After bringing in an impressive $11 million at Thursday preview screenings — and a lot of positive buzz (93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing) — DC's Wonder Woman roared into the box office and became one of the biggest hits of the summer. In fact, it is the highest grossing film from a female director, making over $200 million worldwide — and it is easy to see why. Wonder Woman has won over audiences with some of the best action in a DC film so far, an inspiring hero, and the kind of earnest storytelling we don't see in superhero movies nowadays.
While we tend to think of the female action hero as a rarity, they actually have a long history in film. Their roots can be dated back to the 1933 detective film serial The Perils of Pauline. Since these humble beginnings we have seen women be just as good as men on the big screen. Whether it's in horror, science fiction or action, women have been kicking ass all around the world. So, after you're done watching Diana of Themyscira tear up the big screen here are eight badass women for you to check out afterwards.
1. Full Metal Bitch — Rita Vrataski
- Appears In: Edge of Tomorrow
- Portrayed By: Emily Blunt
- Year Released: 2014
Very rarely will Tom Cruise be outshone in an action movie. His charisma and insistence on doing his own stunts has made him one of the most exciting US action stars today. However, co-star but Emily Blunt does just that in #EdgeOfTomorrow. As Rita Vrataski, she not only trains Major Bill Cage, but looks awesome doing it — time and time again. Edge of Tomorrow is a criminally underrated gem and a big part of it is Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski.
Most Wondrous Moment: Live. Die. Repeat.
As Cage struggles through a training simulation it is up to Rita to train him the best way she can, killing him every time he fails. Played mostly for laughs, it actually does a good job showing her tough-as-nails attitude and her dedication to stopping the invasion. We even get a glimpse of her effortlessly tackling the obstacle course that continues to kill Cage. It's a great showcase for Emily Blunt and it's easy to see why fans wanted to see her join the Marvel Cinematic Universe so badly.
2. The Pint-Sized Punisher — Hit-Girl
- Appears In: Kick-Ass
- Portrayed By: Chloë Grace Moretz
- Year Released: 2010
When it comes to badassery, there is no age limit. Case in point, Hit-Girl. While teen superhero Kick-Ass is the lead, it is Hit-Girl who who steals the show. Working with her father, Big Daddy (portrayed by Nic Cage at his craziest), antihero Hit-Girl steals every scene she is in thanks to a mix of cool fight scenes, brutal kills and enough bad language to make a sailor blush. Even though #KickAss is a bit uneven, Chloë Grace Moretz's Hit-Girl not only made her a star but gave audiences one of the coolest action roles of the past decade.
Most Wondrous Moment: Bad Reputation
Seeking revenge, Hit-Girl finds a group of baddies in a building belonging to mob boss Frank D'Amico. As Joan Jett's bad-girl anthem "Bad Reputation" plays, Hit-Girl uses a dizzying mix of gunplay, knife work and acrobatics to take down thugs twice her size. Perfectly choreographed, it is it's a perfect showcase for this deadly, scene-stealing tween.
3. Kung Fu Movie Royalty — Inspector Jessica Yang
- Appears In: Police Story 3: Super Cop
- Portrayed By: Michelle Yeoh
- Year Released: 1992
When it comes to action, there are few stars as tough and respected as Jackie Chan. Even at 63 years old, few stars can keep up with him. Over Chan's illustrious career, one of those able to keep up with the Academy Award winner was Michelle Yeoh in Police Story 3. Released as Supercop in the United States, the film sees Inspector Chan working with Inspector Yang (Yeoh) to stop a drug czar. What we get are amazing action scenes, with Inspector Yang at the center of quite a few of them. Whether it was martial arts, comedy or even the occasional stunt, Yeoh was able to keep up with Jackie Chan. Even though Michelle Yeoh has made a career out of starring in action-packed movies, her time as Inspector Yang might be her best to date.
Most Wondrous Moment: Saving Chan
When an undercover Chan is arrested, he is saved by Inspector Yang, posing as his sister. With her martial arts prowess she takes out a group of policeman before the two are able to escape. Playing more like an old school kung fu film, the scene is masterfully shot, with each strike given its due. A classic martial arts action and a perfect display of why Michelle Yeoh is Hong Kong film royalty.
4. Deadly And Devious — Hammer Girl
- Appears In: The Raid 2
- Portrayed By: Julie Estelle
- Year Released: 2014
Not all badass women are heroes. Action movies have a long history of diabolical women that are some of the deadliest threats to your favorite heroes. Case in point, Hammer Girl in #TheRaid2. Despite being a henchwoman for mob boss Bejo, she is in some of the best fight scenes in a movie that is nothing but killer fight scenes. Choreographed by her Headshot co-star Iko Uwais, she hammers and claws her way into action movie history.
Most Wondrous Moment: One Way Ticket
In a film like The Raid 2, it is hard for just one action scene to stand out, but the arrival of Hammer Girl is one of the film's best. As one of Goto's men rides a subway, he is confronted by the innocent-looking Alicia a.k.a. Hammer Girl. As bodyguards come out of the woodwork, she pulls out claw hammers and pounds her way through all of them. It's the kind of brutal action scene that only seems to be coming out of Indonesia, and Hammer Girl is a huge part of it.
