Warrior women in film are, sadly, distinctly rare.

It's only since the mid '80s - with the likes of Aliens, Red Sonja and the like - that cinema audiences are able to accept the idea of a woman who isn't a romantic lead, doesn't care what she looks like and can destroy everything on scene without thinking twice.

More modern iterations have blunted these tropes somewhat, but there's some interesting examples. Here's our choice of some of the most iconic warrior women in film history...


12. SCARLETT JOHANSSON - Captain America: The Winter Soldier / Captain America: Civil War

Scarlett Johansson's performance across the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Widow has been an interesting one. Although introduced in Iron Man 2, the character developed further in Avengers Assemble and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. By Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow had become a much-needed antidote to the testosterone-driven antics of the Avengers and showed that a woman could easily swing with Iron Man and Thor. That said, it's kind of ridiculous that we're now 18 movies deep and still no sign of a Black Widow movie happening any time soon.


11. MICHELLE YEOH - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Described by director Ang Lee as "Pride & Prejudice... with kung fu", Crouching Tiger became an international success story and reinvigorated the martial arts genre. By effortlessly blending high-octane stunt work with gorgeous cinematography and a convincing, heartfelt story, it rightfully won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars that year and secured Michelle Yeoh's place as one of the most recognisable Asian actors in the Western World. Her character, Yu Shu Lien, has a had a long-standing relationship with Li Mu Bai, her comrade-in-arms and close friend of her deceased husband. For many years, a yearning between the two has existed, but never acted upon. Despite the fact the two have fought side-by-side for many years, almost nothing is said of their deep bond and that makes the eventual ending all the more poignant.



10. BRIGITTE NIELSEN - Beverly Hills Cop II

Although she was cast in the deplorable Red Sonja, Brigitte Nielsen's best role of the '80s was as Karla Fry in Beverly Hills Cop II. The tall blonde with the penchant for Italian couture and Magnum .357s was, like the next entry, more closer to a henchman than a femme fatale. Nielsen's ability to command a scene with a single look and with her impressive beauty was second to none. In fact, the film was originally planned to take place in both London and Paris, with Nielsen's character infiltrating fashion shows to rob them. Sadly, Eddie Murphy vetoed the script as he didn't want to travel outside of the US.



9. GRACE JONES - A View To A Kill

One of the most iconic of the Bond women, Grace Jones' May Day was different in that she was just as capable of killing by outright brute force as she was by means of deception. Jones' fearsome physique was put to use as May Day was more closer to a henchman than a femme fatale. Although she doesn't have all that much dialogue, it's clear that the air of mystery surrounding her character made her all the more dangerous.



8. EMILY BLUNT - Edge of Tomorrow

Although 2014's Edge of Tomorrow wasn't a commercial hit, it did become a critical darling and had a pretty interesting premise. Tom Cruise, a somewhat-wimpy military officer is hurled into the frontlines of an alien invasion and meets Emily Blunt, a warrior-woman who previously possessed the same powers as he - each time he dies, he returns back at the start of the day. The film did reasonably well at the box-office and its somewhat disappointing returns were attributed to poor scheduling and clashing with the FIFA World Cup for releases. Despite all this, the film was warmly received by audiences who did end up watching and it became, by our reckoning, the first time since the mid '00s were a woman was presented as the main protagonist in an action-orientated manner. Blunt's no-nonsense, "Full Metal Bitch" character harked back to the likes of Ripley and Sarah Connor.


7. UMA THURMAN - Kill Bill Vol.2

Uma Thurman's performance as the living embodiment of vengeance was pretty damn spectacular. Squaring off against equally vicious women - Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii and Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver - was a treat and her ability to beat the shit out of, well, anyone was truly impressive. In fact, what made the Bride so interesting was that her femininity was secondary to the fact that she could rip your heart out with a sword in under a minute - but it wasn't denied or admonished. 


6. JOANNA CASSIDY - Blade Runner

Although only appearing one sequence in the film, Zhora's presence and, by extension, Joanna Cassidy's physical performance, gripped you from the minute it all kicked off. In fact, Cassidy was also in the final two to play Wonder Woman in the '70s TV series, losing out to Lynda Carter. The entire sequence, in which Harrison Ford is forced to kill her, is preceded by her throwing him around the dressing room and almost strangling him before she's interrupted. It's an intense scene and, for our money, one of the most beautifully shot and edited scenes. Take a look.


5. GAL GADOT - Wonder Woman

Although Wonder Woman has been around for over 75 years, it's taken THAT long for her to get her own movie. They made a movie about Howard The Duck before they made a Wonder Woman film - let that sink in for a minute. Anyway, Gal Gadot was the perfect choice to play Wonder Woman and had both the attitude, the physicality and the persona to do it. Not only that, Patty Jenkins pretty much knocked it out of the park in terms of creating a compelling vision of female empowerment and heroism that didn't compromise on anything. Also, the No Man's Land sequence is incredible and the follow-up scene where shes smashes a German soldier through a window is incredible stuff.


4. CHARLIZE THERON - Mad Max: Fury Road

What made Mad Max: Fury Road so fascinating wasn't just that it was a long dormant property being revitalised by its original director, it was a strikingly feminist film and at the centre of it all was Charlize Theron's character, Imperator Furiosa. It's a testament to Theron's talent that she was able to say so much with so little, and her willingness to throw herself into the action - she literally hangs off the side of gigantic truck rigs and tries to kill Tom Hardy with a wrench - that the film was the success it was.



3. ROONEY MARA - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Although the initial iteration of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo saw Noomi Rapace as the character, Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth Salander was - for us, anyway - the definitive version. Shoulders hunched and barrelling through the world, Mara's Salander was a walking, talking version of a placard that said "F**K OFF". The psychology behind her character is interesting, to say the least. While many academics have argued over whether or not she's a psychopath, one thing is clear - she is brutal to anyone who crosses her.



2. LINDA HAMILTON - Terminator 2: Judgement Day

In preparing for her role as the mother of the Resistance, Linda Hamilton trained for three hours a day, six days a week and was trained by a former Israeli commando and dropped twelve pounds in the process. The training regimen Hamilton went through was so brutalising that she specifically declined to return for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines because she'd have to go through it all again. When watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day, you really do believe that Sarah Connor could break your arm in five different places. Indeed, the first time we see her, she's doing pull-ups in her cell. Later, she's breaking out of a mental institution and picking locks - she actually learned how to make it more convincing - and knocking twelve shades of shit out of security guards. Top that, Jennifer Lawrence.



What can be said about Lt. Ellen Ripley that hasn't been said already? It's not just the Power Loader and her full-on, knock-down battle with the Alien Queen at the end. It's not her unrelenting sarcasm or her no-bullshit demeanour, it's all those things and more. Ripley defined the Warrior Woman trope for modern action cinema. She didn't care about her looks, she didn't care if she lived or died, she just had to do something and do it quickly or people would die. That scene, in the elevator, tells it all. She's loading up each of her guns, checking the flame on her flamethrower and she's getting ready to torch the place. Does she stop to fix herself? Does she care how she looks? No. She's there to incinerate the eggs, rescue Newt and get out. If they'd taken her advice in the first place, none of this would have happened.