20 best sci-fi movies featuring women

14 of 21

8. Futurama

Yes, it’s true that Futurama is mostly known as a television show. The oft-cancelled and oft-resurrected animated sci-fi show is now truly done, but it’s so good that you’ll want to revisit it again and again. During its later years, the show even released a series of movie-length tales that, in a technical sense, keep this entry from being a total cheat.

But why am I so dedicated to defending myself? Because I really, really want to include the character of Turanga Leela.

Part of the strength of Futurama lay in its considerable ensemble cast. There was Fry, the 20th-century man transported to the year 3000 and given life by voice acting giant Billy West. West also provided the voices for Fry’s nephew, Professor Philip J. Farnsworth, the lobster-like failure Dr. Zoidberg, and the totally-not-a-Captain-Kirk-knockoff Zapp Brannigan. Phil LaMarr played dedicated bureaucrat Hermes Conrad, Lauren Tom was Amy Wong, and John DiMaggio played lovable old Bender.

Altogether, these characters interacted at Planet Express, the shipping company owned and operated by the elderly Dr. Farnsworth (while he’s not building doomsday devices, anyway). The single mostly-sensible one was Leela, the ship’s captain voiced by Katey Sagal.

Where Fry and Bender go on ill-advised adventures, Leela tries to make up for the general idiocy with her competency and serious piloting skills. Of course, she’s not exempt from her own personal foibles, including some truly bad romantic decisions involving the pompous Zapp Brannigan. Her mysterious past – is she an alien or a sewer-dwelling mutant? – leads to some surprisingly tender moments.

In fact, Leela is that rare science fiction character: a female protagonist who’s allowed to be vulnerable and funny all at the same time.