There’s something about action movie ladies that gets the blood going. A beautiful woman is one thing but one that can smash up guys left and right and use guns is something else. Some ladies just aren’t cut out for it as it’s tough to see someone like Meryl Streep packing heat. However, some ladies are not just good for it but have made a career out of it. In the 1990s, there was an entire sub-genre for female action flicks (often quite cheesy and exploiting their hot looks) but as time has gone on, Hollywood has embraced it more. It’s not just some lower level actresses, either as Oscar winners have embraced action as well, liking the challenge of it. Some ladies are better than others, far more believable kicking butt and taking names while a few just make it look natural.
They can range from ladies in the past who don’t do as much anymore to ones today who are amazingly sexy. Some movies go from pure action to more sci-fi but still showcase the best of women who can kick some tail and look great doing it. Leather suits, dresses, packing heat or wielding swords, these ladies can do it all. Some just look better with pure fists and kicks (helped if they have great legs) and don’t rely on just their good looks to get ahead. There are plenty of choices but these are the best of the bunch. The 15 hottest ladies of action films, some famous for one key role while others have slews of such parts. Either way, they are 15 ladies who know how to rock their fans in many ways.
15. Gal Gadot
For years, the question of who could play Wonder Woman was a big one in Hollywood. Who could be truly believable as an Amazon warrior? Gal Gadot finally answered that as she could be more than believable as an Amazon. Like any other citizen of Israel, Gadot was required to spend two years in military service and survived a boot camp that would make Marines wince. She moved on to become a model and was hired to play former Mossad operative Gisele in Fast & Furious. It was a winner and she reprised the role in Fast 5 that included a hot bikini scene and the sixth film too.
That led to her cast as Diana in Batman v. Superman and everyone agreed her entrance (with that glorious theme music) and fight was the best part of the movie. Gadot also worked in the role of a hot secret agent in the comedy Keeping Up With the Joneses but it’s Wonder Woman that’s her big part. She’s ready to play it in the much anticipated solo movie and Justice League and most can agree that she has the beauty, the skills and the power to finally bring the icon to life.
14. Scarlett Johansson
It’s funny how Scarlett Johansson got her start as something of a serious dramatic actress. She had roles in The Horse Whisperer and Ghost World that sold her as an actress of amazing talent and okay looks. She rose up big time in 2003 as her turns in The Girl With the Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation made her a star and she won a BAFTA for the latter. Johansson’s first try at action was 2005’s The Island, the Michael Bay film that ended up being a massive bomb. She kept at the game, still gaining hails as more of an actress with her great sexiness on display.
In 2010, Johansson changed her image up by taking on the role of Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow in Iron Man 2. The sight of her in the tight black leather kicking ass made her an instant hit and boosted her big time. Johansson has reprised the role in the two Avengers movies and the Captain America sequels to win fans over. She also starred in Lucy, Luc Besson’s mind-bending action flick of a woman given a drug that boosts her brain power and turns her into an unbeatable fighter. While Ghost in the Shell didn’t do well with critics or audiences, the sight of Johansson nearly naked and battling guys was a fun one. She’s proven she can balance action stuff with serious acting parts to make Scarlett a lady on fire with cinemagoers.
13. Zoe Saldana
For several years, Zoe Saldana was known as one of those “hey, it’s that girl” actresses in films like Crossroads and others. In 2009, she exploded onto the scene with two massive sci-fi hits. First, she took on the role of Uhura in the Star Trek reboot and won hails for making the role far more independent and tough than the original version. She then played Neytiri in Avatar where her performance was amazing even under the mo-cap animation. Saldana then played a tough fighter in The Losers that showed off more action chops as well as the revenge film Colombiana. In 2014, she dyed her skin green to play Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and was rewarded by an epic hit. She’s reprised her role of Uhura in two Trek sequels, about to return in the Guardians sequel as well as Infinity War. No matter what color she may dye her skin or the setting, Saldana is out of this world when it comes to looking hot doing action.
12. Uma Thurman
Always known for her lovely beauty and appeal, Uma Thurman got major attention for her part as a mobster’s wife in the now classic Pulp Fiction. She starred as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin but sadly her ultra-campy performance was slammed by critics. She then donned the tight leather outfit of Emma Peel in the movie version of The Avengers TV show but that turned into a massive flop. Of course, Thurman would become an action icon thanks to Quentin Tarantino when he cast her as the Bride in Kill Bill. The sight of her in a yellow jumpsuit wielding a sword to slice up fifty guys was the highlight of the first film and she backed it up with some killer fight scenes in the second half against Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah. Thurman took to the role with intensity and fantastic chops to sell the part and make both films huge hits. While she’s stuck to character roles since, this was one Bride more than a few action fans would want to connect to thanks to Thurman’s amazing appeal.
