Saturday, September 24, 2011

The All Time Greatest Action Heroines

Last week I came down with a cold and spent a lot of time in bed watching movies. To offset the invalid’s combination of chicken broth, Kleenex and pajamas, I chose movies with lots of explosions and fight scenes like Die Hard and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And then I got to thinking – there are a lot of male action heroes. John McClain, Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones, John Rambo, James Bond . . . the list goes on and on. But like I said, they’re all MALE. So, I decided to come up with a list of their female counterparts. Women who don’t wave their kerchiefs like a damsel in distress when the chips are down, but instead pick up an AK 47 and start shooting.

And so, without further introduction, here’s a list of what I consider the all time best female action heroines. Or, as I like to call them . . .

The All Time Greatest Damsels of Distress

Sarah Connor (The Terminator and Terminator 2):
Though she starts off as a semi-helpless female in the need of rescuing, Sarah Connor quickly transforms into ultimate female fighting machine. Raising the future leader of the resistance is no cake walk, especially when locked away in an insane asylum or fleeing a killing machine bent on murdering her and her son, but Sarah makes it look easy. No bake sales and mini-vans for this butt-kicking mom.

Ellen Ripley (Alien Quadrilogy): 
If Sarah Connor deserves recognition as number one on my list, then Ripley gets recognition as the oldest (chronologically, not age-wise). When Alien came out in 1979, Ripley was one of the very first female characters who really kicked butt. Up until this point most women were of the helpless variety – characters like Tippi Hedren in The Birds who go to the attic to check on suspicious noises knowing there were dangerous, man-killing birds on the loose. Unlike her previous counterparts, Ripley was a gun-wielding, alien-killing badass who forever changed the role of women in the male-dominated science fiction genre.

Trinity (The Matrix Trilogy):
Ah Trinity. Her favorite accessory is an AK 47 and she’s as comfortable wearing leather as a cheerleader is wearing pink. With her awesome one-liners – “Dodge this.” – and her incredible mastery of driving in high speed freeway chases, martial arts, helicopter piloting, and pretty much any other skill she tries her hand at, she’s the ultimate weapon in the fight against the machines.

Selene (The Underworld soon-to-be Quadrilogy ):
This leather clad killer is one of the few on my list that isn’t human. That’s right, she’s a vampire. But don’t hold that against her – she’s not the sparkly kind. Allergic to sunlight and around for hundreds of years, this British badass is a traditionalist. And in the war against Lycans, she’s the best.

Lara Croft (The Lara Croft film and game series):
Yet another Brit, this member of the aristocracy is no swooning lady. She tears it up in video games and feature film. Portrayed by Angelina Jolie (one of the best female action stars ever to grace the big screen), she’s both elegant and lethal. Furthermore, while Ripley is often considered the progenitor of the film action heroine, Lara Croft is sometimes credited as the first major female lead in a video game.

Alice (The Resident Evil Quadrilogy): 
Though not a character in the game series, Milla Jovovitch’s Alice lights up the screen in the Resident Evil films. And by lights up, I mean literally. Alice is no shrinking violet when it comes to guns, explosives, or any other kind of weapon. With her T-Virus bonded blood and psychic abilities, she’s a match for zombies and corrupted corporations alike.

Leeloo (The Fifth Element):
Also played by Milla Jovovitch, Leeloo, otherwise known as our one weapon against evil, comes from one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time – The Fifth Element. Furthermore, the scene in which she beats up a hoar of bad guys is perhaps one of my favorite fight scenes (male or female) of all time as well. Set against the backdrop of a blue alien opera, this scene is both beautiful and awesome. Like Leeloo.

Nikita (La Femme Nikita films and ORIGINAL TV series): 
Now let me be clear. When I added Nikita to my list, I was NOT talking about the 2010 WB series. Beautiful though that actress is, she looks more likely to be knocked over by a less-than-stiff breeze than kick anyone’s butt. The Nikita I’m referring to is Peta Wilson in the 1997 Canadian TV series (or Anne Parillaud in the 1990 film). Wilson’s Nikita is as tough-looking as she is beautiful, and I have no trouble believing her as an operative of the covert Section One.

Sydney Bristow (Alias): 
An operative of the CIA, Sydney Bristow is one of TV’s best action heroines. Like spy legend James Bond, she’s a master of disguise and the queen of gadgetry. She’s saved the world from more than one nuclear attack and brought down several terrorist cells practically single-handed. But even more impressive, she kicks butt while wearing stiletto heels – and that’s impressive.

