Are you ready for them? The top female action actresses are here and ready to prove that the action movie genre is much more colorful with a feminine presence.
It is not a secret that the action film industry is dominated by men. Moreover, the women are discriminated when it comes to their paychecks.
There is a significant wage gap in Hollywood between males and females which is the subject of many polemics and public controversies.
In a genre, conquered by men it can be very challenging to build a reputation and even more difficult to leave a mark.
However, critically and commercially successful female action stars do exist and their number is surprisingly increasing.
More and more production studios are using female leads for their blockbusters. Studies show that the audience is excited to see some tough girls in action.
In addition, often a huge biceps and an incredible amount of testosterone are far not enough for a good action movie. The genre is overstuffed with such muscular machos. The production companies learned their lesson and understood that in order to keep the interest in the action genre vivid, they need to diversify it.
The charisma, the sex-appeal and the attractive martial arts skills of the women can be a powerful tool for reviving the action cinema industry and to bring even more people to the theaters.
Follow me through the upcoming list of the most successful action heroines in the past years and together we shall stand in awe of their greatness…
1. Cynthia Rothrock (1959)
For anybody who doesn’t know, Cynthia Rothrock is the real deal. She is an accomplished martial artist who holds seven black belts in seven different combat styles including Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Wu Shu and others.
Before starting a successful movie career she was an established martial arts instructor and competitor.
In 1993 she has been given the honor of being Black Belt Magazine’s “Female Competitor of the Year”.
Her skills were spotted by Hong Kong producers in Los Angeles and that is how her movie career started.
Her first action film and collaboration with Michelle Yeoh “Yes, Madam” (1985) was a box -office hit in China and she quickly gained fame in the country of the rising sun.
In the 90’s she had a successful career starring in direct-to-video martial arts action flicks.
In 2014 she participated in the super funny action movie “Mercenaries” where she plays along with Brigitte Nielsen, Kristanna Loken, Zoe Bell and Vivica .A. Fox. The movie is a pity attempt to be the female version of Sylvester Stallone’s smashing hit “The Expendables”. It is a hilarious and cheap action flick.
Among Cynthia’s most memorable action gems are “China O’Brien” (1990), “Undefeatable” (1993) and “Rage and Honor” (1992).
Cynthia Rothrock is probably the most well-known western female action star in the Eastern world and one of the pioneer female leads in the American action industry.
Fortunately, Madame Rothrock continues to shoot martial arts action films and her filming schedule is pretty busy which is good for her fans around the world.
2. Michelle Yeoh (1962)
It is a known fact that Asia is the birthplace of many talented action stars. The hugely popular and strikingly beautiful Michelle Yeoh is just another proof of that.
Known for doing her own stunts, the Malaysian actress gained international fame with action classics such as “James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) and the Oscar-winning hit “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000).
After that, it was easy for her to be auditioned for a variety of Hollywood roles which established her as one of the most famous Asian female stars in America.
Her fighting and acting skills can be easily noticed in the Hollywood box-office hits “Sunshine” (2007), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), “The Children of Huang Shi” (2008), “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (2008), “Mechanic: Resurrection” (2016) and the sequel “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” (2016).
Sadly, the last one didn’t live to the high expectations and was heavily panned by the critics.
Before that, she participated in many Hong Kong action productions such as “Police Story 3: Super Cop”, where she stars along with Jackie Chan, “Tai Chi” (1993) with Jet Li, “Wing Chun” (1994) and many others.
She is highly trained in Tae Kwon Do and other various martial arts forms. This is not surprising given the fact that basically everyone who was born in Asia ends up being a sensei. The combat skills run in their veins.
Member of the jury at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival and among People’s magazine’s top 50 most beautiful people in the world in 1997, the hot and talented Michelle Yeoh serves as an example to many aspiring young actresses who struggle to find their way to the career top.
3. Milla Jovovich (1975)
The sexy Ukrainian- born ex-model may not be a typical martial arts master but she is definitely a strong female action lead.
And don’t be fooled by her gorgeousness, she is highly trained in Tae Kwon Do and Jiu Jitsu and has been practicing it for 20 years.
