Keep it steel: The strongest Supergirls in film and TV, ranked
If you don’t know much about the DC canon relating to the character, it’s easy to write off Supergirl as being little more than a gender-flipped version of Superman. She’s young, she’s blonde, she rocks a near-identical costume to the Man of Steel, and she has pretty much all the same powers as him too. So what?
But the truth is that Supergirl is way more than just a female clone of her cousin and has been developed beautifully into being her own character and person beyond Superman in the comics. In TV & film, that development has been reflected in some seriously awesome depictions that have centered Supergirl as a feminist icon of the superhero genre. Here’s our ranking of all the major ones seen on screen so far.
6. Smallville (2001-2011)
Though Kara is an interesting character and gives Kal-El (Tom Welling) a sweet, tangible connection to Krypton on his new adopted planet, Laura Vandervoot’s Supergirl isn’t exactly all that super. The only real problem with Smallville (which remains one of the best genre young adult shows ever) is that it never delves properly into the canon of the characters as legit costume-wearing heroes. That means Supergirl looks more like a Hooters waitress on Halloween making a weak attempt at a superhero costume and acts like a hero in training rather than a hero in action (until later seasons, at least) – which is what we’d prefer to see.
5. Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)
Like Smallville, Superman: The Animated Series showed a hero still figuring out her powers and her place in the world. However, it did so a little better than the teen show did. Voiced by Nicholle Tom, the character has the quirky perkiness of the likes of Sabrina Spellman from the original Archie Comics canon of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, following a young female character who isn’t the least bit threatened by her own incredible strength or otherworldly gifts – but is definitely struggling with how to properly utilize them.
4. DC Super Hero Girls (2015-)
This wonderfully sweet animated series doesn’t receive nearly enough love for its young depictions of female DC superheroes. As the “Super best friend” of Batgirl and general showboating ass-kicker, Supergirl (Anais Fairweather) is shown to be confident, sassy, and caring – using her powers to look cool, help her friends out of a jam, and even take one for the team by casually diffusing a bomb. She’s the BFF you’d want to have in middle school.
3. Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006)
Tom also lends her voice-acting talents to this depiction of Supergirl, who is a little older and wiser than the one portrayed in Superman: The Animated Series. In Justice League Unlimited, Supergirl is gloriously cocky and has a sharp wit as knockout as her super strength. While she’s eager to prove herself and her skills to her big mighty cousin Superman, the show also positions Supergirl as her own person who shares the same homeland and powers as the Justice League MVP, but who has personality, beliefs, and a fighting style of her own.
2. Supergirl (1984)
It’s pretty devastating that on her first trip to earth to visit her cousin to try and help save the universe, Kara is immediately set upon by two creepos looking to rape “Superman’s best friend”. On the upside, she physically defeats and humiliates the two idiots and spends the rest of the movie coming to terms with this great flaming trash can we call earth.
Though the movie has it flaws, for many, Helen Slater is the quintessential Supergirl blending a sweet, youthful naivete with a thunderous physical dynamic, making her one of the most underrated feminist action icons of the era.
1. Supergirl (2015-)
Though the Greg Berlanti show has its own spin on the canon, there’s no denying that it owes at least a little to Slater’s depiction of the character. The CW show has done a great job at giving depth and complexity to Kara, who is played with great warmth and wit by Melissa Benoist. Supergirl is currently one of the most feminist shows on TV and a big part of that comes down to how smart, tenacious, and confident Supergirl is in combating the everyday problems of a young woman alongside the alien and metahuman threats that come to Earth.