Women in entertainment. Few topics are as hot button nowadays, if you ask me. From how they are portrayed to the roles they get to who is actually pulling the (business) strings, it is seemingly an endless topic of debate in the blogosphere and beyond.
We at ACTION A GO GO don’t tend to dive into these debates all to often. The reasons are many. For one thing, there is seldom a “winner” in any of these arguments. Actually, picking a winner is part of the problem. The entertainment industry is large enough and filled with so many subgenres that there is room enough for everyone. So we are going to celebrate the many women in the industry that are currently kicking ass and taking names. Some have been doing this longer than others but all are women we respect, we admire and, most of all, want to see do more fantastic work for years to come.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s dive into the TOP 25 MOST IMPORTANT WOMEN IN ACTION…RIGHT NOW!
25. Becky Cloonan – Comic Artist and Writer
While there are more than a fair share of female creators populating the quirky indie comics scene, artist-writer Becky Cloonan continues to bounce successfully between small publishers and the majors. A lot of this has to do with her art style. An approach to character design and action that fuses Western and Eastern storytelling techniques with very kinetic results. Known for collaborating with writer Brian Wood, Cloonan has brought her unique look to classic characters such as Conan The Barbarian and Batman, as well as the critically-acclaimed viking epic, Northlanders. Recently, Cloonan returned to writing with Marvel’s latest Punisher series. This puts her in the same, rare club as Mary Jo Duffy and Valerie d’Orazio — female writers who have tackled Marvel’s premiere, gun-toting vigilante.
24. Mari Shimazaki – Game Designer
Responsible for the design elements found in games such as Soul Calibur V, Gunfighter Stratos, and Okami, Mari Shimazaki’s greatest achievement remains the controversial Bayonetta series. Rocking weaponized stilettos, a slinky catsuit, and jet black beehive, Bayonetta’s striking look made her an instant cult hit with gamers. It also made Shimazaki’s creation an immediate target for art critics with specific attitudes about female sexuality. In a time when games journalist and games enthusiasts in-fight exhaustively over identity politics, Shimazaki’s Bayonetta created a roadblock amidst all the moral panic. Here was a Japanese woman working in video games who was responsible for creating a game that not only struck a chord with players but was developing into a full blown franchise off of her back. Because of Mari’s efforts Bayonetta has become a household icon and proof that not all female characters in gaming need to fit one mold.
23. Danai Gurira – Walking Dead Actress
The Walking Dead is a television juggernaut. While the show may be about Rick (and fans love Daryl), everyone knows that Michonne is the badass you get behind when the walkers show up. She wields a samurai sword, has zombies as pets (!), and regularly schools the big boys when it comes to post-apocalyptic survival. And this whole legend was built on the performance of Danai Gurira. Her resume is fairly linear for an actor of her calibre, but with a character like Michonne under her belt the sky’s the limit when (if ever?) the sword-wielding walker slayer is written off the show. Get ready to see more of Gurira for years to come.
22. Charlize Theron – Movie Star
Since her breakout performance in 2 Days In The Valley in 1996, Theron has been a regular face in Hollywood. While her range can be measured by her Oscar win for Monster (2004), it’s Theron’s second career as an honest-to-God action star that continues to keep major audiences engaged. Since 2003’s Italian Job, the actress has garnered a small but impressive action filmography. Most notably with roles in Prometheus, Aeon Flux, and, her scene stealing performance in last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s that last entry in particular that cemented her as an action icon. Theron’s role as Furiosa in Mad Max unquestionably and comfortably sits next to the likes of Aliens‘ Ripley and Kill Bill‘s The Bride. With her getting behind the wheel for the third time in the upcoming “Fast and Furious 8”, the South African star might as well just call herself action royalty.
21. Stephanie McMahon – Chief Brand Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment
Since she walked down the aisle at age 22, Stephanie McMahon has been a long-standing fixture on WWE TV. The daughter of CEO Vince McMahon, Stephanie — like her father — has managed to find an unenviable balance between on-air superstar and behind-the-scenes business professional. Not only does she play a recurring in-ring personality, but she’s also a minority owner in the family business, as well as the WWE’s Chief Brand Manager. That last part is integral to women’s wrestling everywhere. Stephanie’s push to turn the company’s Women’s Championship division into a programming highlight has allowed new WWE superstars to shine during a time when much of the male roster hasn’t.
