When I'm asked to compile something like a list of the most badass female movie characters, it seems like a daunting task. With Hollywood still bubbling over with testosterone, women have to work twice as hard to claim the spotlight — especially in the action and sci-fi movie genres. The ones that do, though, have proven themselves just as deadly, if not more so, than their male counterparts. So when we have a long weekend, like the Memorial Day weekend notorious for its blockbuster films coming up, and we have all this time to celebrate these crowning achievements of womankind, whom do I pick?
I'm preparing myself for the onslaught of hate mail that might come to me as a result of this, expecting such questions like, "Where's Laura Croft," "What about Alice from Resident Evil," and "What? No Veronica Mars?" Here's the thing: we all have our own favorites. These are mine. Most of my picks have changed the way we approach female action heroes. Most have even paved the way for future characters. This is by no means to say it's these top nine, and that's the law. This is me saying, "Hey, here are some badass movies that we all know to varying degrees, and we should binge-watch them with all the time we have this Memorial Day weekend."
So, let's get started.
1. The Bride, Kill Bill
The Bride is Quentin Tarantino's throwback to the nameless ronin. The character is typically described as a mysterious wandering warrior with no identity, no name, sometimes no face, all because of a traumatic moment that he (or she) cannot shake. Uma Thurman's The Bride spends the first volume of Kill Bill as such, out for revenge against her former allies who betrayed her, beat her bloody, and left her pregnant body for dead on the day of her wedding. Hell hath no fury like one of the most deadly assassins scorned.
2. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
She goes by many names: The Girl on Fire, The Mockingjay, Hunger Games Victor, badass with a bow or, simply, Katniss Everdeen. When Jennifer Lawrence was cast as the beloved book character, fans were initially frustrated over another Caucasian actress portraying an ethnically ambiguous role. But she soon became just as legendary as Katniss herself. While the first film stumbled, Francis Lawrence stepped in, and the two created magic with Catching Fire and, less so, with Mockingjay - Part 1.
3. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
Lord help the man who tells Hermione Granger that she'd have better luck landing a boyfriend if she didn't read or talk so much. Emma Watson brought J.K. Rowling's figure to life with such fire and gusto that she inspired all young girls to live up to their full potential. As she grew up and developed as a woman within the eight Harry Potter films, so did they. And, now, Watson has become an outspoken advocate for feminism.
4. Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Some heroines are fighters, some are geniuses, some are a little crazy. Lizbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a little bit of them all, though she's borderline insane. That happens now and then, especially when someone like her has experienced such horrific atrocities in her life — including a hard-to-watch sexual assault. But what doesn't kill her makes her stronger, and she came back with a vengeance unlike the world has ever witnessed on the big screen.
5. Leeloo, The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element was my first love and, most times, is my favorite movie. (Hopefully you can understand why that top spot is constantly ebbing and flowing.) Milla Jovovich's Leeloo is practically perfect in every way: she has dynamite looks, an iron fist of fury, and consumes information the way I consume Starbucks coffee (fast and nasty). I can't tell you how many times I re-watched the scene where she knocks out a small army of aliens with a sequence of backflips, cartwheels, finishing blows and fire in her eyes.
6. Fox, Wanted
Angelina Jolie is pretty badass without any of her movie characters to pull from. She's played Laura Croft in the Tomb Raider movies, Mrs. Smith in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Evelyn in Salt and Maleficent in the Sleeping Beauty reimagining. But there's nothing quite like Fox. Even though this was James McAvoy's game, it was easy to gravitate toward this deadly assassin, who famously taught us all how to "curve the bullet."
7. Trinity, The Matrix
It's time for a classic entry that changed the course of the movie heroine for all time: Trinity. She's one of the coolest characters — no, not just of female characters — of all time. Neo may be The Chosen One, and she might have been destined to fall in love with The Chosen One, but she can easily lay any opponent flat on his or her ass. Her only weakness is if she's bombarded by three of Agents, which I'm pretty sure is everyone's weakness.
8. Black Widow, Various Marvel Movies
She was the best part of Iron Man 2, she recruited Hulk into The Avengers, she saved Cap's butt in The Winter Soldier, and she was crucial in the fight against Ultron. And yet we're still no closer to getting a solo Black Widow movie. Scarlett Johansson's assassin-turned-S.H.I.E.L.D.-operative-turned-Avenger is one of two members of the team who doesn't wield superpowers or high-tech machinery. In fact, in the battle of New York, she only had two measly pistols to her name. Natasha Romanoff has picked up a few new gadgets since then, but, no matter what weapons she has at her disposal, she continues to stand alongside her fellow heroes. Now, imagine the damage she could inflict when given more powerful accoutrements.
9. Jen Yu, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
She still has a lot to learn about kicking peoples' butts with one arm and sipping tea with the other, but Yu Shu Lien is still incredibly adept at her particular set of skills. And she's only supposed to be a teenager in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! Actress Ziyi Zhang has since gone on to star in a number of different roles, including Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Rush Hour 2, but she will never be forgotten for this dazzling display of martial arts.