25 Badass Movie Babes
With the release of Sucker Punch right around the corner, it’s time to indulge in a bit of female empowerment. I’m talking about badass movie babes, folks; the kind of women who can still look hot while firing off a pistol or crushing a trachea with a karate chop.
You won’t find such cinematic tough gals in early films, as the woman’s role was to either get rescued by the male hero or make sure a delicious meal was on the table when he returned home from saving the world. That all started to change with the sexual revolution, of course, and now badass movie babes are everywhere you look. Sexist pigs may object to this change, but everyone else is too busy lining up to buy a ticket.
While there are tons of examples to be had, the following 25 are among my favorites in the estrogen-fueled badass department. Some of the characters below have appeared in multiple movies, but I only listed the film where I felt they were at their most interesting. If you can think of any tough female movie characters I’ve left out, don’t be shy about making your voice known in our comments section.
The Lady (Sharon Stone) from The Quick and the Dead (1995) – A mysterious female gunslinger rides into the Old West town of Redemption, intent on entering the annual quick draw competition and filling ruthless town leader John Herod (Gene Hackman) full of lead. But before she can do so, she’ll have to outdraw deranged prospectors, gold-toothed pimps, and fend off the amorous advances of a baby-faced shootist named Fee (Leonardo DiCaprio). Stone looks great in a pair of chaps, and The Lady seems equally at home drinking rotgut whiskey or staring down a collection of ruthless killers (including Lance Henriksen and Keith David). There aren’t many westerns where women get to be badasses, so this genre picture from director Sam Raimi comes highly recommended.
Best Line: “I’m gonna kill you if I have to ride all the way to Hell to do it.”
Azumi (Aya Ueto) from Azumi (2003) – We’re first introduced to Azumi as a little girl, kneeling next to her dead mother and showing a disturbing lack of emotion. Taken in by a dedicated warrior, Azumi and her fellow students learn the fine art of assassination and are constantly prepped for a secret mission they’re expected to perform. Turns out this mission is to eliminate a number of warlords who threaten to disrupt to stability of feudal Japan, but first Azumi must kill her best friend in order to prove her dedication. That task accomplished, she wanders out into a Japan seemingly filled with nothing but predators and prey. Azumi is the former, of course, more than holding her own while utilizing swords, cannons, and psychological warfare. Her chief opponent proves to be a warrior so dangerous that he’s known to attack his own allies, and their inevitable showdown results in a battlefield strewn with bodies. Possessing lethal fighting skills, a naïve worldview, and a possible lesbian streak (not to mention being played by Japanese idol Aya Ueto), Azumi is one badass movie babe who deserves as many sequels as she can handle.
Best Line: “Where do the stars go during the day?”
The Bride (Uma Thurman) from Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) – After her entire wedding party is gunned down and she takes a bullet to the skull, The Bride lingers in a coma for four years. When she finally revives, her first action–other than killing a couple of would-be rapists–is to weep for the loss of the unborn child she was carrying when the massacre went down. After regaining her motor functions and drawing up a list of those who deserve killing, she sets out on a bloody rampage of revenge. The fact that her targets are former colleagues in the assassination business means The Bride will get plenty of opportunities to show off her martial skills. This is never more evident than in an epic sword-wielding showdown with the Tokyo gang known as the Crazy 88; a battle in which severed limbs litter the floor and our heroine demonstrates the best way to pluck out an opponent’s eyeball.
Best Line: “Any more subordinates for me to kill?”
Coffy (Pam Grier) from Coffy (1973) – Coffy has some magnificent breasts, and she’s not afraid to use them in her quest to track down and punish those responsible for her younger sister’s drug overdose. And when seduction won’t work, Coffy shows that she’s equally adept at using a gun or straight razor to take down drug dealers, corrupt politicians, mob bosses, pimps, and uppity white bitches. Like the tagline says, she’s “the baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town.”
Best Line: “This is the end of your rotten life, you motherfuckin’ dope pusher!”
Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – After spending the first movie of the franchise being relentlessly pursued by a killer robot from the future, Sarah Connor adds some muscle mass and throws herself into the role of preparing her son to be the savior of humanity. This leads to her winding up in an asylum, but the resourceful Connor has no intentions of being stuck in a padded cell when machines firebomb most of the planet. While her son John and the latest Terminator from the future get the majority of screen time, it’s Connor and her intense, half-crazed stare who steals the show.
