The Best Female Scientists in Film 

Ann Casano
Updated November 5, 2019 8.1k votes 1.1k voters 39.2k views 26 items

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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Ellie Sattler is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Scientists in Film
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

Is she a great character?
Dr. Eleanor Ann "El... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Scientists in Film
Photo: flickr/CC0
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

Is she a great character?
Dana Scully is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Scientists in Film
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY
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

Is she a great character?
Peggy Carter is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Scientists in Film
Photo:  Captain America: The First Avenger/Paramount Pictures
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

Is she a great character?