Many action movies over the past few decades – though arguably not enough – have featured ass-kicking women in lead roles. From Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens to Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day to Uma Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill, there have been many iconic female action characters.
In more recent years, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow have joined those ranks for their roles in The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, respectively. A fan of these action heroines compiled a supercut of some of their most butt-kicking moments.
In 2012, Vimeo user ClaraDarko edited the “Action Women Movie Montage” (above) featuring female characters from 61 action films. Though ClaraDarko avoided using women with superpowers (such as Jean Grey from the X-Men franchise), many of the films you might expect to appear do: The Matrix, The Fifth Element, Serenity, Thelma & Louise, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to name a few.
However, there are some notable movies that were excluded during the editing process. ClaraDarko did not include many of the Underworld films, the Total Recall remake, King Arthur, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies because she doesn’t view Kate Beckinsale and Keira Knightley on the same level as other women action stars. Also left out of the supercut are Kick-Ass, Charlie’s Angels, Tomb Raider, AeonFlux, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Sucker Punch.
Although ClaraDarko focused on non-superpowered action heroines, as comic book properties have become more popular in recent years, the discussion surrounding female-led films and TV shows of this nature has grown. Prior to the announcement of Captain Marvel from Marvel Studios and Wonder Woman from Warner Bros./DC, comic book fans rallied around the prospect of a Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson.
Though Marvel doesn’t have any plans for a Black Widow movie, the studio released its first female-led property in the form of the ABC miniseries Agent Carter. However, just because the show stars a woman – Hayley Atwell as Captain America: The First Avenger’s Peggy Carter – doesn’t mean the series is a “feminist triumph.”
Attempting to provide an explanation for why there are so few female-starring comic book movies, MCU architect and Avengers: Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon offered up the obvious (though no less truthful) answer: “Genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism” as well as “Old-fashioned quiet misogyny.”
Some of the movies ClaraDarko left out of her supercut are generally thought to be bad films and/or feature poor or misogynistic portrayals of female characters. Since the sizzle reel is a celebration of well-rounded action heroines, it isn’t difficult to see why these didn’t make the cut as they would reinforce the sexism and misogyny that Whedon pointed out is already within the industry.
Of course, this supercut is also from three years ago. Recent years have seen an increase of women who kick ass (though not often in leading roles) and more are set to appear this year in films like Terminator: Genisys, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fantastic Four.
Whether these films signal a decrease of the sexism in Hollywood or simply the realization that female-led properties can be successful moneymakers remains to be seen. However, it does seem to indicate we may need an updated action women montage very soon to include all the new and upcoming action heroines.