Unlikely Heroes…

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:

Unlikely heroes.

And more than one included not just unlikely heroes but unlikely women heroes. Here’s a quick “top five” in no particular order.

A large egg-shaped object that is cracked and emits a yellowish light hovers in mid-air against a black background and above a waffle-like floor. The title "ALIEN" appears in block letters above the egg, and just below it in smaller type appears the tagline "in space no one can hear you scream".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?



  1. Great list, ladies. I’d add Sarah Conner from the Terminator franchise. A waitress turned cyborg-fighting mom? Sign me up : )

    1. I agree, Cathy! We like her so much she’s #4 on our list. 🙂

      1. Heheh *blush* Oops! Read too fast then got distracted! : P
        So I guess that means your list is even BETTER than I thought!
        Blame it on vacation brain, okay? 😉

  2. How about Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica? Rough, tough, rude, and oh-so-cute!

    1. Starbuck is definitely a fantastic hero. I’d have to think on it some more to decide how “unlikely” she is, but she’s definitely fun to watch!

  3. Good list! Veronica grows to become a strong, almost maternal character in The Fly. I posted my top ten SF heroines on here a few weeks back, but I’d forgotten all about her.

    The men are trickier, I think, because they rarely come across as “unlikely”. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds gets a lot of stick, but I love it, partly because Cruise’s arc from deadbeat dad to unlikely hero feels real and natural to me. He’s not out to save the world, just keep his (estranged) kids alive.

    Another unlikely hero I thought worked well was Richard Benjamin’s character in Westworld. When it starts out he’s the ultimate nerdy noob, too timid to pick a fight even when he knows he can’t lose. But he has to man up in a hurry when the robots go haywire. Great SF movie.

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