It’s easy for the action film industry to be dominated by male machismo and the advent of descriptives like ‘testosterone-fueled’ speaks for the point that women action cinematic outings are few and far between. I personally don’t apply gender issues in the black-and-white way that has seen ham handed projects like ‘Ghostbusters’ take root but thankfully the demand for empowerment and representation (as well as just plain-old creativity) has also led to some fine films. Here is the list of top female action movies ever. You can some of these best action movies with female leads on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
Zoe Saldana is an actress forced into supporting the majority of the time and it’s fantastic to see a throttled performer allowed to flex the best of their abilities in a stand-alone work, particularly someone as enigmatic in their power to perform as Saldana. Her work in the recent ‘Columbiana’ is by no means transformative, though it’s always refreshing to see a star afforded an opportunity like this and the film itself does well in holding our attention.
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9. The Quick & the Dead
A shamefully underseen western from the ‘90s, fun, fast and quite honestly more worth your time than the languid repetitions that plague Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’ — the Quick & the Dead has been shrouded by time but its intriguing take on the genre with a woman’s touch (this time resting behind the barrel of a gun, rather than at the mercy of it like in Once Upon a Time in the West).
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8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s wire-fu classic sees an acrobatic approach to the martial art movie, subverting the hard-hewn ferocity of a full frontal fight with more poetic, emotive dances over great stretches of space. Lee instilled each battle with a subtext woven into the characters relationships which added a layer of richness to the screen’s already compelling encounters. Not to say I adored ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’- though to deny Lee the respect he deserves for crafting something new and challenging with such confidence would be to ignore how this film’s production probably helped pave the way for him tackling the masterful ‘Brokeback Mountain’.
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Kick-Ass may be about Aaron Taylor Johnson’s eponymous DIY-hero, but the star is doubtlessly Hit-Girl. Chloe Grace Moretz’s foul-mouthed teen laced every scene she got to work in with glorious ultra-violence and kicked up quite a storm with the media and promotion of the flick at the time. Even today, her classic character continues to act as the shining poster-child for the now sadly spent franchise
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
I didn’t go nuts of George Miller’s most recent addition to the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, though the aesthetic of Miller’s work was stunning and its vibrant orange colour-palette made way for a gas-guzzling joyride of a caper set against one of the most uniquely gorgeous landscapes of 2015. Max himself took a backseat to Furiosa, much to the adulation of audiences happy to see more representation.
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Steven Soderbergh again proves his aptitude in multiple genres by transitioning smoothly from the neo-noir crime austerity of ‘The Limey’ and high-class virtuoso drama of ‘Traffic’ to a straight-forward action flick. He’s a director who has the balls to experiment and spends every second of his career evolving as an artist. ‘Haywire’ is not as profound as his finest work, nor as fascinating as his most explorative, but it hits a tight genre pedigree a lot of action flicks simply cannot hold a candle to.
‘Aliens’ takes a different route from Ridley Scott’s original work, radically switching from “claustrophobic” sci-fi horror to a knowing action flick with one liners, massively increased numbers of xenomorphs for the now fully-fitted marine team to cut through and far less focus on tension. James Cameron’s movie might have been ‘easier’ to make, if not in a logistical sense, but that does not detract from the value of its quality entertainment and what he brings to the franchise. I still maintain that prior to the appearance of its horrible CG monster, Alien 3’s assembly cut represents the peak of Geiger and Scott’s creation- but Cameron’s addition is still stellar.
3. Red Eye
Late horror legend Wes Craven’s film may classify as more strongly as a thriller than an action romp, but lead Rachel McAdams’ command of the unnerving situation Craven handles with equally impressive authority marks out an assured spot on this list. If anything, ‘Red Eye’ is the finest film on offer here. It’s the story of a pleasant series of co-incidences that sees McAdams and Cillian Murphy meeting again and again in an airport and then on their plane. Serendipitous good company is far from the truth of the tale and everyone involved turns Red Eye’s accommodating smile into a deadly snarl by the end. Thrilling action cinema.
2. Kill Bill
Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ imbues me with conflicting feelings. On the one hand, it thoroughly deserves its place on this list for the thrilling set-piece that tops of the first volume and the entirety of the second’s more passive, patient storytelling and how it invigorates the brief but vital final showdown. That being said, it also represents a departure from the more considered, less facile approach he took with ‘Jackie Brown’– which proved less successful at the box office and put pressure on him to return to the fast-talk all-style romps that kicked-off his career. A shame, but a solid bit of fiction regardless.
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1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
‘The Terminator’ series has had its ups and downs, as has hugely successful director James Cameron, who has wielded some of the highest grossing films of all time, thought little can be argued to eclipse it’s fun little second outing which sees Sarah Connor team with the titular cyborg to battle another, far deadlier machine. Its outstanding special effects continue to dazzle even today with their practical application and vicious cinematic efficiently- the T-1000 sliding through iron bars and slashing people to pieces with dated 3D that is exponentially bolstered by the supreme confidence of Cameron’s direction. I’d hate to call it his only good film, considering ‘Aliens’ ranked pretty high here, but regardless I’d easily dub it his greatest achievement as a director.
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