5. The Ultimate Blaxploitation Heroine — Jackie Brown
- Appears In: Jackie Brown
- Portrayed By: Pam Grier
- Year Released: 1997
When it comes to delivering movie heroines, Quentin Tarantino could be considered a patron saint. Time and again he has given audiences some of the coolest women in film history. While The Bride from Kill Bill is iconic, I had to feature the typically overlooked Jackie Brown. Unlike past Pam Grier roles, such as Coffy and Foxy Brown, it isn't her looks or her fighting ability that make Jackie Brown so cool. Instead, what makes her so great are her guile and her intelligence. A flight attendant for a small airline, Jackie is able to outsmart not only drug dealer Ordell Robbie but also the DEA. Cool, calm and collected, she is a criminally unnoticed heroine in the Tarantino filmography.
Most Wondrous Moment: Across 110th Street
We've seen it plenty of times — the protagonist having to cross the border with money. Usually they are terrified as they pass security and the police — not Jackie Brown though. As Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" plays, she is more concerned with making it to work on time. This is exactly the kind of cool demeanor that makes Jackie Brown a bad ass despite never throwing a punch.
6. Thai Warrior — Zen
- Appears In: Chocolate
- Portrayed By: JeeJa Yanin
- Year Released: 2008
In the mid-2000s, Thailand started to gain recognition in the action community thanks to martial art classics Ong-Bak and The Protector. Even though Tony Jaa would become the face of Thai action, one of the most prominent names was JeeJa Yanin and her film debut, Chocolate. Portraying the autistic Zen, she would discover a book of debts after her mother develops cancer. With the help of her friend Moom, she goes out to collect on these debts by any means necessary. As offensive as this film can be, it works thanks to some creative martial arts action and a surprising amount of heart. If you can get past some more problematic elements of the film you'll find one of the best action movies in recent Thai history.
Most Wondrous Moment: Up On The Rooftop
Incredible action scenes in a Thai action movie are nothing new. What makes this one so special is the location. When it comes to martial arts movies, fight scenes most are either outdoors or an open room — this particular scene takes place on a rooftop. This distinctive terrain gives Zen a unique setting to show off her acrobatic martial arts style. With an energetic pace and moves you've never seen before, the rooftop fight Chocolate has some action you're unlikely to see anywhere else.
7. The New Age Final Girl — Erin
- Appears In: You're Next
- Portrayed By: Sharni Vinson
- Year Released: 2011
When it comes to horror there is no greater tradition than the final girl. Characters like Laurie Strode and Nancy Thompson are some of the most beloved characters in horror history. It's a tradition that continues to this day, and one of the best is Erin from You're Next. What makes her special is how she doesn't embody all the final girl stereotypes; she isn't just rising to the occasion or surviving because she could hide well. As soon as the home invasion starts she is on top of things, grabbing a weapon, setting up traps and handling things like a boss. It's a refreshing take on a well known trope.
Most Wondrous Moment: Dinner Date
As the Davison family starts to fight around the dinner table an arrow crashes through the window and kills a guest. Without hesitation Erin takes charge, advising the family how to escape. Compared to other final girls, Erin ready and taking the lead as soon as things start falling apart. It also helps set the tone of the film where someone can die at any moment and nothing is as it seems. Saving lives from the very beginning, Erin is one of the best final girls in years.
8. The Real-Life Warrior Princess — Zoë Bell
- Appears In: Grindhouse
- Portrayed By: Zoë Bell
- Year Released: 2007
What's cooler than kicking ass in a movie? Doing it for real. Grindhouse has a cast of nothing but killer women. What makes Zoë Bell stick out is the fact that she does all her own stuntwork. After doing stunts in Xena: Warrior Princess and Kill Bill, she would be given a starring role in Grindhouse. Playing a fictionalized version of herself, she takes down the deadly Stuntman Mike and turn him into a whimpering mess. It's a brilliant subversion of the slasher killer trope, and Zoë Bell is at the center of it.
Most Wondrous Moment: Ship's Mast
After finding the same kind of car used in Vanishing Point, Zoë and friends take it for a joy ride, deciding to play a game known as "Ship's Mast," where Bell rides the hood as the car reaches top speed before Stuntman Mike tries to crash the car. It's a harrowing chase scene that will keep you at the edge of your seat no matter how many times you watch it.
The success of Wonder Woman has opened the doors to more female-led comic book movies. Both Marvel and DC have amazing rosters full of superheroines waiting to be used. Even though there needs to be more female representation, it's just as important to remember the female heroes who helped paved the way. Whether it is Sarah Connor preventing judgement day or Ellen Ripley facing the unknown, genre film is full of women that can kick just as much butt as the men, and Wonder Woman is just the latest addition to this cinematic legacy.
Who are your favorite movie heroines? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!