Come June 27, Angelina Jolie will attempt — again — to bust into our hearts as a beautiful-but-deadly killer in Wanted. Yet only a handful of women have truly made their mark as action heroes over the years. Though many have tried (bonus points if you can remember the movies where Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron, and Mira Sorvino got to tote weapons and do lots of jumping and fistfighting), only a few have succeeded. Here are Filmcritic.com’s picks for the 10 greatest female action heroes of all time. (Oh, and apologies to Sydney Bristow, Xena, and Charlie’s Angels, but this is a movies-only list, and the Angels movie version just didn’t do it for us.)
10. Elastigirl, The Incredibles – She’s got super powers and manages to raise three kids while keeping her secret identity under wraps. And most importantly, she’s got Holly Hunter’s inimitable voice.
9. Foxy Brown, Foxy Brown – Pam Grier is out for revenge — as she would as well in Coffy and Sheba, Baby, among others — in a classic role that Grier would forever become synonymous with.
8. Cherry Darling, Planet Terror (Grindhouse) – Rose McGowan goes from go-go dancer to killing machine in Robert Rodriguez’s shoot-’em-up gorefest. Who’d have thought she’d be such a crack shot with a machine gun for a leg, one which never seems to need reloading?
7. Barbarella, Barbarella – As the tagline asked, ‘Who takes sex to outer space?’ Jane Fonda sure did in this unforgettable B-movie.
6. Lola, Run Lola Run – She has 20 minutes to find a ton of cash to stop her boyfriend from robbing a market, where he’ll face certain death. Franka Potente’s Lola has to run her ass off to get the job done, her shocking-red hair streaming behind her all the way. Tired? She gets to do it three times over 90 brisk minutes.
5. Princess Leia, Star Wars series – Before Xena proved a capable warrior princess, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia showed off how royalty could both wield a blaster and lead a rebel army against a considerably better-equipped enemy. You might scoff at her now-infamous bikini in Jedi, but remember: She strangled the enormous Jabba the Hutt wearing that thing.
4. Sarah Connor, Terminator 2 - No, not the scream-and-hide Terminator Sarah Connor, the badass, gun-collecting one that emerged later. Linda Hamilton didn’t ask for our clothes, our boots, and our motorcycle, but we’d have given them to her if she had.
3. Trinity, The Matrix series – Few images are as seared into our brains as the leather/vinyl-clad Carrie-Anne Moss diving from one office building and into a window across the way, smashing her way through its innards as she escapes from Agent Smith in the opening scenes of The Matrix. Trinity would inspire millions of web pages’ worth of geek lust as she continued to bust asses en route to saving the world, sort of, so much so that we’ll forgive the fact that, in the last movie, she died and had to be brought back to life by a glowing Keanu Reeves fiddling with her heart. Or something.
2. Nikita, La Femme Nikita – Anne Parillaud burns into your skull in her role as this street tough who’s given a makeover courtesy of the government… a makeover that turns her into a ruthless assassin who kills on command. Call us crazy, but Bridget Fonda didn’t do a terrible job in the inevitable American remake, and we hear good things about Peta Wilson’s USA Network series of the same name. See what we mean? You just can’t kill this chick.
1. Ellen Ripley, Alien series – There’s really no contest on this one. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley fought off acid-bleeding aliens more times than we can count, sometimes with the help of a forklift-like exoskeleton, sometimes with the force of her scream alone. Even worse: Dealing with the corporation back home, which she handled with equal aplomb. How big a badass is Lt. Ripley? She can do all of this stuff while still in her underwear.