Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster to unforgettable degree in 1991's Silence of the Lambs (and somewhat meh-morably by Julianne Moore in 2001's Hannibal), is a total badass.
She totally paved the way for several other big-name fictional female federal agents -- Dana Scully, anyone? -- but revisiting Clarice in her own right unearths more than just a few famous one-liners from that cannibal dude about the Chianti/fava beans combo or screaming lambs or that teeth-sucking thing. (I said what I said.)
As one of the few ladies in a male-dominated field at the FBI Academy, Clarice definitely has to put up with more than her fair share of grossness (literally, there's that one part where she gets gentleman's relish thrown in her face), but she handles it all with attitude and grit.
For starters, she doesn't suffer any fools -- especially when those fools (like a certain Dr. Chilton) begin hitting on her. Seriously, she gets hit on so much that I want to thrust those scenes under the nose of every dude I know and go, "See? SEE?!"
And let's be real: It takes a certain kind of mettle to put up with the machinations of Dr. Lecter.
Silence of the Lambs is considered one of the greatest thrillers of all time, and sure, part of that has to do with Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter -- but he wouldn't be nearly as iconic without a fierce federal agent to play off of, and in every one of their meetings, Clarice holds her own. Besides, when you consider screen time alone Clarice Starling totally dominates anyway. (Lecter is technically only on screen for 24 minutes. 24 minutes! As far as I'm concerned, this is Clarice's movie.)
So next time you think about Dana Scully, or Kate Beckett, or Olivia Benson -- remember Clarice Starling, the one who came before.