By now, we know what we’re getting ourselves into when we sign on for a new buddy cop movie: One’s a hardnosed, by-the-book professional with a no nonsense attitude and a suffering personal life. The other’s a fun-loving renegade who uses alternative methods to get the job done, but incurs the wrath of all those trying to uphold protocol. Oh, and they’re both dudes. We don’t know why that is part of the regimen, but it is an element that has been rigidly maintained through the Lethal Weapons, the Rush Hours, the 48 Hrs, and good ol’ Starsky and Hutch. But Paul Feig’s The Heat lays waste to this arbitrary pattern, casting Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a pair of officers who do wonders with the age old trope.
Vexingly, a great deal of cinematic traditions are dominated by male actors and characters. When you think of mob movies, of crime thrillers, of screwball comedies, of science-fiction and fantasy, or of animated adventures, you’re bound to think immediately of the vast number of men who have brought these stories to life on screen. But scattered throughout an industry that seems to opt for old hat over new and inventive are the outlying gems that prove that women can deliver these sorts of films with the same majesty and entertainment as their male counterparts.
The Silence Of The Lambs
Heroine: Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster
The theme of gender provide quite a hurdle for Clarice Starling. But in and beyond her universe, she trounces these barriers, becomingperhaps the most memorable FBI agent in cinema history.
The Quick and the Dead
Heroine: Ellen, played by Sharon Stone
The Western is likely more male-dominated than any other genre, which is why Sharon Stone’s turn at the head of the 1995 film proves all the more riveting,
Heroine: Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver
Surrounded by male officers, secret cyborgs, and homicidal aliens, Sigourney Weaver is still the most gripping aspect of Ridley Scott’s classic Alien, her strength and nobility never waning as she treads into the most dangerous and horrifying territories imaginable.
Thelma and Louise
Genre: Outlaw movie
Heroines: The titular characters, played by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis
Earning audience yehaws no lower in volume than those conjured by Butch and Sundance, heroes Thelma and Louise make for one of the most cherished outlaw films in recent history, not to mention the most moving.
Genre: Crime drama
Heroine: Marge Gunderson, played by Frances McDormand
We love William H. Macy, ya, and that Steve Buscemi is a hoot, dontchaknow. But Fargo is far and away Frances McDormand’s movie.
Genre: Assassin/martial arts movie
Heroine: Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo, played by Uma Thurman
Quentin Tarantino’s female characters have always been impressive, with his sword-wielding Beatrix topping the lot in her martial arts adventure. The character exhibits an all-powerful love for her daughter, which drives her through countless bloody missions in the modern classic two-parter.
Genre: Vampire movie
Heroine: Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale
True, there were female heroines in the vampire genre before Beckinsale (yes, we want to give Buffy her rightful nod). But the first true and traditionally dark vamp flick with a badass lady at the center was indeed the Underworld series.
Heroine: Mallory Kane, played by Gina Carano
Filled with nonstop action, thrills, gasps, bone snaps, and run-for-your-life moments, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire allows Gina Carano a platform to kick the crap out of every man with whom she crosses paths… which she could very well have done, just as easily, in real life.
Genre: Screwball comedy
Heroines: The lead ensemble, played by Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Rose Byrne
Finally, another from Feig, and a fan favorite at that. Launching McCarthy’s career and giving Wiig her first turn as a movie star, Bridesmaids re-opened the discussion of whether women could handle all sorts of comedy as well as men can. Anyone still on the fence has got to watch this movie again, and fast.