The Seven Greatest Female Action Heroes
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The recent release of Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, starring MMA fighter Gina Carano, was as notable for its A-List cast and crew as it was for the casting of an actress not named Jolie in the lead role. As such, it got us to thinking: How many true female Action Heroes are there?
HONORABLE MENTIONS—So close.
Ah, the ’70s.
1. Pam Grier
A pioneer in more ways than one, Grier was basically a sexier Charles Bronson when it came to revenge-fueled bad-assery. Granted, being sexier than Bronson is only difficult if you’re a scarred, 13-year-old pug. (And even then, my apologies to the pug.) The B-movie level of Grier’s Coffy and Foxy Brown roles prevents the likes of her, Tamara Dobson, Linda Blair and even Brigitte Nielson from making this list, but it’s a close call.
John Connor’s mom has got it going on.
2. Linda Hamilton
If only there had been a Terminator 1.5. Had her character’s Ripley-esque transformation from vulnerable screamer (with transcendent ’80s hair) to hardened survivor/bad ass been caught on film, Hamilton’s inclusion would be a no-brainer. Instead, Hamilton gets the distinction of being the only actress kept off this list by in medias res storytelling
Why? Because Yeoh, baby, Yeoh, baby, Yeoh, Yeoh, Yeoh, baby, Yeoh!
3. Michelle Yeoh
Whether her lack of true Action Hero roles stateside is a function of her own efforts to expand her range or just the reluctance of studio execs to trust her as the lead, Yeoh’s work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon comes closest to forcing an exception to the “no ensemble pieces counted” parameter.
FUTURE CONTENDERS—Some actresses near the tipping point
If you want to raise a killing machine, homeschooling is the way to go!
1. Saoirse Ronan
Ronan’s role as the title character in 2011’s Hanna is tantalizing to the Action Hero connoisseur. On one non-balled-into-a-fist hand, the acclaim Ronan has garnered in more serious roles suggests she could easily leave the action genre behind. On the other prepared-for-a-devastating-judo-chop hand, her role in the upcoming girl assassin comedy, Violet & Daisy, suggests Ronan is not averse to making a killing from time to time.
"I’m just a weak wittle girl, who will totally kill you.
2. Chloë Moretz
As Hit-Girl, Moretz provided most of the truth in advertising for the title of of 2010’s Kick-Ass. At this stage, it seems more likely that Moretz will pull a Natalie Portman (post-The Professional) and go more Award-winning than medieval in future efforts. But you never know.
Though putting her on the list might not be such a stretch.
3. Charlize Theron
Aeon Flux gets you here. One more role—Hancock was close—and you’re on the big list. (Call me!)
Maybe a new agent?
4. Jessica Biel
Her work in Blade: Trinity (2004) and her body of, well, body, suggest Biel is just a role away from an Action Hero career of one’s own.
I don’t know. Seems she went a little heavy on the makeup.
5. Gina Carano
Of the 22 or so “actiony” actresses mentioned in this piece, Carano’s kick-ass bona fides are perhaps the kick-assiest. But this list is more about actresses who achieve A-List male Action Hero status rather than those who could physically destroy you, you sad, sprouting couch potato of a man, so she doesn’t make it just yet. That said, her role in the A-list effort, Haywire, makes it likely she’ll be there soon enough.