This spot goes to another previously unknown name on the list—two actually: Ridley and Rey—both of whom we’ll be getting to know lot more thanks to the recently appointed #1 film of all-time. Watching Daisy Ridley as Rey, the staff-wielding consummately capable scavenger, pilot, and mechanic in The Force Awakens got me thinking, had there been a leading female character matching Rey’s wherewithal and autonomy in the prequels, maybe I could have stomached sitting through them. Maybe. Rey is interesting in that she begins where Leia, in a way, left off. She isn’t a “perfect” female action character, but we don’t need her to be. Rey is still engaging as hell as she brings the Millennium Falcon to life herself and hops into the pilot’s seat, trading none of her femininity for physicality, and never undermining her resourceful, courageous, and industrious nature. She isn’t a victim, detached, or desperate. Rey doesn’t just play with the boys, but more often than not, either conquers or rescues them (or saves herself), without expecting due credit, and without being positioned as an immaculate superior. Of course, I can’t say where her arc will lead, but for now, Rey strikes a balanced cord on screen, and she’s about to go on a coming-of-age journey in the next installment of the series that most female actors do not get to explore in film, especially within a franchise of this magnitude. It’s hard to believe anybody but Ridley could properly pull it off without teetering into derivative and ingratiating stereotypes we regularly see in female leads of action films (Mad Max’s Furiosa and Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen being the most recent exceptions), and without losing her admittedly accessible appeal. In interviews Ridley exudes stability in herself, seemingly unencumbered by the paralysis of insecurities and peer comparisons often buzzing inside the fresh faces of young Hollywood actresses. We continue making strides in gender equality, but surprisingly women still too often meet up against the same old assumptions of what sells, and what doesn’t. Not to burden her with this weight, as she is only one character type of many (although I have a feeling she can manage), but Daisy in the flesh seems to have the makings of one who can subtly shift the perceptions of females and femininity both on and off the screen, simply by being herself.