Female characters in cartoons were considered caricatures and, in most cases, a supporting cast for strong male characters or straight-up villains that were mostly witches. Women in media were always considered overly emotional and quite frail characters that needed protection. In the last few decades, things changed massively, and as time passed, new, fresh characters and stronger female characters entered the cartoon hemisphere.
Even though cartoons were not considered seriously for years, the media actually stepped up and presented their female characters as something movies and other media should follow. There were no generic evil witches that had no readable bone in their bodies but layered and complicated women who reflected the real-life problems of an average woman.
Since we are celebrating cartoon characters, we decided to present you with our list of the 30 best female cartoon characters of all time. We won’t include anime characters since they reserve their own list. If you are interested in our picks, stay with us until the end of the article.
30. Lucille “Lucy” Van Pelt (Peanuts)
One comic book story took over the world in the fifties – Peanuts. One of the longest-running comic books ever and is universally loved worldwide. The adventures of Charle Brown are very well known, but his friends were also memorable characters that are gladly remembered today. One of them is Lucy, one of the main protagonists of Peanuts comics.
Her football gag that she performs on Charlie Brown through the comics and cartoons is one of the most iconic jokes in cartoons history. Lucy’s character became more and more complex as the years went by, and she became more of an antagonist in the Peanuts series. Regardless, Lucy, and any Peanuts character, deserve the place on this list.
29. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Disney Princesses that came before the 1990s are not really appreciated by the fans today in terms of what the Disney female characters represented in those times.
Belle’s character was a step in the right direction – Disney women being open-minded, strong, and intelligent, and not just a tool to progress the fairy tale. Belle had a purpose, a goal that did not revolve around her being married to the man, and fans welcomed that change with open hands.
Belle fell in love with the beast, but on her terms, we need to handle her a place on this list.
28. Esmeralda (The Huncbak of Notre Dame)
Disney’s source material adapted to their cartoons are scary and bizarre. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of those works, but thankfully, Disney’s version of Hugo’s original novel is much more mellow.
The story’s main heroine is a young Romani woman named Esmeralda, an outspoken humanitarian who vows to protect the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame Quasimodo, who is targeted by a vile man Claude Frollo.
She is a powerful and outspoken young woman, streetwise, cunning, and incredibly moral and positive, which makes her character even more compelling. She is one of the most notable female protagonists in Disney cartoons’ history, and we must acknowledge that.
27. Megara (Hercules)
As you can see, we are on a roll with Disney characters, and this entry presents you with Megara. At first, a reluctant minion of Hades and a hurt woman who is disappointed with men.
She is mostly sarcastic and cynical throughout the movie, especially when she meets an innocent Hercules, who falls for her immediately. Megara soon realizes that Hercules is not faking it at all, and towards the end of the movie, she also falls for him.
Megara’s snarkiness was refreshing in the 1990s since we had not yet seen that kind of characterization of the female protagonist in a Disney movie.
26. Lana Kane (Archer)
We move away from Disney characters for a moment and move to adult cartoons. That’s right, Archer brought us a new perspective on cartoons in the last decade, and the characters that came out of that show are truly unique in how they are created.
One of them is Lana Kane, one of the main characters and love interest of Sterling Archer, the world’s deadliest spy. Lana is a field agent at ISIS (International Secret Intelligence Service) and has aspirations to become a master spy.
She is a very strong-willed woman who knows what she wants but is also short-tempered, which gets her in trouble. Despite all of that, she is loyal and loving to her loved ones, which makes her a layered and complex character, and for that, we need to put her on this list.
25. Jinx (Arcane)
Even though the show’s first season came out last year, Arcane put itself in the elite company of the greatest cartoons ever. The way the show characterized and portrayed its heroes was rarely seen in cartoon history.
Jinx is one of those characters – her tragic past, speckled with so much disappointment and atrocities, makes us root for her even though she is not mentally stable. Jinx is one of the most layered female characters we have seen in cartoons for a long time, and her characterization impacted the viewers massively even after only one season.
We are waiting to see what will happen to Jinx and others in the second season of Arcane, and we frankly cannot wait.
24. Wilma Flintstone (The Flintstones)
Hanna-Barbera cartoons marked the 20th century, and Flintstones was one of the cartoons that did just that. The life of the Flintstone family during the Stone Age was innovative and creative, and the characters were fun and loveable.
One of them is Vilma Flintstone, a wife of Fred and his big support. However, she is not the typical wife you would suspect from the cartoons of that era – she is a strong-willed, level-headed, and serious woman who always calls out Fred when he does something stupid.
