Maybe we’re just still drunk on Frances McDormand’s rousing Oscar speech, but we’ve noticed something about 2018: There is an incredible number of awesome female heroes hitting screens. Some have already left their mark — see Black Panther‘s Dora Milaje — and a ton more are set to make an impact from this month through summer blockbuster season and right up to Christmas. We’ve got more women suiting up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the Wasp and our first look at Captain Marvel. And women getting their hands on the kind of action roles that used to go mostly to the boys, going to battle in movies like Predator and Annihilation. And we’ve got Bryce Dallas Howard finally kicking those damn heels aside. These female heroes are smart, courageous, and they kick serious ass. We can’t wait to see them at the movies.
Released January 12
She may not fly or wear a cape but Meryl Streep’s Katharine Graham is a kind of journalistic superhero in Spielberg’s The Post. Facing off against backward-looking suits (blam!) and patronizing advisers (kapow!), her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers stories is a move for the history books. Literally. Meryl hasn’t looked this tough battling bad guys since The River Wild.
Released January 12
OK, so the 26% Rotten movie that Mary found herself in was a bit of a letdown, especially after trailers that promised serious badassness and one of the coolest posters we’ve seen in a while. It was ultimately more drama than action flick. But Taraji P. Henson’s hitwoman still managed to throw down thrillingly, and the actress showed a steeliness and charisma that has us crossing our fingers for a (much better and more action-packed) sequel.
Released on Netflix February 4
There were few bright spots in this hyped-up Netflix fizzer, and one of them was Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Hamilton. In a better film, this tough, quick-thinking space-traveler might have been a new generation’s Ripley, or at least landed somewhere on par with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s gutsy Michelle from 10 Cloverfield Lane. If only she’d been given something to fight against other than the laws of logic.
Released February 16
These king protectors are already the year’s fiercest on-screen fighters and are going to seriously own the cosplay circuit come summer. Danai Gurira out-Michonnes herself as the general, Okoye, and demonstrates amazing wig-as-weaponry skills, while Florence Kasumba adds to her comic-book icon credentials (that’s her as one of Wonder Woman’s Amazons over in the DC Universe). After their reception in Black Panther, we can just hear the Infinity War editors hard at work cutting in more Okoye screen time.
We could have included any of the women who bravely head into the Shimmer, a world in which… let’s avoid any spoilers and just say weird s— happens. But it’s Lena who is our focus throughout the critically lauded sci-fi flick, and the person who comes equipped with military training (helpful when Portman is called upon to fire weapons that are almost as big as she is). Add this to a long list of action-icon roles for the Oscar-winning actress, which kicked off when she was just a tween in Léon.
Released March 2
From Mockingjay to Sparrow. Jennifer Lawrence reteamed with directed Frances Lawrence, who helmed her last three outings as Katniss Everdeen, to play this ballerina-turned spy. While the movie didn’t, erm, catch fire (it’s currently Rotten at 49%), critics and audiences singled out Lawrence for giving cinema another formidable, don’t-even-try-to-eff-with-me female lead.
Released March 9
The critics may be split on Ava DuVernay’s ambitious family fantasy flick — responses range from “beautiful and gripping” to “stiff” — but almost everyone who’s weighed in so far has said that Storm Reid soars as Meg Murry, the little girl whose search for her father centers the movie. Reid gives a star-making performance as the smart, resourceful, time-traveling teen who seems set to inspire a slew of moviegoers this March.
Released March 16
Lara Croft has been one of the defining female action heroines of our time — first in video games, then on screen. This time she’s on a mission to unlock the mystery of her long-lost father, and she comes in the form of Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander. No word on how the film stacks up against earlier efforts to bring Croft to the big screen, but trailers and clips suggest plenty of kicking, jumping, and raiding of tombs.
Released March 23
With the original Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro gave us a female action star to root for in Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori, who could monster-bash with the best of them. With the sequel, we get at least two women suiting up to fight the Kaiju threat. Spaeny, who plays a scrappy Rey-like character, is new to our screens, while some might recognize Arjona from the second season of True Detective.
