From Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to Octavia Butler's groundbreaking works of Afrofuturism, women have always been pioneers when it comes to science fiction. Of course, you probably wouldn't know that from looking at cinema's biggest sci-fi hits. But despite Hollywood's ongoing bias toward stories by and about men, women are integral to many science fiction films, ranging from classic blockbusters like Star Wars to critically-acclaimed dramas like Children of Men. This Women's History Month, I wanted to celebrate these iconic characters (and the women who play them) for bringing so much to my favorite genre. In no particular order, here are 10 amazing women in science fiction films.
Guillermo del Toro’s robot-versus-monster slugfest delivers everything I want from a kaiju film: stunning visual effects, epic fights, and just the right amount of camp. Pacific Rim also boasts a diverse international cast and breaks from the strain of American exceptionalism that often runs through apocalyptic stories. While one of the film’s protagonists is a white man, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) shares a mech and the spotlight with Mako Mori, played by Japanese actor Rinko Kikuchi. Mako’s character arc follows the underdog-to-hero trajectory that’s often reserved for men. Despite her relative inexperience, she proves that she can hold her own against Raleigh and deserves to fight kaiju alongside him. Mako gets some truly badass moments during combat (two words: chain sword), but she also brings a surprising amount of emotional gravitas to what might otherwise be a one-note action film. From her tragic backstory to her accurate portrayal of PTSD to her touching relationship with her adoptive father Stacker (Idris Elba), Kikuchi’s performance ensures that the audience never forgets the human cost of disaster.
Pacific Rim is available on Hulu.