Female Action Heroes

In Katniss Everdeen, the world has been introduced to a heroine for the ages; at once a devoted family girl and bow-and-arrow action huntress, Everdeen is one character with her priorities (largely) worked out. Cinema has a history of churning out all-powerful influential heroines throughout the decades. With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire about to be released on Blu-ray, DVD and download, here's a look at some of the best female heroes cinema has delivered ...

Princess Leia – Star Wars (1977-present)
Carrie Fisher’s role as Princess Leia in George Lucas’s sci-fi behemoth is nothing short of iconic; for all the memory of her on-screen flirting with Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, the shock reveal of her brother’s identity and that cinnamon bun hairstyle rose an action heroine to root for. Finest moments include the evacuation of Hoth and, of course, strangling Jabba the Hutt to death. With the news that JJ Abrams is reviving the series, Fisher has herself announced that she will indeed be reprising her role as Leia from 2015.

Ellen Ripley – Alien (1979-1997) 
Warrant officer Ellen Ripley starts out oh-so innocent, minding her own until an alien creature boards the Nostromo, leaving Ripley the lone survivor after it kills everybody else on board – and so movie gold is born. Many have stated that Sigourney Weaver’s role isn’t simply the greatest action heroine, but the greatest female protagonist of all time. With an on-screen life spanning three decades, the character’s life was overseen by maestros including Ridley Scott, James Cameron (with Weaver turning in an Oscar nominated performance for the sequel, Aliens) and David Fincher.

Sarah Connor – The Terminator (1984-present)
Initially appearing in James Cameron’s first two Terminator films (The Terminator and its sequel, Judgement Day), Sarah Connor’s life has evolved beyond cinema. However, Linda Hamilton’s performance remains the epitome of the characters existence. A young student pursued by a deadly robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back in time to kill her before she gives birth to John Connor, a man who will go on to lead a successful future rebellion against Skynet. A very different take on the character was presented in ill-fated television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in which Lena Headey depicted the character, while Emilia Clarke is set to reprise Connor in fifth film instalment Terminator: Genesis in 2015, alongside Arnie himself.

Trinity – The Matrix (1999-2003)
You need look no further than Trinity’s opening scene in The Wachowskis’ seminal sci-fi film The Matrix, and it’s beyond certain that Carrie-Ann Moss’s leather-clad computer hacker is a heroine for the ages. Initially Morpheus’s (Laurence Fishburne) first in command, she soon becomes a love interest for Neo (Keanu Reeves) – this not dampening her ability to kick butt and capture audiences' wonder.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider (2001-2003)
Love the films or – let’s face it, hate them – there is no denying the prowess of video game character turned movie heroine Lara Croft. There is also no denying that Angelina Jolie was a slice of casting perfection, running through catacombs and hunting ancient artefacts. Despite the poor response to the initial film adaptation or its sequel, The Cradle of Life, Croft is embedded into popular culture as one of the most influential – and desired – female characters in history.

Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride) – Kill Bill (2003-2004)
Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman came up with the idea of this character during the shooting of Pulp Fiction, a whole decade before the film hit cinemas; The Bride (revealed as Beatrix Kiddo in Vol 2) is a victim of an attempted massacre, a bullet to the head putting her in a coma for years. When she comes to, she seeks out each member of the Deadly Viper’s Assassination Squad, headed by former beau Bill, looking for revenge. Dressed in her yellow jumpsuit, a Hattori Hanzo sword in hand... The Bride is one of the most memorable action heroines of the noughties.

Hit-Girl – Kick-Ass (2010-2013)
Perhaps the most controversial action heroine on the list, Hit-Girl AKA Mindy Macready (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is an 11-year-old, foul-mouthed killing machine. Delivering dialogue to make your ears bleed with deadpan brashness, Moretz has taken the character – made famous by Mark Millar’s graphic novel – and presented her to the world in a way no other could. Stealing the show alongside on-screen father Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) in Kick-Ass, her role in the sequel perhaps proved a standalone Hit-Girl film would be a good route to go down.

Hanna – Hanna (2010)
Not quite as gasp-inducing as Hit-Girl, Saoirse Ronan’s 15-year-old German assassin Hanna is introduced to us when she shoots a reindeer with an arrow. Realising she missed the animal’s heart, she pulls out a handgun and puts it out of its misery. Such is the character’s seriousness and almost alien-like movements, it’s a marvel that by the film’s end Hanna has become the loved action heroine she is.

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games (2012-present)
Prowling through the woods, bow and arrow in hand, her braid hanging loose from her head as she hunts... Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a character who not only encounters constant traumatic occurrences, but battles such a wide array of conflicting emotions throughout the films, it’s a shock she’s still standing by the climax. Deeply loyal, strong-willed and as fierce as they come, Everdeen is one character you would not want to mess with. Lawrence has taken Suzanne Collins’ protagonist, and made her quite potentially the defining action heroine of this decade.

• The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released on Blu-ray, DVD and download on March 17

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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