The Look: A ropy physique honed by chin-ups and commando training.
Feats of Brilliance: Crushes one terminator in a hydraulic press, drops another into a molten pool.
What She Teaches Us: To escape a mental ward, all you need are paperclips, hypodermic needles, and a few hostages.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Aliens (1986)
The Look: A child under one arm, a submachine gun under the other.
Feats of Brilliance: Vanquishes an entire colony of psychotic aliens while protecting an orphaned girl.
What She Teaches Us: Fighters make great mothers (and vice versa).
Lornette "Mace" Mason (Angela Bassett) in Strange Days (1995)
The Look: Braids, tailored suits, and Hamilton-worthy biceps.
Feats of Brilliance: Disposes of thugs and navigates L.A. traffic without breaking a sweat as chauffeur-bodyguard to a sleazy virtual-reality merchant.
What She Teaches Us: Living in a fantasy world isn't living at all.
Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in Titanic (1997)
The Look: An upper-crust beauty in beaded silk—and boy, can she wield an ax.
Feats of Brilliance: Breaks handcuffs with aforementioned ax; survives sinking without a lifeboat; steams up a Renault with Leo DiCaprio.
What She Teaches Us: How to defy class boundaries and hypothermia in the name of love.
Next: Get the scoop on director Rob Marshall's starry new musical