From Angelina Jolie to Daisy Ridley, Here’s the Top 14 Female Action Stars Working Today https://t.co/Bc0SZ9fxWz via @indiewire— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) April 5, 2017
Don't mess with these bitches. And Hollywood, give these talented women more action!Anne Thompson
Way back in 1979, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” brought us our first genuine female action hero in Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Despite the three sequels that followed, Ripley proved to be something of an outlier. Until fairly recently, a woman could kill someone in a movie only if she faced brutal punishment afterward, as in Scott’s “Thelma and Louise,” or in the inevitable fates of Bond girls: They could dole out lethal action, but rarely survived.
Today, ass-kicking women are no longer an anomaly or subject to automatic retribution. This weekend, we watched Scarlett Johansson lay waste to her enemies (although not the box office) in “Ghost In The Shell,” following a path blazed by the likes of Linda Hamilton (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”), Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill”), and Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). These roles may strike a blow for equality and diversity, but what these women — and their agents — realize most of all is that carrying an action movie brings global marquee value and a much higher asking price. It’s a strategy that’s served men for decades.
Jessica Chastain starred in the execrable “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” to earn action bonafides. While protests surround Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander’s ascension to the “Tomb Raider” reboot, the Swedish actress is just playing the game. Even Helen Mirren played a lethal hit woman in “Red 2,” not that she’s planning an action career.
With that, here’s a ranked list of the top female action stars working today. We measured star power by each actress’ credibility across acting, action chops, box office domestic and global, ongoing franchises, and overseas bankability. Can their name get a movie made, now or in the future?
Of note: We did not not include stars who have some action cred, but who haven’t been identified primarily as an action star. These include Jennifer Lawrence, Margot Robbie, Natalie Portman, Chloe Grace Moretz, Emily Blunt, Felicity Jones, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightley, Rooney Mara, Noomi Rapace, and Shailene Woodley. But there’s no reason that they couldn’t do it, too.
From where we sit, the studios could come up with a lot more projects for these women as solo leads.
1. Angelina Jolie. She carried two “Tomb Raider” movies as Lara Croft, could have had a franchise with “Wanted” but passed, scored in international spy thriller “Salt,” held her own with future partner Brad Pitt in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and kicked global box office as “Maleficent.” She can do whatever she chooses in the action arena, but often prefers to write, direct and act in more meaningful fare.
2. Scarlett Johansson. She has delivered as Avenger Black Spider in five entries in the Marvel universe (and still deserves a standalone) but Luc Besson put her front and center in “Lucy,” which she carried with no male support, to a $457 million worldwide gross. That’s why she was cast in “Ghost in the Shell,” based on the manga comic and animated feature — a flop that proved once again that if imitators have already sucked a property dry, it may be too familiar to be commercial no matter who stars in it. She still has a starry future3. Charlize Theron. She’s come a long way from “Aeon Flux,” steadily building her action cred until she dominated Tom Hardy as one-handed Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Stunt wrangler and “John Wick” director David Leitch pushed her to master martial arts kickfighting and gun stunts for “Atomic Blonde,” in which she performs unbelievable hand-to-hand combat (in long takes) that would give Chow Yun Fat pause. Next up: the villain in “The Fate of the Furious.”
4. Gal Gadot. Warner Bros. picked this Israeli military vet and Miss Israel winner to play DC Comics’ Wonder Woman after she scored in “Fast & Furious,” “Fast Five,” and “Fast & Furious 6.” She stole the show from the big boys in “Batman v. Superman,” returns in “Justice League,” and wowed CinemaCon with footage from “Wonder Woman,” which she carries with support from “Star Trek” star Chris Pine.
5. Rebecca Ferguson. The Swedish-born actress stood up to Tom Cruise and then some in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and returns in “MI 6.” She costarred with Emily Blunt in a dramatic role in “The Girl on the Train,” fights a space alien in “Life,” and costars with Michael Fassbender in “The Snowman.” In short, she can do anything.
