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Ten Of The Best Roles For Women in 2014 ... And Five Of The Worst

By The Pajiba Staff | Think Pieces | January 28, 2015 |

By The Pajiba Staff | Think Pieces | January 28, 2015 |

2014 was a messed up year for women, women’s rights, and just life in general. On the (somewhat) bright side, there were some really terrific, powerful, interesting roles for women in film. Even if female directors, writers, and actors are not routinely getting their due, at least we have these to admire. Here are ten of the best roles for women in 2014:

Rosario Dawson as Chelsea Brown, Top Five: I love this movie and I love this character. Dawson felt perfect in it, a fully formed person with strengths and weaknesses, full of intelligence and wit, yet at the same time damaged and real. One of the most fully-realized supporting roles I saw this year, she went punch-for-punch with Rock through the entire film, giving one of my favorite performances of the year. —TK

Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Guardians of the Galaxy: Zoe Saldana’s Gamora may not be as fully-formed as some people might like, but Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t her movie. It was Star Lord’s flick, from the opening heart-ripping scene to the closing hero scene. That isn’t to say that Gamora wasn’t a badass woman in this flick. Gamora is the deadliest assassin in the galaxy. She would have whipped Star Lord’s ass from here to Knowhere if Nova Corps hadn’t intervened. We were given as much, or more, background on Gamora as we were Drax or Rocket and we see her grow as much as anyone in the Guardians. Gamora also had her own plan before ever meeting the ragtag group of outlaws. She continued with the group in order to further her own agenda, changing that plan only when it was realized an Infinity Stone was in play. Gamora is a character that can continue to reveal more of herself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without relying on the men around her to make her interesting. I look forward to her, hopefully, expanded role in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. —Jodi Clager

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Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins, John Wick: This is a small role, but a damn good one. Ms. Perkins is one of the many assassins sent out to take care of the titular Mr. Wick, and she probably comes the closest to succeeding. She’s a smart, fun, take-charge character that isn’t reduced to her sexuality, but isn’t ashamed of it either. Just a great role in a great movie. Ms. Palicki gets bonus points for her depiction of Mockingbird in Agents of SHIELD. —TK

Elizabeth Moss as Sophie, The One I Love: Don’t let anyone, including me, spoil The One I Love for you. All you need to know going in is: Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss are married, but having problems. On the advice of their marriage counselor, they spend the weekend at a secluded retreat house. That’s it. Don’t learn anything more. Now having said that, don’t expect any Shyamalan-ian level plot twists. There are some unexpected events, but the story is made by the characters. Especially Moss’ Sophie. Smart, charming, tough without having to be “strong,” and vulnerable without being weak. In other words, a real woman. And even more surprising, her thinking and actions are pragmatic, reasonable, and not seen on any screen nearly enough. She proves that women don’t have to kick ass to be kick- ass, and that asserting yourself can still be a revolutionary act. —Emily Chambers

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Johannsson’s Widow has been the lone female light (hero-wise, anyway) in basically all of the Marvel movies up until Gamora showed up. In The Winter Soldier, the character is finally allowed to spread her wings a little bit. As such, she’s a pivotal part of the film, a solid and grounded character who is on almost equal footing with Cap. More importantly, she’s the rare female lead who isn’t reduced to being either a love interest or a damsel (she never needs rescuing… just the opposite, if anything). If this performance doesn’t get her a solo film, then I don’t know what the hell to say. —TK

Jenny Slate as Donna Stern, Obvious Child: Calling Obvious Child an “abortion comedy” is technically accurate but emotionally bankrupt. Because Child and star Jenny Slate present a warm, confident, modern, funny, and moving tale of a young woman still forging her path in life, a path that happens to include an abortion. It is provocative in that the idea of Slate’s character, Donna, having an abortion is not treated as provocative. Her life is her life, and Slate’s performance is raw — she’s both prickly and tender, in control and a mess. She’s human, and beautiful. —Sarah Carlson

Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans, Boyhood: Like so much of Linklater’s superlative Boyhood, on the surface Arquette’s performance seems so… simple. She’s a mother of two kids, struggling to find her way, busting her ass to take care of them. But there’s nothing reductive or diminishing about this role. Arquette is able to take a well-written part and make it wholly three dimensional, a person full of life and troubles and struggles, without it being reduced to simply “the mom”. Instead, she’s the film’s anchor, the mainstay, keeping the kids grounded even as she makes her own mistakes, finding strength through those mistakes and emerging proud and strong at its end. —TK

