For nearly a century, on-screen fights have served to drive home the plot points and culminate the conflicts that have been building throughout a film. In the early days of cinema, these fight scenes featured almost exclusively men, save for a few instances in which women played minor roles in these intricate and violent dances. That trend changed in the 1960s and 1970s when fight scenes between women and involving women fighting men became increasingly popular.
Today, female driven action movies have become a genre of their own after finding significant success at the box office. Some of the most famous actresses in the world have taken on these roles to expand their acting repertoire and even managed to transform their careers to become action stars, roles previously reserved for men. These trendsetting women have changed the way that people watch movies and have helped promote gender equality on the silver screen. In addition to that, they have inspired a new generation of action stars.
In 2015, society is certainly familiar with many female action stars. Whether it is Mila Jovovich kicking serious butt in the roles she plays or Angelina Jolie shooting out with her villain of choice, female action stars are here to stay. These powerful women have become cultural icons and pop culture phenomena, while smashing both box office expectations and any opponent that dare cross their path. These scenes have impacted the way that female stars are depicted and continue to influence the roles that prominent actresses choose to portray.
10 Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle Ship Fight
Charlie’s Angels evolved from a 1970’s television action series into a gigantic action franchise, starring some of the biggest actresses of the time. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu team up to repeat their roles of Natalie, Dylan, and Alex and this fight scene is the epitome of the franchise. The fight starts off with the Angels disarming their opponents before Lucy Liu begins her intricately worked high wire fight with several goons. The scene descends into a full scale melee, with the camera jumping between the film’s protagonists as they proceed to utilize all of their expert training.
Cameron Diaz throws some serious looking haymakers before recovering their objective. Drew Barrymore seems to be on the losing end of a scrap with the film’s Irish stereotype villain, Seamus O’Grady, but manages to escape thanks to some strange sexual tension and the classic counterbalanced rope through the ceiling technique. After Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu latch onto the rope, the trio snags planks of wood, which are used to jib down the ship’s mooring line. The Angels seal their escape with an improvised flamethrower and the finish the scene with a budget draining explosion.
9 Resident Evil’s Alice and Jill Finally Throw Down
For those of you unfamiliar, the Resident Evil franchise is one of the most successful video game/movie crossovers of all time. While not always having the greatest dialogue and storyline, Milla Jovovich has delivered some of the best action sequences of the last decade. In Retribution, Alice makes her escape from an Umbrella Corporation test facility in the Arctic Circle. Alice encounters her former ally Jill Valentine, who is under the mind control of the evil Umbrella Corporation. The physics defying encounter is a knockdown, drag out fight between two genetically engineered killers that finishes with an awesome elbow to Alice’s cranium.
8 The Bride vs. O-Ren Ishii
Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Kill Bill Vol. 1 has many fantastic fight scenes, making it difficult to narrow down, which is truly the best. After The Bride sliced her way through a restaurant full of people, she turned her sights to her main target, the deadly assassin/yakuza boss known by the names of O-Ren Ishii or Cottonmouth, played by Lucy Liu. The scene builds with a musical intro before the two engage in fantastically choreographed swordplay that is the trademark of this franchise.
O-Ren draws first blood with a cut to the back of the Bride, but allows her opponent to recover according to the code of Bushido. The moonlit garden is covered in a dusting of snow, which draws in stark contrast to the bloodstained garments worn by the combatants. During their duel, the two come to a mutual respect, but vengeance must still be achieved. With one final sweeping strike, the Bride slices the top of Cottonmouth’s head like a can opener, leaving the defeated assassin stunned. With a final realization she drops to the ground, allowing the Bride to continue her streak of vengeance in the sequel film.
7 Ripley vs. Alien Queen
Aliens is one of the first examples of a major action film with a prominent female protagonist. Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley, a Lieutenant aboard the Sulaco. When a xenomorph queen, begins taking out her fellow crew members, Ripley leaps into action to save the life of her daughter. Donning the Power Loader suit, Ripley delivers one of the most classic action film lines of all time, “Get away from her, you bit*h!”, before delivering several brutal punches with her augmented arms. The Queen and Ripley tumble into an airlock, which is opened by Ripley, as she clutches to a ladder to avoid being pulled into the vacuum of space. After several desperate moments, Ripley manages to send the xenomorph into the void, and she climbs to the top of the ladder where she closes the airlock, saving the day once again.
