We’re up to our ears in edits for Runaway Star, so heroes—and what makes them heroes—is on our minds a lot lately. When we got to talking about some of our favorite science fiction movies, we found that they had something in common:
And more than one included not just unlikely heroes but unlikely women heroes. Here’s a quick “top five” in no particular order.
1. Ellen Ripley, Alien
Ellen is the ultimate accidental hero. Her character was meant to be played by actor Tom Skeritt until executives working on the film caught wind of female heroes being considered for other blockbusters. They grabbed hold of the idea and ran with it, creating Ellen Ripley. Ellen was a lower-ranking member of a mining company crew when she first—by necessity—prevented the Aliens from reaching Earth. Her reward for this was to be promoted to Lieutenant and sent out again to oppose both the Aliens and the villanous Weyland-Yutani corporation.
2. Leeloo, Fifth Element
When the sole weapon that can defeat the Great Evilis destroyed, save for a single fragment of its body, that piece is used to reconstitute the weapon—the perfect being, Leeloo. Innocent in every way, she makes for a very unusal hero.
Leeloo has to adapt to a new and dangerous world and overcome all the pains and fears of being human, while defending herself against those who would destroy her all over again. Ultimately, it’s her ability to be fully human and to love that saves not only her life but the entire world.
3. Veronica, The Fly
Veronica isn’t your typical hero. She’s a journalist—and not the sort that rushes into wartorn countries to document the horrors. She writes about scientific innovations for Particle magazine.
As for her hero status, it’s not only the fact that she’s the sole survivor at the end of the movie that makes Veronica a hero. She spends the entire movie acting, not just reacting, and driving her story forward. She defends herself and Brundle against her ex-lover and later, defends herself against Brundle.
4. Sarah Connor, Terminator
Sarah begins the movie as an average resident of 1984 Los Angeles. No special skills, no military training, just one strong woman determined to survive.
Though Kyle saves Sarah from the Terminator several times throughout the movie, she drives the film by making the choice to believe Kyle’s story and fighting for her life. And, in the end, she’s the one who finally defeats the Terminator.
5. River Tam, Firefly & Serenity
River is a child-hero, a genius who was taken from her family and subjected to experimentation by the Alliance, the government ruling most of the humans in her universe. Her innocence and madness, as well as her age, make her a rare hero.
While her story is not the central arc of Firefly or Serenity, it’s her use of her skills that saves the day on more than one occasion. Her story is cut short by the discontinuation of the series, but her potential as a very unusual hero is clearly defined in the part of the story that we get to see.
Do you have any favorite unlikely heroes—male or female?