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!

  • Dr. Ellie Sattler
    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
    392 votes
  • 2
    291 VOTES
    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
    291 votes
  • Dr. Eleanor Ann "Ellie" Arroway
    Photo: flickr / CC0
    323 VOTES

    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
    323 votes
  • Dana Scully
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    366 VOTES
    Chris Carter made two The X-Files films following nine successful seasons on the small screen. The films brought back the FBI team of Scully and Mulder (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, respectfully) as they try to make sense of the unexplainable. For most of the show's arc, Scully was the skeptic, the medical doctor and pathologist, who never believed in aliens or anything paranormal. The agent eventually discovered that science can't explain everything - she had to learn how to believe.
    • Film: The X Files, The X Files 2
    • Actor: Gillian Anderson
    366 votes
  • 5
    332 VOTES
    Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) is a meteorologist in the 1996 special effects-filled movie, Twister. Harding and her team of storm chasers are willing to risk life and limb in order to study violent tornadoes, the same type of storm that killed her family when she was a young girl.
    • Film: Twister
    • Actor: Alexa Vega, Helen Hunt
    332 votes
  • Robby Keough
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    219 VOTES

    Robby Keough

    Robby Keough (Rene Russo) is a scientist who works for the Centers for Disease Control in the 1995 drama, Outbreak. Keough and her ex-husband Sam (Dustin Hoffman) must figure out how to stop a devastating and lethal monkey virus before it spreads to the United States.
    • Film: Outbreak
    • Actor: Rene Russo
    219 votes