Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right The five fiercest female action stars of all time
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Kill Bill: Vol. 1

The five fiercest female action stars of all time

With Katniss Everdeen returning to theaters to finish her fight, we gather a sisterhood of slaughter

By Joshua Rothkopf
Advertising

You can’t fault Jennifer Lawrence for being enthusiastic: While doing press for the new and final installment of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay—Part 2, she called her arrow-slinging humanity-savior Katniss Everdeen the “best female character ever.” Instantly iconic, she’s definitely up there in the pantheon of great blockbuster heroes. But we thrive on disagreeing. Here’s who we’d put in the ring.

Five fiercest female action stars

1. Pam Grier, Foxy Brown (1974)

Movies

She came…
The Afroed glories of Pam Grier found no better vehicle than Foxy Brown, the grungy blaxploitation classic that had its star slinging impatient sass, pounding the pavement (and faces) and rewriting the rules for an entire genre.

She saw…
Not someone you want on your bad side, this avenging angel shoots people point-blank (they all had it coming), burns up squealing sex-slave dealers and unmans one nasty drug lord, presenting his genitals to his girlfriend.

She conquered
“I got my black belt in barstools!” says Foxy after she wastes a way-too-proud karate champ with—you guessed it—a handy piece of furniture. (The only thing we break in bars is the bank.)

2. Michelle Yeoh, Police Story 3: Supercop (1992)

Movies

She came…
Yeoh puts us in a constant state of amazement. She’s best known for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but as Inspector Yang in Police Story 3: Supercop, she keeps up, step for step, with Jackie Chan at his peak.

She saw…
Trained as a dancer and eager to perform her own stunts, Yeoh is undoubtedly the most fearless actor on this list. In practical terms, that means hanging off the outside of a speeding bus and Evel Knieveling a motor bike onto a moving train.

She conquered
She’s way too busy administering roundhouse kicks to crack wise. Her stoic resolve in the face of Jackie’s constant goonery becomes expressive in itself. Punches speak louder anyhow.

Advertising

3. Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Movies Action and adventure

She came…
Already Quentin Tarantino’s favorite leading lady from Pulp Fiction, Thurman branched out into martial-arts mayhem as the Bride in the Kill Bill movies. Don’t say her jumpsuit looks like Charlie Brown’s—it’s actually a nod to Bruce Lee’s outfit from Game of Death.

She saw…
If it can be sliced, diced or sushi-fied, the Bride has done it—to dozens (hundreds?) of interchangeable henchmen. She savors the killing of those who left her for dead in a four-year coma, stealing her unborn baby.

She conquered
“It’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness I lack, not rationality,” says the Bride, about to get it on. Vivica A. Fox’s Copperhead can sputter excuses all she wants, but the person darkening her doorway will have justice.

FURY ROAD
FURY ROAD
Jasin Boland

4. Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Movies Action and adventure

She came…
We love being able to include a character so recent, and Theron’s inspiring Imperator Furiosa totally deserves it. She’s survived the post-apocalyptic wasteland and the whining of Internet geeks scared by female domination.

She saw…
Apart from stealing the film from the title character? Even without one hand, Furiosa rescues exploited women, tears ass across the desert in a semitrailer and demolishes all mutants in her way. Plus, she’s a better shot than Max.

She conquered
“Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say. Now pick up what you can and run,” she says. We imagine Furiosa will demand much more in any sequel worthy of George Miller’s reboot for the ages.

Advertising

5. Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Movies Science fiction

She came…
What a difference a film makes. By the time we catch up with Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she’s ripped, righteous and ready to mother the revolution against the machines.

She saw…
Sarah trains her son, the impulsive teen John, into the future leader he will become. That’s a massive achievement in itself, but she also stabs people with pens, does scary chin-ups daily, and breaks out of a mental hospital with ease.

She conquered
If you’re a doctor, practice on Sarah wisely: “There’s 215 bones in the human body,” she tells a creepy quack after breaking his arm. “That’s one.” We’re guessing he doesn’t file a claim for that.

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising