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Top 10 Iconic Movie Heroines of the 1990s

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
The last decade of the millennium was definitely better because of them. For this list, we’re looking at women who were the heroes in their own stories. Also, the ‘90s has to be when they started being badass; characters like Sarah Connor span various decades. No hold on spoilers, so consider yourself warned. Our list includes Nikita, Sidney Prescott, Jackie Brown, Marge Gunderson, Trinity, and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Heroines of the 1990s.
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Top 10 Movie Heroines of the 1990s


The last decade of the millennium was definitely better because of them. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Heroines of the 1990s.

For this list, we’re looking at women who were the heroes in their own stories. Also, the ‘90s has to be when they started being badass; characters like Sarah Connor span various decades. No hold on spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

#10: Amelia Donaghy
“The Bone Collector” (1999)


She might be a rookie, but this street cop has got a lot of good instincts. After discovering evidence left by an active serial killer, and using her street smarts to collect it, Amelia Donaghy becomes the protégé of Lincoln Rhyme, a brilliant forensics expert – who is also a quadriplegic. Working to figure out the clues left by the killer to find the location of the next potential victim, Amelia is both smart and tough. While it seems at times that the job can be too much for her emotionally, she keeps it together, and ultimately saves the day.

#9: Samantha Caine / Charlene Elizabeth ‘Charly’ Baltimore
“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)


She was Jason Bourne before the world knew who Jason Bourne was. As a mild-mannered school teacher, Samantha Caine has been living in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter for eight years; prior to that is a mystery, even to her. However, after a series of bizarre instances and attacks, she slowly begins to learn of her own fast-paced past. Previously, she was Charlene "Charly" Baltimore, a highly-skilled CIA assassin. She draws on these skills as she first tries to escape, and then foil the plans of the people who want her and her daughter dead.

#8: Nikita
“Nikita” [aka “La Femme Nikita”’] (1990)


A troubled teen and junkie, when she is arrested for her part in the robbery of a pharmacy and death of a police officer she is given a choice: she can either learn to kill, or be killed. Opting for the former, she is put through an intense training program to become an assassin. Despite this, she tries to keep her private life as normal as possible. While skilled, she is not entirely cold-blooded, and has very human reactions and failings. But even when outnumbered, she is a force to be reckoned with.

#7: Anna Mae Bullock / Tina Turner
“What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1993)


Based on the real life of Tina Turner, in this film the audience follows Tina from her unhappy childhood, to her rise to stardom. The character is portrayed by Angela Bassett, who would later play a similarly strong-minded woman in “Waiting to Exhale”. When just getting started, Tina, then Anna Mae, meets Ike Turner and begins to make a name for herself. Soon, the couple marries, and while publicly successful, privately her home life darkens. With only her dreams to keep her going, she takes an inward journey to find confidence, and finally find the strength to defend herself. Showing tremendous grace in the face of adversity, Tina Turner is an inspiration to women everywhere.

#6: Dr. Ellie Sattler
“Jurassic Park” (1993)


Along with her partner, Dr. Alan Grant, paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler is hired by John Hammond to accompany him to the island of Isla Nublar, which he has colonized with cloned dinosaurs. What could go wrong? Many things, apparently. When the security systems fail, Ellie doesn’t hesitate to volunteer to look for the missing tour group, and to assist in turning the power back on. Despite dino-danger on all sides, she is frequently able to either outsmart, or outrun the hungry prehistoric monsters. Looks like the raptors aren’t the only clever girls on the island.

#5: Jackie Brown
“Jackie Brown” (1997)


A hardworking flight attendant, Jackie Brown gets involved with smuggling in order to make some extra money. But when things start to go wrong, she is no one’s patsy, and won’t go down without a fight. When the walls seem to be closing in, she decides to take matters into her own hands, double-cross the lot of them, take the money and get out of dodge. Tough and resourceful, she is not afraid to look out for number one, and with her great taste in music, she is one of the coolest characters out there.

#4: Sidney Prescott
“Scream” (1996)


Despite the tragic death of her mother, Sidney Prescott is just your average teenage girl. But then she starts to receive taunting phones calls, and her friends start getting picked off by the killer known – at first – only as Ghostface. Over and over, Sidney proves herself to be brave and resourceful. By the end, when the killerS (surprise!) have been revealed, she doesn’t let feelings get in the way of finishing the job, and making sure they stay down for good. She might be trapped in a slasher movie, but she’s in no way a cliché.

#3: Marge Gunderson
“Fargo” (1996)


She may seem folksy, but Marge Gunderson is a grade-A cop. She is a very pregnant chief of police, and she is great at her job, being very observant and often the first to nose out clues. Despite her line of work, she is extremely friendly, even to criminals. She’s also exceptionally loving and supportive of her husband, often reassuring him when he is in doubt, and encouraging him in his artwork. Even after a difficult day, she is so real and grounded, just happy to discuss duck paintings and live her life. Ayuh, she’s pretty nice lady. Darn tootin.’

#2: Trinity
“The Matrix” (1999)


The badass, agent-kicking heroine of “The Matrix”, she is perhaps the best fighter the rebellion has, and can always be relied on in a tough spot. Like the other protégés of Morpheus, she was once a computer programmer and hacker before she became unplugged from the Matrix. Something of a lieutenant, she is Morpheus’ right-hand lady, and is frequently sent out into the Matrix on recruiting or reconnaissance missions. While Neo gets to take a lot of the glory – being the “Chosen One” and all –he often relies on Trinity’s skill and experience to get him through a crisis. Or, you know, bring him back to life. Too bad he couldn’t return the favor.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Leeloo
“The Fifth Element” (1997)

Gail Hartman
“The River Wild” (1994)

Jordan O'Neill
“G.I. Jane” (1997)

#1: Clarice Starling
“The Silence of the Lambs” (1990)


Clarice Starling is only a student at the FBI Academy when she is selected by the head of the Behavioral Science Unit for an “interesting errand.” Managing what no one else could, she successfully interviews Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and finds herself inadvertently on the tail of a killer. Working out Lecter’s clues and riddles, she almost single-handedly brings down serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Ambitious and highly intelligent, Clarice is also not afraid to let her thoughts be known and to stand up for herself, even to her superiors. Whether it’s studying for exams, honing her combat skills, or tracking down twisted murderers, Starling is surely no lamb.
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