20. Deborah Snyder – Movie Producer
Behind every great man there is a great woman, and that maxim holds true when it comes to Zack Snyder’s success. While Zack grabs all the headlines for the direction he’s taken the Superman and Batman flagship film series, it’s Deborah Snyder that has been behind the scenes producing each of Zack’s films since 300 (2007). Now Deborah Snyder is one of the key players behind the DC movie universe, producing Batman V Superman, the upcoming Suicide Squad, next year’s Wonder Woman, and beyond.
19. Élodie Yung – Martial Artist and Actress
Yung is no stranger to the action genre. Having transitioned rather quickly from French teen dramas to films like District 13, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and GI Joe: Retaliation. With Marvel’s Daredevil however, her performance as Elektra gave comic fans what they’ve been demanding for years by turning a longtime comic book favorite into flesh and blood. Yung’s Elektra proved to be a force to be reckoned with in Daredevil season 2 — taking names, no prisoners, and even the spotlight from the title character.
18. Bonnie Ross – Head of 343 Industries
With the release of the The Master Chief Collection, the Ridley Scott produced Nightfall, the massive release of Guardians, another show produced by Steven Spielberg, and the upcoming Halo Wars follow up — Halo’s bankability is going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Steering that ship along with many talented, hard working game devs is none other than Bonnie Ross, the head of 343 Studios. Responsible for running the Microsoft-owned franchise, Ross’ vision keeps the Halo brand viable inside and outside of gaming. She also has to be there to not just celebrate with fans at the launch of a new title, but also has the unenviable responsibility of facing the wrath of consumers. As far as we’re concerned, this makes her the real master chief.
17. Jaimie Alexander – Actress
Previous to her star making role on Blindspot, Jaimie Alexander’s most notable action credit came from Marvel’s Thor and Thor The Dark World. While Godliness is pretty impressive, it wasn’t until NBC’s Blindspot that Alexander captured the attention of television audiences everywhere. The initial teaser trailer featuring her nude in the middle of Times Square sucked people in, and by the time the series was ready to debut in September of 2015, her show had developed into the biggest televised mystery since Lost. With 9.6 average viewers per episode, the tatted up Jane Doe has truly turned Alexander into a name.
16. The Soska Sisters – Directors and Producers
Jen and Sylvia Soska are the filmmaking twins behind such cult flicks as Dead Hooker in a Trunk and See No Evil 2. Hailing from Canada, their oddball fascination with body modification put them on the map with American Mary, a tale of surgery gone so awry that it made Human Centipede look like a Disney’s Tangled.
15. Gale Anne Hurd – Producer
Is there a woman more important to the action genre than Gale Anne Hurd? Aliens, Abyss, Punisher, Terminator, Terminator 2, Incredible Hulk, Tremors, Armageddon…all have one thing in common: Her. For years Gale Anne Hurd was James Cameron’s producing partner, but since 2010 her name has become synonymous with the runaway AMC show Walking Dead. What’s next? The feeding frenzy for Walking Dead seems to have no end, and she is staying along for the ride. That’s just fine with us, because Hurd’s resume proves that her attachment to a project is guaranteed action gold.
14. Priyanka Chopra – Actress and Producer
While she may only rank 14 on our “action” list, make no mistake: Priyanka Chopra might very well be one of the most powerful women in the world. She literally has done everything — from singing to acting to producing to winning 2000’s Miss World pageant. And that’s just scratching the surface. For our purposes however, Chopra landed on our radar with ABC’s Quantico, a TV series that managed to cement her crossover appeal with American audiences. It worked. But here is the thing: America was late to the party. While her current TV role as Alex Parrish brought her to US action audiences, Chopra has been an action star in India for nearly a decade.
13. Scarlett Johansson – Actress
Is there a bigger Hollywood actress in the world right now than Scarlett Johansson? While online pundits may scratch their heads at her involvement in the upcoming live-action Ghost in the Shell movie, one look at Johansson’s box office track record proves that her appeal defies borders. While a significant amount of her success can be chalked up to her ties with Marvel, those films gave her a level of worldwide recognition. The proof can be found in Lucy. Her 2014 star vehicle did respectable money here, but raked in huge with international viewers. From a global box office perspective, that means she can cash her check anywhere…even Japan.
