Celebrating Feminismo

Now, who said willowy women can't indulge in kickass action?

August 05, 2010 07:38 pm | Updated 07:38 pm IST

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Far too few good films are made for women, or by women, or with plots driven by female protagonists. It's a sign of our unimaginative times, that it's wimpish rom-coms that pass off as “women's films” these days. Definitely a shot in the arm, then, that Kathryn Bigelow made Oscar history by winning Best Director at the Academy Awards this year — and that too for a film as muscular as the action- and violence-packed The Hurt Locker . A sign that producers and studios should heed, for it does warn against stereotyping women as wanting to make, or wanting to act in, or wanting to see a certain kind of sentimentally sweet film.

One of the first-ever Female Action Stars — on the authority of Quentin Tarantino no less — was Pam Grier. She went all out to celebrate the quality of feminismo in blaxploitation movies such as Foxy Brown . But in recent times, it is Angelina Jolie that's topped an Internet poll on action babes. Currently in town with Salt — a film originally written for Tom Cruise — Jolie reigns, deservedly.

While there will always be an audience for the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants genre — and why not — it's high time the Sisterhood of the Ballsy Ladies got more screen time. Here's our list of Top Ten Action Ladies who were allowed to have kickass fun onscreen, and entertain us in the process.

1. Sigourney Weaver

In 1979, Riley Scott introduced two aliens to our celluloid universe that forever altered it — one was the killing machine, acid-for-blood monster, the other, the no-less effective Warrant Officer/Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. The then-unknown Sigourney Weaver challenged and changed gender-based typecasting. Along the way she also proved that it was possible for a female star carry an action film on her shoulders — a feat she repeated over Alien 's three subsequent sequels.

2. Angelina Jolie

From tomb raider to cold killer, from car booster to super-stylish assassin or potential double agent, Angelina Jolie is worth her salt as an action actor. Over a string of films, including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider , Mr. & Mrs. Smith , Gone in 60 Seconds, Wanted and Salt , she has proven to have not just the physique to kick, jump, shoot and kill but also that provocative in-your-face attitude that let's you buy into it. It doesn't detract from the game plan that she also looks like a million dollars.

3. Uma Thurman

Gorgeous and also entirely believable as an avenging angel is Uma Thurman in the movies that relaunched her career, Tarantino's Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2. Her Beatrix Kiddo morphed brilliantly from the blood-soaked bride to assassin with a blood-drenched sword.

4. Linda Hamilton

Another remarkable transformation was pulled off by Linda Hamilton, one of the first heroines to painstakingly build up her body to the right ripped level. Over the course of Terminator 1 and 2 , she moved with ease from the waitress with fluffy locks to the action hero with powerful biceps and sleeked-back hair. As the mother of John Connor — who would grow to become mankind's saviour in the fight against the machine — she remains an iconic presence, even in the Terminator sequels in which she doesn't star.

5. Carrie-Anne Moss

As the legendary hacker Trinity, Carrie-Anne Moss dominated the feminismo end of the Matrix universe. The Canadian star was far more than just the black latex-clad love interest of Keanu Reeves. Smart, fast and physically fit, Trinity dives, kicks, fights — and floats in the air — with a sleek virtuosity that's seldom been repeated on celluloid, well, other than in Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions .

6. Michelle Yeoh

Whether she is the uber strong Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies or the sinuous female swordswoman in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , Michelle Yeoh is a rare heroine who sacrifices none of her femininity while portraying implacable toughness. Other action-packed roles have included the formidable policewoman Jessica Yang in the third part of the Police Story saga. Pierce Brosnan is said to have referred to her as the “female James Bond”.

7. Kate Beckinsale

The casting of the good-looking actor from England as the deadly vampire Selene in Underworld did raise a few initial eyebrows. It might have seemed like a big ask to imagine the elegant Beckinsale as a member of the undead clan, but she took to fanged warfare to the manner born — a skill she underlined in its sequel, and in the otherwise forgettable film Van Helsing .

8. Halle Berry

This Oscar winner took the world of superheroes by storm in X-Men . But it's not just in her role as Storm, Berry proved she could tap into her violent side with conviction in other movies such as Swordfish and her James Bond turn, Die Another Day as well.

9. Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner's lean mean fighting machine body initially got our attention, thanks to her high energy action for the TV series Alias as undercover CIA agent Sydney Bristow. Then she claimed her stake on the big screen with Daredevil and Elektra , admittedly with mixed box office results.

10. Milla Jovovich

From the Supreme Being in The Fifth Element to Ultraviolent to the Resident Evil franchise, Milla Jovovich has worked well at the centre of the action. As Alice in the ongoing Resident Evil saga, she is another actor who has proved her ability to carry films on her own steam. To quote from her Supreme Being manifestation, she sure shakes up a “bada boom”.

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