To mark International Women’s Day and the release of Captain Marvel, Close-up Culture name our 30 favourite action film heroines of all-time
30) Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan)
Trained by her father (an ex-CIA operative), 15 year old Hanna is a skilled assassin who can take down full-grown men with ease.
29) Mulan (Ming-Na Wen)
Mulan secretly joins the army to protect her father and ends up proving herself as a heroine of China.
28) Sook-hee (Ok-bin Kim)
Sook-hee is a tortured soul out for revenge on the people who turned her into a killing machine in Byung-gil Jung’s stylish and exhilarating action film The Villainess.
27) Özge Dogruol (Violetta Schurawlow)
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s 2017 thriller Cold Hell sees Özge transform from taxi driver into fearless action star to fight back against a sadistic serial killer.
26) Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz)
Kick-Ass’ Hit Girl is a schoolgirl who also happens to be a foul-mouthed vigilante in her spare time.
25) Elastigirl (Holly Hunter)
We get to witness the mind-blowing abilities of Elastigirl in The Incredibles 2 as she takes inventive measures to prevent a fatal train crash.
24) Jen (Matilda Lutz)
In Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, Jen is willing to go to any lengths to enact bloody retribution on the men who sexually assaulted her.
24) Foxy Brown (Pam Grier)
Jack Hill’s 1974 film sees Foxy Brown violently take down the mobsters who murdered her boyfriend. A whole lotta of woman and a whole lotta of action.
23) Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson)
Mission Impossible’s Ilsa Faust is a strong-willed agent capable of breaking a villain’s neck with her thighs – what’s not be impressed by?
22) Okoye (Danai Gurira)
This fearless leader was one of the standout elements of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. A heroine we hope to see given more focus in the future.
21) Laura (Dafne Keen)
Young Lara nearly upstages Wolverine in his swansong film as she displays ruthless fighting skills in Logan.
20) River Tam (Summer Glau)
River Tam is an unstoppable psychic assassin who beats up a bar full of people without breaking a sweat in Joss Whedon’s 2005 film Serenity.
17) Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron)
Don’t let the bleach blonde hair distract you, Lorraine Broughton is a calculated international spy capable of mixing it up in the bloodiest of brawls, only to shrug it off later with a glass of whiskey and an ice bath. Theron’s convincing and arresting performance in Atomic Blonde will hopefully not be the last we see of this character.
16) Jen (JeeJa Yanin)
Few actors can match the intensity, athleticism and fighting capabilities displayed by JeeJa Yanin in her portrayal of Chocolate’s unstoppable protagonist.
15) Rey (Daisy Ridley)
Although we are still eagerly awaiting many unanswered questions in the next chapter of Rey’s story, this leading figure in Star Wars’ new era has already won our hearts with her journey from scavenger to lightsabre-wielding heroine.
14) Gong Er (Ziyi Zhang) – The Grandmaster
Gon Er’s arc steals the focus of Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, a story of revenge which culminates in an unforgettable final showdown in the snow.
13) Yuki Kashima (Meiko Kaji) – The Lady Snowblood
Another heroine driven by revenge, Yuki is willing to slice off people’s arms on the hunt to find the criminals who kidnapped her mother.
12) Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss)
Hacker Trinity teams up with Neo for some slow-motion bullet dodging, gravity defying wall running and jaw-dropping martial arts in The Matrix films.
11) Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)
Letty Ortiz been through a lot in the Fast & Furious series. Played with typical toughness by Michelle Rodriguez, Letty has never been afraid to match the full throttle risks of her male counterparts or even go toe-to-toe with a real-life badass like Ronda Rousey.
10) Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – Edge Of Tomorrow
Edge Of Tomorrow’s Rita Vrataski, also know as the Angel of Verdun, helps William Cage (Tom Cruise) unpack a strange time loop and fight back against the alien race invading Europe.
9) Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)
Fuelled by a tragic past, Rogue One’s Jyn Erso is willing to sacrifice it all in defiance of the Empire. Felicity Jones brilliantly captures this well-rounded heroine and looks impressive single-handily fighting off a group of Storm Troopers – even if she accidently shots K-2SO too.
8) Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence)
It is hard not to admire Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series. A master of the bow and arrow, this female action star has the resourcefulness and bravery to overthrow a tyrannical system.
6) Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer)
As lethal with her tongue as she was with a blaster, Princess Leia is an icon of cinema who extends far, far beyond the realm of action.
7) Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)
Gal Gadot did not need to be shielded from the critics when she won plaudits for her strong and charismatic portrayal of Wonder Woman in 2017. This action hero is easily the best thing the DC Extended Universe has going.
Mei (Ziyi Zhang)
A lack of sight does not stop Mei from fighting back when she is completely surrounded in Zhang Yimou’s House Of Flying Daggers. A heroine to admire for a multitude of reasons.
5) Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton)
Being pursued by the Terminator, a relentless cyborg killer, Sarah Connor has to go from college student to gutsy resistance fighter in the flash of a time-travelling light. Although Emilie Clarke took the Sarah Connor reigns in Terminator Genisys (2015), there is a good chance we see Linda Hamilton back in the role soon.
4) Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh)
Ang Lee’s 2000 classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon follows Yu Shu Lien’s journey to reclaim the legendary sword ‘Green Destiny’. A composed and graceful protagonist, Yu Shu Lein shows off her remarkable combat skill when she takes part in one of cinema’s most epic sword battles against Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi).
3) The Bride (Uma Thurman) – Kill Bill
With countless unforgettable fight scenes and an iconic homage to Bruce Lee, it is hard to think of many action heroes who brought us as much all-round entertainment as The Bride in the Kill Bill series.
2) Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)
“Get away from her, you bitch!” – Only one person seems capable of fighting back against the formidable sci-fi predators found in the Alien series. Ripley’s survival skills and refusal to back down against the Xenomorphs make her one of cinema’s most beloved action stars.
1) Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron)
With fierce command of the War Rig and sheer tenacity, Furiosa steals the show amidst high-octane vehicle chaos in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. This is an emotionally compelling and fearless character we are dying to see at the wheel again in the near future.