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2. GWYNETH PALTROW AS PEPPER POTTS IN 'IRON MAN' (2008), 'IRON MAN 2' (2010), 'THE AVENGERS' (2012), AND 'IRON MAN 3' (2013)
Pepper Potts has the benefit of four movies, more than any other female characters on our list. Given four movies I’m sure characters like Gamora can eventually outpace her solely by being their own leading women as opposed to meager beginnings as love interests, so Potts should enjoy this #2 spot while she can! That said, four movies means nothing if you don’t let a character grow and Potts grows beautifully and realistically, from brilliant smart-mouthed assistant and potential love interest in "Iron Man" to brilliant smart-mouthed CEO of Stark Industries and actual love interest in "Iron Man 2," to fully realized partner in love and business in "The Avengers," to all of that plus temporary damsel in distress, and then full blown superpowered badass that actually takes down the big bad in "Iron Man 3."
None of the women in the Marvel films have been given the same consideration of their arc as a character and Paltrow has made the most of it. Think what you will of Paltrow as modern day guru/entrepreneur but as Pepper Potts she’s simply nailed it. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark does his level best to steal every scene he’s in, and yet Paltrow finds the perfect give and take with both Downey and Stark so that she holds her own on screen but doesn’t tip the scales. Their chemistry is pure magic. "Iron Man 3" gets a lot of criticism, some of which I agree with, but as an example of a strongly feminist film – ultimately Tony Stark fails to rescue Potts who then rescues herself and also saves Tony – it’s wonderfully on point. When I watch "Iron Man 3," other flaws be damned, I find myself shocked that Shane Black and company got away with such a feminist ending and I love it.