The 15 Best Female TV Characters of The Modern Day

The 15 Best Female TV Characters of The Modern Day

Daenerys Targaryen

I watch way too much television when I should be doing a million other different things. However, by watching so much TV and so many different shows, I do get to see, in my opinion, a lot of amazing female TV characters. From prestige dramas like Mad Men and Game of Thrones to more female-oriented high school shows like Glee and The O.C. to little-watched gems like Orphan Black and Chuck, there and have been some amazing female TV characters over the past couple of decades.

Here’s who I think are the 15 best female TV characters of the modern day. I’m sorry if I left any great characters from the ’60s, ’70s, or even ’80s off this list. No worries though, we’ll have an all-time list eventually.

Felicity Smoak (Arrow)

I have to ask, what is there to not love about Felicity? She’s super intelligent, awkwardly funny, incredibly gorgeous, and, most importantly, fiercely strong. Week in and week out on Arrow, even if she doesn’t find her way into the middle of the action physically, she helps save the day by using her excellent computer skills or by using her words to encourage Oliver and Diggle. The two of them need her to make them stronger, and luckily, as one of the best female characters on TV right now, she’s got a little bit of extra strength to share with them.

Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World)

Topanga Lawrence was one of my first ever TV crushes, and it wasn’t solely based on her looks (which are also amazing, by the way). No, Topanga’s smart and loyal, and the relationship that she was able to have with Cory showed me that there’s more to romance than just finding the guy or girl that you think is hot. It’s about honesty and dedication and understanding, and Topanga, whether she was struggling with her parents’ divorce, helping out a friend, or trying to find a way to deal with that long walk to Pittsburgh, always remained true to herself and did the best that she could do.

Rachel Berry (Glee)

Most people find or have found the character of Rachel Berry on Glee to be pretty insufferable. For me, on other hand, she’s been my favorite character since the first season of the show. Sure, Rachel’s confident, determined, and sometimes even a little arrogant, but that’s because, for the longest time, her talent has been the only way that she could define herself. Her entire story arc on Glee, since the show’s very first episode, has been Rachel discovering that she can find love (either through her relationship with Finn or the many friendships that she’s made with members of the glee club) and still have her career as well. It’s all been about her becoming the best, most fully realized version of herself, and it’s an arc that easily makes her one of the best female characters on TV in my opinion.

Sarah Walker (Chuck)

A tough, gorgeous, and intimidating CIA agent – that alone would be enough to earn her a spot on this list. But that’s not all Sarah Walker is. Similar to Rachel from Glee, Sarah’s journey throughout much of Chuck is about finding love and family through this person that she never expected to meet in her life. Through her relationship with Chuck, Sarah not only finds a partner, a person she can spend the entire rest of her life with, but she finds a key to unlock the parts of her heart and soul that she’s been afraid to show for so long. By meeting each other and falling in love, both Chuck and Sarah saved each other, and that’s what makes their love story so powerful and allows for Sarah to become the best possible version of herself: tough, strong, and protective but also caring, thoughtful, and kind.

Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)

Daenerys Targaryen isn’t simply one of the best characters on Game of Thrones. She’s most definitely one of the best female characters on TV right now. If you want to talk about strength, independence, and power, Dany is the epitome of it, going from a sold bride in an arranged marriage in season one to a leader of thousands by season four. And even though she must make ruthless decisions during incredibly difficult times, Dany also does her best to be a queen for the people, someone who frees slaves and tries to ensure that all individuals she comes across have better lives. Whether you call her “The Mother of Dragons” or “The Breaker of Chains,” or one of the other fifty new titles she has, there’s only fitting word that describes Danerys Targaryen to me: awesome.

Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)

Cersei Lannister may be cruel, vindictive, and heartless on numerous occasions throughout Game of Thrones‘ first four seasons, but that’s what makes her so great. Cersei lands a spot on this list not because she’s likable or someone you want to root for her. She’s on this list because when she walks into a room on Game of Thrones, she commands attention. When she speaks, you’re eager to listen. And because when no matter whether you consider yourself a supporter of the Starks, the Tyrells, or even House Hodor, you find yourself captivated by the actions of Cersei Lannister, no matter how evil those actions are.

Annie Edison (Community)

Here’s what I love about Annie Edison: she’s at times youthful, bashful, and innocent, but no matter what, I know that she’s always the smartest person in the room, even if she may be the youngest in the study group on Community. Actually, what makes such a great character doesn’t even come so much from the stellar writing that can be found throughout the majority of Community‘s episodes. It’s all about Alison Brie’s performance. She injects any with such an optimism and positivity, but (and perhaps it’s just the fact that Brie is a few years older than her character), this attitude never comes off as naivety. Annie understands that the world can be a really crappy place, but that never stops her from striving for the best and wanting the best for people. That’s what makes her one of TV’s best female characters.