6. Michelle Yeoh. At 54, this Malaysian-born, ballet-trained Hong Kong martial arts star is still making movies, from “Crouching Tiger” and “Mechanic” sequels to TV series “Marco Polo” and “Star Trek: Discovery.”
7. Kate Beckinsale. The British actress can act (see: “Love & Friendship”) as well as hold her own with Colin Farrell in “Total Recall” and fly through the air in black leather in the “Underworld” franchise.
8. Milla Jovovich. After Luc Besson cast the Ukraine-born model in “The Fifth Element” and as Joan of Arc in “The Messenger,” she went on to star as “Ultraviolet” and anchor the long-running, lucrative and hugely violent “Resident Evil” (Sony’s Screen Gems) franchise. In January 2017, the sixth entry, “Final Chapter,” delivered $280.5 million internationally and $26 million domestic.
9. Zoe Saldana. She’s all set: She not only starred in Cameron’s “Avatar” and returns for many sequels, but Marvel franchise “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
10. Michelle Rodriguez. This tough but relatable action star emerged in Karyn Kusama’s “Girl Fight,” punched up the femme side of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, donned fatigues as a pilot in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” and starred in “Resident Evil,” TV’s “Lost,” “S.W.A.T.,” and “Battle: L.A.” Robert Rodriguez cast her in “Machete” and “Machete Kills,” and the upcoming “Alita: Battle Angel” for Cameron.
11. Sofia Boutella. The Algerian-born dancer popped in “Street Dance 2,” but her lethal scissor-kicking in “Kingsman: The Secret Service” led to “Star Trek Beyond” and the title role of “The Mummy,” in which she goes up against Tom Cruise.
12. Daisy Ridley. This androgynous warrior in the “Star Wars” reboot “The Force Awakens” will return in the sequel and is lining up roles, some action, some not (“Murder on the Orient Express”).
13. Maggie Q. The rising TV star (Besson’s “Nikita,” “Designated Survivor”) also high-kicked some fight scenes in “Mission: Impossible 3” and “Live Free or Die Hard.”
14. Cara Delevingne. Besson cast British “Suicide Squad” fashion model-turned-actress as the first female superhero from the comics of his youth in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” where she trades stunts with Dane DeHaan. We’ll see if it’s a hit.
Amazon vs. Netflix: An Itemized Guide to What You Should Be Streaming This Year
You time is valuable, and so are both services for different reasons.
Although there may be a competition going on between Amazon and Netflix for subscribers, the truth is that both company’s streaming services are essential for anyone who watches a lot of movies and TV and who wants to be part of the pop culture conversations as they happen.
There’s no denying that Amazon Prime is worth the $99/year, which not only gives you access to many movies but also a good amount of music streaming and digital media access, plus faster shipping for when you actually want some sort of physical product (you can also just get video content for $8.99/month, which oddly means paying more for less).
And Netflix is still a must-have for both its exclusive and nonexclusive content, though depending on one’s usage could be best for sporadic membership rather than continued subscription — now at $120/year, and no savings for loyalty, it’s obviously the much pricier of the two, for just video.
With both Amazon and Netflix being big dealmakers at Sundance and with both announcing new production deals and series all the time, if there is competition, it’s benefiting movie and TV fans in the quality and quantity and variety of fresh, original content available on a regular basis. Here’s what we’ve come to expect and can look forward to from each:
Original Narrative Features
Amazon:Definitely the more prestigious of the two labels, especially with its Oscar wins for Manchester by the Sea, Amazon is going after more auteur filmmakers and other well-known directors.
They’ve got new movies coming from Woody Allen (Wonder Wheel), Leo Carax (Annette), Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck), Luca Guadagnino (Suspiria), Richard Linklater (Last Flag Flying), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Liz Garbus (Lost Girls), Mike White (Brad’s Status), Susanne Bier (Tropicana), and Terry Gilliam (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote).
Plus these films that already have release dates: Terry Zwigoff’s Budding Prospects (in theaters March 17th), James Gray’s The Lost City of Z (in theaters April 21st), Doug Liman’s The Wall (in theaters May 12th), and Marc Webb’s The Only Living Boy in New York (in theaters August 11th).