Mindy McCready aka. Hit Girl (Kick Ass Movie and Comic): 
The youngest member of this list, Mindy McCready is perhaps one of the most deadly. Unlike the other women on this list, Mindy is a true comic book superhero, taking on the persona of Hit Girl when she’s crime fighting. Trained in martial arts and weaponry since she was a child, she’s out to avenge her mother’s death, and not afraid to take out anyone who gets in her way.

Zoe Washburne (Firefly and Serenity):
Over the years, Joss Whedon has gained a reputation for writing strong, warrior-like female characters, and Zoe is the epitome of a Whedon woman. The first of his Holy Trinity of Action Heroines, she makes her living as a space outlaw and gun for hire. As a former rebel soldier and second in command aboard the Serenity, I love Zoe’s sharp wit, loyalty . . . and ability to kick the butt of any of every space thug and bandit that comes her way.

River Tam (Firefly and Serenity):
Though an excellent character on Firefly, it wasn’t until the movie Serenity that she gained her title as an action heroine. There aren’t many seventeen-year-old girls who can survive an attack from the vicious and cannibalistic Reavers, but River manages it without even the use of an automated weapon. With her balletic combat skills and her psychic abilities, no power in the verse can stop her.

Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer film and TV series):
Last but not least and Whedon’s coup-de-gras, Buffy Summers is the “chosen one”, the slayer brought forth to take on vampires, hell-beasts, monsters and all manner of underworld demons. With the help of her Watcher and “Scooby gang”, she manages to save the world from apocalypse again and again. An amazing fighter and one of the greatest characters of all time, I will forever remember Buffy Summers as the hero of my childhood.


  1. (sigh)

    I LOVE strong female characters! Is that the feminist in me coming out? Oh dear.

    What about Evenlyn Salt? She's a kick butt bad girl too! But maybe you didn't want to overdo the Angelina Jolie ( :

    Nice post, woman! Love it!

  2. Nikita, Leeloo, and Laura Craft are my faves. Thanks for sharing them. It's fun to see them all together.

  3. I have to agree that the 2010 Nikita looks a little scrawny, but as a major fan of Maggie Q I've gotta defend her ability to kick ass. She moves so fast I can barely catch what she's doing until she knocks some guy flat on his ass with an iron...

    :-) Man, I love kick ass girl characters.

  4. oh, I love, love Trinity and Leeloo.. and Mrs. Jolie-Pitt is just bad ass, period!

  5. Holy cow, that is a FABULOUS list! Damsels of Distress :) are my favorite. Put a girl that kicks butt in a book or movie, and I'm guaranteed to love it.

  6. You just made me relive all my favorite movie moments...THANK YOU! Okay, so almost all those women you listed are FAVORITES! (My ULTIMATE fave is Selene bc I love Kate Beckinsale...)

    I also really like Eowyn from LOTR...

  7. Jules - I considered putting Salt (and Wanted and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) on here, but you're right, I didn't want too many from the same actress. Also, I was (at least attempting) to go for slightly more iconic, with more than one movie or field. But it hurt to leave them off.

    Megan - I must admit, I haven't actually watched it. Just the previews. Maybe I should check it out.

    Peggy and Christina - thanks, and ME TOO!

    Barbara - I also wanted to add Eowyn (because she is SERIOUSLY amazing), but because the list was already so long, I narrowed it to all contemporary women. Again, it was a hard hard choice!

  8. Sorry to hear about the cold! Hope you're feeling better soon.

    Wow, it's kind of sad how few of these movies and TV shows I've seen. But yes, I agree with others above -- Angelina Jolie is awesome. :)

  9. Seriously love it! What a fabulous list. And I'm so pleased you have Leeloo on here...she and Selene have gotta be my favs.

    Thanks for visiting my blog recently. I'm excited that you've finished your book and can't wait to read it someday. Good luck with your publication endeavors! (I'm now following your site.) :-)

  10. I love Alice in resident evil and Selene they sooo! amazing in filipino term ASTIG!

  11. Your list is amazing, I love all these characters. Thanks for visiting my page and sharing the link to this. Brilliant.

  12. Additional Heroines not listed that are among my faves......
    Lisbeth Salander - Film: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy (original version). Actress: Noomi Rapace.
    Aeon Flux - Film/Comics/Cartoon: Aeon Flux (kicks even more ass than Hit Girl). Actress: Charlize Theron (Director: Karyn Kasuma - who directed Girl Fight)
    ALL the girls from SuckerPunch. Film: SuckerPunch
    Mary - Film: The Day. Actress: Ashley Bell. (Tougher than Lara Croft gritty heroine in a post apocalyptic horror movie, where she is tied to a chair by the rest of the group that don't trust her, yet is the sole survivor the morning after)