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The Best Female Action Movies

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Jan 17, 2012 | 7:09am EST

Relatively speaking, there is quite a dearth of female-led or -centric action movies out there; fortunately, though, that trend appears to be coming to an end. Look no further than this week, which boasts not one but two such movies, Underworld: Awakening and Haywire. Here’s hoping they can hold their own against our picks for the best female action movies of all time…

The Long Kiss Goodnight

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Toward the end of Geena Davis’ (and writer Shane Black’s) heyday, she kicked ass and, uh, forgot names as an amnesiac named Samantha … and Charly. Davis turns in essentially two superb performances and – surprisingly at the time – makes quite the action heroine, especially considering that she performed most of her own stunts.

Kill Bill

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Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to make a modern East-meets-West revenge masterpiece wherein the Hattori Hanzo sword-wielding GIRL is dishing revenge to the GUY. Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 are a welcome “f**k you” to the established rules of today that insist only males are capable of carrying an action movie. Also ...

Resident Evil Franchise

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There’s no denying that this videogame-turned-movie franchise has been hit-or-miss (and seems to get “misser” with each new installment), but if nothing else, they’ve been a lot of fun – thanks largely to our amnesia-suffering, gun-toting, martial arts-adept, zombie-killing heroine, Alice (Milla Jovovich). Oh, and the special effects.

Alien Franchise

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The whole franchise (not including its recent reboot, but hopefully including Prometheus) is perhaps a little more sci-fi than straightforward action, but there’s no way to exclude Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley from a list like this. In fact, it’s fair to say that a lot of subsequent female-action roles might not exist – or be the same – without the integral alien-slaying character.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

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Angelina Jolie ushered in a new breed of female action movies (and her own superstardom) with Lara Croft: the videogame, or videogame-like, action heroine … with curves. It wasn’t perfect, by any stretch, but Tomb Raider was innocuous fun for the casual action fan and a wet dream come true for gamers and puberty-stricken boys (yes, we know that’s somewhat redundant).

La Femme Nikita

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Luc Besson knows a thing or two about crafting strong female characters with a proclivity for action, and this 1990 film – which has spawned subpar American TV-series/miniseries versions, the decent theatrical attempt Point of No Return, and more – is probably the best example.

Grindhouse

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We all know by now that Tarantino has a penchant for ass-kickin’ ladies (and their feet) – as was the case with his half of this underrated homage to grindhouse cinema in which Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and, especially, stuntwoman Zoe Bell outrace a sadistic Kurt Russell and then proceed to beat the life out of him. But Robert Rodriguez’s offering, Planet Terror, features an undead-killing Rose McGowan, who has one of those machine-gun legs. ‘Nuff said.

Underworld Franchise

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Speak of the devil! Kate Beckinsale has only appeared in two of the three Underworld films thus far – she’s back for the fourth, as most people know – but the ones she has headlined have been more than passable vampire-action films. Of course, Beckinsale’s beauty, coupled with her character ’s penchant for all-leather attire, hasn't hurt.

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