Pixar's 15 Best Female Characters

Inside Out stands out among the Pixar stable for a number of reasons, and one of those is its emphasis on female characters. The two main characters, Joy and Sadness, are both female. So is Riley, the 12-year-old kid in whose mind the whole film takes place. That's quite a welcome change of pace from Pixar, which didn't get its first female lead until 2012's Brave — its 13th film.

But that's not to say Pixar didn't have great female characters before that. Though they're typically relegated to supporting roles, sharp women and interesting girls have always been part of the Pixar canon. To celebrate the studio's new girl-driven film, here's a look back at some of their most memorable ladies. 

Kevin (Up)15. Kevin (Up)

Kevin inadvertently sets the second half of Up in motion, and it's no wonder everyone wants a piece of her. With her bright and colorful feathers, Kevin might be the prettiest character Pixar has ever created. With her mischievous and playful personality, she's definitely one of the most adorable. And let's not forget she's actually a great mom — everything she does, she does for her chicks.

Dot (A Bug's Life)14. Dot (A Bug's Life)

Even though A Bug's Life isn't one of the more revered films in Pixar's library, this little sister of royalty makes her mark. Dot is a feisty little ant who isn't afraid to tumble with the boys, and she never stops trying to fly with her tiny little wings. She's determined, adorable, and it's impossible not to laugh when she stands up to the creepy leashed grasshopper and smacks him until he runs away.

Boo (Monsters Inc)13. Boo (Monsters Inc.)

As far as toddlers go, Boo's pretty damn brave. While other kids her age are cowering in fear of monsters, Boo's alternately terrifying them and winning them over. The only monster that actually frightens her is Randall — and she's eventually able to give him what he deserves, beating him silly with a baseball bat when he threatens her precious "Kitty." While we never get to see what becomes of Boo as she ages, we'd put our money on this bold soul having a fascinating life.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY12. Dean Hardscrabble (Monsters University)

What scares the Scarers? For the students of Monsters University, it's Dean Hardscrabble, and it's not hard to see why. This elegant, almost regal figure is a legendary Scarer in her own right, and she runs the program with a firm hand. She refuses to tolerate mediocrity or bad behavior, but she's fair enough to offer second chances when they're deserved. In her very first appearance, she tells the awestruck students that "scariness is the true measure of a monster." By her own logic, she's one of the greatest monsters in all the land.


It takes EVE a little while to warm up. In fact, she's downright hostile when she encounters WALL-E for the first time. In time, though, she's able to show her true colors as a curious and friendly robot. And with some guidance from WALL-E, she discovers she can even be loving and heroic. Ultimately, she's able to return the favor by bringing WALL-E back to his true self when he loses his personality. Who would have guessed two robots would be at the heart of one of Pixar's most romantic tales?

Merida (Brave)10. Merida (Brave)

Simply by virtue of being Pixar's first female protagonist, Merida had a lot riding on her shoulders. Fortunately for Pixar, as well as for little girls everywhere, this gutsy princess was up to the task. Merida insisted on doing things her way, refusing to accept convention for its own sake. Yet she also proved wise and kind enough to know when to set aside her own self-interest. Plus, she might be one of the few figures in all of pop culture who could give Katniss and Hawkeye a run for their money in an archery contest.

Colette (Ratatouille)9. Colette Tatou (Ratatouille)

Colette is the quintessential woman in a man's world, and she's all too aware of that fact. As she explains, "haute cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules set down by stupid old men, rules designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world." Yet she's been able to snag a prestigious gig at Gusteau's because, she tells Linguini, she's "the toughest cook in the kitchen." Tough, that is, but not heartless. While Colette isn't afraid to assert herself (much to Remy and Linguini's admiration), she's also a loyal friend who lives by Gusteau's notion that "anyone can cook."

INSIDE OUT8. Joy (Inside Out)

There are five emotions at work in Riley's mind, but Joy is the one who really runs the show. Her Leslie Knope-esque competence and can-do spirit make her a natural leader — just the kind of gal you'd want by your side in a crisis. That's true even if you're not besties, as Sadness learns in their travels together. Joy tries to see the best in everyone and make the world a happier place, and she succeeds just by being her own sweet, smart, understanding self.

Roz (Monsters Inc)7. Roz (Monsters Inc.)

Don't be fooled by her unassuming appearance — Roz is one tough cookie. She's not swayed by sweet talk, she makes no apologies about closing the office on time, and she refuses to suffer fools who can't turn in their goddamn paperwork in a timely fashion. In retrospect, maybe it's not such a surprise when she's revealed as the CDA's top undercover agent. You need someone who's "always watching" for a job like that.

Edna (The Incredibles)6. Edna Mode (The Incredibles)

Superpowers, courage, and a heart of gold all have their place in the world-saving biz, but any superhero worth the title knows an iconic look completes the package. That's where Edna Mode comes in. She's got an uncanny talent for designing stylish superhero uniforms, as well as the kind of disdainful, no-nonsense demeanor that'd leave Anna Wintour quaking in her Chanel boots. To top it all off, she might be the wisest character in the entire Incredibles universe: "NO CAPES!" proves to be the most valuable piece of advice in the movie.

Ellie (Up)5. Ellie Fredricksen (Up)

It's love at first sight for Carl when he first meets Ellie, and it's love at first sight for us, too. She's all messy hair and boundless enthusiasm, and her creativity proves infectious when she sweeps young Carl away on a pretend adventure. Ellie retains that same lust for life as she grows old with Carl, and even after her death her intrepid spirit informs the movie. "Adventure is out there!" is her constant refrain, and Carl and Russell take those words to heart as they set out on their South American journey.

Jessie (Toy Story)4. Jessie (Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3)

Lively, charming Jessie is the perfect cowgirl companion, whether you're a little girl or a sentient toy. She isn't afraid to speak her mind or go after what she wants (including a certain dashing spaceman). But there's more to her than frontier pluck. Beneath her sunny demeanor is a traumatic past, and to Pixar's credit they don't shy away from her lingering emotional scars. Jessie's more than badass – she's complicated.

Sadness (Inside Out)3. Sadness (Inside Out)

Sadness initially comes across as a wet blanket, especially when compared to the effervescent Joy. As the film goes on, however, it becomes apparent that her true gift is empathy. It's Sadness who's able to comfort Bing Bong, and Sadness who allows Riley to connect with others. Sadness isn't what we typically think of as a positive emotion, but by the end of Inside Out she's made her peace with herself — and shown us how we can come to peace with our own versions of Sadness as well.

Dory (Finding Nemo)2. Dory (Finding Nemo)

It's a tad ironic that one of Pixar's most memorable characters is also its most forgetful. Dory might have Memento-level memory problems, but she never seems to lose her friendliness, her optimism, her loyalty, or her ability to speak whale. Sure, she's a bit oblivious, but she's got the heart of a hero. Her life philosophy hits that Pixar sweet spot between inspirational and realistic: "When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."

Elastigirl (The Incredibles)1. Helen Parr / Elastigirl (The Incredibles)

By all appearances, Helen Parr is your typical suburban housewife. But we, of course, know better. While it takes some convincing to get Helen back to her superheroine roots, Elastigirl turns out to be as awesome as she ever was: fierce, fearless, and even kind of sexy. (Her flirting game is next level.) Bob may be the breadwinner, but Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl holds the family together. Sometimes literally, as when she turns herself into a parachute to save her kids.