Madman or genius? Obscenity or art? Dali was the master
Action, adventure, suspense, and sic-fi, are genres dominated by the male. It will probably be that way forever. But let’s not forget that the female action star has been crucial in some of the biggest action films and franchises. For over thirty years now, the female action hero has carved out their own corner of these genres, and here are some of the most important examples:
Mathilda (Natalie Portman), Leon: The Professional – Portman’s character gets an ‘E’ for effort here, because she never really managed to become the assassin she wanted to be. Only 12 at the time, Portman’s Mathilda pleads with Leon (Jean Reno) to teach her how to kill so she can take revenge on Stansfield (Gary Oldman), the crooked cop who killed her family. While Leon has to take things into his own hands, credit must be given to Mathilda for at least trying.
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), Salt – Jolie made her way into the action realm with the Tomb Raider films, but those were nothing to write home about. Salt showcases Jolie’s action abilities in a much better film, about a CIA agent that is accused of being a Russian spy and must fight off her peers. There are some virtuoso action sequences in Phillip Noyce’s picture, and Jolie is in the middle of them all.
Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Less an action superstar and more a super sleuth, Mara’s Lisbeth Salander undoubtedly had to endure some hardships as she worked with Mikael Blomkvist (Daneil Craig) to catch a sadistic killer. Her role is the embodiment of a powerful, smart female in the midst of sinister thrills. And credit also goes to Noomi Rapace, who portrayed the same character in the Swedish novel adaptations.
Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), The Fifth Element – Leeloo might be the baddest girl in the whole list, mostly because she is “the perfect human.” A combination of all elements, Jovovich brings a sexiness as well as an edginess to her comedic character that also manages to take care of some thugs along the way. Leeloo is sweet and sexy, but athletic and lethal all at the same time. Plus, she knows all about that multi-pass…
Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss ) The Matrix Trilogy – To be honest, Trinity might have made her way further up this list had the Wachowski’s ended with just one film. Alas, they didn’t and Carrie-Ann Moss’s character was made to endure the longest, most laborious death scene of all time. Regardless of the shortcomings later in the trilogy, Trinity takes female domination to new heights from the get go in the first film.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) The Hunger Games – This character just keeps getting stronger and stronger, and more dominant as a female leader. In the original film, Katniss was a reluctant participant in the futuristic survival games. Now, however, she has matured into a strong leader, a sign of hope for the oppressed, and a serious action superstar. Lawrence hits all the right notes with the character, from the delicateness of the feminine side to the strong resolve of the fearless female leader.
Thelma… And Louise (Geena Davis/Susan Sarandon) Thelma and Louise – It is absolutely impossible to separate these two women, arguably the most powerful and important female characters of the last thirty years in film. Davis and Sarandon brilliantly transition between the leader and the follower at different times in the story, and manage to fight off sexual oppression throughout the film. While it appears they may have lost in the end, one could argue they truly won.
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) Terminator 2 – Linda Hamilton was Sarah Connor in the original Terminator, but there she was frightened and soft. In the sequel, which is superior in just about every way, Sarah Connor was chiseled out of wood. Lean, muscular, and full of rage, Hamilton’s Connor was a driven assassin who wanted nothing more than to rid the human race of the impending robot apocalypse.
The Bride (Uma Thurman) Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2 – Thanks in large part to Quentin Tarantino’s razor-sharp writing, Uma Thurman’s bride was easily the baddest chick on this list. From taking on the Japanese mob, to felling her enemies, to finally besting Bill in Volume 2, The Bride is an indispensable female action hero. She is handy with a knife, a gun, a sword, even her bare hands. She may be the one I would want to tussle with the least.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) The Alien Films – Now to the one who arguably started it all for female action stars. Where Pam Grier may have made waves in the 70s with her fierce female fighters, it was Sigourney’s Ellen Ripley, and her single-minded hatred for the alien creatures, that changed the game for female action stars. In the original Ridley Scott film, she surprised everyone by being the sole survivor. But in the sequel, Aliens, James Cameron took her to new heights as a serious action superstar.