11. Angelina Jolie
Any list of “hottest movie babes” has to include Angelina Jolie. Morphing from “wild child” to serious actress and humanitarian, Jolie spews out sex appeal in spades. Her movie debut was the sci-fi action flick Cyborg 2 that showed some action stuff (as well as Jolie’s tendency to bare it all in movies). After winning an Oscar, Jolie played a feisty car thief in Gone in 60 Seconds. She followed that with the role of the iconic video game character Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and was hailed by fans as the perfect choice to be Lara on screen. Her biggest action role was the female assassin discovering her husband is in the same profession in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. She and Brad Pitt were famous for their on-set affair but that didn’t take away from the sparks, such as their brutal fist fight in their home.
In 2008’s Wanted, she played the aptly named Fox, a deadly killer who had a hot style of her own. Today, Jolie has moved to humanitarian work, a director and more dramatic stuff. But when she got into action, Jolie solidified her place as one of the hottest women alive and showing it off on film.
10. Lucy Liu
After roles in forgettable movies and TV shows, Lucy Liu hit the big time as the cold-hearted and sardonic Ling on Ally McBeal. In 2000, she was cast alongside Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels and stole the movie as the genius who happens to be a kung-fu master. The sequel was a disappointment but it did lead to Liu getting more action oriented roles. She was the tough lead of the infamous Ballistic Ecks vs Sever and voiced Viper in the Kung Fu Panda movies. Liu also got attention for O-Ren in Kill Bill where her duel with Uma Thurman was a highlight of the movie. The underrated Rise: Blood Hunter had her as a vampire looking for revenge and she was the best part of The Man With the Iron Fists as the madam whose “ladies” happen to be deadly killers. Liu now stars as Joan Watson on Elementary where she does get a few fighting scenes now and then and shows that beauty can be quite deadly.
9. Charlize Theron
From her debut in 2 Days in the Valley, Charlize Theron showed a nice drive, a good acting spark and a willingness to doff it all to show off her body. She had brushes with action in Reindeer Games as well as The Italian Job as she was used to roles that showed off her looks. In 2003, Theron stunned critics and audiences with her turn in Monster that won her the Oscar. With that cred, Theron thus embraced action movies more. Aeon Flux may have been a flop but the sight of Theron in skin-tight leather whipping guys around was a great sight. Hancock gave her more FX stuff and her turn as the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman was the highlight of the movie and its sequel.
Of course, the big one for Theron was Mad Max Fury Road. Her turn as the bald, one-armed Furiosa won massive hails from critics and helped make the movie an Oscar-nominated hit. Theron is ready to get more action going as she plays the villainess in The Fate of the Furious. Also, many are eagerly awaiting her turn in Atomic Blonde as a 1980s British agent who brawls across London while sleeping with a hot lady. Proving you can be an Oscar winner and an action icon, Theron solidifies her place as one of the hottest women alive.
8. Kate Beckinsale
For a while, it looked like Kate Beckinsale would be known mostly for roles in nice, quiet English dramas. She debuted in 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing and was featured in Brokedown Palace. Her role as a nurse in Pearl Harbor did get attention but the movie failed to be the mega-hit expected. But in 2003, Beckinsale surprised many by being cast as Selene, the vampire turned werewolf hunter in Underworld. The film was a surprise smash as audiences turned out for the sight of Beckinsale in black hair and skin-tight leather outfit to be a success. She’s reprised the role in three sequels, including this year’s Blood Wars.
Beckinsale also played a sexy gypsy in 2004’s Van Helsing and probably the best part of that movie. She also got raves for playing a U.S. Marshal investigating a murder in Antarctica in Whiteout and a deadly killer in the remake of Total Recall. While she still gets dramatic parts, it’s her action roles that have made Beckinsale a favorite and that English charm amazing in action.
7. Michelle Rodriguez
With her tough demeanor and sexy pout, Michelle Rodriguez just oozes out the aura of someone you don’t want to mess with. It began with her very first role in the 2000 drama Girlfight as a female boxer and critics adored how she took to the part. The next year, Rodriguez would land her most notable role, that of car thief Letty in The Fast and The Furious. She has gone on to appear in three of its sequels to show off her fantastic drive. Rodriguez has admitted she was typecast as the “tough tomboy” gal in movies and she let it happen but has come to accept it. She played a tough commando in the first Resident Evil movie and returned in one of its sequels. There’s also been SWAT, BloodRayne, Avatar, Battle: Los Angeles and Machete. Her wildest role has been The Assignment in which she plays a hitman who’s given a sex change operation by a vengeful woman and goes on a quest for payback. While she may have a point on the typecasting, it can’t be denied that if you want a woman who can be believable as a fantastic action chick, Rodriguez is definitely it.
6. Milla Jovovich
A child actress, Milla Jovovich came to attention with Return to the Blue Lagoon where she went about nude and in love scenes at only 15. But it was in 1997 that she broke out with her turn as the red-haired alien in The Fifth Element. The scene of her whipping a dozen tough alien warriors was a highlight of the film and boosted her up for parts in Joan of Arc. In 2002, she took on the role of Alice, the mysterious woman in Resident Evil and was as surprised as anyone else when the movie turned into an international hit. It’s become her signature part of Jovovich has reprised the role in five sequels, each wilder than the previous one and giving her the chance to nicely kick butt, often in tight leather outfits.
