Greatest Female Characters In TV Series

Sep 07, 2021Osh Ratnam

The things we see on television influence us in a myriad of ways. Whether its stories of overcoming odds or role models that shape that way we think, characters have always inspired humans. We're finally living in a time when female-driven shows are dominating and strong female characters are taking over the old damsel in distress stereotype. Let's take a look at some inspiring women from TV.

Image Credit: Getty Images/ABC Photo Archives

Leslie Knope

Comedienne Amy Poehler played Leslie Knope in the comedy show 'Parks and Recreation', an ambitious and optimistic public employee that one day wants to be the first female President of America. Her undying optimism may put her in strange situations at times, but it also makes her uncompromising in her fight for gender equality and women empowerment.

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Image Credit: Getty Images/NBC

Meredith Grey

Ellen Pompeo played Meredith Grey for a record-breaking 16 seasons on 'Grey's Anatomy'. She starts off as an unsure intern and by the shows end becomes a confident, award-winning leader in her field. The show overall has many strong female characters, doctors, and nurses who tell the story of the challenges of women in medicine. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Mike Rosenthal

Veronica Mars

'Veronica Mars' aired in the mid-2000s and starred Kristen Bell as the titular Veronica. The story explored the character's progression from carefree sweet girl to cynical survivor to something new as she embraces her life as a detective helping people while struggling with her own demons.

Image Credit: Getty Images/Michael Caulfield Archive

Olivia Pope

When Kerry Washington started playing Olivia Pope on 'Scandal' in 2012, the idea that women can be anti-heroes was still uncommon. Her portrayal of a no-nonsense, fiercely intelligent, crisis management expert over 7 seasons helped change this old idea. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Eric McCandless

Kate Kane

Ruby Rose may have just played Batwoman for a season and she may not be rejoining the show in its next season due to personal reasons, but as the first openly lesbian superhero on screen, her character Kate Kane as Batwoman is a first that should be celebrated. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Phillip Faraone

Claire Underwood

Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, starts the show 'House of Cards' as the wife of politician Frank Underwood. Over the course of the show, she shows that she isn't just the wife of a master manipulator, she outdoes him in a multitude of ways. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Sony Pictures Television (2013)/House of Cards (2013)

Xena

For many, 'Xena: Warrior Princess' was one of the first times a strong female character starred and carried a fantasy series. Before her, female characters were either romantic partners or haughty queens. Xena changed the way women were portrayed in fantasy and was a role model for millions of young girls. 

Image Credit: IMDb/NBCUniversal Television Distribution (1995)/Xena: Warrior Princess (1995)

Uhura

Gene Roddenberry’s original 'Star Trek' was a huge cultural phenomenon that birthed one of the most popular franchises ever. One of the firsts that came in the series was Nichelle Nichols, she was one of the first black women in a leading role on TV, paving the way for future generations. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/CBS Photo Archive

Diana Prince 

The 1976 'Wonder Woman' TV show was the first time a female superhero had her own TV series. Lynda Carter played the iconic role and inspired girls everywhere, as well as showed boys that saving the world wasn't a male-only occupation. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Silver Screen Collection

Dana Scully

FBI Agent Dana Scully played by Gillian Anderson was the smarter one of the Scully and Mulder duo. 'The X-Files' may have been science fiction, but Agent Scully was the one who used science and rational thinking to solve a majority of the situations the alien-fighting agents found themselves in. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/FOX Image Collection

Rachel Green

'Friends' was such an influential and popular show that all the main female characters deserve a place in this article. Jennifer Anniston's Rachel Green was the most popular and that may be because her transformation from discontented, unaware, runaway bride to strong single mother and fashion executive appealed to many.

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Peggy Olson

'Mad Men' was set in the 60s and 70s in the advertising world. Neither a time nor an industry that was particularly supportive of women, which is why Peggy Olson, played by Elizabeth Moss, is such an inspiring character. Starting out as a secretary, over the course of the show she battles against sexism to become the next Don Draper. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Lionsgate Television (2007)/Mad Men (2007)

Offred

Elizabeth Moss was crowned the Queen of Peak TV by Vulture in 2017 for an impressive television resume, culminating in her role as Offred in 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Set in a dystopian world where basic rights have been taken away from women, Offred's crusade against an oppressive state has won both Moss and the show Emmy's and other awards. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Hulu (2019)/The Handmaid's Tale (2017)

Rosa Diaz

'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' might be a comedy show with an ensemble cast of phenomenal actors and zany characters, but Stephanie Beatriz's portrayal of Detective Rosa Diaz is the woman for this list. Tough as nails, the detective is the one that's feared by all and the most competent, but also shows vulnerability when the moment calls for it. 

