Some of the greatest characters in literature are women and girls, but which ones are the very best? From the evil to the undeniably perfect, the always strong to those who those who never give up, these are the greatest female characters from literature of all genres. This list includes the best female characters of all ages, like the youthful girls Matilda (Matilda) and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) to the ever-so-adult Evelyn Couch (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). We're even ranking immortal female characters, like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings and the goddess Athena you read about in Greek mythology.
Why do female literary characters stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading the novels these characters are featured in? Often, it’s due to the intimacy with which readers have come to know a character. Jane Eyre (and all of her desires and feelings), for example, becomes so real to readers that they feel as if they’ve met and understood this amazing female character. So many people relate to fiery, independent Jo March that her marriage at the end of Little Women feels like a betrayal - something the 2019 film adaptation addresses head-on.
Other times, readers love female characters in literature because of the audacity of their actions. Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) was exceedingly bold for a woman of her time, while Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities) is an exemplar of tireless villainy. Some of the most popular female literary characters manage to embody both wholesome and defiant, becoming reflections of the complex nature of women.
For the wide range of personality traits we find in these great female characters (and the audacious actions they’ve performed), these women have earned their titles as the best female characters in literature. They may be young or old, charming or black-hearted, but they are all memorable. Whether you love them or love to hate them, all the famous fictional heroines are here in this list of the best female characters in literary history.
- 1Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which... more
500Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld
- 2Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.
1,366Alice in Wonderland
- 3Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.
- 4Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character,... more
- 5Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She... more
1,786Pride and Prejudice
- 6Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.
684Harry Potter Universe
- 7Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books... more
787Mary Poppins series
- 8Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.
- 9Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.
1,076To Kill a Mockingbird
- 10Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman... more
472Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
- 11Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most... more
1,214The Lord of the Rings
- 12Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She... more
3,035Harry Potter series
- 13Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by... more
659Anne of Green Gables
- 14Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.
1,140Harry Potter series
- 15Dorothy Gale is a fictional character and protagonist of many of the Oz novels by the American... more
766The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- 16Galadriel is a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, appearing in his Middle-earth legendarium.... more
820The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
394Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
- 18Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by... more
1,776The Hunger Games
- 19Molly Weasley (nￃﾩe Prewett) is a fictional character in the Harry Potter book series written... more
552Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
1,149A Song of Ice and FireGame of Thrones
- 21Arwen Undómiel is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. She appears in his... more
647The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- 22Arya Stark is a fictional character created by American author George R. R. Martin. She is a... more
1,211A Song of Ice and Fire
- 23Scarlett O'Hara is the central character in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind... more
1,199Gone with the Wind
- 25Nancy Drew is a fictional character from the 2011 film My Sucky Teen Romance.
594Nancy Drew series