Is there anything sexier than a kick-ass female? That question is rhetorical, because no, there absolutely isn't (this is a scientific fact!). A gorgeous woman who can handle herself in a fight is the ultimate aphrodisiac for most men - and indeed some women - and there have undoubtedly been lots of them throughout the history of mainstream pop culture.
What exactly it is about a woman who can take care of herself in dangerous situations that is so sexy is actually something of a mystery - after all, men in particular often envisage themselves as the protectors of their ideal women and imagine that being able to save them from any form of threat would make them "heroes" and win the admiration of the object of their affections.
But the fact is that seeing a gorgeous woman kicking ass is a major turn-on and this article is going to take a look at some of the best ever seen in pop culture through the years. On that note, here are the twenty most gorgeous kick-ass females in movie and television history for your viewing pleasure.
21 Honourable Mentions
There are some ladies who, although they didn't quite make the main list here, simply couldn't go without a mention on a list of kick-ass movie and television females. Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies), Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies), Helen Slater (Supergirl in her titular movie), Jennifer Garner (Elektra in both her titular movie and Daredevil), Jaimie Alexander (Sif in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Uma Thurman (The Bride in Kill Bill and Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin) and Anne Hathaway (Seline Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises) all kicked ass in their respective productions and all looked sexy doing so. But now it's time for the actual list...
20 Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
The winner of Miss World USA in 1972, Lynda Carter broke into acting in 1974 and subsequently had a number of small roles in television shows (such as Nakia and Matt Helm - neither of which were hugely successful). That is until she got her big break as the titular star in the television adaptation of DC Comics superheroine, Wonder Woman.
Carter's Wonder Woman costume may have dated a little bit - to the point that it looks a little cheesy now - and the world's idea of beauty might have changed somewhat over the last forty years, but there's no doubting that she was a sexy action star! She has since appeared in the likes of Law and Order, Smallville and Two and a Half Men.
19 Jessica Biel (Blade: Trinity)
Now the wife of pop sensation and actor Justin Timberlake - and the mother of his child - Jessica Biel burst on to the showbiz scene as Mary Camden in 1997 on drama series 7th Heaven. She has since appeared in movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Illusionist, The A-Team and Total Recall - but she was never hotter than when she appeared in Blade: Trinity.
Biel played Abigail Whistler - daughter of Blade's mentor Abraham Whistler and a member of the vampire-hunting team known as the Nightstalkers - and she kicked vampire ass with awesome fighting prowess and skill with various weaponry, including a bow and arrow.
18 Linda Hamilton (Terminator Movies)
This list wouldn't be complete without Linda Hamilton's kick-ass action heroine Sarah Connor. In fact, it's a plausible argument that says a lot of these characters wouldn't exist without her influence - and there's no doubt that Hamilton looked hot playing her.
The star of the Terminator movies - who is also famous for portraying Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast television series and has also appeared in the likes of Chuck - Hamilton's Connor found herself targeted by machines sent back in time to kill her, as her son - John - would grow up to become the leader of the human resistance. She played Connor in The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (an attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida) and in Terminator Salvation (though that was a voice role only).
17 Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tru Calling)
The very sexy Eliza Dushku is an American actress of Albanian descent whose big break came as Dana Tasker - daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Harry Tasker - in the action movie True Lies. She shot to worldwide fame as Faith Lehane - the tough-as-nails slayer who was called when Kendra Young died - in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and she has been an active high-profile actress ever since.
She has starred in a number of other television shows - such as Tru Calling, Dollhouse, Ugly Betty, The Big Bang Theory and Buffy spin-off show Angel - and has also appeared in a string of fairly popular films like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Wrong Turn and Bottle Shock.
16 Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Street Fighter)
Let's start by saying that Macau-born American actress Ming-Na Wen is 51 years old. Can you believe that? She's still every bit as gorgeous as she ever was and is currently enjoying her sexiest and most kick-ass role yet as Agent Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where she is a key member in Phil Coulson's elite team of trained spies, pilots, scientists and combatants (her character is nicknamed "The Cavalry" for God's sake!).
She also played iconic Street Fighter martial artist Chun-Li in the 1993 movie based on the video game and, although the movie wasn't very good, she certainly kicked ass. Other roles have included providing the voice of Disney's Mulan, appearing in films such as Prom Night and Push, and appearing in television shows like ER, Two and a Half Men, Stargate Universe and Eureka.
