Defying Darth Vader, shooting stormtroopers with phaser guns, going to war against the Empire with Ewoks as allies, letting Chewbacca strangle Lando Calrissian for setting them up to be captured by Vader and his goons until he promised to save Han Solo, and choking Jabba the Hut to death herself, using the chain bound to her own neck (while wearing little else, might we add) were just a few of the reasons the lovely Leia made the list of greatest heroines. Then again, you have to assume that a fictional character spawned by Natalie Portman is going to be both a badass and not bad-looking in a space-slave bikini.
Alternatively known as “The Bride” and “Black Mamba,” this Hattori Hanzo-hoisting swordfighter swore vengeance upon the five people she held most responsible for the killing of her friends and fiance, and the failed assassination attempt on her life (while pregnant), all on her wedding day. Not only does she get the revenge she surely deserved from characters played by Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah and others, she takes all sorts of abuse along the way from sexual deviants, a mob of Japanese gangsters, a shotgun filled with rock salt and a loveable but hard-edged mentor with a quirky fondness for flicking his long white beard around. With striking blond hair, dazzling blue-grey eyes and an fashionista’s style (that yellow jumpsuit was sick!), we’ll be talking about Uma Thurman’s delivery of The Bride for years to come.
Quentin Tarantino knew what he was doing when he cast Pam Grier in the title role of his 1997 film Jackie Brown. The timelessly sexy star is arguably the most recognizable actor from the “Blaxploitation” Hollywood ‘70s, and in this comeback role Grier showed more than just skin; she gave the audience a soulful spectacle in the form of a vixenous lady with a vengeful knack for kicking ass and a willingness to go deep cover (pretending–in more ways than one–to be a prostitute in order to get big payback on the killers of her government agent boyfriend). Then there were lines like the one she delivered to a lady whose boyfriend she castrated: “The rest of your man is still around, and I hope you two live a long time, then maybe you can feel some of what I feel. Death is too easy for you, b*tch. I want you to SUFFER.”
Boy, was she one tough mother. Sarah Connor was the was the mother of John Connor, who in the Terminator storyline started a human resistance that eventually defeated evil artificial intelligence machines that ruled the future world through nuclear war and robot assassins. Mostly identified by her portrayal by super-fit actress Linda Hamilton in the original Terminator movie, Connor went from having the timid disposition of a victim to the tenacity of a warrior by the time the first sequel, Judgment Day, was made. Connor even had her own television series that ran for two seasons on Fox, and will be brought back in the summer 2015 franchise reboot by Emilia Clarke, who Game of Thrones fans know as Daenerys Targaryen.
The O.G. of female fighters was given to the world by Sigourney Weaver, and boy did she give us more than an eyeful. Traveling in deep sleep through the universe until awakened by alien transmission, Ripley is pulled into a violent clash between humans and feral space creatures resembling reptilian gremlins, which seem to always be in search of host bodies by which to reproduce themselves through the most inhumane ways imaginable (think “chest”). The lone survivor of the original film, Ripley’s determination and death-proof instincts made her a cult hero for fans of science fiction in both sexes, spawned countless heroines cut from her conceptual cloth, and made Weaver a worldwide star.