In the past year and in the year to come, there have been a growing number of epic heroines on the silver screen who are redefining female stereotypes.

It's a great time for women everywhere, thanks to the following four awesome fictional heroes:

1. Katniss Everdeen

Katniss needs no introduction: she's an archer who goes on an amazing adventure in a forest.

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As critics have noted, Katniss has no special powers and isn't the love interest of a male hero.  In fact, she defends and saves the life of her fellow male Tribute from District 12. Katniss stands alone as her own strong character.

2. Princess Merida

Princess Merida is the first female protagonist in a Pixar film, ever.  

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Merida is an amazing archer who goes on an amazing adventure in a forest. Oh wait...  why do I have a feeling of deja vu?

Still, her story is groundbreaking because it's a first for Pixar, and rare ground for a Disney film as well.

3. Lisbeth Salander

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo came out last December, and introduced us to Lisbeth Salander.  Lisbeth is that rare female hero: totally original. Needless to say, she is not a female archer and she doesn't spend much time in the forest.

This article in Psychology Today even asked, "Is the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo a superhero?"

Lisbeth Salander is a captivating protagonist. Her appearance and demeanor lead us-and the characters in her world-to make assumptions about her, to pigeonhole her as a goth, a slacker, a rebel. Over the course of the first novel and the trilogy, Stieg Larsson upends our analysis of her character as he reveals her inner life, her outward behavior, and the choices she's made. We can't help but admire her grit and persistence, her inner strength and commitment, her strong moral code, and her adherence to it.

There's a sense in which Salander is an action hero, even though the action isn't generally hitting, punching, or kicking (though she engages in some of those actions, too). Rather, she engages in hacking, researching, and other uses of her substantial intellect and emotional strengths. Her heroism is demonstrated mentally as well as physically. I'll go one step further: I think that Salander is a superhero. She has the three most important characteristics typical of a superhero: a mission, (super)powers, and a superhero identity.

Well said!

4. Snow White

After playing a more passive heroine, Kristen Stewart is kicking butt as Snow White. She is chased from the castle into the forest, where she is forced to pick up weapons to fight against Evil. Wait, really? Is it a bow and arrow...  please say no!

Well thank goodness, she goes to war as a knight wielding armor and sword:

Snow White does get entangled in her own love story, so she's not quite as much of standalone hero as Katniss or even Lisbeth. But given how far Snow White (and Kristen Stewart!) have come, we'll count it as progress.

These four women go out and kick butt and redefine stereotypes.  It's exciting to see progress, even if it takes years if not decades.  And involves far too many forests and arrows than you might think.

Who is your favorite recent female heroine from the silver screen?