Women rock on and off the big screen, but female-led action films are still quite rare in the typically male-dominated genre.
But in recent years, a lot of progress has been made in terms of female representation in fllms. The recent success of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel show that audiences love watching fearless females duke it out the big screen.
Let's kick off Women's Month this March by taking a look back through cinematic history at some great action films with strong women who continue to inspire us to this day.
In 1979, Sigourney Weaver set the standard for ass-kicking women in films with her character, Ellen Ripley. The science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott follows the crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo, who encounter the eponymous Alien, an aggressive and deadly extraterrestrial set loose on the ship. Despite being undermined by her crewmates, Ripley emerges as the sole survivor in the first film encounter with one of the scariest movie monsters of all time.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
While Arnold Schwarzenegger's role as the Terminator has made him a global icon, Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor deserves the spotlight, too. Her character manages to evolve from a damsel in distress in the first film to a hardened fugitive, warrior, and mother who sacrificed everything for her son's future. In the 1991 sequel to the The Terminator (1984), director and writer James Cameron pushed the female empowerment storyline to a different level, giving us a tougher female protagonist who rediscovers her vulnerability through her son John, while giving us an extreme amount of butt-kicking along the way.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The 2000 wuxia film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Lee features an international cast of actors of Chinese ethnicity and revolves around a storyline mostly driven by female characters. Actress Michelle Yeoh performed all her own stunts to play Yu Shu Lien, a veteran warrior tasked with finding the Green Sword of Destiny in the film. Watching the master of martial arts and sword expert Shu Lien gracefully take on the equally badass Yu Jen (Zhang Ziyi) in this visual masterpiece is awe-inspiring.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie just epitomizes badassery as Lara Croft in the 2001 film adaptation of the hit video game franchise Tomb Raider. Though the film was rebooted in 2018 starring Alicia Vikander, Jolie's take on the video game character that first brought the franchise to the silver screen is considered iconic.
The 2003 American martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, described as "the deadliest woman in the world." The Bride swears revenge on a team of assassins (Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, and Vivica A. Fox) and their leader, Bill (David Carradine), after they try to kill her and her unborn child. Her journey takes her to Tokyo, where she battles the yakuza.
This 2011 action thriller stars a young Saoirse Ronan as the title character, a girl raised in the wilderness of northern Finland by her father, an ex-CIA operative (Eric Bana), who trains her as an assassin at the age of 15. Cate Blanchett portrays a senior CIA agent who tries to track down and eliminate the girl and her father. This amazing cult classic just recently dropped on Netflix, so be sure to check it out this Women's month if you haven't seen it yet.
The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in the film adaptations of The Hunger Games films released from 2012 to 2015 was no damsel in distress and in fact, pretty much saved herself and all the men around her. We're looking at you, Peeta Mellark. Katniss selflessly volunteers to replace her sister, Primrose in the state-sanctioned televised Survivor-type "fight to the death" games and uses her knowledge of hunting and archery to survive. In the succeeding books and films, Katniss becomes a symbol of rebellion against the oppressive Capitol.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Imperator Furiosa. 'Nuff said. The 2015 Australian action film Mad Max: Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where petrol and water are scarce commodities, and follows Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), who joins forces with war captain Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to flee from cult leader Immortan Joe and his army in an armoured tanker truck, leading to a lengthy road battle. Theron ruled the screen as the strong-willed leader with a heart and a mechanical left arm who manages to drive the War Rig in their attempt to arrive in the Green Place. Furiosa and the band of "mothers" she's set out to protect are the real stars of the film.
Patty Jenkin's 2017 film Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot as the DC Comics character redefined women in the superherho genre, defied stereotypes, and absolutely dominated at the box office. Gadot portrayed the Amazon warrior princess and literal goddess Diana with the perfect blend of strength and compassion, capturing not just the heart of pilot and spy Steve Trevor, but audiences worldwide.
Just when some fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were worried that there wouldn't be a one-off film about a female superhero, Captain Marvel swooped in to save the day in the 2019 film. Carol Danvers played by Brie Larson is just way too powerful that they purposely kept her away from the main action in Avengers: Endgame because the movie would probably be too short if she was around.