We’ve neared the end of Women’s History Month. And we would be remiss not to recognize the accomplishments and badassery of women in the action genre. Women have been kicking ass and taking names in film and television (while getting paid considerably less than their male counterparts, but we’re not here for that conversation right now) for a hot second*. As someone who has dreamed of jumping around and unloading the choppa on my foes (i.e. everyone) — while being unable to actually bust a grape in a fruit fight — I admire the women that do it for play and get paid for it.
Without further ado and not in any particular order:
Xena: Warrior Princess was a revelation. A movement.
Xena had little girls dressing up like her (like my elementary school best friend dressed up as her one year).
Xena and Gabrielle were the stuff fan fiction was built for.
Lucy Lawless embodied the role as a bloodlusty ex-warlord on the path to redemption. The armor. That high pitched battle cry. The chakram…man, listen: I had never seen one of those before and I really haven’t seen on since. Xena held her own against gods, demi-gods, mortals and everyone in between.
Lawless has kept the action going with stints on Spartacus and Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Milla Jovovich/Kate Beckinsale
I’m putting these two ladies in the same entry because they have both carried long-past-their-expiration-date franchises on their backs.
Milla and Kate have been doing Resident Evil and Underworld since I was in middle school. I’m 28. Resident Evil came out when I was 13. That’s a whole 15 years right there! I’ve graduated from middle and high schools, college and from youthful exuberance to pure unabashed cynicism, and these movies are just now wrapping up their runs(?).
Shout out to The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet and Van Helsing.
One of the OGs in the game. This woman holds black belt rankings in seven different martial arts while some of us can barely hold a conversation.
Rothrock plied her trade in Hong Kong with another name on this list and came over to America to do the damn thing here. Her filmography spans over 30 years, and she is still working after a brief hiatus.
Give a look at China O’Brien and Mercenaries.
Another OG in the game, this woman’s career has spanned over 30 years as well.
Starting out as a ballerina before an injury forced her into an early retirement, Yeoh transferred her skills over to choreography and other arts. After winning both the Miss Malaysia and Queen of the Pacific pageants in 1983, Yeoh then transitioned over to commercials and finally feature films. She’s been kicking ass ever since. Even landing a coveted role as a Bond girl.
Check out Police Story 3: Supercop, The Heroic Trio, Tomorrow Never Dies, and, of course, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The Premier OG (she starred in Original Gangsters for Christ’s sake!). Considered by some to be one of the greatest action heroines in cinema history, and, by my man main Quentin Tarantino, to be the first female action star, Pam Grier came to fame in the Blaxploitation era of film.
Screw it! check out Jackie Brown for the hell of it. Grier kicked anybody’s ass while showing some ass at the same time. Pimps, their charges, drug pushers and the fed…they all got it. And she occasionally did it with the most immaculate afro ever put to celluloid. Woo.
Just watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Just for that movie alone, she deserves a spot on this list.
I didn’t want to include Angelina on this list.
I clearly forgot about her contributions to the action genre.
I thought of Tomb Raider. Bofa them.
And then I thought of Mr & Mrs. Smith.
Then I went down the rabbit hole. Salt. Wanted. You can probably even throw in her cameo in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Angelina has some action under her belt.
Charlize Theron is one of my baby mommas. I am openly admitting that, some things aside.
She first dipped a toe in the action genre back in 2000’s Reindeer Games alongside Ben Affleck (who I’m going to be nice towards because…positivity). She followed that up five years later with Aeon Flux based on the cult MTV cartoon. Since then, she’s made us all hail Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and will be getting some ass and kicking some more ass in this summer’s Atomic Blonde.
Who do you have? Who was left off of this list? Who shouldn’t have even been included? Hit the comments and let it be known!
*Just in case you don’t know, a second is any arbitrary amount of time. It could be a literal second, or it could be a lifetime. You know what it is and you don’t know what it means. Don’t debate this.
Girl, you know it’s true. It’s damn true.