For long, the action sequences in a movie have been considered to be the prerogative of men. But time and again, a female actor has drawn the guns and with ice-cold coolness, broken the stereotype. And by doing so, by not limiting themselves to play the Scarlett O’Hara of movies, these ladies have set the path and are still further expanding it for future generation of actresses to try out wide and diverse roles. Some of these roles are iconic, not only the cornerstone of their respective movies but also now a part of pop culture. I have listed five such female action characters that are quite unforgettable, though of course there are many more that deserve to be saluted. And today being International Women’s Day, this article could not have been written at a better time.
Sarah Connor played by Lindsay Hamilton in the Terminator series
James Cameron’s movies have always had tough female characters, but none came tougher than Sarah Connor. A college student, earning a few bucks as a waitress, that is how we first meet the young Sarah Connor in 1984’s The Terminator. That is the last peaceful moment she will enjoy, for after that begins a relentless pursuit by a cyborg from the future who has been sent to kill her. In The Terminator, Sarah Connor learns how to toughen up and survive, helped by a time-traveling solider; she learns to fight back, she understands how important her son would be to the future and how important it would be to protect him. So when Terminator 2: Judgement Day begins, Sarah Connor is no longer a scared college student, but a tough warrior, who knows the dangers the world is about to face. She is in fact shown doing chin-ups on her hospital bed in her first image in the movie! We see her wield the gun, fight the evil Terminator (T-1000), and become obsessive in her desire to not allow Skynet come to power. And in all this, we see a protective mother willing to die for her son’s future, and a mentor ready to guide her young one. Linda Hamilton gave one of her most incredible performances in these movies, and her absence was dearly felt in the subsequent movies of the series. The new one, Terminator: Genisys will bring back Sarah Connor, this time being played by Emilia Clarke, and I hope she remains as bad-ass as Linda Hamilton was.
Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series
Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, Alien, created one of the greatest action figures of Hollywood, and I am not talking amongst female characters alone. This one came before even the Rambos and Terminators we know of, and it holds all the more importance considering the era in which it was released when female action heroes would all the less be heard of. Ellen Ripley is an office aboard a spaceship headed for Earth in Alien, but things do not go according to plan when a scary alien with very sharp teeth and an appetite for humans infiltrates the ship. It is all about survival for Ripley as she battles the alien in space, and while she may have a weapon or two at hand, she has to be crafty and smart to win this fight where the odds are against her. Ellen Ripley’s courage is remarkable, and so is her ‘never say die’ attitude, which has been an inspiration of sorts for many over the years. Sigourney Weaver was tough, bold, and upto the mark as Ellen Ripley, doing complete justice to the depiction of this landmark character. She reprised her role again for three more movies in the Alien series, and each time the character of Sigourney Weaver was as tough as we had seen her last. Now, after almost eighteen years since the last movie in this series, plans are underway to create a fifth film in which Sigourney Weaver will play Ellen Ripley again. Great, now some Aliens will have hell to pay!
Trinity played by Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix series
We all have our memories about The Matrix series; there were after all so many incredible moments. One of the things though each one of us will never forget was how seriously cool Trinity looked in those shades and of course when she took on the bad guys. Trinity was an integral part of The Matrix series, and even though she was romantically involved with the protagonist Neo, she wasn’t there to be teary-eyed and wait for her lover to return home. Oh no, not at all. The movie’s first fight scene in fact has Trinity take on police officers and escape from the Matrix’s Agents. Needless to say, she does a thorough job of it. As a hacker, Trinity had joined Morpheus and the gang much before Neo, and then acts as a liaison between Morpheus and Neo in the initial parts of the movie. She is highly skilled in martial arts, as adequately displayed in her fighting prowess, can use any kind of weapon with equal ease, is also great with computers, and if need be, can apply her skills for the use of driving fast cars or motorcycles. Trinity is feisty and fiery but also has a lover’s heart, which gives her so many dimensions in the movie series. Carrie-Anne Moss played Trinity with such intensity that it has been difficult to see the former without thinking of the latter ever since. It was a stylish role, played by a stylish actor, and worthy of being in this list.
The Bride played by Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill series
Quentin Tarantino’s epic Kill Bill series gave the world Beatrix Kiddo, better known as “The Bride”. Left for dead on the day of her wedding rehearsal, The Bride enters a comatose state. But the day when she gets her limbs functioning again, is the day when one of the greatest sagas of vengeance begins. The Bride is on the hunt of her former lover Bill, who had previously shot her, and along this route she has to encounter one assassin after another, and escape from the clutches of death more than once. As she approaches closer to Bill, she leaves a blood trail, which is as violent as one would have ever seen inflicted by a female on screen. The Bride’s ruthlessness would make Rambo shudder, and her style of fighting would have made Bruce Lee proud (she does in fact wear a yellow jumpsuit similar to the one made famous by Bruce Lee in the past). The Bride is a deadly assassin, who had been part of an elite group of assassins in the past, though chose to leave it which brought on the wrath of Bill. She had trained extensively under an experienced martial arts master, who teaches her a rare technique to kill, considered to be the deadliest blow in all of martial arts, which plays a part as she seeks revenge. Apart from being skillful, The Bride comes across as highly determined, resourceful, and of course, vengeful, though of the kind that you want to root for. Uma Thurman has given many amazing performances over so many years, but The Bride has to be undoubtedly one of the most courageous roles she took up, and executed to perfection. In today’s world of guns, she made sword-fighting look cool again.
Selene played by Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld series
Before the world of vampires and werewolves became all about a feeble girl with many romantic notions (Twilight series, duh?), there was Selene. A vampire, a Death Dealer, who would then turn against her own kind who had fed her too many lies. A fighter, a warrior, courageous and kind, but stubborn, and vengeful. In the 2003 film Underworld, we meet this icy cold vampire Selene, who goes about her business of killing werewolves aka Lycans, as if it is just another day in the park. She is great with her guns, fast in her movements, and cool in her actions. Selene, with her gothic look, made the vampire clan look attractive and formidable at the same time. But she isn’t one to take orders, as she goes out seeking truth about her past, which would shake all her existing beliefs. When she has to now battle the ones she previously fought along with, Selene is as merciless as before, violent in her approach, though in the world she lives in, there is no other way. Across the four movies of the series (in the third, she only has a cameo), Selene has grown as a character, and changed somewhat with time, softening as she becomes a mother. But when her daughter is under threat, we see the same ferocity return, that same quest to eliminate enemies to ensure her survival. Kate Beckinsale as Selene has been the heart and soul of the Underworld series, the sole reason to watch the movies even if the writing quality degraded. But now the series is set to continue in the absence of Kate Beckinsale we are told, which seems unwise. Get back Selene, I say, for she is the light in the darkness of the Underworld!