Amid all the testosterone-heavy tentpoles and hit pay TV action series this year, it was the female characters that really delivered the knockout punches. From the heroines of summer block­busters to the folks that made the smallscreen sizzle, women held their own in fare that might have originally been targeted for men, but were enjoyed by all.

Zoe Bell
“Raze,” “Django Unchained”
Although the accomplished stuntwoman has been working since “Xena: Warrior Princess,” Bell first caught the attention of auds in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” (2007). This year, she steps up her game by tackling the role of producer in the blood-drenched actioner “Raze,” as well as expanding her acting creds in the pics “The Devil’s Ink,” “Oblivion” and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”
Standout scene: Keep an eye out for Bell in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” as Tracker Peg.


Merida (voiced by Kelly MAcDonald)
Pixar’s first foray into princess territory gives auds Merida, a far cry from the “one day my prince will come” variety of Disney heroine. Armed with a quiver of arrows and unruly red locks, Merida makes her own decisions on her own terms.
Standout scene:As three young princes compete for Merida’s hand in marriage on the archery field, the young Scottish lass decides she’ll compete for her own hand, and puts the royal trio to shame with her expert skill.


Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
As the main protagonist in the Ridley Scott alien thriller, Shaw leads the scientific expedition in search of the Engineers, who hold the answers to the creation of mankind.
Standout scene:After finding herself impregnated with an alien-life form, Shaw undergoes unanesthetized surgery in a medipod to have the creature removed, only to resume the ass-kicking duties required of her in a summer tentpole.


Gina Carano
“Haywire,” “The Fast and the Furious 6”
Former “American Gladiator” turned Steven Soderbergh muse was able to maneuver her MMA fighting skills into a legitimate Hollywood career. Her star turn in “Haywire” had A-listers Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender playing second-fiddle to her Mallory Kane. Next year, the brutal beauty can be spotted in “The Fast and the Furious 6.”
Standout scene:Her hand-to-hand combat scene with double-crossing British agent Fassbender might have been just a bit too realistic. During the scene, which took two days to shoot, the actor slammed the MMA champion a bit too hard, knocking her out in real life. In true kick-ass fashion, the blackout didn’t slow her down, during the shoot or on the screen.


Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison
As a CIA operations officer grappling with bipolar disorder, Mathison finds herself at odds as she struggles among her job, her convictions, her budding feelings for possible terrorist Nicholas Brody and her own fragile mental state.
Standout scene: Before her damaged nature begins leading her from one terrible decision to the next, Mathison has a moment of inspired genius when she catches Brody secretly signaling with his hands during his TV appearance.




Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
“The Amazing Spider-Man”
Before Peter Parker hit the jackpot with Mary Jane, there was blond bombshell Gwen Stacy. Marc Webb’s summer tentpole reboots the franchise and returns Peter Parker to his comicbook roots and original first love.
Standout scene:Not one to wait around to be rescued, Stacy knocks the Lizard unconscious with a high-school sports trophy to save her buddy Pete.


Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
“The Avengers”
Stone-cold spy for S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers lead interrogator can pry info from any subject under any circumstance by letting her enemies think they have the upper hand.
Standout scene:As the film opens, it seems that Romanoff is on the receiving end of an interrogation gone bad, but her reaction to Agent Phil Coulson’s call quickly shifts the balance of power, allowing both her captors, and the audience, to realize who exactly has — and always had — the upper hand.



The final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy offers up two strong female leads who are not what they appear to be. The lines between love interest and villainy are blurred by these blockbuster performances.


Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina
Smart, sexy and deadly, Hathaway’s modern take on the Queen of Thieves is a match for both Batman’s intelligence and Bane’s brute strength without sacrificing any of the characters’ legendary sex appeal.
Standout scene:Right out of the gate, Hathaway turns on a dime from confused and bumbling caterer to scheming burglar who helps herself to a few Wayne family heirlooms, proving that the character is not one to be sold short.


Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate
As the potential love interest of Bruce Wayne, Miranda Tate seems a peripheral character for much of the film. But toward the end, she makes few surprising revelations as she takes auds back to the original pic in the trilogy; she’s the character who ties all three movies together in terms of plot and cohesive themes.
Standout scene:The moment that Cotillard reveals her true colors, and offers audiences a glimpse into her tragic past. By comparison, her childhood tale of woe makes Wayne’s backstory look like Little Orphan Annie.


Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
As the main protagonist in the Ridley Scott alien thriller, Shaw leads the scientific expedition in search of the Engineers, who hold the answers to the creation of mankind.
Standout scene: After finding herself impregnated with an alien-life form, Shaw undergoes unanesthetized surgery in a medipod to have the creature removed, only to resume the ass-kicking duties required of her in a summer tentpole.



This was Snow White’s year, as the fairy tale favorite found new ways to express herself that have nothing to do with cooking and cleaning for seven dwarfs.


Kristen Stewart as Snow White
In a year where Snow White could be found in many forms on the screen (“Mirror Mirror” and the ABC series “Once Upon a Time,” which features Ginnifer Goodwin as a pretty badass Snow White who’s handy with a sword), Stewart made the character her own with a steely version of the apple-loving beauty.
Standout scene: After her resurrection, Snow White leads the revolution against her evil stepmother Ravenna, heading Duke Hammond’s army in a charge against the castle.


Charlize Theron as Ravenna
Ravenna’s a contemporary approach to the classic Disney standard of the Evil Queen, who, even though it’s Disney, is also pretty intimidating. This queen is not just evil, but truly frightening in her methods of maintaining her kingdom and her beauty.
Standout scene:Once Ravenna is married, the powerful witch puts her plan into motion. Within moments of killing the king, Ravenna throws open the gates to the castle, allowing her army to sweep in and take control of the kingdom.



For the characters in HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones,’ the fight for the coveted Iron Throne would not be half as interesting if it weren’t for these women.


Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
In the second season of hit HBO saga, Cersei takes her place as Queen Regent by her son Joffrey’s side, determined to defend his claim to the Iron Throne, no matter the consequences.
Standout scene:In giving advice to future daughter-in-law/hostage Sansa, Cersei tells the young woman that love will make a lady weak, but she is obligated to love her children. When the young Stark asks if she should love the insufferable Joffrey, Cersei replies, “You can try.”


Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
The Mother of Dragons might have lost her husband and child, but has gained a crop of spawn in the form of three baby fire-breathers.
Standout scene:In the season finale, Daenerys escapes her would-be captor in the House of the Dead by instructing her “babies” to fire at will. The dragon fire passes through Daenerys, leaving the last standing Targaryen unharmed while roasting her warlock captor to cinder.


Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
The youngest Stark daughter is probably the strongest warrior in the realm. After spending the better part of the season posing as a boy, Arya is able to serve the House of Stark as a spy when she is forced to become the water bearer for Tywin Lannister.

Standout scene: Quizzed by Tywin as to the legends surrounding Robb Stark and his supposed immortality, Arya throws the long-standing Stark enemy a steely look and a thinly veiled threat: “Anyone can be killed.”


Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
A true warrior, the daunting figure of “Brienne the Beauty” was first introduced to HBO auds as she pledged her loyalty as a knight to Renly Baratheon. After his murder, she offered her services to Catelyn Stark.
Standout scene:While escorting Jaime Lannister back to King’s Landing on Catelyn’s orders, Brienne gets to show off her sword work as she makes quick work of a trio of thugs.