Fantasy TV shows have all the best elements: gripping storylines, compelling heroes (and sometimes equally compelling villains!), and settings or circumstances that may take a few liberties with reality. Nothing is off-limits in a fantasy show, as the make-believe becomes real and viewers get the opportunity to escape the doldrums of life—well, for at least a few minutes.
With the surge in popularity of fantasy shows, we're also seeing more fantasy stories that feature female protagonists. From witches to vampire slayers to superheroes, this list includes some of the best fantasy TV shows with strong female leads, available to watch right now.
The Good Place (2016 - ongoing)
Comedic powerhouse Kristen Bell’s role as Eleanor Shellstrop, a somehow likeable self-centered narcissist, is one of her best ever. When Eleanor tragically dies, she is sent to The Good Place, an afterlife for people who did the 'right things' during their lives. But Eleanor is undeserving of her spot there, and she discovers that her identity was confused with a human rights lawyer with the same name.
Even though Eleanor doesn’t belong in the afterlife she was placed in, she still makes waves by constantly questioning immortal architect Michael (Ted Danson), and continuing her streak of bad behavior. She is the only character that calls others out, which is much needed in an afterlife focused on showcasing perfection. Eventually, her questioning nature even proves to be a saving grace as she discovers that nothing is as it seems in The Good Place.
Steven Universe (2013 - ongoing)
Although this musical animated series centers around a young boy — the titular Steven Universe — it also features a cast of unforgettable female characters, many of whom are instrumental in raising Steven after the death of his mother. Steven is half-human and half-Gem, a species of extraterrestrial fighters who are isolated from their home planet. Crystal Gems Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are Steven's friends and mentors, and their unique powers as Gems are a lens through which the show explores themes like consent, loss, and gender. Steven Universe is a groundbreaking science-fantasy show filled with awesome music, resonant messages, and compelling, well-written characters of all genders.
Game of Thrones (2011- ongoing)
Many of the strongest characters in Game of Thrones are women—an incredible feat considering that the fight for the Iron Throne began with only one female contender and a slew of entitled male heirs. From morally complex villain Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to beloved heroines like Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), to the polarizing Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the Game of Thrones women had the will to survive since the show’s inception. They have also made some of the most cunning political moves in order to help their respective sides obtain power.
Game of Thrones was referred to by showrunner David Benioff as “The Sopranos in Middle-earth,” which is really the perfect way to describe it. After the King of the Seven Kingdoms dies, a fight ensues over who the rightful heir is—and many characters try to stake their claim. There is no other show out there like Game of Thrones and the battle for the Iron Throne is still ongoing with one season left to go, and many fans more invested than ever before.
Charmed (1998 - 2006)
Combine the normal issues that sisters face with the discovery that they are all the most powerful witches in history, and you have the initial premise of Charmed. Despite their differences, Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) and Prue Halliwell (Shannen Doherty) still put their sisterhood above their respective romances and powers—although there are some blips along the way.
Because each of them has a unique set of individual powers, the Halliwell sisters need each other to defeat the evil forces at hand. In addition to fighting the leader of the Underworld, they also deal with the stresses of new relationships, burgeoning careers, and eventually, marriage and kids. A reboot featuring a more inclusive cast is on the way, so if the original Charmed fails to put a spell on you, perhaps the newest iteration will prove more magical.
Preacher is undoubtedly one of TV's wildest rides on the air—with explicitly sexual scenes including religious figures, an Irish vampire, and a Texas preacher (Dominic Cooper) with an immoral past. Something else that cannot be doubted? Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) is a force to be reckoned with. She's the preacher's ex-girlfriend, and even though he broke up with her by disappearing without a trace, she does everything she can to protect him from the supernatural forces at hand.
Tulip was raised by a single father who taught her how to master using a gun—a skill she despises, but eventually uses in order to help her ex, Jesse. When the offspring of an angel and a demon takes root in Jesse's body, he needs assassin Ruth's help to protect him from those who want the spirit gone at the expense of his own life.
Once Upon a Time (2011 - 2018)
Women run the show in Once Upon a Time, a series that includes all of your favorite fairy tale characters, but with a modern twist. The show takes the nice, proper princesses that we all loved from animated Disney movies and gives them a 21st century makeover. Villain Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla), might be the most fearless character of all, which remains true even as she becomes one of the show’s most likable heroines. Her early squabbles with Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) pit two equals against each other, and their shared love for Henry—Emma’s birth son and Regina’s adopted child—adds a unique and poignant dynamic to their rivalry.