Best Line: “On August 29th, 1997, it’s gonna feel pretty fucking real to you, too. Anybody not wearing two-million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day. Get it?”
Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) – In order to save the life of her infant daughter, innocent Lee Geum-ja is forced to confess to the murder of a young boy. Imprisoned for years, she spends every moment on the inside plotting her inevitable revenge. To this end, she donates a kidney to a fellow inmate, feigns a religious conversion, masters the art of cake decoration, and slowly poisons the prison bully to gain popularity. But her sweet demeanor falls by the wayside as soon as she’s set free, and she dons high-heeled shoes and red eyeshadow, the latter serving as almost a kind of urban warpaint. When she’s not cutting off a finger as penance or trying to reconnect with her now-adopted daughter, Lee Geum-ja is fantasizing about the moment she’ll take revenge with her unique double-barreled pistol.
Best Line: “Be white. Live white.”
Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) from I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – Things don’t start off well for Jennifer Hills, as she’s beaten, raped, and left for dead by a bunch of local yokels. But payback is a bitch, and she grimly puts this saying into practice after recovering from her assault. Watching her hang, emasculate, and axe her victims to death makes one wonder why anyone would ever mess with a badass movie babe.
Best Line: “Suck it, bitch!”
Selene (Kate Beckinsale) from Underworld (2003) – An immortal vampire tasked with hunting down and killing werewolves (known as Lycans), Selene is a no-nonsense warrior who doesn’t suffer fools. She also looks smashing in a series of leather and PVC outfits, accented by her unnatural baby blue eyes. Falling in love with a mortal only makes her more dangerous, as she violently defends him from both friend and foe alike, uncovering an ancient conspiracy in the process. Beckinsale is a stunner, and watching her wield swords, guns, and other lethal instruments is enough to make even the most undead viewer get a sudden rush of blood to their extremities.
Best Line: “I am a Death Dealer.”
Rebecca Buck (Lori Petty) from Tank Girl (1995) – Never at a loss for words, Rebecca battles against the schemes of the sinister Water & Power on a world suffering through an 11-year drought. When she manages to steal one of their tanks, she become the titular Tank Girl and–along with pal Jet Girl (Naomi Watts)–steps up her efforts to bring down the bad guys. She’s aided in her fight by kangaroo/human hybrids known as Rippers, but Rebecca’s most notable accomplishments come when she’s using her own bizarre mind (such as forcing an entire brothel to sing Cole Porter songs).
Best Line: “I’m too young for this shit.”
Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) from Million Dollar Baby (2004) – A thirty-something white trash transplant from the Ozarks, Maggie winds up in L.A. to pursue her dream of becoming a pro boxer. Despite grouchy Frankie Dunn’s (Clint Eastwood) reluctance to train her, she wins him over through sheer determination. And when she finally gets in the ring against an opponent…look out. Maggie–nicknamed Mo Chuisle by her trainer–dispatches everyone put in front of her, eventually getting a title shot and a million-dollar payout. This sets up a tragic set of circumstances, and Maggie finds herself in a fight that even she can’t punch her way out of. Most of the badass movie babes on this list won’t bring you to tears, but Maggie is the exception.
Best Line: “Working the bag, boss.”
Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – Even though she lives in ancient China, warrioress Yu Shu Lien takes a backseat to no man. A longtime and respected traveling companion of master swordsman Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat), she’s able to sprint across rooftops with a deftness that would make a cat jealous. She really gets to show off her prowess in a dojo duel with Jen (Zhang Ziyi), the restless daughter of an aristocrat. Even though her opponent wields the legendary sword known as Green Destiny, Shu Lien keeps her on the defensive with a staggering variety of weapons. One of the greatest movie catfights of all time, fans of martial arts movies have been clamoring ever since to have their ass kicked by Michelle Yeoh.
Best Line: “Whatever path you decide to take in this life…be true to yourself.”
