Picking the 25 best television roles for women wasn’t easy. Television has been around for long enough that women have played thousands of characters ranging from presidents to gods, mothers to strippers, aliens to stripper aliens and pretty much everything in between. In devising this list, we wanted to choose women we admired, or who were pioneers (not literally, sorry Ma Ingalls), or had stories that stuck with you for years. The female characters who ended up on the list come from the Upper East Side, California, Baltimore, distant futures, and other worlds. These women are strong, sassy, determined, ambitious. They were trailblazers for women both on television and off. They tackled hot-button issues head on and changed the course of national political conversations by virtue of plot lines on their shows. These women range from savvy to devilish to forthright and true. They were career women, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, leaders, cheerleaders, and some of them were just having more fun than anyone else in the room. They are the women we would like to be, or the women we would just like to get a drink with sometime, and, in some cases, the women we wouldn’t want to be caught with alone in a room. In short, these are the 25 best characters played by women on television:
25. Jaime Sommers from “The Bionic Woman”
Played by Lindsay Wagner, the Bionic Woman was crafted by the same team who brought us Steve Austin a.k.a. “The Six Million Dollar Man”. Austin begged his boss to save his critically-injured girlfriend after she was hurt in a skydiving accident immediately after their engagement. The result was a woman stronger, faster, and with better hearing than almost anyone on earth. The cost? Amnesia and a job as an agent for a branch of the CIA. She and her bionic dog, Maximillion, fought crime, including the FemBots, and saved the world over and over again.
24. Captain Kathryn Janeway on “Star Trek: Voyager”
Played by Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway was the first woman to helm a Star Trek series and she did it with skill and grace. (Think less Kirk, more Jean-Luc Picard.) As captain of the Starfleet starship USS Voyager, Janeway faced life or death decisions almost daily and faced down such adversaries as The Borg and the Q Continuum with fearless resilience. She was so good at her job that she eventually rose to the rank of Admiral in the film, “Star Trek: Nemesis.”
23. Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl”
Played by Leighton Meester, Blair is the Upper East Side’s resident Queen Bee. She’s a schemer, a dreamer, and always knows everyone’s business. No one would ever mistake her for nice, but everyone wants to be her friend. She is an unapologetic fashion plate with a big brain under all that shiny hair. She has no tolerance for anyone not up to her standards, which is most of the world.
22. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from “The Wire”
Played by a woman of the same name, Snoop was an enforcer for Marlo Stanfield’s drug ring. The only girl in the crew, Snoop was fearsome as a street tough soldier with no fear of getting her hands dirty. Horror master Stephen King called her character “perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series.”
21. Patsy Stone from “Absolutely Fabulous”
Played by Joanna Lumley, Patsy was always having more fun than anyone else. She claimed to have blocked out everything before 1968, but her life since then was filled with modeling jobs, time spent as a Bond girl, and harassing Saffron, her best friend Edina’s dour daughter. Adamantly immature, firmly alcoholic, and devastatingly fashion forward and fad obsessed, Patsy is no role model, but you definitely want her at your party. Propped against a wall perhaps. Word is that new episodes of the show are in production, which is ab fab, because the more Patsy, the better.
20. Angela Chase from “My So-Called Life”
Played by Claire Danes, Angela was very much a regular high school girl. As she entered adolescence, she struggled to find her own identity, leaving her old best friend for new ones and pulling away from her parents as she took tentative steps toward adulthood. Of course, there was a boy, Jordan Catalano, who Angela desperately wanted to notice her. The emotional ups and downs of the slow crawl to adulthood were narrated by Angela, which created one of the most painfully emotionally honest portrayals of adolescence ever.