15 Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
The stunning Chloe Bennet (born Chloe Wang) is a relative newcomer to the world of showbiz, having started out as a presenter on TeenNick show The Nightlife in 2010 and a singer with her 2011 single "Uh-Oh" (which was released in both English and Mandarin). She has since gone on to appear in television shows like the failed pilot for Intercept and as a regular in Nashville, as well as in little-known films like Nostradamus and Tinker Bell and The Legend of the NeverBeast.
Most recently, she has appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as hacker-turned-agent Skye AKA Daisy Johnson. As it turns out, Skye is actually an Inhuman with the ability to manipulate vibrations to the extent that she can cause earthquakes. As a trained agent, she can also kick-ass very well and is a skilled markswoman.
14 Halle Berry (X-Men, Catwoman)
Once voted the sexiest woman on the planet, Halle Berry is undoubtedly gorgeous. The former fashion model, Miss Teen All American (1985) and Miss Ohio USA (1986) finished as the 1st runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant and came 6th in the Miss World Pageant in 1986. She appeared in films like The Flintstones and Swordfish prior to coming into her own as an actress with an Oscar-winning performance in Monster's Ball.
However, her most kick-ass roles have come in two comic book franchises - X-Men and Catwoman. In four X-Men movies she has portrayed the weather-controlling mutant Storm and she portrayed the titular Catwoman in a loose (and pretty terrible) adaptation of the DC Comic book character.
13 Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Van Helsing)
English actress Kate Beckinsale first appeared on television in the early 1990s in shows like Devices and Desires and television movies like One Against the Wind, prior to getting her big break in movies like Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. She has since gone onto appear in a number of action movies.
Most prominently, she has starred in the Underworld series as Selene - the werewolf-hunting vampire - but she has also appeared as the Dracula-hunting Anna Valerious in the Van Helsing movies and Lori in Total Recall. Other movie roles include Pearl Harbor, The Aviator, Vacancy, Whiteout, Contraband and The Trials of Cate McCall.
12 Zoe Saldana (Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avatar)
Zoe Saldana is so gorgeous that, even under a load of green make-up as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, she still looked ridiculously sexy. Hell, there was even something about her CGI character Neytiri in Avatar that was quite sexy! What both of those roles had in common is that she was a kick-ass warrior each time.
Saldana's real breakthrough into movies came as the feisty pirate Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She has also appeared in television shows such as Law and Order and Six Degrees, as well as other movies like Crossroads, The Terminal, Vantage Point, Star Trek and Colombiana.
11 Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns)
The very beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer shot to prominence in the 1980s with her roles in movies like Grease 2, Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick and Dangerous Liasons, but it was her role as Catwoman in 1992's Batman Returns that really saw her kicking ass. Clad in a very sexy and very tight black vinyl catsuit, she portrayed both an adversary and ally to Michael Keaton's Dark Knight. Meow.
She has also appeared on television in shows like Delta House and CHiPs, as well as in other movies like The Fabulous Baker Boys, Love Field, The Age of Innocence, Dangerous Minds, What Lies Beneath, I Am Sam, White Oleander, Stardust, Hairspray and New Year's Eve.
10 Rebecca Romijn (X-Men Movies)
Rebecca Romijn is the stunning actress and former fashion model whose most famous role is undoubtedly that of the original Mystique in four of Fox's X-Men franchise movies. The shape-shifting mutant - and member of Magneto's Brotherhood - has the ability to look like any other human or mutant on the planet and uses this power to deadly effect which, in conjunction with her spectacular martial arts abilities, makes her a major threat to her opponents.
She has recently been replaced by Jennifer Lawrence in the role, but has also been in a number of other movies and television shows, including The Punisher, Pepper Dennis, Ugly Betty and Eastwick.
9 Ronda Rousey (Expendables 3, Furious 7)
Unbeaten UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey is fast becoming one of the hottest commodities on the planet. As such, she has started to branch out into acting and, as you would expect from an unbeaten cage fighter, the roles she tends to play are pretty kick-ass.
Rousey is absolutely gorgeous and totally made for the big screen. Her roles to date have included Luna - an athletic nightclub bouncer who became a member of the titular team - in The Expendables 3 and Kara - the Head of Security for an Abu Dhabi billionaire - in Furious 7. She has also portrayed herself in the Entourage movie and we can't wait to see her acting more often in the future.
8 Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
The kick-ass superheroine of the 1990s, Sarah Michelle Gellar's Buffy Summers - titular star of Joss Whedon's brilliant Buffy the Vampire Slayer - was every bit as gorgeous as she was great at turning vampires to dust. For seven brilliant seasons, Gellar's Buffy dealt with the aforementioned vampires, demons, monsters, aliens, ghosts, robots and everything in between - as well as dealing with all the "real life" issues that teenage girls face.
