How Popular Female Characters Changed Over The Years

Sarah Connor

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor is seen throughout much of the Terminator series. And though the likes of Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey have also played the same role in some of the entries of the franchise, Hamilton has ultimately remained the face of Sarah Connor, starting from the original movie in 1984 up until the sequel Terminator: Dark Fate in 2019.

Wonder Woman

Technically speaking, the first live-action appearance of Wonder Woman was the 5-minute-long 1967 TV pilot short film titled Wonder Woman: Who’s Afraid of Diana Prince? starring Ellie Wood Walker. Then there was the 1974 full-length live-action movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby. Neither of the two were deemed comic-book-accurate, leading to a bad reception by the public.

However, then came the 1975–1979 Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, who many of us remember fondly as the face of the iconic superwoman.

Today, the most recent incarnation of Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot, having starred in the 2020 movie titled Wonder Woman 1984. However, there’s a 2021 movie already complete—Justice Society: World War II—where the role of Wonder Woman is played by Stana Katic, but Gal Gadot is set to appear in three other movies in the next 3 years, one of which is currently complete, so it’s quite likely that she’ll keep the title of Wonder Woman for now.

Mary Poppins


Mary Poppins is probably the world’s most famous nanny, right there with Mrs. Doubtfire and Vin Diesel in that one movie.

Anyway, the first Mary Poppins movie (musical, in fact) was released in 1964 and it took the world by storm. This Walt Disney classic is based on P. L. Travers’s book series of the same name.

Now, there are only two movies out there, but there have been loads of plays and musicals based on it as well. So, the 1964 iteration, starring Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, was the only movie out there for quite a while until 2018, when Disney released an official sequel titled Mary Poppins Returns. There was a plan to reprise Andrews in this movie as well, but it didn’t work out, so Emily Blunt took on the role.

Also, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Laurie Strode

Halloween is one of the most iconic horror movie franchises in film history, right there alongside its ‘little brother’ Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, and Hellraiser.

But, did you know that ever since the first movie in 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis has always played the film’s protagonist Laurie Strode? With the exception of 2007’s Halloween, which is dubbed Rob Zombie’s Halloween where Laurie is played by Scout Taylor-Compton, she has been and continues to be Laurie Strode right up until the recently announced Halloween Ends due 2022.

Michael Myers, on the other hand, had different stunt doubles, different young and adult actors, and even different actors play him depending whether he’s masked or not.

Jeanne d’Arc


Also known as Joan of Arc, the historical female figure has been imagined and reimagined on the screen multiple times by multiple actresses throughout the years.

Jeanne d’Arc films have been gracing the world as early as 1898 with the release of the short film Execution of Joan of Arc, where it’s unknown who played the role of Jeanne, followed by another short film, Joan of Arc from 1900, where she’s played by French film actress Jehanne D’Alcy. Others, like Maria Falconetti (1928), Ingrid Bergman (1948), and Milla Jovovich (1999) have also taken on the role, with the most recent being Lise Leplat Prudhomme in 2019’s Joan of Arc. Yeah, she does look super young, but remember that Jeanne herself is estimated to have been around 17 when she took part in battles and around 19 when she died.

Selene

Depending on who you ask, the average lifespan of a vampire can vary from hundreds to thousands to infinity years. Well, when it comes to the Underworld franchise, the same applies to Kate Beckinsale, the face of the series’ protagonist Selena.

Sure, 13 years between the first and fifth films do show a minimal difference in what Beckinsale looks like—it’s only natural—but otherwise, she’s the only immortal face of Selena in the live-action films.

There are talks of a 6th movie coming out. Back in 2017, the creator of the franchise Len Wiseman said Beckinsale will be coming back as Selena for this one too, but a year later, Beckinsale herself said she won’t as she has done so many already, so it is yet to be determined.

