We all know that women kick just as much butt as men do, but it’s taken the movie industry a while to catch up with that fact. Now, there have been fearless and fearsome warrior women, even before the Vikings sang songs about the mighty Valkyries. So ladies in starring roles in action stories is nothing new, except in film.
Here is a chronological list of the best and the coolest female action chick flick heroines starting with 2012 and going back to 1979.
Black Widow from The Avengers, played by Scarlett Johansson
Making her spectacular debut as The Black Widow in the otherwise terrible Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson helps to bring the female super spy into new light. Her Black Widow is tough, resourceful and extremely confident, not to mention that she whooped Tony Stark’s butt in the boxing ring in about 2.7 seconds.
The Black Widow has been one of the coolest comic book heroines since her introduction back in 1964. She can be seen kicking butt and taking names later, right along her super powered friends and not missing a beat.
Catwoman from The Dark Knight Rises, played by Anne Hathaway
She’s got the face of an angel and looks innocent on the outside, but that’s only an act. 2012 heralded the return of the most fearsome Catwoman since the timeless Michelle Pfeiffer took on the role in Batman Returns. They said that Anne Hathaway couldn’t do it, but she more than exceeded expectations and successfully pulled off this iconic, complex, and deadly role in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises
Alice from the Resident Evil films, played by Milla Jovovich
While Alice doesn’t say much during the Resident Evil films, she lets her fists do the talking and they are blabber mouths. Alice isn’t in any of the Resident Evil video games, but her character is a welcome addition of the franchise that seems to be bursting with testosterone fueled alpha males. Alice is a double whammy because she is smaller and skinnier than the average woman, yet she seems to have super strength and can take a beating better than the best heavyweight boxer.
Alice is a good role model for young women due to the fact that she is petite, yet extremely confident and is not daunted when confronted with overwhelming odds. She isn’t seen as a sex object and doesn’t use her “feminine wiles” as her only bargaining chips when it comes to persuading men, or anyone, really. Alice is confident, smart, and strong. Even though the films are pretty campy, they’re worth watching just for Milla Jovovich’s performance.
Trinity from The Matrix, played by Carrie-Anne Moss
The late 90’s and the 2000’s have really marked the dawn of the female action heroine who is less of a seductive femme fatale and more of a strong, confident, and less objectified brawler. Trinity from The Matrix certainly wasn’t the first of these new types of female heroes, but she is a canonical example.
Yes, Trinity is dressed most of the time in skin-tight shiny leather, but she doesn’t use her sexuality or the act of seducing in order to solve her problems. Instead, she is a fearless warrior woman who is actually the first person in her ship’s crew to successfully kill an Agent. She saves Neo’s life on a number of occasions and is anything but a shrinking violet.
Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, Played by Angelina Jolie
Lara Croft is one of THE first female video game protagonists to succeed without the “help” of her male counterparts. Outside of Lara and Samus from Metroid, there just haven’t been very many strong, un-sexualized and/or objectified female protagonists in video game history. Yes, Lara is known for her large “assets,” which can be seen as a spillover from the previous 20 years of objectifying and exaggerating women (and their bust proportions) in video games, or it can be seen as a more of a proud proclamation of her femininity.
Either way, Angelina’s Lara Croft is intelligent, powerful, and independent. She succeeds because she wants to and not before handily defeating about 1,000 burly men in the process.
Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, played by Uma Thurman
Hell hath no fury, like Beatrix Kiddo scorned. Probably one of the top action heroes of all time, let alone the top female action hero, Beatrix Kiddo from the Kill Bill movies is the personification of an unstoppable force. Beatrix Kiddo, aka The Bride doesn’t have much use for guns, but she has a 1,001 uses for a Hatori Hanso sword. The Kill Bill films have some of the most incredible martial arts sequences ever caught on tape, and all of which center around this “take no prisoners” heroine.
Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies, played by Linda Hamilton
With Sigourney Weaver having set a pretty darn good precedent for strong women as action heroines, Sarah Connor pretty much single-handedly defeats a nearly indestructible, cybernetic hit man from the future. To this day, Terminator 2: Judgment day is one of the all-time best action movies ever made and we have Sarah Connor to thank for that.
Ellen Ripley from the Alien films, played by Sigourney Weaver
Pretty much the godmother of all badass movie heroines, Ellen Ripley starts out as a fairly skeptical, yet sharply inquisitive member of the Nostromo crew, only to have her wits, cunning, and bravery propel her to be the sole (human) survivor of the “xenomorph” incident.
Throughout the Alien film franchise, Ripley gets more and more hardcore. In the film Aliens, she advises the crew of her scout ship to just nuke the alien infested compound from orbit, but barring that, she went in and cleared out all of the alien scum by hand. These are great films to revisit, especially since their spiritual “prequel” Prometheus was released earlier this year.