6 Iron Angels
The Iron Angel franchise was a series of movies in the classic girls with guns fashion popular in Hong Kong during the 1980s. Unlike male-driven films starring actors like Jackie Chan, this film was far grittier, as Inspector Moon, played by Moon Lee, pursues drug kingpin Madam Yeung played by Yukari Oshima. The Angels battle their target in an epic, bone breaking melee that leaves destruction in the wake of their gravity defying skills. The scene involves several intricately performed sequences that leave both fighters reeling. Inspector Moon improbably achieves victory by swinging her opponent in Donkey Kong fashion. However, her victory is only temporary, with intervention necessary from a well-timed gunshot necessary to prevent Madam Yeung’s death blow from striking home.
5 Hit Girl Personifies Movie Title
Kick-Ass is a criminally underrated action film directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring the legendary Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy. Chloe Grace Moretz plays his daughter, Hit-Girl, who is a pint sized bullet dodging assassin in a schoolgirl outfit and Cato mask. In one of the film’s climactic scenes, Hit-Girl exits an elevator and proceeds to dismantle a legion of suit-wearing goons. After slicing through her first several opponents, an inadvertent gunshot causes her enemies to take notice of her presence, and she takes cover to regroup. When she comes out firing a pair of pistols, she drops a dozen more bad guys as she makes her way leaping down the hallway. Thanks to some quick reloading and incomprehensible agility, she takes out her enemies with relative ease with Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation accompanies this memorable scene.
4 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Certain films change the way that movies are made, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is certainly one of those movies. The film won four Oscars and thrust director Ang Lee into the spotlight as one of the greatest filmmakers in the world. The best scene in the movie features a duel between Yu Shu Lien played by Michelle Yeoh and Jen Yu played by Ziyi Zhang. Yu Shu Lien wields Green Destiny, a 400-year-old sword of lore that she uses to destroy every weapon utilized by her opponent. This movie changed how special effects were utilized during film scenes and set the standard for many future films. This spectacular scene ends when Shu Lien is forced to concede when Jen Yu holds a broken sword to her throat
3 Black Mamba vs. California Mountain Snake
In Kill Bill: Vol. 2, The Bride continues her vengeance against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad after being buried alive, with an eye popping encounter with Elle Driver, aka California Mountain Snake. Driver is played by Daryl Hannah, who wears an eyepatch due to a previous encounter with her former master. Black Mamba leaps into the trailer with a dropkick and the two proceed to struggle over a Hattori Hanzo katana. The tight quarters play an interesting role in this struggle, and the trailer is largely destroyed during the fight. After the Bride gives her nemesis a swirlie, Driver reveals she killed their mutual master, which results in Beatrix Kiddo snatching her remaining eye. The now blind Mountain Snake is left blind and screaming as the Black Mamba continues on her path.
2 Trinity’s Debut in the Matrix
The Matrix was a great leap forward in digital effects and one of the first moments fans were able to enjoy these advances came in the Matrix. Trinity was the Wachowski’s legendary female protagonist, and her daring escape from a Matrix hacking gone wrong was an iconic moment in the film’s series. Trinity escapes from her arresting officers with ease and gives us several incredible sequences, including a camera panning 180° to capture her flying kick. After running along the walls to avoid gunshots, she delivers several brutal kicks, including the renowned overhead kick and pose. A thrilling chase scene ensues and culminates with Trinity making a narrow escape from Agents and a collision with a garbage truck.
1 The Bride vs. The Crazy 88 and Gogo
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 has another impressive scene that tops our list. The Bride arrives at the House of Blue Leaves to confront O-Ren Ishii, but first must deal with her legion of bodyguards known as the Crazy 88. Black Mamba begins the fight by announcing a challenge before slicing off the arm of Sofie Fatale. The Crazy 88, though numerous, fall short of their number, but rush to the aide of their boss only to be cut down by the Bride in succession. Following the fall of the Ishii’s personal army, the Bride duels with the teenage assassin Gogo.
Gogo refuses the Bride’s pleas to leave, and so begins an incredible battle of katana against a ball and chain. Gogo is in the ascendancy for the majority of the fight, dealing several critical blows to Black Mamba, but suffers a setback when the Bride treats her weapon like a baseball. The knockdown enrages Gogo. As she attacks with a fury, she manages to wrap her chain around the Bride’s neck. However, the deadly teenager makes a fatal mistake by entering the Bride’s range and is killed with two well-placed blows from an improvised morning star.