On her 28th birthday, Emma meets the son she abandoned 10 years earlier. He brings her to his hometown, Storybrooke, Maine, where fairytale characters are trapped as a result of an evil curse by Queen Regina. Some of these enchanting characters include Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The show takes place in two different universes—the magical, fairytale one from the past, and the modern day, which blurs the line between fantasy and reality.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 - 2003)
Creator Joss Whedon wanted the character of Buffy to be the complete opposite of the blonde girls in horror films who are usually some of the first ones to die. He succeeded, and Buffy Summers became a feminist icon. It was recently announced that Buffy is getting a reboot, but the newest iteration will reportedly have a more diverse cast of characters.
Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) fights evil as a Slayer, meaning that she kills horrible demons in between going to school and dealing with the harsh realities of adolescence and everyday life. She fiercely protects her friends Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon), but she is also willing to accept help from her so-called 'Scooby Gang' when she needs it. She fights vampires in her town, Sunnydale, which was literally built on top of a portal to hell. The impressive battle scenes alone prove that Buffy is worthy of being on this list.
Supergirl (2015 - ongoing)
In Supergirl, Superman’s cousin gives him a run for his money when it comes to saving the world. Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is the titular character who serves as National City's protector, fighting off criminals. When she discovers that there are hundreds of former prisoners living on Earth, she takes on the burden of finding them and re-imprisoning them.
There is no shortage of action scenes in Supergirl, proving that Kara is a force to be reckoned with. But she’s not the only one—her government-trained adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh) assists her. But the pair don’t rely on their physical strength to save the day—they also use methods similar to those used in police investigations to logically locate their suspects.
Outlander (2014 - ongoing)
Put simply: Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is a badass whose strength transcends time (and time traveling!). When she is ripped from her World War II-era life and her seemingly happy marriage to Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), she doesn’t even consider wallowing in self-pity or giving up. Instead, she makes the most of her new life in 18th century Scotland by leveraging her medical knowledge as a nurse, and and forging a strategic marriage to Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). She constantly makes her presence known, despite the fact that she’s among men with outdated beliefs.
Based on the widely successful book series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander begins with Claire and her husband Frank visiting Inverness, Scotland in 1945. Claire is brought back in time, while Frank is left behind to figure out what happened to her. The series moves from Scotland to France, and eventually to the U.S., and combines elements of history, fantasy, and romance.
Ghost Whisperer (2005 - 2010)
Jennifer Love Hewitt (everyone’s favorite rom com actress from the ‘90s!) takes on a darker role in Ghost Whisperer as Melinda Gordon, a woman with the ability to communicate with the dead. The ghosts she encounters have unfinished business and want to tell something to loved ones, and they usually encounter Melinda in the antique shop that she owns.
Melinda has to communicate with all kinds of ghosts—from kids to criminals to former hospital patients—which is no easy task. Few of her friends also know of her gift, and the ones that do find it hard to believe her at first.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996 - 2003)
When Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart) turns 16, her two aunts tell her that she’s actually a witch (though her last name should have been a clue). Young and inexperienced, Sabrina’s initial attempts at spells go awry, which causes even more problems in her high school life. She navigates typical high school issues, like shifting friendships and young love, while also figuring out the power that she now has as a witch.
Sabrina’s struggles to fit in at school are reminiscent of almost everyone’s high school days. Her ability to stick up to her nemeses, Libby (Jenna Leigh Green) and Brad (Jon Huertas), proves her strength — especially when she does so without using magic. Her aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick) are also admirable for their patience in teaching Sabrina to use her powers wisely.
Wynonna Earp (2016-Present)
The titular character (played by Melanie Scrofano) has outlaw in her blood, as the great granddaughter of famed lawman, Wyatt Earp. When the outlaws that Wyatt killed in the 19th century come back in the form of reincarnated revenants, Wynonna must battle them and make sure that they return to where they came from—Hell. When she discovers that there are 77 demons that she must take down, it's clear that she is in for a long war.
Her strength is proven in just her fight scenes alone, but the personal battles Wynonna also faces prove that she's a bonafide warrior. In the first season, Wynonna fights the group of revenants responsible for her sister's kidnapping years before. The second season's twist cements her status as a total badass.
Featured still from "Game of Thrones" via HBO