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2. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
As Buffy Anne Summers's premature tombstone declared: "She saved the world. A lot." And died at least twice in the process, though she always rose to the challenge of reducing terrifying monsters to dust while confronting inner demons of adolescent turmoil. Buffy — and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — was all about subverting horror-show clichés with a fiercely feminist wit and exceeding genre expectations with metaphorical depth. This deceptively winsome California ingenue could also pack a mighty emotional punch, romancing two drop-dead vampire suitors (Angel! Spike!) while protecting those she loved from the forces of evil. So much for the so-called damsel in distress.