100 Best Female Character Roles
by Movieline Magazine

Part 1





Part 1 | Part 2


Movieline Magazine (in their April, 1997 issue), published an article about the 100 Best Female Character Roles, written by Virginia Campbell and Stephen Rebello.

Facts and Commentary about the List:

  • They described the characters as: "Loyal wives, loving mothers, lost lushes. Heroines, whores, homicidal hussies. They're all here, with a few slick sisters, whip-smart working girls, a screwy septuagenarian, and other women concocted out of light, shadow and sound."
  • Descriptive excerpts from the pop-cultural magazine article were included in the listings below for each character.

Additionally Recommended:

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the 100 Greatest Films.



100 Best Female Character Roles
by Movieline Magazine
(part 1, alphabetical by character name)



  1. Alma (Patricia Neal), Hud (1963)
    This slow-drawling, womanly, wised-up housekeeper tells the incorrigible Paul Newman she'd have happily had sex with him if he'd asked her instead of trying to rape her. Suffice it to say, this takes place in Texas.

  2. Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), It Happened One Night (1934)
    The spoiled heiress must defy her father and run off to marry Mr. Right if she is ever to grow up and be her own person; and then, of course, she must learn that her father was right about how wrong her Mr. Right is so that she can see that her Mr. Wrong (who happens to be her father's Mr. Right-for-her) is the real Mr. Right.

  3. Anita (Rita Moreno), West Side Story (1961)
    The feisty, hot, experienced, I-like-to-be-in-America girl who's whore to Maria's virgin, and causes everybody a lot less trouble for it.

  4. Anna (Deborah Kerr), The King and I (1956)
    The warmest, most gracious instrument of 19th-century Western imperialism ever invented.

  5. Mary Hatch Bailey (Donna Reed), It's a Wonderful Life
    Sure, it's a portrait of unquestioning love. It's also a tribute to a lost breed--women who quietly, unfussily prevail.

  6. Judy Barton/Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), Vertigo (1958)
    Victim? Predator? Ghost? Hitchcock's enigma-to-beat-most-other-enigmas. The gal most guys deserve to meet.

  7. Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney), Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
    What goes on in this all-too-pretty head? Desperate strategizing. If your crippled brother-in-law threatens to take your husband's attention away from you, simply engineer a tragic drowning. If your unborn baby makes the same mistake? Throw yourself down the stairs. Points for originality.

  8. Lisa Berndle (Joan Fontaine), Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948)
    Here is a testament to and elegy for the relentlessness of hopeless love in the female of the species, and hence a plea to the male of the species to forego the slightest encouragement if the female's love cannot be requited.

  9. Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep), Out of Africa (1985)
    She had a farm in Africa. And everything failed, except her character, which was tangled up in contradictions that fueled a saving imagination.

  10. Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester (Janet Gaynor), A Star is Born (1937)
    "This is Mrs. Norman Maine." And she knows everything you need to know about Hollywood.

  11. Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand), Funny Girl (1968)
    A hugely talented Brooklyn-born ugly duckling who turns herself into an uptown swan (with a big bill).

  12. The Bride (Elsa Lanchester), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
    The prototype of today's surgery-mad starlets. And a pioneer in hair-streaking, to boot.

  13. Berenice Sadie Brown (Ethel Waters), The Member of the Wedding (1952)
    The mammy whose saintliness extends all the way to not gagging the logorrheic prepubescent female she's forced to share the kitchen with.

  14. Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard), My Man Godfrey (1936)
    A rich, spoiled, insecure, booze-addled, selfish, willful, utterly spaced-out, adorable, glamorous, good-hearted, Park Avenue society girl of the '30s.

  15. Lucy Burrows (Lillian Gish), Broken Blossoms (1919)
    Born poor, left for dead by a father who beat her to a bloody pulp, this Silent Era heroine presses her fingers to the corners of her tremulous lips to force a smile--and fails to use her suffering as an excuse for substance abuse, abuse of others or incessant whining.

  16. Carrie (Sissy Spacek), Carrie (1976)
    Every paranoid fantasy about female puberty--and girls know that in the case of female puberty, paranoid fantasy can be very close to reality--wrapped up in one pale, vengeful girl.

  17. Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), Batman Returns (1992)
    Guys, wanna know what happens when you (metaphorically) throw gals out the window? They get slinky the way you always wanted them to, only now they come with claws and whips, and psychological wounds transformed into lethal finesse. The best you can hope for is to get your face licked after your butt's been kicked.

  18. Margo Channing (Bette Davis), All About Eve (1950)
    A warning to women about the stupidity of ever befriending younger, prettier versions of themselves. No wonder sisterhood's in short supply in showbiz.

  19. Nora Charles (Myrna Loy), The Thin Man (1934)
    Authentically sophisticated practitioner of that only-works-in-the-movies marriage strategy wherein the witty, stunningly beautiful wife keeps up with, and often ahead of, her husband in such things as martini drinking, and makes the whole experience fun for both of them.

  20. Charlie (Teresa Wright), Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
    A small-town girl who indulges in romantic (make that incestuous) fantasies about her namesake, Uncle Charlie, comes to realize that the dashing hero is actually a heartless murderer of women. Naturally, nobody else in the family understands this. So she must kill him herself. As must every girl.

