Tag Archives: Frances McDormand

Top Ten: Female Movie Characters

Now, this really was a difficult one. I could have made this a top 50 and still struggled with who to include and who to leave out. Ah, the agony of choice. But, the fact that I have other things to do means I’ll just have to stop agonising and post the damn list.

Enjoy, and please feel free to add your own suggestions.


Allison Reynolds – Ally Sheedy

The Breakfast Club

The basket case. Allison is moody, withdrawn, a compulsive liar and by far the most fun member of The Club. She has the fewest lines but says a thousand words with each scowl from her hair-covered eyes. Allison is the perfect teenage enigma; she wants to be found but there’s no way she’s going to make it easy for you. Fact: she looked better before Claire’s makeover.

Greatest moment: The Cap’n Crunch cereal sandwich followed by defiant chewing.


Amélie Poulain – Audrey Tautou


Everyone needs an Amélie in their life. The self-appointed guardian of the hopes and dreams of those around her, Amélie avoids her own life by repairing the lives of others. If you could get near her without her freaking out, hanging out with Amélie would be a blast. Shy, imaginative and unbelievably cute, there are few characters in the world of cinema that deserve their happy ending as much as she does.

Greatest moment: The garden gnomes.


Dory – Ellen Degeneres

Finding Nemo

Okay, so she’s a fish but she’s a female character, isn’t she? And fish or not, Dory is just lovable. Yes, she’s absent-minded and she talks a little too much. In fact, she’s the kind of character who would probably drive you insane eventually, but contained within this hour and a half of Pixar magic, Dory is golden-hearted, wilfully optimistic and totally endearing. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Greatest moment: Speaking fluent whale.


Ellen Ripley – Sigourney Weaver

Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Alien Resurrection

Quite possibly the toughest woman in the history of the universe, Ripley has watched a succession of men fall prey to the alien creature which then falls prey to her. Four times over. Not content with facing down the ‘perfect organism’, Ripley also busies herself tearing multi-national corporate power a new asshole. And she still finds time to satisfy her maternal instincts.

Greatest moment: Grabbing a power-loader and opening a can of whoop-ass on the Alien Queen.


Laine Hanson – Joan Allen

The Contender

Senator Hanson is an example to all politicians. When her confirmation as Vice President is hampered by accusations of sexual indiscretion from an opponent, she chooses her principles of privacy and good politics over a defensive cry, refusing to deny or confirm the accusation in the face of overwhelming pressure to play the game. Hanson wins the day.

Greatest moment: Putting the President himself down when he asks her for the truth.


Marge Gunderson – Frances McDormand


Marge Gunderson is pure magic. At first glance she may come across as a simple, heavily pregnant, small-town policewoman but underneath that docile and well-mannered exterior are the instincts and tenacity of a bloodhound. Sharp as a razor, she sniffs out guilt with a mixture of amiable conversation and stern politeness. Underestimate Marge Gunderson at your peril.

Greatest moment: Telling off killer Gaear Grimsrud as he sits sulking in the back of her car.


Marion Ravenwood – Karen Allen

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

From the moment we meet her, running her own bar in Tibet, Marion is the only one keeping up with the Jones. Frankly, the adventuring archaeologist never stood a chance. Over the course of two movies she saves his life, machine guns a truck full of soldiers, survives a 50-foot plunge and the wrath of God, drives an armoured car off a cliff, has Jones’ son and then finally marries her man. You go, girl.

Greatest moment: The drinking contest.


May Canady – Angela Bettis


She doesn’t mean to be weird, she just hasn’t had much practice socialising with anything other than the doll her mother gave her when she was a lonely child with a lazy eye. May tries hard to find a true friend, but makes all the wrong choices and it always ends badly. She doesn’t take the rejections very well. What was that her mother said? If you can’t find a friend, make one. Look on the bright side, at least May is creative.

Greatest moment: May gets dressed up for Halloween.


Muriel Pritchett – Geena Davis

The Accidental Tourist

She’s a little eccentric and has a questionable sense of fashion, but Muriel Pritchett is the kind of woman who understands exactly what’s important in life. And she’ll always be there to remind you that you’re taking yours too seriously. Even it if it means following you halfway across the planet to do so. Also great with dogs.

Greatest moment: Condensing her entire outlook on life into the simple act of adding extra pickles to her Burger King Whopper.


Sarah Connor – Linda Hamilton

Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day

From diner waitress to the saviour of mankind in two movies. Not too shabby. Okay, that’s via the psychiatric ward, but when you start spouting off about the time-travelling, killer robot that chased you through the 80s, you’re bound to get a negative reaction. Mind you, by the second movie, it’s a brave man who gives Sarah Connor a negative reaction to her face. Just look at her. Would you tell her she needs to lighten up a bit?