Gellar - who married fellow 90s alumni Freddie Prinze, Jr. - also appeared in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, Cruel Intentions, Scooby-Doo, The Grudge and Southland Tales, as well as television shows like Buffy spin-off show Angel, Sex and the City, Ringer and The Crazy Ones.
7 Adrianne Palicki (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Wonder Woman, G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
The very gorgeous Adrianne Palicki is probably best known for her five year stint in television drama Friday Night Lights, but she has also been quite the prolific kick-ass action heroine. Not only did she portray Wonder Woman in a pilot episode that was intended (but failed) to introduce a new series, but she has also played the likes of Kara Zor-El AKA Supergirl in Smallville, Lady Jaye in the G.I. Joe: Retaliation movie and Bobbi Morse AKA Mockingbird in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Other roles she has played have been in the likes of Supernatural, Lone Star, John Wick and From Dusk till Dawn: The Series.
6 Jessica Alba (Dark Angel, Fantastic Four)
Stunning American actress, model and businesswoman Jessica Alba shot to fame as a teenager in television shows like The Secret World of Alex Mack and in movies like Camp Nowhere, but she would truly shoot to prominence in one of her most kick-ass roles - as the lead character Max Guevara (a genetically enhanced super-soldier) in the television show Dark Angel.
Since then, she has also appeared in two Fantastic Four movies as the powerful Invisible Woman - a role in which she looked very hot in tight spandex. Other high-profile roles for Alba have included Idle Hands, Sin City, Into the Blue, Machete and Entourage.
5 Hayley Atwell (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Quintessentially beautiful British actress Hayley Atwell is known for her stage work in productions like A View From the Bridge and her movie work in such offerings as Cassandra's Dream, The Duchess and The Pillars of the Earth. With that in mind, she was always quite the unlikely kick-ass character - but she's done a great job as Peggy Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Her portrayal of the S.H.I.E.L.D. founding member in Captain America: The First Avenger and a titular One-Shot earned her a spin-off show - Agent Carter - and she has since appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the character. She will also appear in Ant-Man this year. Her Carter is sophisticated, sexy and totally bad-ass.
4 Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games Movies, X-Men Movies)
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood right now - in more ways than one. She's in high demand thanks to her undoubted talent and she's incredibly gorgeous - topping several polls of the hottest women alive in recent years.
She's also pretty kick-ass and has displayed her ability to be so in movies like the Hunger Games series (as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2) and the X-Men movies (as Mystique in X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past and the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse). She was the highest-grossing action heroine as of 2015 and has also appeared in movies like The Burning Plain and Winter's Bone.
3 Angelina Jolie (Salt, Tomb Raider)
One of the most beautiful women in the world - and the wife of the male equivalent in superstar actor Brad Pitt - actress, film-maker and humanitarian Angelina Jolie has proven that she's not just a pretty face on numerous occasions, having kicked ass as an action heroine in several movies. Most notably, she portrayed Lara Croft in the movie adaptation of video game Tomb Raider and the titular Evelyn Salt in Salt.
Jolie is also famous for her recent portrayal of the Disney villainess Maleficent and her appearance in movies such as Hackers, Pushing Tin, The Bone Collector, Gone in 60 Seconds, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Wanted.
2 Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet)
The gorgeous Milla Jovovich is both an actress and supermodel who has portrayed a number of kick-ass characters in her career - most notably Alice in the Resident Evil movies, Leeloo in The Fifth Element and Violet in Ultraviolet (she was even described as "the reigning queen of kick-butt" by music channel VH1 in 2006).
Jovovich has also appeared in productions like Return to the Blue Lagoon, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and The Three Musketeers, but it is undoubtedly her kick-ass roles that stand out as being her best and she looks great doing it - especially when she's beating the hell out of zombies in the Resident Evil series of movies (of which she has now starred in five, with one more on the way).
1 Scarlett Johansson (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Come on, who else was it going to be?! Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undoubtedly the sexiest kick-ass female character to ever appear on screen. Just look at that tight leather outfit!
Johansson - who is also famous for her roles in movies like Home Alone 3, The Horse Whisperer, Lost in Translation, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spirit, We Bought a Zoo, Hitchcock, Don Jon and Lucy - has played Black Widow in four movies to date (Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron) and she will continue to do so for the foreseeable future in movies like Captain America: Civil War. Frankly, that's okay by pretty much everyone.