The change that happens in society over time has been extremely interesting. We’ve gone from where, in films, female characters could never really take a lead role, to where nowadays there have been many great and unexpected female lead roles. Of course, many complain that Hollywood has misogynistic viewpoints, but it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. Let’s be honest though, since the huge surge of great female lead roles, it has ultimately changed the perspective of society and how we view gender as a whole. Now a woman can be just as big and bad as a man can be, all while still being smart and sexy.
A lot of the female lead roles nowadays are the kick-butt, hardcore serial killer-catching women who dominate over other men in the movies. These are strong and hard women who refused to give in to societal pressures or physical pain. They shatter the shackles of all feminine stereotypes in the movies of yesterday. You see this more and more with female roles; Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) is a perfect example.
In this list, we’re going to go over the top 15 most badass, hardcore women who’ve ever graced the big screens.
15. Sarah Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
Honestly, Linda Hamilton did a really good job playing Sarah Connor in this movie. She is your typical hardcore mom of the 90s, and strives to make sure her son is safe from the evil Terminator that comes to get him. Not only is she a single supermom, but she manages to save all of mankind by keeping her son alive.
During the filming and production of Terminator Two, Linda Hamilton had more of a leading role than the first movie, since she would be fighting off the T1000. She had to undergo total fitness training as well as fight choreography training. It all lasted for roughly 13 weeks just to get prepped for the role. There was more training that was needed for the role than just that. She also did judo and, to help get in shape, high intensity military training. Needless to say, it definitely worked wonders because she is a total powerhouse in the film.
14. Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Lisbeth is so hardcore that they decided to make two different movies about her in just a short span of 3 years time. She’s what’s hailed as a heroine. A female superhero. Think a female Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Although played by two different females in both different movies, her character stands as strong as ever. A super tough, bike riding, computer hacking weirdo who of course had an extremely dark past. And just like with any good hero, or in this case heroine, she uses the darkness for good in the movie. She has such a unique but evil element to her that really makes her stand out among other characters in the film. Some would even say that she makes the film, and without her the film wouldn’t be able to hold up.
13. The Bride (Kill Bill: Vol. 1)
Director Quentin Tarantino hailed Uma Thurman as his favorite actress to work with due to their relationship being so strong and their obvious chemistry between actor and director. Uma nails the role of a total heroine in Kill Bill. If you’ve ever had a chance to see it, you’ll remember the roller coaster ride of blood. Kill Bill was easily one of the goriest and bloodiest films at the time of its release, and sought to be somewhat of an action meets shocker film.
In case you haven’t seen it, or maybe don’t remember, it’s Uma’s 10 minute fight scene that earns her the title of a total badass warrior. Driven by revenge, pissed off, and wanting blood, she embarks on her vendetta to slaughter all those who wronged her and she’s out to make them pay.
12. Ellen Ripley (Alien)
It’s obvious that Sigourney Weaver does an incredible job in this movie, and is praised by many fans and critics alike who say this was one of her best performances. She’s easily one of the most awesome characters on this list, for good reason. She’s the original alien slayer, and does a good job at it. In the film, all the crew, including her, are definitely military based, and it’s amazing how she’s able to combine her intelligence, strength, subtlety, bravery and strategy to survive and beat the alien.
Ellen Ripley has even been praised and called the number one best female protagonist of all time. She was one of the original trendsetters for changing the nature of the lead roles for females, more so in the horror, sci-fi, and action genres, but the impact was still made. She received so much recognition for it, and rightfully so.
11. Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs)
I believe this is the movie that gave Jodie Foster her biggest career boost. It’s obvious The Silence of The Lambs went on to become a classic, and it’s because of that success that Jodie Foster even became as big of an actress as she is today. This is one of the movies that proves that a female hero doesn’t have to be a tough, crime-fighting, gun-toting fighter of any kind. She’s quite the opposite, in fact she reminds me a lot of Scully from The X-Files. Her intelligence gets her through a lot of tough situations. Many might complain that she is overshadowed by Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the film and that she is underrated because of that.
But you have to admit, as strong and powerful as she is, she actually manages to ward off all of his psychological attacks. And the fact that someone like her could confront a crazy serial killer is impressive.
10. River Tam (Serenity)
If you’ve ever seen the 2005 movie Serenity, you might remember River Tam. She is portrayed by actress Summer Glau, who also starred as River in the 2002 TV Series Firefly. River Tam was one of the best female anti-hero archetypes to come onto the big screen. For the longest time, it has just been male anti-heroes showing up in films, and the anti-heroine roles were not really popular in the mainstream genres. She did such a good job in her role that not only did she receive praise from fans, but she actually won an SFX Award for best actress as well as a Saturn Award for best supporting actress. It’s no surprise that she did, considering this movie opened up more possibilities for women.
Of course there are several qualities that make her totally awesome in the film, like having ridiculous combat skills, being super intelligent, and being resilient, as well as having ridiculous supernatural abilities.
9. Private Vasquez (Aliens)
Okay, I think one of the most tough and hardcore females on this list is definitely Private Vasquez. She’s totally the girl version of that one guy that’s in the gym 24/7 trying to get buff. Portrayed by Jenette Goldstein, to this day she still stands as one of the most hardcore onscreen females. She is an absolute machine of a marine who seems to have no fear and will do whatever it takes in the line of duty to save her allies.
It’s interesting that they would stick her in the film along with character Ellen Ripley, considering she was supposed to be the lead female role. While Private Vasquez is not the lead female character, she still is a very strong supporting female character, and has just as much power as any of the other male characters. Her and Ellen Ripley make an incredible team on the screen.
