Today, Gal Gadot returns to the big screen as Wonder Woman to join the Justice League gang. She'll be joined by Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, and Henry Cavill as Superman. Of course, next to a cast of supermen, Wonder Woman holds her own and then some—as does her super-suit.
The costumes worn by female superheroes, both in Hollywood movies and on the pages that inspired them, are notoriously criticized for hypersexualizing the female form. Most recently, Justice League's looks for Wonder Woman's fellow Amazons have been bashed on Twitter for being more skin-bearing than they appeared in Wonder Woman's titular film earlier this year.
The male gaze is slowly—glacially—being joined by female-told or at least female-led stories in the comic book world. But throughout superhero history, some superheroine costumes have also been claimed as symbols of empowerment, strength, and testaments to their wearers' badass capabilities. These looks also help their brave owners do brave things, like save the world. (And there's nothing wrong with feeling fly as hell while kicking butt—we all know how powerful a little fashion armor can be.)
Scroll through below to see our favorites, ranked, and catch the Justice League movie in theaters today.
5. Black Widow from Iron Man 2
Who could forget Scarlett Johansson’s debut as Black Widow in Iron Man 2? The badass defeats the bad guys with unparalleled ease, and her sleek all-black ensemble fits the bill: understated, superhero oomph, and with just enough pockets and holsters to help this super woman without superpowers conceal and wield weapons right when she needs them. Here’s to hoping her solo film gets the green light soon.
5. Elastigirl from The Incredibles
Elastigirl is one cool mom, brought out of retirement from her superhero days to save the world again. And her suit, courtesy of the genius Edna Mode, is a virtually indestructible engineering feat that can stretch as far as she can “without losing its shape.” The outfit goes the distance (literally)—and looks good getting there. Oh, and did we mention it “breathes like Egyptian cotton?"
In Catwoman (2004) Halle Berry’s character is transformed from shy and impressionable to dominant and hell-bent on justice, and her costume follows suit. She’ll stop at nothing to stick it to the men involved in the corporate conspiracy that changed her life forever. Catwoman’s costume in this film is a far cry from modest, and that’s just the point—the Catwoman costume embodies a complete shift in personality from pushover to powerhouse, and Berry owns her dominating dominatrix look. She takes control of her appearance while taking control of her life (or after-cat life?) and makes a strong statement about sexual empowerment in the process.
2. Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok
Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok is making history as as Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first openly bisexual superhero. Her character’s sexuality came to light when Thompson took to Twitter to defend her look after some fans posted comments about her costume being "not sexy enough." Valkyrie dresses in head-to-toe leather, with no metal we can see on her person. Thompson told EW: "She’s such a badass that she doesn’t need a lot of metal to protect her." A warrior woman who can defend herself? What do you have to say now, Twitter?
The only drawback in functionality is the cape, an element of the second look she sports in the film. Thompson told People it was an issue while filming: "Because we’re so often working with a wind machine it smacks you in the face, you trip on it constantly, and if you happen to be wielding a sword, which I obviously do in the film, it gets stuck on it constantly." But overall, Thomson’s Valkyrie is reinventing what it means to be “cool and sexy” in the superhero universe, and we’re here for it.
1. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman grew her feminist following with her first namesake film earlier this year—and with her, Gal Gadot, who played the superhero while while super-pregnant, has become a role model for women who want to celebrate independence, accomplishment, and the ability to kick a—. Wonder Woman's suit looks similar to that of her comic book inspiration's but also pays homage to her Amazonian upbringing surrounded by craftswoman and Grecian-esque warriors.
It's also super sexy, spotlighting Gadot's exceptionally toned leg and arm muscles—which angered those who felt like WW's costume emphasized her body more than her male counterparts' suits did theirs. Director Patty Jenkins defended the decision to show skin in Gadot's costume to EW by saying: "I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time—the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body ... And my hero, in my head, has really long legs." Out of costume, Gadot continues to wield her power, making recent headlines when she announced that she would end her involvement with the Wonder Woman franchise if Brett Ratner, a producer facing sexual harassment allegations, did not.