Let’s see: The “Hunger Games” franchise has so far taken in $800 million. “Lucy,” starring Scarlett Johansson as a hyper-evolved superwoman, opened last weekend at the top of the box office, grossing $44 million. Do you think this female action hero thing has legs? Male-dominated Hollywood may view girl power as an anomaly, but here are five in the genre that should make them think again.
Ripley in ‘Alien’ (1979)
Sigourney Weaver’s resourceful survivor might be the prototype of all female action heroes. In Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic about the deadly title stowaway, still arguably the scariest movie of that genre ever made, Ripley embodies all that is courageous, cunning, and comely in the human race.
Sarah Connor in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991)
She is no less than the mother of the savior of the human race. Sound familiar? But played by a determined, athletic Linda Hamilton, Sarah gives more than spiritual assistance to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg protector from the future. Her concluding words are a lesson to us all: “If a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can, too.”
Beatrix Kiddo in ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1’ (2003) and ‘Vol. 2’ (2004)
In Quentin Tarantino’s underrated diptych, Uma Thurman’s undaunted avenger accomplishes the title task by overcoming a bullet in the head, a four-year coma, the lethal women of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a premature burial, and film-geek allusions to every violent film ever made.
Zen in ‘Chocolate’ (2008)
OK, not many people have seen Thai director Prachya Pinkaew’s exhilarating martial arts movie. But it’s the best film ever made about an autistic young woman with astounding fighting skills who collects debts to pay for her sick mother’s medical care. As Zen, Jija Yanin Vismitananda could be Jackie Chan’s female double.
Hit-Girl in ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010)
Chloë Grace Moretz’s Mindy Macready, a.k.a Hit-Girl, makes one of the more memorable screen entrances in this adaptation of a comic book about teenage superheroes. She waits eagerly while her father (Nicolas Cage) aims a pistol at her, pulls the trigger, and blows her off the screen. After that, there’s nothing Hit-Girl can’t do — or won’t say.
Though overshadowed by its sequel, World War I, which started 100 years ago, pretty much shaped the twisted world we live in today. What are the best films about that cataclysm? And, looking ahead to Aug. 17, “Let’s Be Cops” (opens here Aug. 15) joins the long tradition of cop comedies that goes back to the silents of Mack Sennett. Which are the most arresting? E-mail your votes to me.