Ask anybody to name a memorable strong female character in an action movie, and you’re likely to hear the familiar names of Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor.
It’s no new observation that strong female characters have been under-represented in Hollywood movies for decades. We’re still not at a stage where studios have as much faith in female-led actioners as male (see the recent leaked Sony emails for evidence of this), but we have been making at least some progress. Last year, ‘Lucy‘, fronted by Scarlett Johansson, received some mixed reviews but stormed the box office, we’re getting some female-led superhero movies in Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, and many of the popular YA adaptations also rely on strong female leads.
And although we haven’t had many female-led action movies, there have been a few female characters that have completely stolen the show from their male leads; characters that should have their own movie. With the release of last week’s Mad Max: Fury Road in mind, we take a look at these.
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) – Mad Max: Fury Road
There’s nowhere better to start than with Fury Road, and Imperator Furiosa is the character everybody is talking about. In a film named Mad Max, and with Tom Hardy as the lead, you’d expect most, if not all, of the action to come from him.
Not to downplay Hardy’s presence in the film, but Furiosa steals every action sequence she’s involved in (and since the movie is basically one long action sequence, that means she steals the movie). She remains strong and determined throughout, easily earning her place in conversations about the best female action characters of all time.
There have been rumours flying around that both Max and Furiosa will get their own sequels, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz) – Kick-Ass
Whilst Furiosa certainly gives as good as she gets, if not better, Hit-Girl towers over both Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass and all of the villains (in terms of fighting, not stature). Hit-Girl was a breath of fresh air, making Kick-Ass the hit it was, and from her opening line, you knew you were watching a character that is different.
It’s a shame the muddled sequel tried to combine both the comics of Kick Ass 2 and the standalone Hit-Girl into one movie, resulting in a movie that nobody was too keen on. Nevertheless, Hit-Girl remains one of the best and most iconic cinematic characters of recent times.
Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) – Dredd
Everybody that has seen Dredd loves it. The problem for the film is that too few people have saw it. Karl Urban stars as the titular Dredd, but the new recruit, Judge Anderson, more than holds her own. Having her helmet off a lot more than Dredd help us warm to her, and with her psychic abilities she does just seem a bit more interesting than him. Not to mention her action skills; Anderson actually kills off 13 bad guys herself, and it’s a real shame there are no current plans for a sequel.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) – Marvel Cinematic Universe
First appearing in Iron Man 2, Black Widow has appeared in four Marvel movies now, but is yet to have her own standalone venture. In these appearances, she’s had as many awesome fighting moments, more than held her own in ensemble fight scenes, and as much character development as anybody. Johansson has opened successful movies, so what does Black Widow have to do to get her own movie?
Some Avengers merchandise has even omitted the character entirely in some instances, causing a huge backlash on social media. Terrible movies such as Catwoman, Elektra and Supergirl are often trotted out as examples of why female-led superhero movies are risky, but they are also plenty of awful male-led superhero movies such as Batman & Robin and Green Lantern. Thankfully this is gradually changing, but for now the closest we’re getting to a Black Widow movie is the SNL trailer released a couple of weeks ago.
Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – Edge of Tomorrow
As with Kick-Ass, the female who trains the male lead has skills which far outstrip his own. Tom Cruise is great in this surprisingly brilliant time loop film from last year, but it’s Emily Blunt’s character Rita that got everyone talking. She’s the poster child for the war, the experienced warrior who has seen off hundreds of the invaders. The action scenes are excellently choreographed (whether scenes of her training or actual combat), and it’s a bit of a shame her character falls down the familiar path of romantic attachment later in the movie. But until then Rita Vrataski is completely believable as a legendary badass fighter.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in cinemas now.