Moreover, Vilma is shown to have emotional and unhappy moments where she cries, which adds another layer to her story. Vilma is one of the most notable cartoon characters and definitely deserves to be on this list.
23. Princess Jasmine (Aladdin)
Today, a classic Disney Princess came into prominence in the Disney animated feature film Aladdin. Jasmine was different from the beginning – she represented the Middle East culture and showed that no one could mess with her. Her strong will and confidence are something she was always popular for, and young girls always adored her.
She does get into trouble with Jafar, but with the help of Aladdin and the Genie, Jasmine is saved and lives happily ever after with her love. She was unconventional at the time, and it prompted Disney to include main female characters with other ethnicities to bring them closer to a wider audience – they succeeded.
22. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
Maleficent is one of the old-school female Disney villains who came out with the animated feature film Sleeping Beauty in 1959. Despite the similarities her being quite similar to the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Maleficent is her own specific character who is a ruthless, evil, and selfish woman. She is far more manipulative and intelligent than the Evil Queen, which makes her much scarier, but more iconic in popular culture.
Maleficent got better characterization (in my opinion) in recent years when her character got its own live-action movie called Maleficent. She was portrayed by Angelina Jolie, and Maleficent once again gained popularity that adorned her in the 20th century.
21. Turanga Leela (Futurama)
The 2000s brought us a lot of great female characters, one of which was Turanga Leela from the popular cartoon show Futurama. Turanga is the captain of the Planet Express Ship of Futurama and not so conventional leader of the crew.
She is a badass who knows what she wants, extremely brave, and a professional woman who puts her work first above the fun. In Futurama, her journey throughout the Futurama series inspired a lot of teenagers to watch the show, and her loving relationship with Fry is one of the most adorable dynamics in the whole series.
20. Powerpuff Girls (The Powerpuff Girls)
As you can see, we cannot pick one character from this cool group. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are a trio of artificially made superhuman children who use their powers to fight the forces of evil. This Cartoon Network show was popular during the 1990s and 2000s and is one of the most popular cartoons ever.
Professor Utonium created the girls with only three ingredients – spice, sugar, and everything nice. However, Professor accidentally added Chemical X, which gave girls powers. Each girl has a special personality, and they are still one of the most popular female cartoon characters of all time. They are cool, interesting, and, most importantly, a great representation of young children on television – at least, they were to me.
19. Elastigirl (The Incredibles)
Cartoons always provided us with great female characters (hence this lengthy list), especially younger girls or women that were great representations of young kids. However, mothers are usually portrayed as supporting characters to the main characters. Elasticgirl was both a loving mother and a superhero who did everything she could to help her Incredibles family.
She was always there to help, and her management to juggle family and superhero business is admirable – for that alone, Elasticgirl definitely belongs on this list.
18. Moana (Moana)
The main character of the animated feature film of the same name, Moana, is next on this list of best female cartoon characters. One of the more popular Disney characters of the last few years, Moana became a new Disney Princess – her cultural background attracted the public towards her immediately.
Born in the chiefdom village of Motunui, a South Pacific island where each ruler is the offspring of the previous ruler. Moana’s conflict stems from the fact that she wants to sail and be constantly near the ocean; however, the destiny of the young chieftain and a girl who just wants to relax in the ocean gets in Moana’s way. Her destiny is to save the world and return an important artifact to the lava demon. Moana’s story is beautiful, and her relationship with her parents and nature is worth mentioning on these lists.
17. Anna (Frozen)
In 2013, one Disney movie took over the world and “infected” the public with its catchphrases, quotes, and catchy music that mostly two important characters sang in the popular animated Disney movie, Frozen. Anna is the sister of Elsa, and her character from its release was refreshing. From minute one, Anna was an optimistic, energetic, and perky but awkward and unbelievably relatable character that any girl could relate to.
However, Anna is still one of the best cartoon characters in the last ten years because of her love for her sister Elsa, whom she always protected and supported through thick and thin. Sister dynamics in Frozen “carry” the movie in the best possible ways, and for that, Anna deserves to be on this list.
16. Velma (Scooby-Doo)
One of the most notable characters of all time, Velma Dinkley, is part of the famous Scooby-Doo franchise and one of the original members of the Scooby gang that first came into prominence in 1969. Velma was always the “intelligent and quirky one” of the group, which made her a fan favorite.
