we would have seen more of her than the rebel wannabes the accomplished nothing over an entire season. (Disney+)

Dr. Claire Finn (The Orville: New Horizons).  One of science fiction’s best characters inhabited by one of its most beloved actresses.  Over three seasons she has changed the most.  Open-minded, not letting any convention determine what she does or who she is, she’s both a mom and a top doctor and officer, and this year an exciting component of every episode. (Hulu/Disney+)

Layla El-Faouly (Moon Knight).  An archaeologist and street fighter with a destiny.  It’s not easy to learn your husband killed your father–sort of.  She rescues Khonshu and discovers how Ammit can be re-bound.  Ultimately she assumes the mantle of Scarlet Scarab–the coolest reveal of any character this year. (Disney+)

Jeanne d’Arc (R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned).  The soul of the actual Joan of Arc returned to the 19th century as a martial arts level, sword-wielding warrior, partnered with a dead codger of a sheriff to defeat the forces of evil from unleashing hell on earth.  Of course she’s a kick-ass heroine. (Universal)

Flynne Fisher (The Peripheral).  Although the series became muddled mid-season, Flynne’s character was always interesting.  A future, southern-accented video game player who holds the fate of the future in her hands.  Great sci-fi ideas with iffy writing were much better received with a cool fighter like Flynne leading the way. (Prime Video)

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (House of the Dragon).  The King’s designated heir had all the traits of a great king, except in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy, she’s not a man so it’s a no-go.  Once the king sacrificed his own wife and began to go crazy it was too late for her.  Just as she was saving the entire realm from bloodshed astride her dragon, putting the king’s brother in his place and re-taking the dragon’s egg, he married her friend and she was left to become bland like the rest of his series-filled political talking heads. (HBO Max)

Bettye McCartt (The Offer). From eager assistant to a power player in her own right, McCartt brooked no nonsense, took no prisoners, and almost single-handedly kept the production of the greatest film of all time on time and under budget.  (Paramount)

Polly Watkins aka Galahad (The King’s Man).  Probably the toughest of them all, this English nanny was really a founding member of the Duke of Oxford’s secret spy network that thwarted Mata Hari and Rasputin.  From retrieving stolen film used for blackmail to usher the United States into World War I, to doling out tea and tough love, she was a crack shot, to boot.  Not to mention helping establish the Kingsman’s roundtable. (20th Century Studios)

Asta Twelvetrees (Resident Alien).  The most likeable heroine, and probably the most real, her compassion for others, and especially an alien with questionable intentions, has saved the world more than once.  She’s not just a nurse, she’s a caregiver for everyone close to her.  She’s not the best at anything she does, whether it’s being a friend or being a mom, but she keeps sticking with it and coming back for more. (Syfy)

Claire Redfield (Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City). Video game players have known her for years.  This year we got to see her as a live-action heroine.  Fed up with the corporation that ruined her family and town, she’s back and won’t back down for anything, even zombies. (Screen Gems)

Galadriel (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power).  A fleshed-out backstory gave depth and context to the LOTR franchise’s most mysterious heroine.  Single-mindedly bent on proving the evil Sauron never really left Middle Earth, she lets nothing–not even an honored death–stand in her way. (Prime Video)

Mims Ufgood (Willow).  Although we only just get to meet her in the first episodes of Willow’s long-awaited return, Willow’s daughter Mims may be the bravest person in Andowyne, encouraging her father to help Elora and confronting the soldiers on their trail.  She’s definitely worthy of her own spin-off series.  She also was one who first discovered Elora so long ago–maybe she has powers of her own? (Lucasfilm)

Topa (The Orville: New Horizons).  Falling under the spell of her hero Haveena, Topa was kidnapped by Moclans, undergoing torture to divulge Haveena’s plans.  This after undergoing the physical modifications her society forced on her–and defying tradition to be true to herself.  Yet she survived, becoming one of the ships strongest–and youngest–characters. (Hulu/Disney+)

Tilda Weber (The Imperfects).  Tilda was doing just fine as the singer in her local punk band until her meds ran out–meds resulting from the mad science of a creepy scientist.  It left her as a banshee with incredible super-powers including a sonic scream, along with the bad: loud ringing in her ears that doesn’t go away (hence the headphones).  But Tilda led with her attitude and a band of powered friends with chemistry.  Like the Scooby Gang or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she was a fantastic fury who should have gotten more seasons to show it. (Netflix)

Gwen Blake (The Black Phone).  Of all the qualities you hope for in a daughter, first and foremost is for her to be assertive.  Gwen is that and more. It’s horrible to be a kid when no one listens to you, but worse when you have a particular insight and know you are right–and lives are at stake.  Gwen riding her bike alone searching for her brother was the scariest thing in a movie this year.  How many lives does Gwen save?  Nobody knows, but her brother knows how incredible she is, and we do, too. (Universal Pictures)

Wednesday Addams (Wednesday).  We saved the best for last.  Just when you think you know a character from across the ages, somebody–this time Tim Burton and Jenna Ortega–comes along and shows you something that knocks your socks off.  The series was a marvel and Wednesday Addams was the year’s biggest star. (Netflix)

And that’s this year’s list of heroines.  The roles were performed by an ethnically and geographically diverse slate of talent, including eleven actresses of color, nine Englanders, three Australian, three Canadian, three Asian, two Latina, two Irish, one Egyptian-Palestinian, one Pakistani, one Israeli-American, one Hindu-Jewish, one Hispanic, one Swedish, and one Native American.  We’re not forgetting characters from past kick-ass lists like Ahsoka Tano, who was back this year in The Book of Boba Fett, Valkyrie in Thor: Love and Thunder, Laurie Strode in Halloween Ends, Lt. Alara Katan in The Orville: New Horizons, Princess Leia in Kenobi, Seven and Laris in Star Trek Picard, Jett Reno in Star Trek Discovery, Juliet Higgins in Magnum PI, D’Arcy Bloom in Resident Alien, Yukuha Usagi and the warrior women from Alice in Borderland, Sophie, Parker, and Breanna from Leverage: Redemption, Betty Cooper from Riverdale, Judy Hopps in Zootopia+, Eleven in Stranger Things 4, Stargirl and Yolanda from Stargirl, and the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who.  Keep coming back every day this week as we reveal the rest of our Best in Film, Best in TV, and Best in Print, and we wrap up the year with our borg Hall of Fame inductees for 2022.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

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