Amazon also picked up some hot properties at Sundance, such as The Big Sick (out in theaters June 23rd), Crown Heights, and the latest collaboration of Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate, Landline (out in theaters July 21st).
Their issue for subscribers is that they are very much focused on theatrical releases, so if anyone wants to see something right way, they still have to go out and pay to see it. And that also goes for when these movies hit Amazon Video; they’re not immediately free for Prime members. The newly released Paterson, for instance, is currently a $6 rental, even if you have Prime.
Netflix:The two biggest pieces of news for Netflix Originals lately has shown how wide-ranging the service is in terms of audience and appeal. One is the extended deal with Adam Sandler, adding four more movies on top of their original order of four. Sandler is so far responsible for Netflix’s two most popular originals ever. His third title, Sandy Wexler, hits Netflix April 14th.
The other big news item is the plan to finish and release the final film by Orson Welles, The Other Side of the Wind. Shot back in the ’70s, this will be a curiosity for the TCM crowd, for sure, but there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a good movie just because it’s from Welles.
Their other original movies on the way include less famous names, though more women filmmakers. Already this year we got the latest from Emily Hagins (Coin Heist), plus a Bob Oedinkirk comedy (Girlfriend’s Day), and Sundance selections Burning Sands and The Discovery.
Soon we’ll see new work from Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), Angelina Jolie (First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers), Duncan Jones (Mute), McG (The Babysitter), David Wain (A Futile & Stupid Gesture), Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game), Joshua Marston (Come Sunday), and Tommy Wirkola (What Happened to Monday?).
And more already with release dates: Joe Swanberg’s Win It All (April 7th), Fernando Coimbra’s Sand Castle (April 21st), Spike Lee’s Rodney King (April 28th), Jeff Garlin’s Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie (May 5th), David Michod’s War Machine (May 26th), Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (June 28th), the Marlon Wayans-penned comedy remake Naked (August 11th), Adam Wingard’s Death Note (August 25th), the anime feature Godzilla: Monster Planet (November), and David Ayer’s Bright (December).
Some of those aren’t Netflix productions but were picked up at some point in their development or post-production. Joining them are the dramatic features acquired at Sundance: Berlin Syndrome (releases May 26th), Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, The Incredible Jessica James, Fun Mom Dinner, Mudbound, My Happy Family, and Marti Noxon’s To the Bone.
Netflix also has a lot in the works coming in 2018 and beyond, such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, Gareth Evans’s Apostle, and Andrew Dominik’s War Party.
Of course, the great thing about all these releases for subscribers is they hit Netflix first and exclusively, save for something like Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, for which they only have VOD rights. Things could possibly change if the company wants a more competitive edge when it comes to Oscars, though, since they’re required to give contenders a theatrical push.
Amazon:At Sundance, Amazon picked up the acclaimed City of Ghosts (in theaters July 14th) and premiered Amir Bar-Lev’s Grateful Dead film Long Strange Trip, which they also produced.
In addition to older original films like Gleason, Gimme Danger, and I Am Not Your Negro, the last of which is still in theaters, Amazon has a good bunch of essential nonfiction features (see the Nonfics list of 100 must-see docs), including Cameraperson, Stories We Tell, and a ton of Nick Broomfield films.
Also included are a bunch of World War II propaganda films, which is interesting because they offer many that Netflix doesn’t have, in spite of Netflix releasing a new documentary miniseries about such works (see below). For instance, Amazon has all seven of Frank Capra’s Why We Fight docs, whereas Netflix only has two of them.
The main issue with Amazon’s doc selection is they have too much junk mixed in, including informercials and others that probably shouldn’t be classified as docs or even as films, and subscribers likely have a harder time weeding through that stuff to find the good titles while browsing.
Netflix:At Sundance, Netflix picked up more docs, including Casting JonBenet (releasing April 28th), Icarus, Chasing Coral, and Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press. They also just announced the timely doc Get Me Roger Stone (releasing May 12th), and the company recently revealed plans to produce and pick up many more nonfiction originals than they have been.
