Lena Headey stepped into the spotlight with her role in 300. She furthered her career in TV with The Sarah Connor Chronicles. However, she stamped herself as royalty with her turn in Game Of Thrones as the conniving Cersei Lannister. A beautiful person riddled with ugly tendencies and selfish motivations, she embodies the traits we least want to see in those with power. Yet, here we are on the cusp of the final season of GoT and she’s assumed the titular throne. She’s murdered or conspired to end dozens of adversaries. She now stands as the ultimate evil (that still has a heartbeat) in the realms of Westeros. Before we see how her journey ends, let’s look at the other roles where Lena Headey captured the same level of badass toughness.
8 Marilyn ‘MaMa’ Madrigal – Dredd
For those who want to see someone perhaps even more sick and depraved than Cersei (and who wouldn’t?) then this ultra-violent affair is a perfect choice. Playing Marilyn Madrigal, A.K.A MaMa, Headey is the leader of a gang that has taken over an entire MegaBlock in a dystopian future. She authorizes the manufacture and distribution of narcotics. Calls for people who get in her way to be skinned, drugged, then tossed down 200 stories. She mans a Gatling gun and eviscerates an entire floor of innocent bystanders. She’s gouged out eyes, sliced people up, and is unquestioned in her leadership by some bad dudes. In short, Cersei’s more ‘extroverted’ cousin, if extroverted means ‘openly, insanely, unrelentingly murderous’.
7 Queen Gorgo – 300 & 300 Rise Of An Empire
This is proof that Lena Headey can also be a queen anyone can admire. Proud, passionate, protective, she stands like her husband Leonidas as an ideal of her gender. She shies away from nothing and stands up to anyone. You get the sense that she is that stalwart and resolute all the time. That is in addition to being the queen, not because of it. In the first movie, she is an inspiration for her husband and a force for good at home. In the sequel, she picks up a blade and gets among it with all the rest. She’s everything Cersei isn’t, really.
6 Callista Curnow – Dishonored
A matriarchal presence in a rebellion clinging to its ideals, Lena Headey lends her statuesque vocals to this excellent stealth game. Playing Callista Curnow, she is the woman who becomes the caretaker to the future empress, Emily Caldwell. She is also responsible for one of the funnier alternate Game Over’s in recent years, because if you interact with her the wrong way she can unravel the entire rebellion in an instant. But as a character, she is resolute, kind, and protective of her ward.
5 Julia Knight – Fighting With My Family
The matriarch of the Knight family and the mother of WWE star Paige, Headey brings a lot of love to this unconventional family dynamic. Hilarious chemistry with Nick Frost makes these two almost need their own movie as they train and run their little wrestling world and raise their kids in it.
Headey embodies the theatrical nature of such a family, with public displays of affection for her man and a rich emotive core in the face of hardships. Once again she seems tough enough that she’s the backbone of the entire family.
4 Mary Sandin – The Purge
The first Purge movie and another time Lena Headey ends up being badass. Throughout the movie, Mary tries to protect her family from intruders during the annual night of lawlessness. In the end, she is forced to take the initiative and she stands against the violence. Her neighbors intrude and she ends up with them at her mercy, and more than once refuses to ‘release the beast’, the movie’s catch-phrase for giving in to the violent urges The Purge allows. Lena has that intensity to her that makes her formidable where other female leads might not be. You aren’t sure she wouldn’t pull the trigger, but her staunch integrity stands.
3 Lunafreya Nox Fleuret – Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Here she plays a much younger woman than we’re used to, but no less strikingly committed. The quality of her voicework imbues the princess Lunafreya with poise and gravitas. In a war-torn conflict, she is a bargaining chip who refuses to be just that. She’s not among stragglers either, with Game Of Thrones’ Sean Bean and Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul the other main cast members knocking it out of the park. This is a high-(Final)fantasy hybrid that is far better than fans might imagine for being a video game tie-in, and Lena’s work is a major reason for that.
2 Sarah Trevanny – Ripley’s Game
Playing a more traditional role, Headey still brings the vigor and intensity she’s become known for. When her terminal husband is drawn into a murderous game by John Malkovich’s titular Ripley, she draws the line. It’s a complex role as she has to balance being supportive with moral fortitude when the truth comes out. By the end, she’s the only moral person still standing, albeit having lost so much. You feel for her turmoil throughout her husband’s magnetic descent and end. Her revulsion and dismissal of Ripley by the end make you wish she had more ‘Cersei’ in her and revenge might be on the cards.
1 Sarah Connor – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Tough as nails knowing the future depends on her son, Lena Headey manages to fill Linda Hamilton’s sizable shoes in this television series in the Terminator franchise. It seems that no matter where she goes, Headey exudes ‘tough leader of people’. Her occasional wry grin is the reward for all the focused determination she otherwise brings. She’s almost become typecast simply because her facial structure reaches the heights of both conventional attractiveness and ‘having a destined purpose she will walk through anything to achieve’. Chalk this series up as another testament to that innate quality.
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