The women on screen that REALLY kick butt
Anne Hathaway in 'The Dark Knight Rises'
Is Anne Hathaway's sexy, pot-stirring cat burglar Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, Batman's (Christian Bale) friend or foe in The Dark Knight Rises? We won't ruin the surprise, but we will tell you one thing that's certain: The actress is purrfectly capable of kicking butt in a skintight leather suit and steel high heels. As one might imagine, Hathaway says that the part -- which required her to do many of her own stunts and to train extensively in martial arts -- was the most physically demanding of her career. "I'd always thought I was pretty healthy and I always thought I had worked hard in the gym and it turns out that what I thought was hard, in Catwoman's world, is actually light to moderate," she told Collider of her training regimen. "I've had to ratchet everything up."
Kelly Macdonald in 'Brave'
Sure, Boardwalk Empire actress Kelly Macdonald doesn't do any physical butt-kicking in Disney/Pixar's animated medieval epic Brave; she just provides her voice -- but there's a lot to be said about that voice. Macdonald's Scottish brogue makes the free-spirited Princess Merida sound like someone with the swagger, petulance and charm to flout an ages-old marriage tradition, indavertently bring a curse upon the kindgom, and then use her Katniss Everdeen-esque archery skills and, yes, sheer bravery to save the day. That's one badass voice for one badass Disney princess (who, for the record, doesn't need a man to fight her battles).
Kristen Stewart in 'Snow White & the Huntsman'
Kristen Stewart soared to stardom playing the damsel in distress in the Twilight movies, but she doesn't need anyone named Edward or Jacob to fight her battles in Snow White & the Huntsman. With the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) out to eat her heart (literally) in this edgy, action-packed take on the beloved fairy tale, K-Stew's Snow White rises to her own defense (with, we must admit, a little help from the titular huntsman, played by Thor's Chris Hemsworth). Donning armor and brandishing a sword, Stewart leads a revolution to overthrow the queen -- and does some pretty crazy stuff in the process. "I got to jump off cliffs and ride horses," Stewart said of the stunts she was required to perform. In other words, this is one fairy-tale heroine quite capable of making her own happily ever after.
Scarlett Johansson in 'The Avengers' & 'Iron Man 2'
Although Scarlett Johansson tackled her first action role as the obligatory hot girl in a Michael Bay's 2005 movie The Island, it was her turn as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, in 2010's Iron Man 2 that proved she was truly a force to be reckoned with, bashing bad guys alongside Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man. She reprises the role in The Avengers , playing the lone female amongst a gaggle of male heroes -- including Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) -- out to save Earth from otherworldly villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
To hold her own against all that testosterone -- and to be able to slink into her form-fitting black leather suit (which she likens to wearing "sweaty pajamas") -- Johansson had to work out like a beast... and it shows. The actress did many of her own stunts for the action-heavy film, taking out baddies with her fists and some very acrobatic kicks. Not exactly moves she needed for Lost in Translation or The Girl With the Pearl Earrin
Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games'
When indie darling Jennifer Lawrence was cast as heroine Katniss Everdeen in the big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' beloved novel The Hunger Games, diehard fans were none too happy. Lawrence, they said, was too old at 21 to play a 16-year-old and too curvy to portray the starved resident of the opressed Panem (a.k.a. a post-apocalyptic America ruled over by the despotic Capitol) who reluctantly volunteers to take part in vicious government-run tournament where 24 teens and tweens battle to the death on live TV. Were the naysayers right? Not so much. Lawrence trained her butt off, transformed her appearance and took archery lessons for the role -- and her dedication shows on the screen.
Katherine Heigl in 'One for the Money'
Katherine Heigl has played strong women before -- on TV's Grey's Anatomy and in the big-screen comedy Knocked Up, among others -- but that strength has always been of the inner persuasion rather than the physical. That's all about to change when she tackles the role of beloved heroine Stephanie Plum in One for the Money, the adaptation of Janet Evanovich's best-selling 1994 novel. A lingerie buyer turned bounty hunter, Stephanie is an ordinary girl who does extraordinary things -- like facing off against some pretty heavyweight (literally) baddies while trying to find a murderer.
Kate Beckinsale in the 'Underworld' Films
Kate Beckinsale doesn't play a superhero in 2003's Underworld and its sequels (2006's Underworld: Evolution and 2012's Underworld: Awakening, in theaters now); she's a vampire engaged in a 1,000-year-old war against Lycans (that's a fancy name for werewolves) -- but that doesn't stop her from wearing the female superhero uniform of full-body black leather. Despite the outfit, Beckinsale's Selene moves quite spryly, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, engaging werewolves in hand-to-hand combat, and employing every manner of weapon at her disposal in her fight. The most hardcore thing about Selene, however, is that despite having a hatred of Lycans drilled into her from birth, she fell in love with one (played by Scott Speedman) anyway.