Greatest moment: Escaping the asylum.


Top Five: Overlooked Movies

Have you ever felt like you are the only person who loves a particular movie, or indeed has even seen it? Yeah, me too. There are some films which you watch, adore and then wonder why no-one else is talking about them. Somehow, they slipped through the net and swam away unnoticed, barely causing a ripple in the water. Some receive critical applause and yet make no money at the box office, some receive neither critical applause or commercial return at all, and some simply don’t enter the annals of their genres with the amount of respect and recognition that you feel they deserved.

Here are the five movies which I feel deserved a far bigger fanfare than they were accorded. My overlooked gems. Feel free to add your own.


Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Having written some of the sharpest and wittiest action movies of the last twenty-five years (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight), Shane Black finally got the director’s chair with Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer share a great comic chemistry as a petty thief mistaken for an actor and a gay Private Investigator, caught up together in the intrigues of a seedy Hollywood. The plot is a tightly woven web of insane circumstances, paying an almost sarcastic homage to classic Noir, right down to Downey Jr.’s self-aware narration and love of crime novels featuring a detective with the inspired name of Johnny Gossamer. Val Kilmer has never been funnier, Downey Jr. is at his world-weary best and Black’s dialogue is of the sparkling standard that Tarantino has wet dreams about. And as far as I can tell, no-one saw it.



Little known writer/director Lucky McKee should have made his name with this psychological horror, his second movie. However, even more deserving of wider recognition was lead actress Angela Bettis. May, a lonely young woman traumatised by an isolated childhood and minor disfigurement, is desperate to connect with someone, anyone, but lacks the social skills necessary to do so. May is a misfit in the deepest sense of the word, unable to exercise the normal modes of interaction which bring the world closer. As she tries, and fails, to develop relationships with those around her she gradually unravels to heartbreaking and horrifying effect. This is the kind of movie that hinges on a single performance and Bettis is phenomenal. Whether May’s actions are clumsy, vindictive or ultimately deadly, Bettis never allows our sympathies to drift away. That she did not break out into greater success on the back of this performance is a tragedy.


Shadow of the Vampire

There are probably as many vampire films as there are Westerns, so popular is the genre, but ask anyone to name their favourite vampire flick and it’s unlikely that Shadow of the Vampire will be among many lists. That’s too bad because it gave a tired genre just what it needed; something a little different. Shadow of the Vampire is based on the actual production of Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau’s 1922 adaptation of Dracula, with one fictional element; Max Shreck, the actor who portrayed Count Orlock, is a vampire in real life and director Murnau is the only member of the crew who knows it. Willem Dafoe has a ball as the bald, rat-like Shreck and John Malkovich is at his lunatic best as the tyrannical filmmaker, allowing the vampire to consume expendable crew members, and promising him the leading lady at the end of filming in return for his co-operation. You are left in no doubt as to who the real monster is.


Veronica Guerin

Taking a break from producing big, dumb summer blockbusters, Jerry Bruckheimer got behind this true story of the Irish journalist murdered by drug dealers in 1996. Slated in some quarters on its release, and ultimately recouping just over half its budget, Veronica Guerin is still a deeply affecting piece of cinema. Cate Blanchett, in the titular role, and director Joel Schumacher, wisely avoid going the route of presenting Guerin as a two-dimensional ‘plucky’ heroine. Instead we see a whole person; an obstinate, driven, but morally laudable woman who pursues the truth even when it threatens her and her family’s safety. And yet, thanks to Blanchett’s usual great work, she remains noble, admirable and completely sympathetic. The performances from all concerned are first class, and it’s a credit to Schumacher that the final, tragic resolution loses none of its impact, despite the foreknowledge.


Wonder Boys

Coming off the success and acclaim of L.A. Confidential, journeyman director Curtis Hanson’s next project was a fantastic adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys. Charting one weekend in the complicated life of English Professor and novelist Grady Tripp, Hanson’s movie boasts a mouth-watering cast. Michael Douglas gives a career best performance as the pot smoking, crumpled writer, circumnavigating a multitude of woes in the midst of his faculty’s annual Wordfest convention. Tripp is juggling the exodus of his wife, the arrival of his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) who is keen to view the manuscript which Tripp cannot finish, the news that his girlfriend (Frances McDormand) is pregnant, the amorous attentions of one of his students (Katie Holmes) and the clingy depression of another (Tobey Maguire). Douglas is charming, witty and a lot of fun to be with, and so is Wonder Boys. A mystery, then, that the movie only managed a worldwide gross of two thirds its production budget.