The Twenty Greatest Film Heroes (Female)

Since this clown invaded our White House, women have been marching, running for office, and just plain giving me hope for the future of this broken country.  I have been inspired to look back at cinema, and the positive role women have played in it.  So, with these lofty thoughts,  I give you “The Twenty Greatest Film Heroes (Female)”.

In no particular order…

1.Jane Fonda.  “Julia”  (1977) Fred Zimmerman.  Unlikely heroes have always appealed to me, and none more than the subtle work done here by Ms. Fonda.

2.Sally Field.  “Norma Rae”  (1979) Martin Ritt.  The moment she stands on the table with the union sign is among cinema’s strongest political statements.

3.Sandy Dennis.  “Up the Down Staircase”  (1967) Robert Mulligan.  Though at times she appears perplexed, Dennis embodies the spirit of what’s best about teachers.

4.Meryl Streep.  “Silkwood”  (1983) Mike Nichols.  The film is ambiguous due to the lawsuits of the time, but it doesn’t take away from the power and poignancy of Streep’s work.

5.Vivian Leigh.  “Gone with the Wind” (1939) Victor Fleming. Despite some severe character flaws, Leigh demonstrates tenacity and guile.

6.Katherine Hepburn.  “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967)  Stanley Kramer.  This legendary actress brought an unexpected verve to her middle-class character.  The scene where she stands up to her bigoted neighbor is quite memorable.

7.Barbara Streisand.  “The Way We Were” (1973) Sydney Pollack.  As a political activist, Streisand brings a charm and sensitivity to what could be a stereotypical character.

8.Ellen Burstyn.  “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”  (1974) Martin Scorsese.   Though feminists at the time objected to the character’s compromises, you can’t deny the skill  that Burstyn brought to the role.

9.Cicely Tyson.  “Sounder”  (1972) Martin Ritt.  Ms. Tyson’s subtle performance projects an authenticity and grace.

10.Jill Clayburgh.  “An Unmarried Woman”  (1978) Paul Mazursky.  A fearless performance by this likable actress.

11.Pillar Padilla.  “Bread and Roses”  (2001) Ken Loaches.  A winning performance by newcomer Padilla who helps form a janitor union in Los Angeles.

12.Jodie Foster.  “Silence of the Lambs”  (1991) Jonathan Demme.  Foster deservedly won an Oscar for her unforgettable work.

13.Frances McDormand.  “Fargo” (1996) Joel and Ethan Coen.  Her pregnant sheriff was not only the smartest person in the room, but she also knew where the best buffets were.  Iconic and brilliant work by McDormand.

14.Anne Bancroft.  “The Miracle Worker”  (1962) Arthur Penn.  Reprising her prize-winning work from Broadway, Bancroft brought a wit and a wisdom to the amazing real life character.

15.Taraji P. Henson.  “Hidden Figures”  (2016)  Theodore Meifi.  Henson is a stand-out in this ensemble film about African -American women in the early aerospace industry.

16.Susan Sarandon.  “Thelma and Louise”  ( 1991)  Ridley Scott.  The more complex figure of this famous duo, Sarandon brought a certain pain to this character that made the ending even more poignant.

17.Patricia Neal.  “Hud”  (1963) Martin Ritt.  The humor that Neal brought to this salty character was a welcomed addition to this powerful film.

18.Diane Keaton.  “Reds” (1981) Warren Beatty.  Playing the real life journalist Louise Bryant, Keaton brought an intelligence to a character trying to find her place in a changing world.

19.Audrey Hepburn.  “Wait Until Dark”  (1967) Terence Young.  This blind woman thankfully outwits a trio of really nasty criminals- the last great performance by this beguiling star.

20.Bette Davis.  “All About Eve”  (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  Playing on both Margo’s strength and vulnerability. Davis gave a volcanic performance.