Alice (Milla Jovovich) from Resident Evil (2002) – While she appears to be a simple security agent protecting a vast underground research facility, there’s more to Alice than meets the eye. Later films in the series show her demonstrate remarkable regeneration and psychic powers, but there’s something satisfying about watching her struggle to fend off legions of animated corpses with nothing more than martial arts and handguns. And since iconic Latina toughie Michelle Rodriguez co-stars, you know Alice is going to have to be at the top of her game.
Best Line: “I could kiss you, you bitch!”
Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) from Girlfight (2000) – Speaking of Michelle Rodriguez, she first came to the attention of moviegoers as Diana Guzman, a troubled teenager who decides to take up boxing as an outlet for her aggressive feelings. She proves surprisingly adept at the sweet science, something her drunken, abusive father learns the hard way in a memorable scene. While she does get to show a softer side in the romantic sub-plot, her alluring scowl would serve as the template for many movie roles to come.
Best Line: “When you’re not training, someone else is training: to kick your ass.”
Miho (Devon Aoki) from Sin City (2005) – The prostitutes of Old Town get to police themselves, something their arsenal of guns and bad attitude are more than capable of handling. But when things really get rough, they turn to deadly little Miho, a cherub-faced killer who never utters a word and enjoys toying with her opponents. Skilled in all manner of Asian weapons–including throwing stars in the shape of a swastika–Miho is very much like a cat who’s cornered a mouse. And even if you manage to get the drop on her, don’t get too cocky; it’s probably just another way for Miho to amuse herself.
Best Line: None. Miho never speaks.
Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from The Matrix (1999) – Clad in latex and sporting shades and slicked-back hair, Trinity rarely smiles. This probably has something to do with the revelation that the so-called “real” world is nothing more than a sophisticated virtual reality created by humanity’s mechanical overlords. But that doesn’t stop this ultra-cool heroine from carrying on the revolution, and she’s perfectly content to team up with Neo (Keanu Reeves) and go on a gun-toting rampage in an office building. Whether you need a helicopter flown or someone to look really stylish while running up the wall in slow-mo, Trinity is your gal.
Best Line: “Dodge this.”
Mallory Wilson Knox (Juliette Lewis) from Natural Born Killers (1994) – Suffering constant abuse at the hands of her father, young Mallory welcomes the chance to run away with the charismatic Mickey. But theirs is the epitome of an unhealthy relationship, as each feeds upon the inner rage of the other. This results in a notorious multi-state murder spree, a stint in prison, and a dramatic escape that throws the penal system into utter chaos. Fond of ramming her head into walls and killing anyone who gives her poor oral sex, Mallory is easily the most batshit crazy of all our badass movie babes.
Best Line: “You made my shitlist!”
Madeleine (Christina Lindberg) from They Call Her One Eye (1973) – After being raped as a child, Madeleine lost the ability to speak. Her parents paid for speech therapy, but this led to her being abducted by a passing motorist, taken to the big city, and hooked on heroin. Forced to turn tricks to pad her captor’s pocketbook, Madeleine is blinded in one eye after refusing the advances of one of her clients. Something snaps inside, and the silent beauty begins saving money to purchase weapons and training. I thing you can guess where this is headed.
Best Line: None. She’s a mute.
River Tam (Summer Glau) from Serenity (2005) – A 17-year-old psychic who’s been brainwashed by the totalitarian Alliance, River is rescued by her scientist brother and takes shelter on the Serenity, a spaceship filled with lovable rogues. While everyone treats her like a delicate flower, River more than proves her abilities on two occasions: first by clearing out a bar that features the toughest space scum this side of Moss Eisley’s cantina, and secondly by charging headlong into a mass of feared cannibals known as Reavers. While her social skills are in need of polishing, she’s damned handy in a fight.
Best Line: “Put a bullet to me. Bullet in the brain pan. Squish.”
Charly Baltimore (Geena Davis) from The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) – With no memory of her life eight years prior, Samantha Caine is content to live as a Pennsylvania schoolteacher and loving mother. But when she easily dispatches an escaped con, her memories start coming back. Turns out she’s not Samantha Caine at all, but rather Charly Baltimore, a CIA assassin who’s been missing for eight years. This revelation brings her old enemies out of the woodwork, and they’ll go to any lengths to kill her (even kidnapping her daughter). Luckily, she gets a little assistance from a smartass private eye (Samuel L. Jackson), but Charly doesn’t need much help when it comes to killing. She’s damn handy in the kitchen thanks to her unparalleled talents with a blade, and you’ve never seen someone so defiant while being tortured. Sexist viewers and prudes may be uncomfortable with all Charly’s cursing, but everyone else will be just as turned on as I was.