Jovovich also showed off as a vampire on a flying motorcycle in Ultraviolet to show her unique style off. 2011’s The Three Musketeers had her managing to look sensational kicking butt in 18th century outfits and even acrobatics. While she seems to want to put her Alice days behind her, there’s no denying how Jovovich’s amazing appeal made the Resident pictures a hit and stands tall among the hottest and most successful action ladies around.
5. Linda Hamilton
Her action movie resume isn’t as long as others on this list. But you can’t list the hottest action film ladies ever and not include Linda Hamilton. She had roles in forgettable movies but in 1984 was pushed to the limelight as Sarah Connor in The Terminator. As the woman chased by a robot from the future to kill her unborn child, Hamilton grounded the movie to make it a hit. She had other film roles and starred in the hit TV show Beauty and the Beast but not much else in action.
That changed when James Cameron made the much anticipated Terminator sequel Judgement Day. Hamilton stunned audiences by transforming herself into a lean and mean fighter, her muscled form and way with a gun rocking audiences. The genius was how her Sarah was more of a machine than the Terminator, a mother fighting for her child and Hamilton’s gutsy performance became the talk of the movie world and influenced slews of other female warriors. Hamilton has pretty much stayed away from action since (save a turn on the TV show Chuck) but created one of the most influential action heroines ever not to mention one of the sexiest around.
4. Gina Carano
As a former MMA fighter, Gina Carano sure had the chops for an action star. She helped pioneer ladies in MMA, showing how they could be as skilled and take their lumps as well as any guy, paving the way for Ronda Rousey and others. When Steven Soderbergh tried his hand at action with Haywire, he cast Carano as the special operative who’s double-crossed on a mission. Carano handled it well, including the standout scene where she brawls in a hotel room with Michael Fassbender while in an evening dress. Carano then starred in Furious 6 as a cop with a secret that included a great fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez. Her biggest role has been Angel Dust in Deadpool that had funny bits like tearing off her shirt in a fight with Colossus. Now filming a new sequel to the Kickboxer reboot, Carano is showing that you can be beautiful and bad-ass in spades and a legitimate tough lady in many respects.
3. Carrie-Anne Moss
It takes one role to make you an icon and Carrie-Anne Moss got it with Trinity. The Matrix stunned audiences in 1999, rocking them with the special effects and story along with visuals never seen before. Moss was cast as Trinity, the lady who introduced “bullet time” to audiences with her opening fight scene. Clad in a leather suit that fit her like a glove, Moss stole the movie with her great style, amazing in the fight scenes and winning audiences over. The sequels were infamous for failing to live up to the same potential but Moss still looked amazing as Trinity was the epitome of cool on screen. Moss also got raves for the acclaimed drama Memento and balancing some better character roles with the Matrix films. Today, Moss is known as Jeri Hogarth for Netflix’s Marvel series Jessica Jones but to many, she’ll be forever remembered as the lady who helped usher in a new era of action in movies and looked great doing it.
2. Michele Yeoh
She’s been called “the female Jackie Chan.” Like that martial arts icon, Michelle Yeoh insists on doing all her own stunts, which has cost her over the years. She’s broken multiple bones, was laid up by a back injury, smashed her head hard and went through at least one film with a cast on her leg. But Yeoh has been a long-time hit with fans by how she mixes her deadly skill with stunning beauty that makes her a marvel. Her Hong Kong work includes Super Cop, The Heroic Trio, and Moonlight Express. Yeoh came to the attention of American audiences in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies and thus can add ‘Bond Girl’ to her accolades.
Her biggest role was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that won hails as she played the expert warrior who had some fantastic fight scenes. She faced Jet Li in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and a Crouching sequel. Still busy with action flicks in her native land, Yeoh looks amazingly beautiful at 54 and when she fights, she brings a grace and beauty to action few others can touch.
1. Cynthia Rothrock
In terms of real fighting skills, Cynthia Rothrock has the goods. A five-time world champion in various forms, the hot blonde also holds seven black belts. She used that to become a breakout in Hong Kong movies as the sight of this American blonde who could take down men twice her size intrigued audiences. After various roles there, Rothrock soon became the queen of direct-to-video action movies in the 1990s like Lady Dragon, Rage & Honor, Tiger Claws– her amazing face and body were a regular sight on video store shelves.
No matter the plotline, Rothrock was a fantastic sight brawling it out, mixing up weapons and known for her signature “stinger scorpion kick.” She dyed her hair red for some roles and while she wasn’t an A-list talent in Hollywood, she had a very loyal audience following her. While retired from acting today, Rothrock keeps herself in shape, running a yoga and martial arts studio. At 60 years old, she looks at least 25 years younger and could probably still whip any guy put against her.