12. Zoë Bell – Actress and stuntwoman
Zoë Bell is quite possibly Hollywood’s most recognizable stunt person. And considering that stunt people in general rarely get recognized for their death-defying efforts, it is doubly impressive that it is a woman who is the current face of the business. Bell has worked on everything from Xena: Warrior Princess to Iron Man 3, but it was the documentary Double Dare and her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof that made her a name. It wasn’t too shortly after Death Proof that Bell started looking more into acting in action films instead. Her stunt background has served her incredibly well in that regard. Similar to Tom Cruise or Jackie Chan, audiences can be allowed an additional thrill knowing that Bell is actually putting herself in danger for your entertainment.
11. Gal Gadot – Actress
Is there a more important fictional character for an actress to play than Wonder Woman? Long considered a feminist icon, Diana Prince has never been given a big screen treatment. Until Gal Gadot stepped in. A former IDF instructor and beauty queen, Gadot was already part of one major franchise with the Fast and Furious series. Her recent trip to Themyscira however has all eyes on her. Comic book nerds, feminist, and hopeful little girls are all itching to see what’s in store for the first consistent live-action Wonder Woman since Linda Carter. It’s a lot of pressure. And while the mixed reviews for Batman V Superman all pointed out how great she was in the role, the real proof will be when Wonder Woman hits theaters next summer.
10. Diane Nelson – President of DC Entertainment
You like the the Injustice video game series? DC’s impressive, ever-expanding line of animated films? How about The Flash? When it comes to an “Extended Universe,” it’s DCE president Diane Nelson who is spearheading this massive effort. Making her largely responsible for ensuring that all of DC’s IPs are given facetime. That’s a lot of characters and a lot of talent to develop them into games, movies, TV, and comics. As Suicide Squad approaches, Nelson’s vision for DCEU will gibe birth to a new generation of DC fans. Which is something the brand wants and needs.
9. Jane Goldman – Screenwriter
For a few years now, director Matthew Vaughn’s right hand man…has been a woman. That’s right. Jane Goldman, the screenwriter behind such films as Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, and Kingsman has been Vaughn’s most trusted collaborator. While their work together started with 2007’s fantasy film Stardust, the two seem to work more frequently in the realm of action, including the holocaust revenge flick The Debt, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and the upcoming Kingsman sequel, The Golden Circle.
8. Emily Blunt – Actress and the Sigourney Weaver of this generation
Emily Blunt, to put it simply, is killing it. Since making a splash in Rian Johnson’s Looper, she has found consistent work in the action genre where she plays tough and fearless heroines. This is exemplified perfectly by the badass Rita Vrataski in Edge of Tomorrow and strung out FBI agent Kate Macer in Sicario, two of the most critically underrated movies of recent times that both feature Blunt kicking much ass. If it wasn’t for the strength of talent on this list she’d be farther up there for sure. Regardless, we can’t wait to get more from her down the road.
7. Victoria Alonso – Marvel VFX Producer
Say it with me now… MARVEL. MARVEL. MARVEL! Kevin Feige and his braintrust at Marvel Studios may very well be the most important names in action. Part of that braintrust is Victoria Alonso, who has been producing Marvel movies ever since 2008’s Iron Man. Alonso’s role in the MCU is actually integral as she oversees many of the FX work that goes into convincingly bringing these heroes to life. As VFX producer, she controls the cost on these massive productions and keeps the technical pipeline flowing, navigating multiple effects houses at any given time. As any longtime Marvel reader can tell you, there is something strangely exhilarating and gratifying in seeing your childhood heroes finally on the big screen displaying their true might. Characters like Thor, Captain America, and many others have been brought to the screen and done right under Alonso’s watch, pleasing hardcore and new fans alike.