Image Credit: IMDb/NBCUniversal Television Distribution (2019)/Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013)

Eleven

Eleven from 'Stranger Things' played by Millie Bobby Brown has had a massive cultural impact already. The show is many things, thriller, horror, drama, sci-fi, and a coming of age story. Eleven's struggles show an updated and gritter version of classics like 'Buffy', but for modern audiences. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Netflix (2016)/Stranger Things (2016)

Selina Meyer 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer in the much-acclaimed tv show 'Veep'. At the shows beginning she is the Vice President of the United States and continues to expand her power of influence as the show progresses. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Warner Bros. Television Distribution (2012)/Veep (2012)

Eve Polastri

Casting Sandra Oh as Eve Polstari in 'Killing Eve' was a masterstroke. The acclaimed Canadian-American actress stars in a spy thriller where the main antagonist is also a woman, a first in the genre. The show and the lead actresses have won several awards and it's definitely worth a watch. 

Image Credit: IMDb/Sid Gentle Films Ltd Endeavor Content (2017)/Killing Eve (2017)

Olivia Benson

'Law & Order: SVU' has been on the air since 1999, making it one of the longest-running primetime U.S. live-action series in history. The story centers around Mariska Hargitay's character, Olivia Benson who starts out as a detective and over the course of two decades becomes captain of the Special Victims Unit. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/NBC

Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel

Women in comedy still face a lot of struggle, which is partly why Miriam ‘Midge’ Maise from 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' makes this list. Show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has the impressive shows Gilmore Girls and Bunheads on her resume, but this show is something else. Rachel Brosnahan's portrayal of Mrs. Maisel, a female comedienne trying to make it in the 50s is perfect and the show has been nominated for and won several awards. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Bobby Bank

Liz Lemon

Tina Fey is a comedy juggernaut, and the show she created, wrote, and starred in '30 Rock' was genius. Tina Fey took inspiration from her years on SNL to create a show that pokes fun at everything. Her character 'Liz Lemon' is a strong, in-charge woman, but well developed with lots of layers that show the depths of the character. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/NBC

Daenerys Targaryen

Many female characters from 'Game of Throne's could have been on this list, but we went with the Breaker of Chains herself, Daenerys Targaryen. Apart from her storyline, growing from a meek young girl to an ambitious and single-minded warlord, the love that people have for actress Emila Clarke is inspiring as well. 

Image Credit: IMDb/HBO (2011)/Game of Thrones (2011)

Buffy Summers

'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' is one of the most popular shows of all time, and Buffy Summers is an iconic female character that was a positive role model for millions. The monster hunting Buffy, played by Sarah Michelle Geller, was both physically and mentally strong while navigating the troubles of teenage life. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Hannah Horvath

'Girls' was created by and starred Lena Dunham. A show that superficially may seem like a 'Sex and the City' clone, it's actually more realistic than most TV programs out there. Dunham's character Hannah Horvath is narcissistic, immature, deluded, and annoying, things usually not associated with the female lead, but it's refreshing to see such an unusual depiction of women. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Michael Buckner

Miranda Hobbes

There's no way to please 'Sex and the City' fans unless we include all of Miranda, Samantha, Carrie, and Charlotte in this article, and we could have, but we decided to go with Cynthia Nixon's Miranda. She may be the 'career one' but the way she stands up for women and manages to balance motherhood and work is truly inspiring. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Annalise Keating

'How To Get Away With Murder' just ended and won many awards over its 6 seasons, but one of the most important was for actress Viola Davis who plays the lead Annalise Keating, a high-powered defense lawyer and criminal law professor who has a less than perfect life. Davis became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Brian Bowen Smith

Jessica Jones

There are so many male anti-heroes out there that make audiences root for conflicted, complicated, and at times immoral men, Jessica Jones was much needed. Krysten Ritter played Jessica Jones with strength as well as vulnerability as the show explored several dark but important issues. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/Alessio Botticelli

The Doctor

'Doctor Who' first aired back in 1963 and as such has permeated through British culture and science fiction. The story of a time-traveling alien that regenerates every few years to take on a new appearance allowed several actors to take over the role over the decades. The 13th and current Doctor is a woman for the first time in the series with Jodie Whittaker playing the Doctor. 

Image Credit: IMDb/BBC Studios (2005)/Doctor Who (2005)

Lucy Ricardo

Lucille Ball played Lucy in the iconic show 'I Love Lucy' and has been inspiring comedians and performers for over half a century now. Airing in the 50s, it was Lucy's willingness to break taboos while staying hilarious that opened the path for many women on screen in the future. 

Image Credit: Getty Images/CBS Photo Archive

Carrie Mathison

One of the most complex, toughest, and influential female spy type characters on the air, Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on 'Homeland' was intriguing. Danes won 2 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series out of 5 nominations, which should give you an indication of how powerful the character was. 

Image Credit: IMDb/20th Television (2011)/Homeland (2011)

We've come a long way from the days when women's roles on television were restricted to side characters for the male leads, but there's still a lot more that can be done. Representation on screen is important and having strong female characters on television in diverse genres and in a variety of positions is much needed. Did any of the women on this list influence your life?

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