Best Line: “Die screaming, motherfucker!”
Fox (Angelina Jolie) from Wanted (2008) – Part of a secret order of assassins, the lovely Fox has the ability to curve bullets and drive cars like Richard Petty on steroids. Tasked with helping nine-to-five schlub Wesley Gibson realize his birthright as an enlightened killer, she engages in a series of running shootouts, shows off her multiple tattoos, and demonstrates a dedication to fate that’s more than a little fanatical. We should all have a mentor this hot.
Best Line: “Your father was one of the greatest assassins who ever lived. The man who killed him is behind you.”
Violet Song jat Shariff (Milla Jovovich) from Ultraviolet (2006) – She may have a wacky name, but there’s nothing comical about this virus-infected killing machine. With vampire-like abilities, Violet is a notorious assassin-for-hire who relishes every opportunity to practice gun-fu on anyone brave enough (or stupid enough) to stand against her. But thanks to the virus that courses through her body, her time on Earth is quickly coming to an end. Before she dies, however, she’s intent on saving a child who may very well be mankind’s salvation. While plenty of tough movie women on this list are skilled with traditional weapons, how many can cure people by crying on them?
Best Line: “Haven’t you been paying attention? Killing is what I do. It’s what I’m good at. I am a titan. A monolith. Nothing can stop me.”
Varla (Tura Satana) from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) – When a trio of go-go dancers decide to embark on a spree of sex, murder, and robbery, they’re led the whole way by the sadist known as Varla. With a disdain for men and lethal martial arts knowledge, Varla does who she wants whenever she wants. The actress who portrayed her, Tura Satana, was just as impressive in real life: she survived being shot, tracked down and gained revenge on the men who raped her as a child, and even turned down a marriage proposal from Elvis Presley.
Best Line: “I never try anything. I just do it. And I don’t beat clocks, just people! Wanna try me?”
Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) from Doomsday (2008) – As a child, Eden Sinclair barely escaped from a Scotland riddled by a lethal outbreak known as the Reaper virus. When Reaper reappears in London decades later, a grown Eden–now a badass military chick with a cybernetic eye–is chosen to head into a walled-off Scotland and try to find a possible cure. But there’s still life inside the abandoned nation, forcing Eden to battle tattooed warrior women, modern-day medieval knights, and a psychopath with a love for roasting captives and lip-synching to The Fine Young Cannibals. Coming off like Snake Plissken with a great rack, Eden dispatches her foes with a snarl and a pair of pouty lips to die for.
Best Line: “Same shit, different era.”
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from Aliens (1986) – The queen of all badass movie babes, Ellen Ripley has spent numerous films fighting off deadly acid-blooded aliens. And even jumping into a vat of lava wasn’t enough to stop her, as she showed up centuries later as a more lethal genetic clone of the original. But Ripley is at her best in the James Cameron installment of the franchise, staying alive and thriving while Space Marines drop all around her. The lady also knows how to operate the hell out of an exosuit cargo-loader, taking on the alien queen head-to-head while fiercely protecting an orphan girl named Newt.
Best Line: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
Lady Snowblood (Meiko Kaji) from Lady Snowblood (1973) – Born in prison and orphaned during childbirth, Yuki (aka Lady Snowblood) is taught the ways of the sword by a priest before setting out to eliminate those responsible for dishonoring her family. She tracks them down without pity or remorse, killing those who are still alive and desecrating the graves of those who aren’t. She chops one guilty female in half, and another man gets both his hands removed. But her recuperative powers are just as amazing as her sword skills, as even bullet and puncture wounds seem unable to stop this Japanese whirlwind of revenge.
The next time a sexy woman walks past your construction site, you may want to think twice before shouting something offensive. If she’s like our badass movie babes, you might find yourself carrying your nuts home in a sack.