Action films are of a genre that’s frequently cited as being male dominated and generally not that female friendly. In recent years we’ve seen the rise of the female action hero – it’s becoming a more and more popular occurrence – with the recent releases of Hanna (2011), Lucy (2014) and The Hunger Games (2012). Of the top ten grossing films in 2014 only two contained a female lead but both can be seen to reside within the genre of action. With it being International Women’s Day today, I decided to write a list of the most powerful and influential female action heroes in film as a celebration of this awesome and expanding genre.
1. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, Alien & Aliens)
Number one is, of course, Ellen Ripley as played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film series. She was one of the very first female action heroes and one of the most memorable and influential – Weaver is often dubbed the ‘Sci-Fi Queen’. While the original Alien is technically not an action film, we are shown Weaver’s very realistic and courageous portray of Ripley – the lone survivor of a vicious alien that stalks and kills her crew mates. Throughout the film we are shown her skills as a leader, whose first thoughts are of the safety of the crew, as well as her cunning and compassion – she even saves the ship’s cat.
She reprises her role as Ripley in the sequel Aliens, which is without doubt an action film. Here we see her defend her companions against an alien queen as well as generally offering smart advice to them. In this film Ripley is also shown as a motherly character and far from taking away from her fierceness, it only amplifies it.
Shout out to Vasques for being a hard-core muscled marine, who’s not afraid to be seen as one of the men.
2. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games series )
People have argued that Katniss isn’t really much of a hero in sense that in the books and film she often shies away from conflict, and only become a revolutionary figure of the saga reluctantly. All this is true of her character, but her resolve to prevent conflict or her reasons behind volunteering as tribute don’t diminish her as a empowered female figure or a hero within her saga.
In many ways Katniss’s realisation that sacrificing her safety and ideals for what is necessary makes her more heroic than fictional figures who just blindly accept their role as revolutionaries. Katniss’s rise to a heroic position is a process of experiencing hardship and surviving ordeals which makes her character ultimately more believable.
3. Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz , Kick Ass)
Hit Girl is a unique character: a ferocious vigilante who just happens to be an eleven year old girl. She is skilled in various forms of combat and as a vigilante holds a strong sense of morality. While she may appear as somewhat hardened from her short life of crime fighting, she has a heart of gold and cares deeply for her father. Hit Girl is such an awesome character because of her maturity beyond her years, her ability to deal with the situation at hand (no matter how heart wrenching it might be) and finally because of her bravery and ability to kick the asses of adults twice her size.
4. The Bride (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2)
The Bride, also known as Black Mamba during her days in the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, is one of the most iconic female characters in modern cinema and arguably the most recognisable female role from the Tarantino films. The Bride is such an empowering figure because of her strong sense of justice and her tenacity and she never waivers in her ideals or is overcome by an obstacle (even if it’s being buried alive in the middle of the desert.)
5. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgement Day)
Sarah Connor, as played by Linda Hamilton, portrays the average woman thrown into an extraordinary situation. Connor is due to be assassinated by the Terminator (an android assassin sent from the future) because of a future that she is unaware of. In this future her son is the leader of a rebellion against the impending robot invasion and the Terminator’s plan in to destroy Connor thus preventing her son from ever being born.
You can’t help but sympathise with Sarah’s innocence and the bravery she shows to keep going despite the knowledge of an approaching robotic apocalypse. What makes Connor such a great character is her endurance and her preparation – she doesn’t just sit around waiting for impending doom. She is proactive and perfects her and her son’s survival skills.
Happy International Women’s Day guys!