Over the last few years there has been a rise in movies with strong female leads, unfortunately, action movies are still the last bastion of manhood. All too often women are relegated to the role of the girlfriend or the damsel-in-distress. The highly anticipated Wonder Woman movie, starring Gal Gadot, focuses on Diana Prince, an Amazonian princess who is more likely to save a man than being saved by one. Wonder Woman, first played by Linda Carter on television, is an iconic role. The films below feature five iconic female action stars who set a high bar for films that have come after. Before pussy grabbed back these ladies were kicking ass!
Films: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Tomorrow Never Dies
Michelle Yeoh is best known for her role as Yu Shu Lien in Ang Lee’s masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In the movie, she plays a warrior who fights to protect her friend and lover. This film’s fight choreography inspired countless lookalike movies but there’s no denying the originality and beauty of the scene where Michelle Yeoh fights Zhang Ziyi. They prove that women can be both tender and tough.
Films: Kill Bill series
Uma Thurman’s Bride in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series is relentless in her quest for revenge. After being left for dead she’s determined to leave many others dead in her wake and it takes her two movies to do it. This film was known for its excessive and some would say gratuitous violence. But it proved that not all “girls are sugar and spice and everything nice.”
Films: Foxy Brown, Coffy
The film Foxy Brown cemented Pam Grier’s role as an iconic female action star. From the fashions to the fight scenes the movie has inspired many women, especially women of color. Grier stars as a woman out for revenge after local mobsters kill her boyfriend. Megan Goode is set to update the role in a Foxy Brown television series for Hulu next year.
Films: Terminator series
Arnold Schwarzenegger may have had top billing in the Terminator series, but in Terminator 2: Judgement Day there was no doubt who was the star — Linda Hamilton and her biceps. In the first movie, Linda Hamilton was a scared party girl who’s life was irrevocably changed when an android from the future tries to kill her. In the second movie, Hamilton’s character is itching for a fight. Biceps were on every woman’s wishlist after this movie came out.
Films: Alien Series
In my opinion, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise is the first undeniable female action star. There were, of course, women who were in action movies before, but no one carried a movie like Weaver does in the Alien series. And it’s in Aliens, the sequel to the more horror focused Alien that Weaver really shines. She’s taking down aliens and saving people without looking like she’s dressed for a strip club. Unfortunately, the female action stars of today are so over sexualized that they lose some of their power. Come on, can you really fight if you’re worried that one of your bikini straps will pop off? In the final fight scene in Aliens Weaver looks like a woman who’s been fighting a monster and it’s that realism, in a completely unrealistic scenario, that makes this role iconic.