Of course, the Scooby-Doo franchise is still notable and successful. In the new installment of the show, Velma came out as a queer character, confirming a suspicion of fans who speculated about the “queerness” of Velma’s character since the live-action movies. Even before that revelation, Velma was quite a notable character amongst the young girls, and they still hold her in high regard.
15. Marge Simpson (The Simpsons)
The Simpsons have been a legendary TV animated series on the air for over thirty years. It brought us some great characters that are part of today’s popular culture, and one female character became especially iconic. Marge Simpson is the wife of Homer Simpson, a resident American man who cannot live without his wife. Marge is a mother to Maggie, Lisa, and Bart, who have their own “quirks” that gets them into trouble, but she proves over and over again that she is more than a mother and caretaker.
Marge Simpson is iconic in her own way, which is why she is on this list.
14. Elsa (Frozen)
We already mentioned the sister of Elsa from Frozen. However, what differentiates Elsa from Anna is her burden and the obstacles she has to concur to be happy.
Elsa was born with great power and responsibility, which made her distance herself from her sister Anna, especially after the accident. However, with the love and acceptance of herself and her powers, Elsa showed that anyone who tries to improve and work on their problems and fears could achieve anything. We already mentioned the great sister bond that is the staple of Frozen movie; for that, both sisters need to be on this list.
Also, Elsa didn’t get a love interest at the end of the movie, which is surprising for a Disney movie, but at least it lets us focus more on her character.
13. She-Ra (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power)
Masters of the Universe is one of the best cartoons of the last few decades, especially in the 1980s. She-Ra: Princess of Power show debuted in 1985, and its main heroin Adora was supposed to target younger girls. It was a hit, and recently, Netflix decided to develop a reboot series, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The series was successful, and Adora’s character in the show became one of the best-written storylines on television.
She struggles to become a protector of Etheria, rebuild relationships with the old Princess Alliance, and fight the evil Horde threatening the peace. Moreover, Adora needs to deal with her own issues – the chronic need to sacrifice herself to save everyone and mend her most important relationship with her childhood friend Catra. Adora became one of the best cartoon characters of the last few years.
12. Merida (Brave)
Merida is a protagonist of Disney/Pixar’s 2012 animated feature film brave. When the movie first aired and introduced its characters, it was a refreshing piece of content representing the beauty of Scottish culture.
At the same time, Merida was characterized as a bold, brave, daring, courageous, and rebellious girl – Disney mostly applied those traits to male characters. Merida was not a damsel in distress but a headstrong girl who knew what she wanted. She also had a loving family behind her, which “shelved” the usual tragic-no-family backstory tropes. All in all, Merida is cool, badass, and, most importantly, one of the best-characterized Disney females of the last two decades.
11. Kim Possible (Kim Possible)
One of the coolest cartoons Disney ever produced has to be Kim Possible. It aired from 2002 to 2007 and provided us with one of the coolest cartoon characters ever, Kim Possible. She is a high school student and freelance troubleshooter who uses her spy abilities to help people in need.
Besides her spy skills, she is incredibly confident, tough, brave, and strong, making her popular among teenagers of that era. Of course, she wasn’t a typically perfect female character but a layered person who had her issues because she is a teenager who saves people every day.
10. Korra (The Legend of Korra)
Probably one of my favorite characters on this list, Korra is a titular character of the notable Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel, The Legend of Korra. Raava chooses her as the next Avatar after Aang, which makes her journey as a character hard both in the show and among the viewers.
It’s always hard to take over from a popular and loved character like Aang, and Avatar fans often target Korra’s character even after ten years. However, what viewers didn’t or didn’t want to realize in 2012 is the fact that Avatar cannot be a perfect character, despite calling Korra “a Mary Sue” for years. Korra’s journey as a teenager in the role of Avatar (which she always wanted to be) is immersive and interesting, making for great character progression and development.
The Legend of Korra cartoon showed us an amazing depiction of its characters, great lore, scenery, and presentation of many great cultures. Korra is among them; her character changed how the public depicted cartoon characters, which is why she needs to be on this list.
9. Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)
Daria Morgendorffer is one of the coolest and “most chill” characters on this list. She is the main protagonist of the MTV cartoon called simply Daria, and her character and demeanor are something we rarely see on television.
She is simply “done with everything,” Her cynical personality, outlook, and views on life correlate well with her wittiness, intelligence, and apathetic trait, making her progress throughout the TV series much more interesting. Daria is vastly different from what we saw for a very long time, which might be annoying to some viewers, but most people like her just because of that.
8. Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)
One of the more “sane” characters in the TV series The Simpsons, Lisa is the middle child of the Simpson family. She is the “smart one” of the bunch and probably the most ambitious character in the show. Despite being vastly different from her family, Lisa still loves them very much.
Her goal is to make the world better and become the first female president of the United States of America, and use that position in a good way. These goals often get her in trouble with her peers and ignorant adults, but Lisa always learns valuable lessons and lets them fuel her to become even better.
7. Toph (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Another female character from the Avatar franchise is Toph Beifong, one of the coolest supporting characters. Toph’s skills as an earthbender and metalbender are cool, but her character is something very few Avatar fans dislike. With Sokka and Zuko, Toph was the fan favorite of the Avatar series and even provided us with great and powerful children in Su and Lin Beifong in The Legend of Korra.
Toph is blind in The Last Airbender, and her story before and after she meets Team Avatar is amazingly depicted. Her spicy demeanor, stubbornness, and confidence only a few characters can “wear” like Toph, and for that, she definitely deserves to be on this list.
6. Ahsoka Tano (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
One of the best Star Wars content in the last twenty years came from the animated film and TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It enriched the Star Wars lore and became one of the fan-favorite content released by Star Wars, which is quite a hard feat to do these days. One of the supporting characters that fans generally love is Ahsoka Tano, a Torgruta, Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice and ally of Kanan Jarrus’ rebel cell.
She is powerful in her own right and has a strong connection with the Force, but her personality makes her loveable. She is snarky, aggressive, and impulsive, yet kind-hearted and generous, willing to sacrifice for her people and great good. Ahsoka Tano will get her own TV show on Disney+ in 2023, and we cannot wait for it to be released.
5. Princess Fiona (Shrek)
Princess Fiona may be a surprise for some on this list, but for me, she definitely deserves to be here. Fiona is one of the main characters of the notable Shrek franchise, where Shrek, the ogre, saves her, and she eventually falls in love with him. Her background story is on par with the rest of the fairytale parody, Shrek, but that fact doesn’t take away from her characters.
In the first movie, Fiona’s secret carries a lot of weight in the film and later proves to be “a blessing” since she chooses love over fear. Her relationship with Shrek is adorable, but her being a down-to-earth and independent woman should always be mentioned.
4. Storm (X-Men)
Probably my favorite character on this list is one of the members of the famous mutant group X-Men; Ororo Monroe is the main character of the 1990s animated TV show called X-Men. Better known as Storm, Ororo is probably the most notable female character of all time.
In the animated series, she is an effective leader and a responsible person in the X-Men. Charles Xavier and her teammates trust her since she is the most sensible in most situations. A true balance of the mutant group, the 1990s animated series really propelled her character to a wider audience, and because of that, she became a fan-favorite character.
3. Katara (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
Katara is another character from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series and one of the best female characters in recent decades. Now, we know Avatar is a show that was a masterpiece and rarely presented us with bad writing, but Katara’s character is something most of the fans will agree that progressed a lot in the series.
She and Sokka lost their family and were forced away from their home because of Hundred Year War and Fire Nation, so she had to be a mother, sister, and responsible member of the group. Sokka was a great brother, but Katara was the one who burdened herself with huge responsibilities, which made some of the characters and fans of the show dislike her. However, Katara showed that she could be flexible and sensible towards the other members of Team Avatar, which eventually led to Aang beating Fire Lord Ozai and saving the world. Katara is a great character – layered and complicated but so good.
2. Mulan (Mulan)
Disney Princesses were always proper, elegant, and well-behaved, but when Mulan came about in 1998, she was a breath of fresh air. From her first appearance on the silver screen, Mulan was already unique and different from the rest of her peers. She was a compassionate warrior who wanted to enjoy her youth a bit longer before she married and became a mother. Mulan went against her family’s wishes and went to war against the Huns to save her father from definitive death.
Mulan showed her resilience and bravery despite being immensely scared on her journey, and she overcame it in the end.
1. Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman)
Wonder Woman is the most iconic female character of all time. Comics, movies, and TV shows adopted this great superheroine, but DC Animated Universe brought us some great Wonder Woman characters over the years. Both cartoon films and series presented Diana as a great character, and for her stature outside of the cartoon sphere, Diana truly deserves to be on this list.
Diana is an Amazon who can destroy the greatest foes, but her character can break many hearts – Superman and Steve Trevor know the best.