Milla’s magnetic “femme fatale” beauty quickly gained her fame on the modeling stage. In 2004 she was proclaimed by Forbes magazines as the highest-grossing model in the world.
In the late 80’s she smoothly changed her career path and began acting in small roles. She found herself in the spotlight after starring in “Return to the Blue Lagoon” (1991). By then, she was only 15.
Her breakthrough came in 1997 when she starred in Luc Besson’s sci-fi roller coaster “The Fifth Element”. The movie was a huge success and Milla received positive reviews for her acting. She later married Luc Besson but they divorced in just after two years.
In 1999 she was in the leading role for the critically acclaimed historical action drama “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”, again directed by Luc Besson.
She became one of the most popular female action leads in 2002 when she played in the sci-fi action horror “Resident Evil”.
The movie directed by her future husband Paul W. S. Anderson was a huge commercial success and it was followed by five sequels, establishing Milla Jovovich as one of the most demanded female action leads on the list.
Another great action movies with the beautiful Ukrainian are “The Perfect Getaway” (2006) and the spectacular box-office flop “Ultraviolet” (2006).
4. Michelle Rodriguez (1978)
Believe it or not, this tiny, cute-looking actress created herself a tough-chick image by participating in many brutal action movies.
She is most famous for her role as Vin Diesel’s sidekick in the “Fast and Furious” but she starred in different action films such as “The Assignment” (2016), “Resident Evil: Retribution” (2012), “BloodRayne” (2005), “Machete” (2010), “S.W.A.T.” (2003). The list is long and impressive.
Her breakthrough was in the sports action drama “Girlfight” (2000) when she played Diana Guzman, a troubled teenager who seeks inner peace by proving that there is a place for women in the boxing world.
For that role, Michelle beat out 350 other girls in order to get auditioned.
Being a huge success, the movie was a stairway to Hollywood for the young Michelle.
She is highly trained in boxing and several others martial arts forms. She is known for her fearlessness on the set by doing her own stunts, something that earned her the respect of his fellow colleagues and professional fighters.
In the latest “Fast and Furious” sequel from 2015, Michelle has an intense fight scene with the long time MMA champion Ronda Rousey.
5. Lucy Liu (1968)
Lucy Liu is much more than a sweet face and an attractive body. The American-born actress with Asian ancestry is highly trained in a handful of martial art forms.
She practices knife fighting, as well as a specific open -handed martial art called Kali-Eskrima-Silat– the national sport and martial art of the Philippines.
She became internationally popular with the hit TV series “Ally McBeal”.
Some of the movies which reveal her deadly techniques are “Kill Bill” (2003), “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), “Shanghai Noon” (2000), “Ballistic” (2002), and “Rise” (2007).
She even won an MTV award for her performance as the villain O-Ren-Ishii in the Tarantino’s masterpiece “Kill Bill vol 1” (2003).
Lucy has a strong on-screen presence and is among the most demanded female leads in the contemporary action cinema.
6. Maggie Q (1979)
Margaret Quigley is another hot addition to the already super sexy list of the top female action actresses.
Born in Hawaii, Maggie was a successful model before starting to conquer Hollywood with her charm and skills.
Her debut was in Hong Kong films. Her first role was in the Asian horror production “Model from Hell” (2000). She later continued in the action genre by starring in “Gen-Y Cops” (2000).
That was a crucial moment for her because she was noticed by Jackie Chan who became her mentor and invited her to participate in “Manhattan Midnight” (2001) and later in the Hollywood blockbuster “Rush Hour 2”.
To this day, Maggie quotes Jackie Chan as her greatest inspiration and as the man who taught her martial arts. It was Chan who taught her to perform her own stunts as well.
A part of being so beautiful, Maggie has a strong experience in martial art forms such as Wu Shu, Qi Gong, and Wing Chun.
You can see her kick ass in the TV series “Nikita” and in the actioners “Mission Impossible 3” (2006), “Die Hard 4” (2007) and in the funny action movies “The King of Fighters” (2010) and “Priest” (2011).
This list ends here (because I am starting to get a writer’s callus) but sure enough, there are plenty of other female Expendables who can kicks ass with an attitude, sometimes even better than their male colleagues.
Feel free to leave me a comment below and name some of them. Can you?