Rooney Mara in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'
How does Rooney Mara's no-nonsene computer hacker Lisbeth Salander kick butt in 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Let us count the ways. One: She has more tattoos and piercings than all the members of a punk-rock band put together. Two: She's extremely skilled at exacting revenge (just ask her sexually perverse "guardian"). Three: After teaming up with Daniel Craig's disgraced journalist Mikhael Blomkqvist to solve a decades-old mystery, she basically makes Daniel her sex slave -- and saves the day. Any objections to calling her a badass?
Linda Hamilton in 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'
In the original 1984 Terminator, Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor was a terrified woman pursued by Arnold Schwarzenegger's titular Terminator, a futuristic cyborg sent back in time by the robots who rule the world (seriously!) to murder her. But in 1991's T2, Hamilton's Connor has ditched the fear and is a muscular fighting machine not even Arnold would mess with. As proof, a shotgun toting Hamilton teams up with Arnie's Terminator (he's a good guy this time) to destroy those pesky robots before they incinerate most of mankind in a nuclear holocaust.
Natalie Portman in 'Your Highness'
Sure, Natalie Portman kicked butt with her Oscar-winning turn in 2010's Black Swan -- but she didn't literally kick it. The 29-year-old actress does that in the medieval stoner comedy/action-adventure Your Highness. Portraying a bow-wielding warrior princess who teams up with two goofball princes (played by James Franco and Danny McBride) to save a kidnapped princess (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil (and perverted) wizard, Portman gets to throttle baddies and be funny while she's doing it. Now that's a lethal combination.
Angelina Jolie in 'Tomb Raider'
In recent years, Angelina Jolie has established herself as Hollywood's most believable and bankable female action star, thanks to powerful roles in 2010's Salt and the Tourist, as well as 2008's Wanted and 2005's Mr. and Mrs. Smith (where she met Brad). But the actress first flaunted her action prowess in the 2001 video-game adaptation Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (and it's 2003 sequel), playing a globetrotting treasure hunter who's as adept with guns and her fists as she is at pulling off a British accent.
Emma Watson in the 'Harry Potter' Films
Sure, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is the Boy Who Lived, the "one" and humanity's last best chance at defeating the vile Voldemort -- but chances are young Potter would have died long ago without his fiercely loyal sidekick Hermione Granger, played with panache in all seven Harry Potter films thus far (and one more still on tap) by Emma Watson. From Sorcerer's Stone through Deathly Hallows, Watson's defiant Granger has battled Voldemort and his Death Eater minions with her spells and her spunk, never hesitating to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic or face off against Bellatrix LeStrange if it'll help her pal Harry.
Saoirse Ronan in 'Hanna'
Nominated for an Oscar at the age of 13 for 2007's Atonement, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan has always been mature beyond her years. That's probably why it's so easy to believe Saoirse, now 16, as the titular cold-blooded assassin in director Joe Wright's Hanna. Trained by her ex-CIA-agent dad (Eric Bana) to be a ruthless killer, the ever-resourceful Hanna treks across Europe on a solo mission, beating up hordes of grown men (and enemy operative Cate Blanchett) along the way... and proving that teenage girls truly are a handful.
Sigourney Weaver in 'Alien'
The modern female action star was born with Sigourney Weaver's fierce performance as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley in 1979's succinctly titled Alien, a sci-fi classic in which a crew of astronauts is terrorized by the titular creature. Weaver was so adept at battling the slimy, face-hugging, chest-bursting, parasitic alien -- sometimes while in naught but her underwear! -- in the first film that she reprised the role three more times: in Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997).
Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Batman Returns'
Sorry, Halle Berry. When it comes to big-screen Catwomen, Michelle Pfeiffer is the picture of purr-fection. Pfeiffer seductively meowed and viciously clawed her way into the hearts of Batman (Michael Keaton) and moviegoers with her turn as Catwoman in 1992's Batman Returns, despite initially being a villain (don't worry -- she redeems herself in the end). Clad in head-to-toe black leather, the actress proved every bit as graceful and nimble as a feline when fighting with -- and, yes, licking -- the Caped Crusader.
Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu in 'Charlie's Angels'
Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu kick loads of baddie butt -- and have fun doing it -- as the titular private investigators in 2001's Charlie's Angels, based on the hit '70s TV show. Dylan (Barrymore), Natalie (Diaz) and Alex (Liu) dive out of planes, pummel villains with their bare hands and deliver snappy one-liners while saving their pal Bosley (Bill Murray) and their unseen boss Charlie from the vindictive Knox (Sam Rockwell). And they sure look good doing it.
Uma Thurman in 'Kill Bill'
Known for most of Quentin Tarantino's two-movie Kill Bill saga simply as "The Bride," Uma Thurman cuts an uber-bloody swathe through America and Tokyo to exact revenge upon the people who tried to kill her: her former lover Bill (David Carradine) and his not-so-merry band of assassins, the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad (Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah, Vivica Fox and Lucy Liu). Most memorably, the steely-eyed Bride uses her trusty Hanzo samurai sword to slice and dice a lethal gang known as the Crazy 88's in the 2003 first installment. And, in the 2004 follow-up, she breaks herself out of a buried coffin, gouges out a rival's eye and handily dispatches her ex with something called the "five point palm exploding heart technique." So, yeah, she's pretty lethal.
Jessica Biel in 'Blade: Trinity'
After going solo in the first two films in the Blade saga, Wesley Snipes' titular vampire hunter (who's a quasi-vampire himself, by the way) gets an assist from Jessica Biel's bow-wielding Abigail Whistler and Ryan Reynolds' gun-toting Hannibal King in 2004's trilogy capper Blade: Trinity. The two humans join Blade on his hunt for Dracula, a.k.a. "Drake" (Dominic Purcell), and inflict a sizable share of human-on-vamp damage along the way. In fact, Blade is so impressed by Abigail's valor in battle and her lethal aim with the bow that he makes her a full-fledged "blade," which is obviously a huge honor.
Jennifer Garner in 'Daredevil'
Long before they were Bennifer, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner locked horns -- and fell in love on screen -- as superheros in 2003's Daredevil. As Elektra, Garner dons skintight black leather (a popular choice for the female superhero, apparently) and uses the martial arts skills she honed playing a butt-whipping spy on TV's Alias to battle mob boss Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his henchman Bullseye (a bald Colin Farrell). She also shares a couple of steamy fight scenes with Affleck -- proving that they had chemistry even back then.
Chloe Moretz in 'Kick-Ass'
She may not have hit puberty yet, but Chloe Moretz's crimefighting vigilante Hit-Girl is the most fearsome female heroine to hit the big screen in quite some time. The diminutive star of 2010's superhero send-up Kick-Ass curses like a sailor, beats grown men five times her size to a pulp with her bare hands and talks more trash than Kanye West. And yet somehow she's still cute as a button.
Keira Knightley in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Films
Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann is certainly strong-willed and feisty in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but it's in the franchise's second and third films -- 2006's Dead Man's Chest and 2007's At World's End -- that she truly flaunts her penchant for butt-kicking. Foregoing a dress in favor of pirate garb for much of the latter two flicks, Elizabeth proves to be utterly fearless and just as handy with a sword (and a musket) as Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and her true love Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).
Milla Jovovich in the 'Resident Evil' Films
Milla Jovovich's Resident Evil alter-ego Alice is an amnesiac, but that doesn't mean she's forgotten how to kick some serious butt. After awaking in the 2002 original with no memory of who she is, Alice spends the rest of the film and its three sequels trying to contain the outbreak of a T-virus that turns humans into vicious, flesh-eating creatures. As one might have guessed, Alice also dedicates much of her time to finding new ways to mercilessly slaughter said flesh-eating creatures.
Carrie-Anne Moss in 'The Matrix' Films
Sure, most of Carrie-Anne Moss' powers in 1999's The Matrix and its two sequels can be attributed to the fact that she's operating inside a simulated reality where normal laws of physics don't apply -- but her back-flipping acrobatics and gravity defying kicks have become the stuff of movie legend (and quite a few parodies). But her character Trinity, with her slick-backed hair, sunglasses and unflinching willingness to blow her enememies to high heaven makes her -- and not Keanu Reeves' Neo -- "the one" in our book.
The Girls of 'Sucker Punch'
A mental institution for women in the 1950s isn't the likeliest setting for an action film, but that's where thngs get going in Sucker Punch, the new movie from 300 director Zack Snyder. Emily Browning stars as Babydoll, a patient who plots to escape the asylum to avoid lobotomization. The lines between reality and fantasy are a bit blurred as Babydoll and her fellow inmates -- played by Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone and Jamie Chung -- use swords, guns and some sweet martial arts moves to battle robot samurais, serpents and even some mean humans to obtain their freedom.
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