Tough Ladies in Film

by Intern Kerishma

The Hunger Games hit theaters last Friday with the third most successful opening weekend in North American history. One of the reasons I love the story so much is because of Katniss Everdeen, the strong female protagonist who volunteers to take the place of her sister, represents District 12, and proceeds to kick tons of ass. And in this age of blockbuster hits like Twilight that emphasize little more than the idea that every woman needs a man, an independent lady at the center of the action is always welcome. It got me thinking about tough female characters in film, and I decided to compile a list of five of my favorites. (Warning: spoilers ahead.) Enjoy! 


The Bride (aka Beatrix Kiddo), Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2
Probably one of my favorite characters in film of all time, Quentin Tarantino’s Beatrix Kiddo does not take shit from anyone. She single-handedly takes out Yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii (another tough lady who I mention below) and her legion of fighters, survives being buried alive, kills the two trained assassins who tried to bury her, and finishes by accomplishing the titular mission–killing Bill–all after surviving a bullet to the brain and a four-year coma. And beyond her badassery with a blade, she’s a complex character; she has agency independent of the male characters and moves seamlessly between her roles of assassin and mother.

Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars Episodes IV-VI
Feisty and stubborn, Princess Leia showed both the Rebel Alliance and the Empire that royalty could wield a blaster and inspire troops with the best of ’em — and win. She was my first hero as a kid, and what awed me was that she wasn’t a princess who needed to be saved; in fact, she’s the one who ends up rescuing her man, Han Solo. And to those who condemn the metal bikini, cool it: she did kill Jabba the Hut wearing it.

O-Ren Ishii, Kill Bill Vol. 1
The Kill Bill franchise is chock full of incredible female characters, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tokyo crime boss and former Deadly Viper Assassination Squad killer O-Ren Ishii. After witnessing her parents’ brutal murder as a nine-year-old, she embarked on a vengeance mission of her own and murdered the very Yakuza boss who killed her parents. She went on to become the leader of the Tokyo crime bosses, the Yakuza, where she accumulated her own personal army, and had no qualms about beheading a subordinate who insulted her Chinese-American heritage. She was ultimately finished off in an epic showdown with The Bride, but I will argue to the death that she would have won if she were wearing a less-constricting outfit. (Also, she makes walking look badass. How many people can do that?)

Thelma and Louise, Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise is more than just a road flick for gals — it’s one of the most compelling stories of enduring female friendship and loyalty in film history. In what starts out as a fishing trip, Thelma and Louise get tangled up in some pretty sticky business — sexual assault, murder, and robbery, to name a few — but keep their heads up, stay tough, and stick together til the very end. They also make mom jeans look pretty stylish, a feat in and of itself.

Ellen Ripley, Alien franchise
No surprises here. Without the intelligent and tough-talking Ellen Ripley (fantastically played by Sigourney Weaver), we wouldn’t have the likes of the Bride, The Matrix’s Trinity, or Terminator’s Sarah Connor. Like The Bride, she didn’t let her motherhood be a weakness; instead, she let it empower her to royally kick a bunch of acid-dripping aliens’ asses (with a colorful array of weapons: flamethrowers, machine guns, and front loaders, oh my!).

Obviously, there are quite a few more incredibly tough ladies in film. And with the commercial success of The Hunger Games, maybe we can expect more badass chick flicks. For now, let us know in the comments: who are some of your favorite female characters?


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