  21. Chris (Angie Dickinson), Point Blank (1967)
    The reason John F. Kennedy felt he had to do Angie Dickinson?

  22. Queen Christina (Greta Garbo), Queen Christina (1933)
    Showing commendable common sense, she gives up the throne of Sweden to romance a Spanish knockout.

  23. Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), Black Narcissus (1947)
    A sublime notion of feminine spirituality, she's the sophisticated and very superior Mother Superior who comes from her Western tradition to a wild Eastern place and is shaken down by the rakish Englishman who is the man of her dreams and nightmares.

  24. Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood), Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
    Nervous breakdowns, screaming fits, a frenzied desperation to please, serial relationships with wrong guys--the incisive portrait of an adolescent Hollywood star.

  25. Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), Broadcast News (1987)
    The contemporary working girl at her brightest--inspired, resourceful, relentless and bonkers.

  26. Stella Dallas (Barbara Stanwyck), Stella Dallas (1937)
    The tacky, self-immolating mom who watches from outside a window as her only child marries into a Park Avenue family. If this type existed today, you'd send her for a makeover and hire a gigolo to keep her occupied at the reception.

  27. Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), Klute (1971)
    The girl with the most distinctive hairdo in the history of prostitution. Not Dick Morris's type.

  28. Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), Rebecca (1940)
    A warning to second wives and new girlfriends about the importance of tossing out all things and people belonging to your predecessor.

  29. Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday), Born Yesterday (1950)
    A spectacular early example of the bodacious-bodied ditz-cum-millionaire's bimbo.

  30. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), Sunset Boulevard (1950)
    The godmother for a society in which everyone's ready for their closeup.

  31. Cruella de Vil (Betty Lou Gerson (voice)), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
    She sounds like Tallulah Bankhead imitating a seal, and is too cool to sing.

  32. The new Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine), Rebecca (1940)
    A heroine for women who are forced by circumstance to compete with the Ideal Woman without benefit of poise, confidence or the ability to accessorize--which is to say, most women.

  33. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), Double Indemnity (1944)
    An inspiration or cautionary tale, depending, for women who don't merely like to use men, but like to use them to kill their husbands.

  34. Fran Dodsworth (Ruth Chatterton), Dodsworth (1936)
    A pinnacle of female vanity, selfishness, pretension, grandiosity, disloyalty, self-delusion and overdressing.

  35. Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
    Vain, neurotic, self-deluded, manipulative, weak but tyrannical --you know, Southern.

  36. Isadora Duncan (Vanessa Redgrave), Isadora (1968)
    A righteously annoying creative pioneer.

  37. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch (Mary Badham), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
    The socially blundering, pre-feminine girl-child of Atticus Finch has curiosity, impatience, combativeness and smarts operating both for and against her as she tries to crack the codes of adult society.

  38. Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), Fatal Attraction (1987)
    Cinematic evidence that nothing is tougher on a marriage, a car or a furry little animal than an umarried, libidinous, big-city lady editor.

  39. Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly), Rear Window (1954)
    The girl too sexy, too refined and too smart not to indulge her boyfriend's fantasy that she's frivolous.

  40. Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich), Destry Rides Again (1939)
    The ultimate old West saloon gal--sexy, tough and heroic when motivated by love.

  41. Lily Garland (Carole Lombard), Twentieth Century (1934)
    A minimally talented shopgirl who gets turned by a theatrical Svengali into a self-enchanted virago. Sounds like half of Hollywood to us.

  42. Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), The Innocents (1961)
    Imagine a morally upright, proper 19th-century British woman--Anna from The King and I, say--but one who seethes with sexual repression and religious hysteria. Now imagine her as the caretaker to two very odd, perhaps demonically possessed children.

  43. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
    What's not to love?

  44. Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), In a Lonely Place (1950)
    The used, smart L.A. beauty who inspires her self-destructive screenwriter/lover to pen the lines: "I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me." This must be how the joke about the Polish actress who slept with the screenwriter got started.

  45. Marylee Hadley (Dorothy Malone), Written on the Wind (1956)
    Of all the rich, messed-up, cocktail-swigging, didn't-get-enough-attention-from-Daddy-so-I'm-gonna-screw-lowlifes little sisters in big screen history, none does the rumba so thrillingly.

  46. Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), Annie Hall (1977)
    The apotheosis of hip, dope-smoking, neurotic ditz as ideal modern woman.

  47. Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters), Lolita (1962)
    Vulgar, pretentious, horny, cloyingly seductive and terrifying mom who discovers that her middle-aged dreamboat has married her in hopes of porking her adolescent daughter. A classic of her type.

  48. Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), From Here to Eternity (1953)
    A bitter, edgy wife who not only grabs at clandestine sex, but screws Burt Lancaster in the Hawaiian surf. A model for our times.

  49. Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), Notorious (1946)
    A sinner seeking Cary Grant's assistance in her struggle for redemption, but, more important, the best excuse for a zillion closeups in the history of film.

  50. Jane Hudson (Bette Davis), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
    A has-been movie star serves her invalid sister a dead parakeet and a rat, then takes her to the beach and lets her fry in the sun. Sisterhood for a society in which everyone is ready for their closeup.



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