They definitely have more prestige when it comes to docs, having just won an Oscar for their short film The White Helmets. They also had another short, Extremis, and a feature, 13th, nominated this year, and in the past, the Academy nominated their doc features The Square, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, Virunga, and What Happened, Miss Simone?
Netflix also more consistently features new doc releases, as well as more must-see classics, currently including a number of Werner Herzog titles (see the Nonfics list of 100 must-see docs). However, more and more are disappearing each month. Also, as noted above, it’s weird they didn’t license more of the World War II films referenced in their new doc series Five Came Back, with their incomplete Why We Fight titles being particularly glaring.
They too have some junk mixed in and continually license very easily sold doc titles, such as those that appeal to specific niches and fandoms. They like foodie docs and true crime films and series, for instance. And if you’re simply browsing without looking for something specific, those basic and conventional nonfiction titles tend to have better placement.
Amazon:One of the graphs made for a CNBC report comparing Amazon to Netflix last year shows how each ranks with critically acclaimed series, and Amazon does have a few very notable titles, namely Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, and Mozart in the Jungle. Not on there but certainly noteworthy is their acquisition title, one of our favorites of last year, Fleabag.
There are also a few that aren’t as successful with the critics and awards groups, like Hand of God, but they do have an interesting process of sharing pilots with subscribers, who can then participate in choosing which go to series, meaning those ongoing shows are presumably going to be popular.
As we criticized recently, however, the latest batch of Amazon pilots are unfortunately not up to snuff. But the previous bunch were all selected for series, including The Tick, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, and I Love Dick, which is from Transparent creator Jill Solloway and debuts May 12th.
Like with their movie plans, Amazon is also very interested in auteur television. They’re not only continuing to work with Solloway, who additionally has a limited series about an all-women’s rodeo in the works, but also Yorgos Lanthimos, who is doing an Iran-Contra Affair show, Nicolas Winding Refn (Too Old to Die Young), Barry Jenkins (The Underground Railroad), and David O. Russell, who is doing a mafia-based series.
Also in the future, we can expect series based on Philip K. Dick’s work, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan books, and the movies Tremors, The Departed, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
Netflix:That CNBC graph shows that Netflix had the most acclaimed series of the bunch with Masters of None and a lot more series in general. They definitely seem to have the more talked-about shows, likely because more people have Netflix, and many of the series that wind up in the zeitgeist, such as Stranger Things, The OA, and now 13 Reasons Why, seem to drop out of nowhere.
Others have been big awards contenders, like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and The Crown, the prestige of which keeps them going strong with fans, and their continued seasons being among the most anticipated TV programs of each year. And like with their Welles acquisition, Netflix has also been favored for picking up TV orphans, such as Arrested Development, which could return, and the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival.
But Netflix also clearly has more series that aren’t acclaimed or award-worthy, like the very popular but very mediocre sitcom reboot Fuller House. We can add to that the latest Marvel series, Iron Fist, which is disappointing given that the MCU franchise shows on Netflix started out so promising. Hopefully for their sake and viewers’, The Defenders will turn things around.
As for the future, besides the hit series that will eventually have to end, Netflix has tons of exciting possibilities on the way, including the Mary Harron-helmed Margaret Atwood adaptation Alias Grace, the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed Maniac miniseries, a reboot of Lost in Space, and shows based on Spy Kids and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It.
Plus there are those with very near upcoming release dates: Dear White People, which is based on the movie (April 28th), Niki Caro’s “Anne of Green Gables” adaptation, Anne (May 12th), GLOW, from OitNB’s Jenji Kohan and based on the real-life women’s wrestlers of the 1980s (June 23rd), and the David Fincher-produced Mindhunter (due in October).
Netflix also tends to have decent nonfiction series, including the new Five Came Back and the true crime hit Making a Murderer, and quality animated series, which is fortunate for parents given how easily used and easily controlled the service can be for young children. Of course, the next big series at Netflix is probably, like Stranger Things, something nobody even knows about right now.