Hollywood's 11 Most Inspiring Female Ass Kickers

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Anything We Can Do, They Can Do Better: Hollywood’s 11 Most Inspiring Female Ass Kickers

By Rob Payne | Seriously Random Lists | January 25, 2013 | Comments ()


With last week's open letter about the "Lady Avengers," some of you hoped for more discussion on the topic of gender politics in the realm of pop culture, and comic books in particular. After drinking heavily while reading my open letter's comments thinking deeply on it, I realized that you had a point and that maybe I did have more to say. Or, at least, something to say. However, I was without the Internet for most of the last week and unable to do all the necessary research (on Google Image Search), so the continuing article I really want to do will have to wait a bit. But the subject has been on my brain ever since, especially with this week's radass news from the DOD. The topic of movie and TV female action heroines isn't too far removed to function as apropos filler, yes? Yes.

Originally, I intended to compose a list of -- simply, generally -- The Kick-Assingest Female Characters in Pop Culture. But in the process of whittling that list down, it became clear that the most memorable characters, and therefore the most worthy of the title, tended to come from either film franchises or television series. There are a plethora of great-to-middling actresses who have kicked plenty of butts on screen, especially in movies, but those real live women almost always outshone the characters they played. This state of affairs probably exists because characters in series and franchises obviously get more time to throat-punch their way into our hearts and minds than those in standalone fare. Or, it merely illustrates my personal viewing habits. Regardless, I'm much more interested in characters than I am in performances, at least for this subject at this time, so the likes of Angelina Jolie*, Pam Grier, Grace Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Gina Carano, Zoe Bell, Michelle Rodriguez, and Zoe Saldana won't be present. They can be found elsewhere, though.

That's probably disappointing and dispiriting for many of you, and doubly so because that means this SRL is almost entirely Whites Only. On the week of MLK's birthday, no less. Don't blame me, blame the casting directors. Because these are without a doubt The Most Kick-Ass Female Characters in Hollywood (Who Also Happen To Be In Franchises and Series)**. I'd be hard pressed not to include any of them in a gender neutral list.

Buffy Summers, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Sarah Connor, the Terminator franchise

(Click here for the totally unembeddable Linda Hamilton compilation.)

Ellen Ripley, Alien (series)

Sydney Bristow, "Alias"

Beatrix "The Bride" Kiddo, Kill Bill v.1-2

Zoe Washburne, "Firefly" and Serenity

Nikita, the La Femme Nikita franchise

Xena, "Xena: Warrior Princess"

Trinity, The Matrix trilogy

Alice, Resident Evil (series)

Selene, Underworld (series)

* Yes, Jolie had the two Tomb Raider movies, but Lara Croft, either on film or in pixels, is part of the problem.

** Couldn't decide who should get axed between Alice and Selene, so I settled on an odd number, but Catwoman doesn't appear because only Anne Hathaway legitimately kicked ass and she was only in one movie; Black Widow doesn't make the cut because she's hopefully just getting started (same with Katniss and Brienne of Tarth); and actress Summer Glau is excluded because River Tam might be able to throw down but she wasn't in control until the very end of Serenity, and Cameron from "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is a damned Terminator, which is unfair.

Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He bets Joss Whedon takes pride in the fact that Buffy comes up first in GIS of "action heroines."

Biz Break: Kate Winslet Wants Some Sweet Franchise Money! | "Ripper Street" Review: Period Drama Done Bloody Right

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • knightofbob

    Credit to the community for not bringing up Lisbeth Salander.

  • lookatmycape

    Okay...So no one's going to say it? I will. Max Guevara (X5-542) from Dark Angel. *sigh* There's a special place in my heart for that show and what it could have been...

  • Teresa


  • Someday Tara Thornton will make top billing on a list like this. She kicks ass in a cage fight, can annihilate the enemy with a gun or a sword, AND she reads.

  • Guest

    Some day Tara Thornton will make top billing on a list like this. Count on it.

  • kirbyjay

    How about kick-ass females who aren't cartoons. JJ on Criminal Minds.

  • Idle Primate

    i'm fond of Penelope.

  • Holly Martins

    Not Hollywood, but Meiko Kaji kicks ass!

  • ,

    No Emma Peel? And I DO mean Diana Rigg?

    It is ON, motherfucker.

  • Elaine

    Aeryn Sun from Farscape is a top my list replacing nikita on my list. Good job tho!

  • AudioSuede

    "Lara Croft, either on film or in pixels, is part of the problem."

    In the more recent iterations of the games, they've really toned down her sexualized looks and emphasized the kick-assery-meets-anthropological-genius that makes Lara Croft a strong lead character and, I would argue, a positive example for female empowerment in the often gender-stupid world of video games.

  • Nat Kittyface

    And then the designers ruined it by explaining how the new Lara will get almost-raped because they want the player to feel like they have to PROTECT her and TAKE CARE of her. Because, you know, you just don't identify with female characters, EVER, you want to protect them, so they want you to feel like you're just along on the journey WITH her, taking CARE of her, rather than ARE her kicking ass. (One of the sources: http://kotaku.com/5917400/youl... )

    Ugh. Way to crap all over progress, dudes.

  • Emma Peel!!!

  • ,

    That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

  • Elfrieda

    Xena is my personal Lord and Savior. ALL HAIL XENA!

  • PDamian

    Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. B'Elanna Torres was also kick-ass.

  • csb

    I always used to think Buffy was a real bad-ass ass kicker, but I happened to catch some old eps recently and it seems like she cried a lot. And by a lot, I mean a lot.

  • Artemis

    Ass-kickers cry, too. It never interfered with her killing things that needed to get killed, and personally I appreciate a hero(ine) that isn't a (figurative) robot.

  • Afferbeck

    I for one loved Buffybot

  • FrayedMachine

    She was also a -teenager- at the start of all of this. So yeah... crying's gonna happen.

  • FrayedMachine

    I don't blame her. I can't imagine how much it would suck to have the fate of the entire world constantly sitting on your shoulders.


    All the time.

    Twenty-fo' sehven.

  • elenaran

    Sarah Connor all the way!

    Also, how bout a shout out for Brienne of Tarth?

  • Rob

    Ripley from Aliens is well-picked and obviously completes the list. But you probably could have thrown in an asterisk to her entry and added Vasquez. 'Cause, I mean, c'mon. Vazquez.

  • jcoa2

    Are we including all females or just the human ones? Because that alien gal seemed to handle herself pretty well.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Lana and her man hands.

  • pnnylne

    I don't know if anyone remembers the show, but Sidney Fox from the show Relic Hunter. I loved that show and Sidney kicked ass.

  • Idle Primate

    I've been rewatching the X-Files, and it seems to me that Scully was a more effective and kickass agent than Mulder. and she did it all in the worst clothes ever seen on tv

  • Lbeees

    TRUTH! Scully was the shit yo. Now excuse me, I need to rewatch Season 1

  • Idle Primate

    so far, season three has been most satisfying. I'm watching season 4 and it is somewhat dreary next to the previous

  • carrie

    Michelle Pfeiffer kicked ass as Catwoman

  • eeeeee



  • seth

    Chloë Grace Moretz. Or Scully.

  • knightofbob

    Don't understand Hit Girl not being on the list. Joss Whedon gets 1.5 or 2 mentions, yet a movie where a young girl kicks ass in a realistic (for most of it) way, not even an afterthought?

  • AudioSuede

    Hit Girl was psychotic in all the best ways.

  • carrie


  • JJ

    Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop
    Æon from Æon Flux
    Gwen Cooper from Torchwood
    Samantha Carter from the Stargate series
    Aeryn Sun from Farscape (previously mentioned, rightfully so)
    Dana Scully

    And how did you miss Princess Leia?

  • Teresa

    Yes, Samantha Carter! (The rest are good, but I love Carter).

  • el perro

    peta wilson as nikita was incredible! where are you now, peta?

  • Kala

    Xena. Forever.

  • John W

    What about Aeryn Sun of Farscape or Codex of The Guild.

  • pumpkin

    Tink is much more of an ass kicker.

  • ghisent

    I like it, but I feel like the two glaring omissions are Sarah Walker from "Chuck," and Starbuck from "Battlestar Galactica."

  • e jerry powell

    Nothing from the modern wuxia revival?

    No Maggie Cheung as Flying Snow?
    No Ziyi Zhang as Xiao Mei or Moon or Jen Yu or Hu Li (or most anything else she's done)?
    No Michelle Yeoh as ANYONE?

    C'mon, now...

  • Shut Up Already

    Not Hollywood.

  • e jerry powell

    Point also taken.

  • ghisent

    Franchises, dude. In fact, most of your suggestions got honorable mentions. Mebbe read the whole thing first?

  • e jerry powell

    Point taken.

  • Zirza




    Sure, she wouldn't literally kick your ass, but surely Pajibans preferred her witty yet suprisingly effective retorts over something as middling as ACTUAL ass-kicking?

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    She was more than retorts, though. She wouldn't physically destroy you (unless you mean, like... *ahem*), but she could destroy pretty much everything around you from relationships to livelihood.

    Ooh. She could kill you with her brain. But, like, genuinely.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    "You underestimated the sass."

  • Margrete


    And I'm in love all over again!

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    Love it! (but hate that I've been caught in a misquote... clearly it is time for a marathon rewatch to brush up on my one-liners!)

  • Ethan

    Movie Lara Croft is way more human and a lot less objectifying than both Alice and Selene. Not really defending them as good films (although I think the sequel is very underrated action movie), but just saying she's a much better character and ass kicker despite the overly sexualization of the early games.

  • Guest

    I find it hard to see Movie Lara Croft as less objectifying when the powers that be for that film did their damnest to ensure that her proportions were as obscenely close to the game character as feasibly possible.

    Also those movies sucked. Didn't even have the dumb movie chuckle factor that the RE and Underworld movies have.

  • Kahntahmp

    WHAT?!?!?!? No Claudia Black for FarScape™?!?!?!? I CALL SHENANIGANS!!!!!

  • TheAggroCraig

    Right there with you, friend. Aeryn Sun deserves her place in the...uh...forget it.

  • Star.buck.

  • AudioSuede

    I'd much rather include Six, because Six basically started and ended the whole series, and she didn't burst into unnecessary tears every other episode.

  • I loved Six too, but I'm unsure as to whether she qualifies...like would she have been as kick as as a human woman?

  • Boothy K

    They are both awesome...In fact there were a few women in that series who kicked ass...Including Sharon and the President.

  • Fredo

    You know who else is always forgotten: Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) from Babylon 5. Yes, old cheesy, sci-fi show like BSG, but having a woman who can actually command and go into battle in charge? So odd back then.


  • Teresa

    Yes! I love her. She is always overlooked and under-rated on lists like this.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Yeah but she was so incredibly annoying.

  • If by annoying you mean awesome...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    When she was good, she was indeed awesome. But she had to be one of the most self-destructive characters I've ever seen.


    The scene near the end where she got shit-faced with Apollo and got frisky on the table while the brother/fiance slept on the couch a stone's throw away? Despicable.

  • Self-destructive and kick ass often go together...

  • Gabs

    I'm just glad Xena made the list. She/the series doesn't get enough respect!

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I really liked Headey's depiction of Sarah Connor. While I appreciated Linda Hamilton's dedication to the role by getting crazy ripped, she came off sort of cartoonish. Headey seemed like a real woman placed into horribly frightening situations and actually suffering the pain and terror to save her beloved son.

  • elenaran

    totally agree about Headey

  • John W

    Hopefully Arya Stark will make the cut someday.

  • And Brienne.

  • John W

    She's on my list.

  • FrayedMachine

    Soooo happy to see Zoe on this list. So much love for her <3 However in this same line of breath, it's depressing to realize that there aren't really many more female bad asses worth mentioning and the variety and diversity is kind of non-existent. siiighhhhh.

    Also what aboot Olivia from the Fringe Series? She's pretty boss!

  • Fredo

    That's who I thought of when I saw the title. Mrs. Washburn not being on this list would have been wrong.

  • poopnado

    I like this list. Would adding Willow be too much Buffy love? (The answer is no). And don't say that Willow didn't kick ass--Willow could have handed Buffy's to her if she wanted.

  • PerpetualIntern

    "Oh Buffy, you really need to have every square inch of your ass kicked"

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