Eva Ernst, The Grand High Witch

Eva Ernst, better known as the Grand High Witch, from Roald Dahl’s famous 1983 fantasy novel The Witches, is the main antagonist in the book, and was portrayed by two people across two films: by Anjelica Huston in the 1990 adaptation, and Anne Hathaway in the 2020 iteration, both of the same name and based on this same novel. Besides the films, Eva was also portrayed by Tora Augestad in the opera version, and voiced by Amanda Laurence in the radio drama version.

Cruella De Vil

Cruella is one of the most well-known Disney villains out there. But before she became a Disney villain, she was an antagonist in Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. It was five years later that she became a key figure in the Disney Universe.

Even though her first visual appearance was the animated adaptation of the novel back in 1961, the first live-action actress to take on the role was Glenn Close in 1996. Since then, the likes of Wendy Raquel Robinson and Victoria Smurfit been chosen to portray Cruella in the movie Descendants (2015) and the fourth and fifth seasons of Once Upon a Time (2011-2018) respectively, it seems that Close will not return to play the role any time soon as the upcoming (currently due 2021) live-action film Cruella, which will be detailing Cruella’s backstory, has will have Emma Stone take the lead as the antagonist.

Carrie White

Carrie may be a comparatively modest horror movie franchise, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, but a significant one to have left its mark in film history. The series’ protagonist Carrie White was portrayed by Sissy Spacek in the 1976 original and its 1999 sequel. Then in 2002, Angela Bettis got the role for the 2002 re-imagining of the novel, and in the latest film from 2013, Chloë Grace Moretz was cast to play the film’s and novel’s namesake.

Lara Croft

This one’s a bit of a double whammy. Lara Croft was first a video game character, not a movie personality, but in both the games and the movies, she has changed. In the games, it was partly a natural progression of computer graphics, but the change was a bit more drastic in the tenth title in the series in 2013. The same happened in the movies: Angelina Jolie kicked it off in 2001’s Tomb Raider and continued in 2003’s The Cradle Of Life, and Alicia Vikander took over the role in 2018’s reboot.

Irene Adler

Being a long-lasting and legendary franchise, the Sherlock Holmes films and series have seen numerous changes in all regards. One of the more significant ones is the wide variety of actresses who played Irene Adler. Adler was only mentioned in one original story by Arthur Conan Doyle, but has become one of the most notable characters in the Sherlock Holmes series.

Now, seemingly the first possible visual representation of Adler was back in ca. 1882, particularly of actress Lillie Langtry, but the first credited appearance of Irene Adler in film history was actually in 1921’s A Scandal in Bohemia, where she was played by Joan Beverley. Sadly, the earliest picture that we could find was of Larisa Solovyova’s Adler from 1983’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Treasures of Agra TV mini series, but even there, we see a stark contrast in how it was and how it is.

As mentioned, many women were in this role: besides the ones mentioned previously, there were also lga Edwardes, Liliana Komorowska, Anne Baxter, Morgan Fairchild, Charlotte Rampling, Anna Chancellor, Rachel McAdams, and many more. The latest live-action incarnation of Adler is Natalie Dormer in Elementary (2012-2019).

Margaret “Meg” March

Little Women has a bit of an interesting history to it. Originally appearing as a two-volume book written by Louisa May Alcott, the book was adapted into a silent drama film in 1918, which is today deemed lost—no longer known to exist in any archives or personal collections. In the 1918 version, Isabel Lamon played the role of Meg.

The earliest available Little Women film by default is the 1933 adaptation of the same name, where Meg is played by Frances Dee. Two other films came after this, one in 1949 and the other in 1994, where the role of Meg was played by Janet Leigh and Trini Alvarado respectively. The most recent one from 2019 starred Emma Watson as Meg.

April O’Neill

Fun Fact: April made her debut as a computer programmer in the 1984 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, but was later portrayed as a news reporter in the 1987 animated series of the same name. Talk about consistency!

