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The Best Female Scientists in Film

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word scientist? It's most likely an intelligent type wearing a white lab coat with round-rimmed glasses. And more than likely, you see the scientist as a male. Scientists in film and movies are typically no different than the character type you have in your head. However, sometimes the script calls for a slight spin on archetype. These are the best female scientists in film.

Several different areas of science are represented on this list. There are anthropologists, forensic specialists, astrophysicists, biologists, archeologists, astrobiologists, and meteorologists. Some of the females on this list are real people, like Dian Fossey (Gorillas in the Mist), who risked her life in order to save a rare species of mountain gorillas in Africa. Clara McMillen (Kinsey), a biologist, aided her husband’s ground-breaking research that ultimately linked science and sexual behavior.

Most of the female characters on this list are fictional and their roles as scientists play a vital part in the narratives of the films they are in. Sure, everyone thinks of Peter Parker when The Amazing Spider-Man is mentioned. But what about Gwen Stacey? Without Stacey, Spider-Man could not have stopped Dr. Connors, and the fine people of New York City would have been turned into human lizards.

It doesn’t matter whether these female scientists are trying to contact aliens or find the cure for a deadly monkey virus. Their dedication and intelligence is apparent all over the silver screen. Be sure to upvote your favorite female scientists movie characters below!
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  • Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is a paleobotanist; her character appeared in the first Jurassic Park film, and also Jurassic Park III. Thanks to Ellie's athleticism, she is able to survive several dinosaur attacks, and ultimately help others survive as well. Dr. Sattler respects nature and has a vast knowledge of dinosaur and plant life.
    • Film: Jurassic Park III, Jurassic Park
    • Actor: Laura Dern
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  • Peggy Carter is, of course, Steve Roger's main squeeze. However, her role in the Captain America universe is vital. The English soldier is an officer with Strategic Scientific Reserve. Hayley Atwell, who plays Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, describes her character's traits and relationship with Captain America saying, "I likened her character to that famous Ginger Rogers quote. She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels. She's an English soldier through and through, although she always looks fabulous. She might stand there with a machine-gun shooting Nazis, but she's obviously gone to the loo beforehand and applied a bit of lipstick. She doesn't need to be rescued. That's exciting to me her strength. I think she's quite stubborn, a slightly frustrated woman who struggles with being a woman in that time."
    • Film: Captain America: The First Avenger
    • Actor: Hayley Atwell
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  • Photo: flickr / CC0
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    Dr. Eleanor Ann "Ellie" Arroway

    Dr. Arroway (Jodie Foster) is an astrophysicist in search of extraterrestrial life in the spectacular sci-fi drama Contact. She makes contact with aliens and convinces the government to build a machine based on plans sent by the extraterrestrials. Arroway is obviously brilliant, but she is also passionate about her science and willing to risk her life to travel in the machine.
    • Film: Contact
    • Actor: Jena Malone, Jodie Foster
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  • The 1998 film tells the true story of scientist Dian Fossey's (Sigourney Weaver) African journey studying the disappearing rare species of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Gorillas in the Mist was nominated for five Academy Awards, and Weaver received a nod for Best Actress. Fossey became a champion for the gorillas, putting her life at risk to protect them from poachers and possible extinction.
    • Film: Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey
    • Actor: Sigourney Weaver
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