The calendar year is far from over, and promises with the incoming fall season a wealth of optimistic cinema. The autumn months may offer an especial bit of intrigue for those of us craving well-formed female movie characters, what with the franchise capper The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — Part II, the biographical picture The Danish Girl, and (maybe even) Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens on the horizon. But that's not to say that 2015 has let us down so far.
While we're always wanting for better representation of women on the big screen, we have to acknowledge quite a few strong female characters and performances to hit theaters thus far this year. The genres of comedy, drama, action, science-fiction, animation, and whatever the heck you'd classify Kumiko the Treasure Hunter as, have all yielded supremely interesting women characters, and utilized the talents of their actress embodiments to the utmost degree.
Below is a list of nine favorites from the past seven months: women who have offered gripping adventure, riotous comedy, and some pretty stellar crowd-hyping. If you haven't seen these pictures, they're all worth catching up on... both for their feminist frequencies and for plain old entertainment.
From: Magic Mike XXL
Played by: Jada Pinkett Smith
Rome is less a bona fide character than she is a conduit to Jada Pinkett Smith's untapped talents at rallying a crowd, but you could make similar claims about most of the occupants of Magic Mike XXL. There might not be much to dig into in regard to Rome, but she's as magnetic as any other supporting character 2015 has to offer.
From: Far from the Madding Crowd
Played by: Carey Mulligan
The fact that one of the most vivid illustrations of a woman's endurance to establish herself in a male-dominated industry, as well as to find harmony between her definition of self-sustenance and her quest for companionship, spawns from a 140-year-old novel should really put to shame all the screenwriters who can't muster an acceptably dimensional female character these days.
From: Ex Machina
Played by: Alicia Vikander
The beacon of a story about man's attempted possession of each other, the world, and, most of all, women, artificially intelligent (but nonetheless sincere) Ava proves herself richer with imagination, integrity, and humanity than either of the two human males — representative of the polars of the masculinity spectrum — who aspire to create and destroy her.
Played by: Kiersey Clemons
Just as Dope itself is the Bottoms' answer to the upper class comedy-of-errors films of the '80s and '90s (kingpin of the lot being Risky Business), Diggy is the young woman's answer to the genre's ever present, and almost always male, wisecracking sidekick.
From: Mad Max: Fury Road
Played by: Charlize Theron
By and the large the most common recipient of this year's cinematic feminism hype, insuperable soldier and freedom fighter Furiosa is the kind of heroine the blockbuster industry has been wanting for years. Her quiet complexity of character, conveyed more often through action that dialogue, makes her as memorable an action star as we've seen since John McClane.
From: Inside Out
Played by: Amy Poehler
Though touted only as the embodiment of one young girl's understanding of happiness, Joy is a human entity all her own. Saddled by her parental adoration and protectiveness over her beloved Riley, she struggles with the idea of letting the growing girl fall victim to anger, fear, and, most of all, sadness. Joy's is a journey that anyone will recognize as heartrending.
Played by: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez
We might come to remember Los Angeles-dwelling trans woman Sin-Dee Rella as this generation's greatest madcap comedy heroine... or, perhaps, anti-heroine, as her series of obviously bad choices is what fuels the verve of the picture. Sin-Dee is just as boundless and wacky as the many cisgender males who've headlined romps of the like, and far more proficient with her expletives.
From: Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
Played by: Rinko Kikuchi
One of the strangest movies of the year is armed, appropriately, with one of the strangest central characters: Kumiko, a macabre young woman whose grip on reality can be called fleeting at best. But this oddball's nigh fantastical adventure is as inviting, joyful, and sinister as the best of genre cinema, and she a dutiful handler of the material.
From: Clouds of Sils Maria
Played by: Kristen Stewart
Those many Kristen Stewart naysayers now have the Cesar Awards to answer to. The Twilight veteran's self-effacing, somewhat cranky, altogether tremendous turn as celebrity publicist Valentine is the sort of work that precedes a lifetime of Taxi Drivers and Raging Bulls. The character herself is such an unusual compromise of the humane and the ethereal that you'll be hard-up to stop thinking about her long after the conclusion of this beautiful film.
Images: IFC Films (3); Warner Bros. (2); Fox Searchlight Pictures; Universal Studios; Open Road Films; Disney; Magnolia Pictures; Amplify