Top 3 Action Heroines: Let's Go "Atomic"

Each week(ish), CinemATL Podcast hosts Martin Kelley and Michael D Friedman will be naming our Top 3 picks based on the weekend’s big movie release. Keep in mind, these lists are totally based on our opinion, and aren’t supposed to be a definitive list of the “best” movies. If you disagree with our selections, please let us know in the comments section below!

With Atomic Blonde arriving in theaters on Friday, we got to thinking. Who are our Top 3 female action characters? Take a look at our picks for the most kickass women to grace the silver screen.


1. Ellen Ripley, Alien

This is really no surprise that Alien’s Ellen Ripley is a ubiquitous pick for greatest female action characters. That is telling that we don’t have enough if everyone can agree on the best. However, that shouldn’t take away from Sigourney Weaver’s brilliant work as the lead character in a historic sci-fi franchise. Her Ripley proves to be intelligent and tough enough to survive one of the most terrifying villains ever to be put on screen. She’s still the standard.

2. Diana, Wonder Woman

Thankfully, newcomer Wonder Woman is closing the gap of female action heroines and setting a new tone for the possibilities of a more even playing field when it comes to women in action movies. Gal Gadot’s Diana is an ideal badass heroine. She’s raised as an Amazonian warrior princess with powers from THE Greek God. And she’s completely fearless and full of sincerity in her quest to right the wrongs of the world. The fact that she may have saved a comic book franchise in the process is no small feat either. Hopefully, the Wonder Woman character ignites a flame that will burn brightly from now on so the lists of top Action Heroines gets more interesting in the future.

3. Yu Shu Lien & Jen Yu, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Yes, I’m cheating by allowing both Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi to co-own my number 3 pick. However, there’s a reason. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an unusual film in a lot of ways, one being the prominence of women in leading roles in a Martial Arts-driven movie. This was certainly not the kind of Kung-Fu movie that I grew up with on Saturday afternoon UHF movie marathons. It was another breakthrough of sorts that may have fizzled since (as has the genre itself). However, you can’t deny that these two warriors on different sides of the plot of this film were every bit as good as many of the legends of this genre.

Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Selene (Kate Beckinsale), Underworld; The Bride (Uma Thurman), Kill Bill


1. Ellen Ripley, Aliens

I’m going to copy after Martin, but I will say Ripley in Aliens as opposed to Alien. While Sigourney Weaver really paved the way for female action leads in the original, it was really in Aliens where I feel she captured what a true heroine can achieve. She’s not only tough as nails, but she also gains a bit more character development in her motherly relationship with Newt. It even mirrors the Alien queen as the ultimate villain. The film is all about female empowerment.

2. Lola, Run Lola Run

A bit of a departure from what many would consider an “action” film, Run Lola Run is nevertheless just that. The stakes may not be Earth-shattering, but there is little time in this film when Franke Potente’s character isn’t chasing after something. This German film, directed by Tom Tykwer, is a phenomenal love story told in 3 different “what if?” scenarios. Lola rushes to save her boyfriend, Manni, from a date with an angry mob boss after he loses some of his money. It’s a tale about the lengths a woman will go for love and Lola is a character you want to root for.

3. Rita Vrataski (a.k.a. The Angel of Verdun), Edge of Tomorrow

Make no mistake about it, Emily Blunt may be the co-star of this film, but her character is the badass action hero. Known as the “Angel of Verdun,” Rita is the face of the resistance in this alien war movie. Her character is not only strong, intelligent and commanding, but she serves as a mentor to Tom Cruise’s character, Cage. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film where a female character held so much influence on a male lead character. She teaches him what to do, she does the heavy lifting physically and it’s ultimately her actions that win the war (spoiler alert).

Honorable Mention: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), The Hunger Games; Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), Hanna; Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) The Fifth Element