6. Fan Bingbing – Actress
Fan Bingbing’s inclusion in X-Men Days of Future Past was as much about delivering X-Men readers a bit of fan service as it was securing the Chinese movie market. One of the highest-paid actresses in the world, a singer, and a model, Bingbing is an outright superstar. Soon to be co-starring with Jet Li in League of Gods, and then Jackie Chan in Skiptrace, Bingbing’s filmography is a healthy cross section of genres (with an emphasis on martial arts, which is why she made the list) that has allowed her to dethrone China’s previous female superstar, Zhang Ziyi. Next stop: Bingbing has begun to expand her career beyond China, and Hollywood is definitely taking notice.
5. Ranae & Heidi Moneymaker – Stuntwomen
You’re not supposed to realize it, but you are very familiar with the works of these siblings. If Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johannsson are the two biggest female Hollywood stars in the world, then Ranae and Heidi Moneymaker are the next two. The Stuntwomen behind the women, the Moneymaker sisters’ credits reads like a laundry list of major movie franchises. Blockbuster series such as Fast and Furious, Mission: Impossible, X-Men, Star Trek, Hunger Games, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
4. Donna Langley – Chairman of Universal Pictures
Donna Langley is the definition of Hollywood power broker as the head of Universal pictures. Her performance over the last year has been staggering for a couple of reasons that can be explained in two videos. Watch this first, as it is a 2014 roundtable of execs that features Donna and other heads of major studios talking about the state of their business and the industry. In this video the Disney head Alan Horn is riding high on Marvel’s current success and Star Wars’ inevitable box office clearing (at the time). Langley is playing defense, and needs to explain how Universal is going to be turned around. Everyone is skeptical (as was I) and it looked like a tough year ahead for Universal. Now, watch this video, the same roundtable but made in 2015. That year Langley is the envy of the table, having massive successes with the Fast and Furious franchise and a breakout hit in Jurassic World. It’s a staggering turnaround that happened on her watch, so she deserves her spot on this list and many kudos for putting her head down and turning Universal around by the scruff of it’s neck.
3. Miesha Tate – UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion
If anything, it was Miesha “Cupcake” Tate that proved to be the true cinderella story of Women’s MMA. Currently the Women’s Bantamweight champ, Tate seemed like a true underdog when she stepped into the ring back in March against Holly Holm. Shockingly, Holm had just defeated the seemingly unstoppable Ronda Rousey, wrestling the title from the former champ. Tate, who had received two previous losses to Rousey (one of which ended epically when Rousey resorted to breaking Tate’s arm), had been chomping at the bit for a third try. However, UFC’s head Dana White expressed little to no interest in a rematch, feeding Rousey to fighters that many believed were “gimmes”. Tate waited and waited until retirement almost seemed more likely. But at UFC 196, she defeated Holm by submission, beating the woman that beat her rival, and putting her on a collision course with Rousey once more.
2. Zoe Saldana
A lot of the women on this list may have a few characters under their belt, or are getting regularly picked for fantastic roles. But right now if anyone has a claim to “Queen of Sci Fi” it is Zoe Saldana. She is in not 1, not 2, but 3 box office monster franchises. Those would be Avatar (2009), which is STILL the highest grossing movie of all time and is set to have sequels come out in succession soon. Then there is Star Trek, where she has played Uhura and will be bringing that character back for a third go round with Star Trek: Beyond. Finally, she is Gamora in the breakout Marvel hit movie Guardians Of The Galaxy, with a sequel that is in production right now and set to debut in 2017. So the girl is everywhere. She’s practically inescapable. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s talented, tough, and up for anything Hollywood has to throw at her.
1. Kathleen Kennedy – Producer and President of Lucasfilm
If any woman in the industry deserves this spot it is Kathleen Kennedy. Since beginning to work with Steven Spielberg in 1979 as secretary she has steadily climbed up the ranks to associate producer, full on producer, and ultimately the President and Producer of Lusasfilm, which means she is in charge of all things Star Wars right now. And the list of movies she has been attached to over the years reads like a who’s who of box office monsters. We are talking all of the Indiana Jones movies, all of the Back To The Future movies, Goonies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Schindler’s List, nearly all of the Jurassic Park movies, Star War: The Force Awakens and ALL Star Wars films moving forward unless otherwise noted. So yes, she is an industry powerhouse that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And for that, we salute you, Mrs. Kennedy, the number 1 Lady in entertainment right now!
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