Released March 30
Even some mega fans of Ernest Cline’s book admit that Parzival’s fixation on Art3mis, along with her overall character arc, has… let’s just say, some issues. But we’re putting our bets on some tweaks having been made to make this champion gunter more than just gamer boy’s trophy. And with the talented Olivia Cooke donning the OASIS headset, we’re making that bet a big one.
Released April 27
You know who doesn’t need fancy shields, iron suits, or magic hammers to take on Thanos? These women.
Released May 4
The notorious RBG finally gets a documentary. The film, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, was a breakout at Sundance this year, and traces the 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s decades-long career fighting injustice with a weapon as tough as any slab of vibranium: that incredible RBG mind.
Released May 11
“You broke into the wrong house,” says Gabrielle Union’s Shaun Russell in the trailer for Breaking In — and she’s not playing. Russell is a mom of two kids forced to fight back after a band of men break into the (very) high-tech house she’s staying in and take her children hostage. Cue the weaponized wine stem! Think Kevin McCallister meets Sarah Connor and you get the idea.
Released May 18
The Merc with a Mouth’s much-loved frenemy made her comic-book debut in X-Force #8, though she had appeared (in a form assumed by Copycat) earlier. Confusing? Kinda, but don’t stress: All you need to know is that she has a very cool power, is played by Atlanta’s scene-stealing Zazie Beetz, and the publicity image of her lying on a Deadpool rug is already iconic.
Released May 25
Not a whole lot is known about Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra, but if she follows in the footsteps of recent British brunettes in Star Wars movies, it’s a safe bet she knows her way around a blaster. We do know that she grew up with Han, a detail that Clarke — who’s racked up action cred playing both Sarah Connor and Daenerys Targaryen — revealed to Entertainment Weekly. “If you have got a really glamorous lady in a really sordid environment, you kind of know that maybe the glamor is hiding a few rough roads,” she added.
Released June 8
Danny Ocean’s sister, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), enlists an army of A-listers to pull off a heist at the Met Ball. Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Akwafina, and Anne Hathaway make up the rest of the crew — and your new #squadgoals.
Released June 15
To go by the first trailer for Incredibles 2, Helen Parr has stepped well away from the kitchen. That’s her riding a train and chasing down a baddie on a motorbike while Mr. Elastigirl — sorry, Mr. Incredible — is stuck at home looking after a multitalented Jack-Jack.
Released June 22
Those heels that had everyone up in arms three years ago? They’ve been fed to raptors. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing returns for round two on Isla Nublar firing rifles, riding jeeps, and — crucially — wearing a sensible pair of boots.
Released July 6
Wings and blasters: Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp is not just a partner to Ant-Man, she’s an upgrade. And if the trailer is anything to go by, she might have the movie’s best scene (riding on a knife’s edge is a singular talent). The Wasp and Ant-Man face off against a female villain this time, with Hannah John-Kamen playing Ghost.
Released September 14
Olivia Munn, who was criminally underused in X-Men: Apocalypse, plays a scientist in director Shane Black’s Predator reboot, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be getting in on the alien-fighting action. The actress told Men’s Fitness that Bracket “knows how to use a weapon… I didn’t want her to be a soldier, but there’s no reason why she wouldn’t know how. Shane and I were on the same page about that immediately.”
Released October 19
The original scream queen — or, if you’re a purist, the daughter of the woman who rightly holds that title — returns to face her knife-wielding brother one more time. This new Halloween movie ignores all of the sequels, including the one in which Laurie was killed. Judy Greer will join Curtis as Karen Strode, presumably the daughter of slasherdom’s ultimate final girl. No doubt she’s inherited mom’s wire-hanger skills.
Released November 2
Fans of the X-Men comics and animated series will finally get what they’ve been waiting for: a treatment of the Dark Phoenix saga that doesn’t take a dump over all of their hopes and expectations. At least, that’s what we’re hoping for as Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner steps into the role of Jean Grey and her destructive alter-ego, Dark Phoenix.
Released December 25
So, she doesn’t kick ass so much as she she kicks common colds, but we’re still pumped to see the return of the magical nanny to the big screen. Some of Emily Blunt’s best work — including the Certified Fresh Sicario, Looper, and Edge of Tomorrow — has made her something of a latter-day Linda Hamilton, and we think she might bring a bit of steel, along with sugar, to the role.