Olivia Dunham (Fringe)

Both Olivia Dunhams, from both parallel universes in Fringe (yeah, that’s right, parallel universes – this show was sci-fi at its best), are fantastic in so many different ways. The original Olivia is, at first, closed off and emotionally isolated before she meets Peter, Walter, and Astrid and finds a family with them. And throughout Fringe‘s run, Olivia becomes a true hero for not just her friends and family but for the world. The parallel universe’s Olivia (or Fauxlivia, Bolivia, or Altivia, as she is referred to by different people within the Fringe fandom), on the other hand, is spunky and laughs a lot and is much more spontaneous (while also still being quite heroic herself). The two of them together create an incredibly fun contrast, but even on their own, both of these women deserve spots on this list.

Sarah Manning & the rest of the clones (Orphan Black)

Going from copies of people in parallel universe to clones of people in just one universe should provide for an easy transition. In Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany (who was robbed of an Emmy nomination yesterday) plays over a half dozen different clones, and any one of them could be the center of their own show their so great. The main focus of Orphan Black is the awesome Sarah Manning, a British scammer turned survivalist, who does everything she can to protect her daughter. However, so many of her clones, especially uptight soccer mom Alison (pictured above) and weed-smoking scientist Cosima are just as fun and fascinating to watch. That’s the best thing about Orphan Black. It doesn’t simply provide one amazing female character – it gives you several.

Peggy Olson (Mad Men)

Many people think Mad Men is great simply because of Don Draper, but the women on the show are just as, if not more important sometimes, than the series’ leading man. The best one? Easily Peggy Olson, Don’s initial secretary turned protege, who in the most recent finale, has officially stepped into her mentor’s shoes and not just filled them but then asked for her own pair. Peggy’s rise to success throughout Mad Men has been a treat to watch, and it certainly makes her deserving of a spot on this list.

Summer Roberts (The O.C.)

In four seasons of pretty awesome character development, Summer Roberts went from being a ditzy and mean California girl stereotype and evolved into a smart, passionate, and caring woman, all the while never losing her hilariously snarky attitude. Summer makes this list because she not only surpassed expectations as a character but subverted them. On The O.C., she was able to be the California babe who tanned and read Us Weekly all the time, but she was also able to get into Brown and fall for the comic-booking loving nerd and, at the series end, as Seth Cohen puts it so perfectly, “go save the world.”

Debra Morgan (Dexter)

Deb is a character that has received a lot of flack from some Dexter fans but I always loved her. She was good at her job (well, better than anyone else at Miami Metro at least) and cursed a lot, and even if she did get distracted by one-too-many boyfriends over the show’s run, it still never stopped her from being her brother’s best friend, always caring about him and supporting him, even after she discovered about his “Dark Passenger.” And hey, if somehow finding out and then dealing with the fact that your brother is a serial killer doesn’t make you a great character, then what does?

Lois Lane (Smallville)

Even though some may say that Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane deserves this spot, I’ve got to give it to Erica Durance’s portrayal of the iconic Daily Planet reporter on Smallville, which is, in my opinion, still the best version of Lois Lane I’ve ever seen, period. Durance’s Lois is a smart-mouthed, tough-as-nails, and ridiculously dedicated woman. She’s also fiercely loyal to Clark and her friends and is a “super” (ha, get it?) reporter. Plus, Lois is just such a fun character. I don’t understand how anyone can’t like her.

Jess Day (New Girl)

Even though Jess’s behavior during the first half of New Girl‘s first season may have been too much for some people, the writers have really found a grasp on the character since then. Jess still sings to herself, of course, and wears those too-big-for-her-face glasses. However, she’s also much more adult now and less like a a 13-year-old trapped in the body of someone in their early thirties. She’s compassionate, dedicated to her job, and a truly loving best friend. The best thing about Jess is, despite New Girl‘s sitcom antics, she remains real, a type of girl that women can relate to and one that guys (like myself) wish we could date.

Juliet Burke (Lost)

There may be a good deal of debate about who the best female character on Lost was but for my money, it’s got to be Juliet. At times mysterious and unnerving, while at others heartbreaking and relatable, Juliet was a character that got to show off a lot of different sides throughout Lost‘s six seasons. However, one thing about her that always remains consistent, whether on the island, in flashbacks, or even in those flash-sideways from season six, is her dedication and determination, whether it’s found in her relationships or in her goals as a doctor or in her attempts to get the heck off the island. Juliet plays a lot of different roles throughout Lost‘s run but not a single one of them ever makes her appear weak.

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