Some Hollywood actors spend their entire careers fighting against typecasting. Then there are those rare breeds like Angelina Jolie who, through talent and opportunity, are able to masterfully show their versatility early on. Jolie won her first Academy Award back in 2000, for the dark drama Girl, Interrupted. Since then, she has starred in films of almost every genre, though is particularly noted for her work in action movies.
Jolie has played an array of butt-kicking heroines, but what makes her one of Hollywood's toughest leading ladies isn't just her ability to throw a good punch. The darkness she brings to her characters, combined with that killer death stare, would make any sane person think twice about crossing her. But rather than just being a shroud of mystery, Jolie's characters have such an unflinching rawness that watching her onscreen is like perpetually being at the crest of a roller coaster. So enjoy the ride that is Angelina Jolie’s 10 Most Badass Characters, Ranked.
10 Gia Carangi - Gia
This HBO film chronicles the rise and fall of supermodel Gia Carangi. It's a familiar story though Gia's is especially tragic, not just because it's a true story, but for the heart Jolie brings to the role. She exquisitely captures not just the whirlwind adrenaline rush of fame but its trappings that have taken down so many others before her. Watching the self destructive Gia choose a life of drugs over one of happiness with her lover Linda (Elizabeth Mitchell) is just gut-wrenching. Gia may not be Jolie's most badass character, but her performance is certainly up there. It won Jolie a Golden Globe, putting her on the map as one of Hollywood's up-and-coming serious actresses.
9 Sara "Sway" Wayland - Gone in 60 Seconds
Many heist films, circa 1990s and early 2000s, are guilty of the Smurfette principle, and Gone in 60 Seconds is no exception. Jolie plays Sway, the token hot chick in a crew of car thieves. Shock of all shocks, she's also protagonist Memphis Raines' (Nicolas Cage) one that got away. Sway may have sizzling chemistry with Memphis, but he takes a backseat to her number one love: cars. Like she says, Sway has "always been a sucker for a redhead."
In a film full of thieves, Jolie's the most talented of them all, stealing every scene she's in. Despite the confines of the role, Jolie manages to let loose, proving that she's right at home in the action genre, ready to leave cliché characters in the dust.
8 Christine Collins - Changeling
You won't see Jolie getting into any car chases or knife fights in this one. In Changeling, Jolie portrays Christine Collins, an everyday mother swept up in horrific circumstances. In 1920s Los Angeles, Christine's son goes missing. Faced with a barrage of negative publicity, the LAPD "finds" Christine's son, reuniting her with an impostor. When Christine refuses to accept the replacement boy as her son, she's committed to a psychiatric ward.
Christine has a choice—recant her claims and be released or remain in captivity. Stripped of both rights and dignity, most people would comply. Not Christine, and it's her perseverance that makes her a true badass. Jolie's harrowing performance earned her an Oscar nomination.
7 Lisa Rowe - Girl, Interrupted
Girl Interrupted's Lisa Rowe is a badass for all the wrong reasons. She's a sociopath confined to a psychiatric hospital that is seemingly a dumping ground for women whom society doesn't want to deal with. To combat the futility of her situation, Lisa entertains herself by flirting with male staff members, provoking fellow patients, and trying to escape—often succeeding.
The audience finds themselves drawn to Lisa right along with protagonist Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder). Lisa exudes an irresistible, dangerous charisma. She does some truly terrible things, including driving the abused Daisy (Brittany Murphy) to suicide. It's a grisly moment both in its shock and the fact that we should have seen it coming. Repugnant as Lisa's actions are, Jolie's still finds a way to make her sympathetic, making this a true Oscar-worthy performance.
6 Evelyn Salt - Salt
Jolie is an army of one as the titular protagonist in the popcorn action flick, Salt. When accused of being a Russian spy, CIA operative Evelyn Salt is on the run. She's the definition of resourceful, using every bit of her training and natural spy instincts to evade capture.
The chase scenes and fight sequences would have most seasoned action stars panting for breath, but not Jolie. She insisted on performing most of the stunts herself, including hanging off the edge of a building. The film puts both star and character through the ringer. Even when not running for her life, Salt has to endure the horror of watching her husband shot to death right in front of her. She must not react, lest she blow her cover. It takes a stone-cold badass to do that; the kind only Jolie can play.
5 Fox - Wanted
Jolie's characters tend to be the most lethal ones in the room. That's saying something, considering that Wanted is about a group of assassins called the Fraternity. Such a name is dripping with hyper-masculinity and again, Jolie finds herself in the Smurfette role. However, her character Fox's defining trait isn't her beauty, but her combat ability. She ticks off every skill on the action movie checklist: stunt driving, knife fighting, fist fighting, and of course, the ability to curve a bullet.
Fox's death-defying acts are not the kind of stuff we want to try at home. Not that we need to; just watching Jolie gives us an adrenaline rush.
4 Jane Smith - Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Jane Smith is one of the world's top assassins, rivaled only by her husband John (Brad Pitt). Ironically enough, the titular couple of Mr. and & Mrs. Smith have no clue about their spouse's profession. The film is as funny as it is action-packed, especially Jane's attempt at passing herself off as the wife next door. Jolie positively nails the comedic timing.
On the job, Jane also has tons of fun. She's much more playful with her work than her husband, making Jolie the real standout. The second half of the film is basically one extended, full throttle action sequence that threatens to gives the viewer whiplash. But with Jolie at the wheel, we're happy to be along for the ride.
3 Tigress - Kung Fu Panda franchise
Even in animated form, Jolie proves herself to be one of Hollywood's most intimidating badasses. Really, who else could play a kung fu master named Tigress? As much as Tigress is known for her supreme fighting skills, she also has a reputation for having a frighteningly short temper. She's the leader of the Furious Five, likely because nobody would dare challenge her.
Though Po (Jack Black) the lovable walking disaster, is Kung Fu Panda's protagonist, Tigress is undoubtedly the coolest character. If we had to pick somebody from the franchise to be our personal bodyguard, it would totally be her. Forget being a sexy Smurfette; Jolie was born to play a tough-as-nails tiger.
2 Maleficent - Maleficent franchise
For the past few years, Disney has been cranking out remakes of their animated classics. Most have been straight, live-action versions of the original, with a few woke updates. But for Sleeping Beauty, instead of just re-telling the tale of a problematically passive princess, Disney gave the wheel a fresh spin, choosing to focus on the origin story of fan favorite Disney villain Maleficent.
There couldn't be a more natural fit for the part than Jolie. She exudes complicated darkness as a character who went wrong after being wronged herself. Just listening to Jolie coo Maleficent's signature "well, well"—followed by that deliciously wicked smile—is all kinds of badass. A sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is slated for release in October 2019. We've got chills just thinking about it.
1 Lara Croft - Lara Croft: Tomb Raider franchise
This is the film that minted Angelina Jolie as one of Hollywood's most formidable action stars. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is based on a popular video game series. Fans of original source material can be harsh on film adaptations and many vocalized their disapproval of Jolie's casting. But she silenced her dissenters one raided tomb at a time, with a trail of dead henchmen in her wake. Tomb Raider was no hit with critics, but it certainly was at the box office. Two years later, Jolie starred in the sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life.
It was filming the original on location in Cambodia that first inspired Jolie to become the humanitarian she is today. She is truly a badass, on and offscreen.