If you’re like me, you are anxiously awaiting this Friday’s release of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve been on board with this one ever since I saw the first trailer months ago. I didn’t need to know much about it, but in the time since, I’ve read several news items that make me even more excited. For example, Eve Ensler was a consultant on the film, and has commented, most notably in this Time article, that the film is a feminist film. Of course, this means that Men’s Rights Activists are calling for a boycott of the film, saying that it will give rise to a world where women rule and men are weak.
Boys, boys, boys. Do you think this is the first action film to feature an action heroine? Have you only been watching films where there’s a damsel in distress, clad only in a bikini? Is Michael Bay your favorite director?
In honor of the film’s release this week, here’s a primer of some of my favorite action heroines (in no particular order).
1. Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and 2: I consider these films, collectively, to be one of my favorite films of all time. Beatrix, or “The Bride,” as she’s known for most of the two films, is as fierce an action hero as any I’ve ever seen. She kills dozens of people to get revenge, but ultimately, she realizes she’s fighting to get back her daughter. Though it might seem ridiculous how successful she is, she does face near-defeat a few times. She cheated death so she could be reunited with her daughter. And she’s not the only tough woman in the films: O-Ren, Gogo, Elle, and Vernita are all fierce competitors. (I’d also encourage you to check out the Lady Snowblood films–the Kill Bill films are a nice homage to these. Tarantino even includes songs from Meiko Kaji, star of these films, on the Kill Bill soundtracks.)
2. Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars Original Trilogy: Look, you saw this coming. Princess Leia is my favorite character in pop culture. Through three films, she showed how brave she was. She led the rebellion, and even when she’s being rescued, proves to be an asset to the team. If not for her, Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids, not to mention the Rebel forces, would have met their demise at the hands of the Empire. She’s sarcastic, quick-witted, and though she falls in love with Han Solo, never lets it get in the way of her mission.
3. Agent Peggy Carter, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Agent Carter: Just like the rest of the portion of the world in love with Peggy, I heaved a sigh of relief when it was announced that Peggy would be returning to ABC for more small-screen adventures. I’ve written extensively about Agent Carter’s leadership skills, but it bears repeating that it’s nice to see characters like Peggy, as well as the ladies of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, kick major ass.
4. Ellen Ripley, Alien movie franchise: This is one movie franchise that still scares the crap out of me. I adore Ripley, because she’s not an unstoppable, fearless force. She gets tired and scared, and she has to overcome both to fight the monsters in the dark. She is affected by the horror she’s encountered. In Aliens she has to protect Newt while trying to survive. Ripley is a powerful force on the screen, even in her most vulnerable moments. She’s also not defined by her gender. It doesn’t matter to the plot of the film that she’s a woman, but it is nice to see a film like this with a female action hero.
5. Hit Girl, Kick-Ass (1 and 2): I was a huge fan of the comics series, and Chloe Grace Moretz perfectly captured the pint-sized assassin’s character in these films. When you see her in action, it’s easy to forget she’s a child, at least until she’s scared or vulnerable. I definitely wouldn’t want to cross her path if I were on the wrong side of justice. (Also, Quentin Tarantino? If you ever make Kill Bill 3 with Beatrix’s daughter as the lead, can you consider CGM? She’d be amazing.)
There are so many others I didn’t mention. Feel free to supply your own in the comments!