Top 10 Action Movies Featuring a Female Lead
Top 10 Action Movies Featuring a Female Lead

Top 10 Action Movies Featuring a Female Lead

Script written by Maya Methot

They're intelligent, resourceful, and they sure can kick your ass
Join MsMojo as we countdown our picks for the top 10 action movies featuring a female lead. For this list, we're taking a look at the badass female leads and co-leads in live-action films who prove that espionage and swordplay is not just a man's game.

Special thanks to our user fsanders2 for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool at

Top 10 Action Movies Featuring a Female Lead

They’re intelligent, resourceful, and they sure can kick your ass. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’re counting down the top 10 action movies featuring a female lead.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the badass female leads and co-leads in live-action films who prove that espionage and swordplay is not just a man’s game.

#10: “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014)

Often described as “Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds,” this futuristic sci-fi film stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Cruise may have gotten top billing, but Emily Blunt as her alien-fighting character Sergeant Rita Vrataski definitely steals the show. The famous veteran soldier is known for her fighting skills, rather than her looks; and when Rita realizes that Cruise’s Bill Cage is the key to winning the war, she works with him tirelessly to get him battle-ready. In the refreshing twist of having a female lead train Cruise in any sort of physical capacity, it makes her badassery that much more legit.

#9: “La Femme Nikita” (1990)

This action-thriller has that “je-ne-sais-quoi” that director Luc Besson brings to the screen. Nikita, played by the lovely Anne Parillaud, embodies the classic rags to riches story that we all love. A troubled teen with an unfortunate past, Nikita is given the choice between being executed in prison or receiving training as an assassin, choosing the latter. She rises from the ashes and become a fully trained murderous femme fatale, and does so with elegance and style. Nikita demonstrates the power of perseverance; and even later inspired two successful television series.

#8: “Spy” (2015)

Next up is the only action-comedy on our list. Melissa McCarthy has proven herself worthy of a leading role, but this movie puts her in a whole other category: action hero. Right up there with Jackie Chan and Will Smith, McCarthy demonstrates that being an action star doesn’t always have to be so serious. When Susan Cooper, the down-to-earth rookie at the CIA, gets a chance to prove herself as a field agent, you can’t help but root for her every step of the way. She may not be your typical spy, but she inspires us to work hard and to not be afraid of asking for what you want.

#7: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013)

What’s a list about badass women without the star of one of the biggest franchises of the last decade? The second installment of the Hunger Games series highlights Jennifer Lawrence’s physical prowess and acting ability, and further cements Katniss Everdeen’s place in our hearts as the freedom-fighting Girl on Fire. Her harrowing escape from her second turn at the Hunger Games solidifies herself as a persona non grata and further inspires rebellion in this dystopian world. Never backing down from a challenge, Katniss’s bravery and skill with a bow-and-arrow makes her one resilient, empowering insurgent.

#6: “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015)

Daisy Ridley is one of the world’s biggest upcoming stars and it’s not hard to see why. Her portrayal of Rey, the hero of the Star Wars reboot has cemented her place in the hearts of young sci-fi fans around the world. Her hard-working attitude, athleticism and sweet demeanor are the perfect recipe for a blockbuster hero of intergalactic proportions. And even standing next to the original gang, Rey fits right in with Princess Leia as a strong and respectable warrior against the Dark Side. Even if you decide to root for Kylo Ren, you can’t deny that Rey is one force to be reckoned with.

#5: “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

This movie demonstrates girl power at its finest. Not only is Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Imperator Furiosa deep and intriguing, but the entire film is based heavily on the power of female intellect and strength. In this post-apocalyptic male-driven world, Furiosa keeps her head down and her mouth shut just long enough to outwit the tyrannical Immortan Joe and save the lives of his slave wives. And even though we all love Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron is the real hero of the film: skillfully driving her truck and navigating through the desert, escaping peril at every turn, and generally kicking everybody’s ass all with the use of just one hand.

#4: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)

At a time when quality special effects were still in its infancy, this movie came out and stunned the world. Visually striking and beautifully choreographed, Michelle Yeoh’s character Yu Shu Lien embodies this film to a tee. Powerful and quiet, elegant and unique, the warrior shows no end to the depths of her honor, even giving up a happy life with the man she loves for the sake of duty. Unlike many films on this list, Yu Shu Lien is not a hard-hitting soldier, but more of amentor and guide to Jen Yu, the rebellious young woman thrust into her care.

#3: “Kill Bill” franchise (2003-04)

Probably one of the bloodiest movie series of all time, this classic revenge tale is so intensely gory that having a woman behind all the violence firmly places The Bride as one of the top three protagonists on the list. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Uma Thurman’s portrayal of the betrayed bride evokes nothing but truth from this statement. Killing her enemies without batting an eyelash, her single-minded determination to seek revenge against the wrong done to her is the kind of grit young girls should look up to– except for maybe all the murder.

#2: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
Arguably the best installment of the series, T2 is one of those timeless action films that can still get your heart racing at every frame. One of the reasons why this film still works decades later is because of Sarah Connor, a warrior that would do anything to save her son. Linda Hamilton delivers on no-nonsense, tough love and scrappiness, which are exactly the qualities you would look for in the mother of the savior of mankind. She’s the kind of heroine that could inspire women, and even though her methods might be a little unorthodox, she’s strong as hell and has the guns to prove it.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Hanna” (2011)

“Haywire” (2011)

“Foxy Brown” (1974)

“Chocolate” (2008)

“Wanted” (2008)

#1: “Aliens” (1986)

What can be said about Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Ellen Ripley that hasn’t already been said about Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, or Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump? Without Sigourney Weaver, Ripley’s awesomeness wouldn’t exist. Not only does Aliens have a female lead that can kick ass and command the respect of a ship, but Ripley’s experience with the extraterrestrials has made her the go-to expert for anything alien. Tough as nails with a heart of gold, Ripley not only faces her fears and returns to the planet where her original crew first encountered the alien eggs, but heroically saves people along the way. At the time, having a female lead in an action movie was revolutionary, as she paved the way for future daring, strong, and compelling protagonists.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite action movie with a female lead? For more exciting top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.