It wasn’t until 1990 that the franchise got a movie adaptation. April was first portrayed by Judith Hoag, but just a year later, The Secret Of Ooze came out and Paige Turco took over, which was also the case for Turtles In Time in 1993. After quite a while—in 2014—April made her next physical appearance, played by Megan Fox, who was also cast in the 2016 Out Of The Shadows sequel.

Miss Moneypenny

Everyone who is familiar with James Bond is bound to know Ms. Moneypenny. If not under this exact name, then at least under the names Eve or Jane—cause, you know, spy movies.

Anyway, throughout the years, several different actresses have taken on playing Moneypenny, starting with Lois Maxwell, who played the secretary in Dr. No from 1962. She’s actually made over 15 appearances as Moneypenny in various Bond movies between 1962 and 1985 and is considered the iconic face of the character.

Today, Naomie Harris has taken over as Ms. Moneypenny, having done so as early as 2012 for the movie Bond movie Skyfall, but has also voiced the character for the video game 007 Legends. In 2021, she will appear in No Time To Die.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra is another one of those female personalities that have many incarnations in film. And it’s not just films dedicated solely to her, but also films that include Cleopatra into the plot, like Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002).

Throughout history, she has been portrayed by a number of actresses, including Claudette Colbert, María Antonieta Pons, Loray White, Janet Suzman, Helen Gardner, Anna Valle, Alessandra Negrini, Theda Bara, Vivien Leigh, Leonor Varela, and many more. Cleopatra’s earliest credited appearance in film was in 1912, played by actress Helen Gardner, while the most recent ones are by Alessandra Negrini and Lyndsey Marshal in 2007.

Princess Diana

There are at least 40 unique movies about the British Royal Family out there, making it one of the most popular royals in the industry. And though Queen Elizabeth II has been the highlight of many of them, there is a surprising amount of movies about Princess Diana, whether it is about life or her death.

Catherine Oxenberg is one of the earliest to play Princess Diana in the biographical drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana from 1982. Many actresses have taken on the role of Princess Diana since then, including Caroline Bliss, Genevieve O’Reilly, Julie Cox, and Naomi Watts, among many others. And quite surprisingly, all of them looked just like the real person!

Emma Corrin is one of the most recent actresses to play the late Princess in the Netflix Original The Crown, but Elizabeth Debicki has been cast in the show and will take over in 2022. Kristen Stewart is also reported to play Princess Diana in the upcoming movie Spencer, which doesn’t yet have a release date, but is said to be in the filming stage.

Wicked Witch Of The West

The Wizard Of Oz franchise was first and foremost a children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum, that quickly became a cultural phenomenon that has spawned many movies, series, animations, comics, theater plays, and much, much more.

And though a lot of things have changed over the 120-plus years of its existence, one of the key characters who has changed the most is the Wicked Witch. Not only did the witch have a different name in many of the live-action adaptations, but the look has also undergone some drastic changes.

Starting in 1910’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Witch (named Momba) looked like a traditional witch. This continued throughout much of the series, including the famed 1939 The Wizard Of Oz adaptation where the Witch, now named Bastinda, is seen being green. Me green, me mean, right?

Well, all of that was completely revamped in the 2017 drama series Emerald City, where the Wicked Witch of the West (appropriately named West) now has no green skin and is quite a dark and grim-looking character in general, making for one of the most drastic transformations in film history.

Alice

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a timeless classic that much of the world knows about—it has been translated into over 170 different languages, after all. And adaptations to other various media soon followed.

Alice first hit the screen in 1903 with the release of British silent film Alice In Wonderland, which starred May Clark, an actress turned cinematographer, as Alice. Throughout the years, the number of adaptations grew, reaching over 40 different live action and animated films and miniseries, and even a ballet!

The most recent manifestation of Alice is the fantasy drama from 2020 called Come Away. It isn’t an Alice in Wonderland film strictly speaking, but rather an homage to Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland. Regardless, Alice is there and she is played by Keira Chansa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *