Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games Series
We predict that in a few years college courses will be taught on the legacy of The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen. Feminists love her, young and old alike adore her, as she embodies all of the qualities of a true hero. Self-sacrifice, strength in the face of death, and there’s even a certain (albeit complicated) rags to riches aspect of her story. Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Suzanne Collins’ beloved character brought a unique femme figure to cinema – a young woman whose beauty and romantic interests played second (even third) fiddle to her other priorities. In a cinematic world filled with many a Bella Swan (no offense, Twihards) Katniss was a welcome and necessary addition to the young leading ladies in film.
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter Series
Emma Watson’s Hermione days are behind her now but Harry Potter fans watched her grow up on screen as the brilliant young witch whose fearlessness and dedication to her studies made her a huge asset to Harry and Ron. Functioning as the irreplaceable glue that kept everything and everyone together, Hermione was no sidekick. Without her amazingness, and her ability to do pretty much anything, there would have been no Harry Potter.
Mattie Ross, True Grit
Little Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld in the 2010 Coen Brothers film) was the definition of true grit. Out to avenge her father’s death, she teamed up with the meanest Marshal around and takes on the perils of the west with more courage than some of the grown men around her. Frighteningly precocious, Mattie is another character who was heralded by feminists and beloved by movie-goers and critics alike. Steinfeld received an Oscar nomination for her brilliant portrayal of the unforgettable character.
Hushpuppy, Beasts of the Southern Wild
A small film with a teeny little girl premiered in 2012 and practically took over the world. Quvenzhané Wallis was critically acclaimed (and also nominated for an Oscar — the youngest person ever) for her role as Hushpuppy, an independent, fierce ball of fire weathering life in the back woods, bayou community known as the Bathtub. Taking on the wrath of a storm, her father, and mythical beats, Hushpuppy was the unique heroine we’d all been waiting for, whether we knew it or not.
Mindy McCready/Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass Series
From the moment she uttered the line, “Okay you c-nts, let’s see what you can do now,” Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl became a crowd favorite. Her controversial role as the young superhero/assassin makes her different from some of the other characters on this list (she’s no role model, in the traditional sense), but her genuine badassery and love for both Clint Eastwood and Hello Kitty makes her one of our absolute favorite young heroines in film.