8. Cherry Darling (Planet Terror)
Tarantino has always been a bit ridiculous when it comes to his films, but when you watch Planet Terror for the first time, you won’t even know what to do with yourself. For starters, the lead role is not only totally hardcore and can beat the hell out of any man she encounters, but she has a humongous machine gun for a leg. I mean, really? How much more intense can you get than that? The craziness doesn’t stop there, however. Throughout the film, she proves over and over again just how crazy awesome she really is, and why every guy loves this movie.
Rose McGowan took on this role, and there’s a reason she’s on this list. As unique as it is, there hasn’t yet been a female lead who fights and kills off rapists and zombies with a giant carbine attached to their severed leg. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?
7. Trinity (The Matrix)
Trinity definitely comes off as one of the most forgetful characters of the entire Matrix trilogy. However, she is one of the lead roles in the film and for good reason. Her character is like a perfect backup for Neo, being that extra right hand that helps him get through sticky situations. Many claim that her character really took a nosedive in the sequels, which is noticeably true because it seems like when they wrote the first one, they weren’t really planning on making a series, so they didn’t really know where to go with Trinity. I could be wrong but that’s really how it feels.
Regardless of those things, she’s definitely a super tough, bullet-dodging, all black-wearing Grim Reaper. Carrie-Anne Moss was the actress who played Trinity in the series and did an amazing job, half because she did such a good job with her performance and the other half because she saved Neo so many times
6. Ma-Ma (Dredd)
If you’ve ever seen the movie Dredd, then you would know the amazing and incredibly hardcore performance by Lena Headey as Ma-Ma. Of course, you’re in for a treat because like with any person with a gentle nickname (like Ma-Ma), you know they ought to be pretty tough. She is no exception. She is one of the most barbaric and cold characters. She’s merciless and vengeful. She’s tough enough to make Tony Montana look like a teenage boy.
Her criminal career began after she sought her cruel revenge on her pimp, the same pimp who is responsible for mutilating her face with scars. She seeks out her revenge as a sociopath, and takes over his entire criminal empire. She ends up as one of the most feared drug lords in the entire city. I would be scared just sitting at the same table as the lady. She’s a tough SOB.
5. HitGirl (Kick-Ass)
The movie Kick-Ass is one of those films that, before it came out, was supposed to be super hilarious and really kick butt, but for some reason it received a lot of negative reviews. I think most people can relate and say that Hit Girl from the film was one of the best parts of the entire thing because she’s a such an amazing fighter.
The actress, Chloë Grace Moretz, happens to play one of the most psychotic, amazing crime fighting girls ever. She’s so young that it really makes her character that much more innocent, or so it seems. She was trained to be an extremely deadly assassin by her father, who’s called Big Daddy. Her training made her so desensitized to violence that death and blood have literally no impact on her. She’s the perfect killing machine because of it.
4. Miho (Sin City)
I don’t know what it is with female assassins and their sexual enticement on men watching movies, but guys loved Miho in Sin City. Amazingly, model Devon Aoki performed this character and did an incredible job doing it, she’s just so creepy and plays the role so well. Of course, she didn’t have many lines or much screen time, but she does show that she’s extremely powerful and very violent.
One of the most intimidating and dangerous females in the movie, she is a literal mystery and remains that way to stay even more dangerous. Of course, she’s Japanese and of course she’s extremely good with very sharp weapons, along with her insatiable martial art and fighting skills. That pretty much makes her the biggest powerhouse of the women in this film, and one huge reason why so many people love Sin City. Well that, and all the violence that happens, and the superhero aspect.
3. Shosanna Dreyfus (Inglourious Basterds)
Mélanie Laurent played Shosanna Dreyfus, a character with a strong hatred for the Nazi regime. Standing as one of the main female protagonist of this incredible film about the Nazi era and all that fun stuff, she makes herself known with her bout of revenge. She’s a strong woman, strong and quiet. She’s a woman that, deep down, is cold and ruthless, but knows how to hide it and when to let it out.
After watching her entire family get slaughtered by Nazis, she decided to become more devious and hatch a horrific plot to murder and take revenge. Working independently of the “Basterds” in the film, she sets up a plan and burns the Nazi top command alive. She waited promptly and got her revenge when it was the right time to strike, like a snake. Although she dies in the process, her revenge is met, and it’s bittersweet.
2. Coffy (Coffy)
Coffy is portrayed by Pam Grier in the film Coffy. She’s known as the “Godmother of Them All,” and is one of the baddest chicks to hit the town. This 1973 flick was created, written, and directed by Jack Hill. He wanted to create a female character that would ultimately define one of the most badass cinematic movements of all time. Of course Coffy came out of during this time frame.
In the film, her sister becomes a drug addict and gets progressively weaker. Time for revenge, right? Right. Coffy sets out on a murderous rampage to personally take out the evil doers of her family. Her plans are evil and her eyes are set on blood, similar to the plot to Kill Bill, right? The whole point of this film was to take this character, mix her with sex appeal and add in that strong female attitude. She wasn’t going to be taken down easily, they wanted Coffy to be an extremely powerful lead role. To this day, even 40 years later, she’s still an incredibly tough woman.
1. Yu Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Coming down to number one on the list, Yu Shu Lien is played by Michelle Yeoh. Interesting how Michelle is pretty unknown among Western audiences, though over in Asia, she is a much more well-known actress and has been in several leading roles since the 1980s. Kind of like Jackie Chan, she actually does all of her own stunts no matter how crazy. In fact, this film is a great example of her doing all her own stunts.
When it comes down do it, Lien is totally bad and fearless, who can fight like no other but deep down is honest and pure of heart. She will fight for what is right and for the integrity of this world. She is by far one of the best characters in the film and is not a character that can be easily replaced. Many enjoyed the film so much that they hope to see her in future sequels or in other future Western projects.