The Force Awakens is released this week, and with Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o and Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie joining new lead Daisy Ridley, it seems like the latest Star Wars chapter will have some intriguing female characters.
The production has been shrouded in secrecy, so little is known about their roles just yet. But in honour of the new release, here are my favourite heroines set among the stars…
Elizabeth Shaw: Prometheus (2012)
It probably helps that I’m not a scientist. In fact, I was terrified of the school lab because of all the stories that other pupils told me about accidental immolation or experiments gone wrong. And the teacher was as scary as the Engineer Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw tangles with in this Alien prequel.
Perhaps because of my relatively unscientific inclination, I can ignore most of the nonsense in Prometheus. (Although I appreciate that having an 8ft alien land on your abdomen after you had a caesarean would rule out hand-to-hand combat, rappelling and running.)
And yes, archaeologist Shaw’s ‘no weapons’ stance to exploring an alien planet isn’t very clever. But she’s a woman of single-minded determination, leading an expedition of doomed idiots to answer the biggest question of all: Why are we here?
Once her feeble team have predictably been picked off, she dusts herself down to further her pig-headed quest for knowledge and truth. I salute you, Elizabeth Shaw!
Princess Leia: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Danish pastry hair buns debuted by Leia in Star Wars, followed by the metal bikini she wore in Jedi, are iconic. But I’ve always admired the white jumpsuit and loopy-braid hairdo combo she showcased on Bespin’s Cloud City, complete with blaster.
It’s a practical but chic get-up for her roles as soldier, spy, royal and diplomat. Despite Carrie Fisher’s recent admission that she was, in fact, higher than the stars when she filmed Empire, Leia is at her pugnacious best in this movie.
And although we’re told that Lucas hadn’t yet decided she was destined to be Luke’s sibling, someone in the production must have already been leaning that way, as there are still some eerie hints to her true bloodline, particularly that long stare with Vader in the freezing chamber.
While her brother has a reputation as one of cinema’s greatest whiners, there’s never any doubt Leia will kick your ass.
Dr Ryan Stone: Gravity (2013)
Watching Sandra Bullock spin through space, I discovered that Gravity triggers vertigo, so it’s definitely not one I can go back to watch on repeat. Balance issues aside, this is a beautiful and thoughtful drama. Given the hype, the seven Oscars, and the theme of sheer adversity, I wasn’t expecting the movie to be so tender.
Grief-stricken following the loss of her young daughter, astronaut Dr Ryan Stone finds herself stranded when debris wrecks her space shuttle. She must contend with a dwindling air supply, no communications with mission control and the loss of George Clooney.
Gravity is not really sci-fi – this is our present-day Earth, complete with technological limits. This helps make Stone even more engaging than a character in a futuristic or fantastical setting. She is self-reliant. She is human. She hallucinates and loses the will to live – and then summons it again.
The movie’s message is never give up, and that through perseverance you can achieve the impossible.