With the rise in open declaration of support for feminism, there has been a huge drive for strong female representation in film and television. Hollywood appears to be openly embracing female action stars at the moment, and numbers are increasing in television too. HBO’s Game of Thrones cast features a variety of female leads, with Lena Headey as fierce-tongued Cersei Lannister and Emilia Clarke as headstrong Daenerys Targaryen being fan favourites. Even David Cameron has got in on the act by attempting to reshuffle more female figures into his cabinet because in 2014 everyone loves a woman in power.

Studios appear to have noticed the gravitational pull of strong females in film and TV and are reflecting this in their recent casting. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hit cinemas across the globe recently and boasts a high number of females in its cast.  Interestingly, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For entered a box office race led by Luc Besson’s Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson – the new go-to girl for action films.

In March, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that last year women accounted for 52%* of all moviegoers in the US. Even young stars like Chloe Grace Moretz and Jennifer Lawrence have managed to hold their own in popular action film franchises. Films with a female protagonist grossed on average $19 million more than male-led films (female led – $119 million, male led – $97 million). With the success of Lucy, or say the Hunger Games,  we can only hope it will start a pattern. With studios less willing to take risks, they may be starting to listen to statistics in order to provide guaranteed results and if it’s confirmed that women draw in a bigger crowd, there is no need to fight it.

Rodriguez appears to be one of the few directors that enjoys casting women in demanding roles, along with pal Tarantino. Kill Bill Vol. 1 featured a strong female cast and went on to be a box office hit. The pair’s joint project Grindhouse/Planet Terror also featured many prominent female stars and didn’t fair too badly. In the past, some critics have condemned Sin City for its overt sexualisation of females and themes of misogyny, but you only need to look to the way many of these girls hold their own in their stories.

Perhaps, Rodriguez and Miller have made an avid attempt to change the audiences’ perspective, with Jessica Alba now playing less of a damsel in distress and developing into a fiercer and less tolerant Nancy. Rosario Dawson reprises her role as the lethally, seductive Gail, Leader of the Girls of Old Town. Eva Green is one of many new additions to the cast, playing Ava Lord, a vicious femme fatale and the dame the film’s title refers to. If you want to refresh your memory of the original before taking a trip to the cinema, Sin City will be showing on the Sony Movie Channel (Sky 323) from mid-October.

As a tribute to kick-ass women, we’ve come up with our pick of ten female action stars who’ve strutted their stuff with style (we’ve stuck to Hollywood for this list):

Sigourney Weaver

Arguably the queen of action movies, Stallone has mentioned wanting her to star in his all female spin-off of the Expendables. That said, her schedule looks pretty busy as she’s signed on for three more Avatar films.



Angelina Jolie

Jolie’s edginess makes her a perfect option for action films, but it was her take on character Evelyn Salt that made her stand out from a sea of male-led alternatives in the same category. The possibility of Salt 2 means we may get to see her do it all over again.



Scarlett Johansson

Happy with the success of Lucy, Marvel are toying with giving Johansson a stand-alone Black Widow film. So there is plenty more butt-kicking to come from this young lady.



Charlize Theron

Theron’s look as Imperator Furiosa just goes to show the lengths this lady is willing to go through for her roles. If her dedication is anything to go by, her performance in Mad Max: Fury Road is one to start getting excited about. That is, if you’re not already.



Milla Jovovich

It’s hard to think of Milla Jovovich starring in anything other than an action film, and she doesn’t plan to change this any time soon. She’s recently signed up for yet another Resident Evil movie which will be sixth movie (and probably final) release from the franchise.



Ronda Rousey

UFC champion Ronda Rousey may just be the most lethal female action star around at the moment. Who else do you know who could compete in a title match where the opponent lasts no more than 30 seconds, in the midst of filming the Expendables 3? Yeah, we don’t know anyone either.



Zoe Saldana

Saldana makes action sequences look easy. Colombiana showed the actress in a whole new light, which might explain why James Gunn was so happy to cast her as the ruthless Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. If you haven’t managed to see it yet, make sure to put it on your watchlist.

colombiana 01


Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman knows just how to strike the perfect balance between lady and action star and won people over for her performance as the sword wielding Bride in Kill Bill. So it’s good to know that a third instalment may eventually happen – but that’s up to Tarantino



Jessica Alba

Playing leather-clad super human Max Guevara in sci-fi show, Dark Angel definitely prepared Alba for the roles she would accept later on in her career. Alba is now cracking the whip in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, having done the action thing in Machete/Machete Kills recently

Jessica Alba with gun - Machete 2010


Michelle Rodriguez

The complete tomboy template. Action is what Michelle Rodriguez does best; whether it’s playing a cop, military official or vigilante – we’ll take it! And next summer we’ll get to see her fixing up cars and pulling off stunts in the next Fast and Furious film.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For now playing in cinemas across the UK



About The Author

Avatar photo

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle