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In Honor of 'American Ninja Warrior''s Kacy Catanzaro, Here Are 15 of the Most Kick-Ass Female Action Scenes In Cinema History

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | September 5, 2014 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | September 5, 2014 |

All is pain: Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to qualify for the final round of American Ninja Warrior, has been knocked out of the competition because, as it turns out, going through the course when you’re that short is really freaking difficult, unless of course you happen to be Elastigirl.

Her American Ninja Warriorness might be over, at least until next season, but this tiny ball of gymnastic competitiveness will forever have a place in our hearts. Also always in our hearts (well, my heart, and maybe yours)—WOMEN PUNCHING THINGS. These YouTube embeds of kick-ass, female-centric fight scenes go out to you, Kacy. May tiny angels fly you to next year’s finals.

The Raid 2

There’s a version of this scene up on YouTube with the original sound, but it’s a cam recording filmed by someone who has a shaky grasp on keeping their camera still. Such is life. We do what we have to do to watch Hammer Girl.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

One of the best fight scenes in cinema history? You decide. Decide yes. Because if you don’t, you’re wrong.

The Grandmaster

This one of the least brutal but most pretty fight scenes on this list. The fact that Wong Kar Wai has a lot of shots of people’s feet sliding through snow doesn’t stop the fact that if you mess with Ziyi Zhang, you’re going to get a train to the face.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Yeah, I’m gonna put multiple Ziyi Zhang fight scenes on this list—what of it?! Where Wong Kar Wai got artsy with his cinematography, as Wong Kar Wai tends to do, this Crouching Tiger fight scene Ang Lee took a simpler approach: Set the camera down. Film people going at each other—from a few different angles, sure, for variety. Bada bing, bada boom. FIGHT SCENE.


Got some gore in this one, friends and lovers. This is from Raze, starring legendary stunt performer Zoë Bell as a woman who gets kidnapped and forced to fight other women to the death by Doug Jones and Audrey from Twin Peaks. It’s a good movie, if not necessarily a pleasant one to watch. It’s brutal, to put it lightly.

Total Recall

OK, this clip probably doesn’t belong in such august company as Crouching Tiger and Hammer Girl. You’ll just have to forgive me. I have no interest in ever watching the Total Recall remake—Colin Farrell, why can’t you just work with Martin Donagh forever?—but I could watch Kate Beckinsale beat dudes up for the rest of my natural life.


I’m not the hugest fan of this movie, but God damn, that gunwork.


Ripley vs the Alien Queen. It’s iconic for a reason.

The Avengers

You mess with the Widow, you’re gonna get bit. I think my favorite thing about this scene (no, it’s not you Coulson, sit down) is the way she nonchalantly picks up her heels when she’s done dealing with whatever mob of fools this is. Hell, she didn’t even snag her tights!


Say what you want about Joss Whedon’s over-dependence on waif fu—might be nice to have a little more body type variety in your kick-ass leading ladies, bro—but these are some really awesome moves Summer Glau’s working.

The Matrix

I don’t see how Carrie-Anne Moss can even move in that tight pleather, never mind get up the mobility to kick people. But hey, strange things are possible in the Matrix.


I want to embed all of Haywire here, but there’s the small matter of that being illegal. Instead you get the bedroom fight between Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender, one of several attractive men she beats up over the course of the movie. YouTube has a clearer version of her fight with Charming Potato, though it’s a little brief for my tastes. Gina Carano beating up all the things, all the time! Speaking of…

Fast & Furious 6

…the best thing about this Gina Carano-Michelle Rodriguez fight scene is that in the film it was edited together with Sung Kang and Tyrese Gibson getting their asses beat by a single random minion. You tried.

Blond Fury

When your last name is Rothrock, you are born to kick ass. This clip from Cynthia Rothrock’s The Blonde Fury (aka Righting Wrongs II: Blonde Fury, aka the best title ever) is pretty dated in many ways—the slow-mo, the synth soundtrack, the acid-washed jeans—but has a delightfully violent charm for all that. Plus, how happy am I to see a a woman fighting in loose, comfortable, non-motion restricting khakis? Do yourself a favor and appreciate that she’s rocking a scrunchie, too.

Foxy Brown

Speaking of somewhat dated. Skip to 1:25 for Pam Grier. Skip to 2:05 for some schmuck warning Pam Grier about her “black belt in karate.” Skip to 2:15 for Pam Grier hitting said schmuck in the face with a bar stool. And at 2:44, things get real. I can practically see the chairs in the background shaking with fear.

Last-minute #16, because I meant to put it in but forgot like a Muggle:

And let’s pour one out for the scene in Terminator 2 where Sarah escapes from the hospital, because I couldn’t find even a halfway decent embed of it. What is this, the 1800s?!

Rebecca Pahle (@RebeccaPahle) was delighted to find out in the course of writing this article that there is a movie called Sci-Fighter.