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Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, Edge of Tomorrow: The Full Metal Bitch owns Edge of Tomorrow from the moment we see her on a billboard with a thousand yard stare and a sword to put every compensation joke to shame. She kills, dies, and executes Tom Cruise so many times that I think that the movie plays on repeat at the houses of his ex-wives. Emily Blunt brings the toughest female character to the big screen since Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver. And she does it because Rita, the Angel of Verdun, is not played as an exception to the rule. The universe she inhabits has male and female soldiers side by side and not the slightest hint of the typical backhand of “she’s good - for a woman”. Further, the role she plays in the film is not just as the toughest one, but the smart one, the chosen one. She is the first to figure it out. Everything Cruise’s character learns is from her, what she figured out first. The reason he has to be the protagonist is to give a normal person’s window into appreciating Rita. She’s the lynch pin around which the entire story revolves, not from a pedestal, but from a place of complete and total agency. —Steven Wilson

Eva Green as Artimesia, 300: Rise of an Empire: This role is just fucking bonkers. There’s no logic to it, no honesty to it. It’s historically inaccurate, and completely nutso. Artimesia is a goddamn raving looney, but she’s also the leader of Xerxes’s navy, a fearless, relentless monster who beheads those who betray her and takes no shit from anyone. Eva Green takes it to gonzo levels, owning the whole crazy mess and becoming hands down the most (if not only) entertaining part of this whole damn shitshow of a movie. —TK

Tilda Swinton as Mason, Snowpiercer: A female villain can be a wonderful, amazing thing. And Snowpiercer’s Minister Mason was wonderful, amazing and truly terrible. The part was originally written for a man (that’s why she’s called “sir” in the finished product—they left it because why not?) and the character was to be a more mild mannered individual. But Swinton doesn’t play that way. She studied dictators, got her nose taped and her teeth messed and Mason was born. Purely, laughably evil and still so fearful and weakened by her own subjects, Swinton gave us the kind of monster only she could get nail. A female villain can be a wonderful, amazing thing. And one without the slightest hint of sex appeal, without the slightest hint of jealousy or cattiness, facing not the slightest hint of misogyny, that’s as rare as Swinton herself. —Courtney Enlow Hall

Aaaaand then, on the other side of the coin… there were some terrible roles for women:

Sienna Miller as Taya, American Sniper: Until I looked it up for this article? I didn’t even know her name. I don’t even remember if her name is ever mentioned. Does she have a job? Where does she come from? Does she have family? She is nobody in this film, existing only to wring her hands and cry, to be The Wife or The Mother, and nothing else. She’s pretty much the only female character in the film, this is one of the shallowest, emptiest, most depressingly insulting roles a woman has had to deal with in a quote-unquote serious film that I’ve ever seen. Miller does the best she can, but for all intents and purposes, this character was just wallpaper. Wallpaper that cried a lot while holding a creepy fake baby. —TK

Chloe Grace Moretz as Teri, The Equalizer: Hooker that got beat up a lot and needed rescuing. Seriously, are we still doing this? —TK

Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody, Godzilla: Scared wife who is also a nurse! Totally well-rounded and interesting role, absolutely not wasted on one of the most talented actresses working today. Sigh. —TK

Eva Green as Artimesia, 300: Rise of an Empire: I know it’s up there. But it’s down here too. Villainess who is motivated by being raped as a child. The backstory to this role was hideous and absolutely unnecessary (not to mention not actually true). Why couldn’t she be a crazy, tough, menacing badass without having to have the tired old rape motivation? Can’t she be a psychotic badass just because? —TK

Megan Fox as April O’Neil, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: So The Worst she could practically make up our whole list of worsts. Megan Fox returned to her unholy union with Michael Bay (this flick’s producer) to play the formerly awesome April O’Neil, a fearless investigative journalist who’d put herself at risk to get out the news that matters (corruption, underground crime, mutant turtles!) But in the hands of Fox, April is a simpering reporter who can’t make a case for her bizarre story pitches and is only admired for her beauty and DAT ASS. She’s so hot that Michelangelo makes an erection joke we’ll never be able to scrub from our memories and Will Arnett interrupts action scenes to comment on it. In this movie, April is a plot mechanization, not a person. And really that is the script’s fault. But Fox offers exactly one expression the whole movie, and that’s one of open-mouthed hot girl obliviousness that is so often plastered across the covers of porn mags. —Kristy Puchko

TK Burton is an Editorial Consultant. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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