Action! Reaction! A film blog covering the banished and ever-lowly genre of action movies.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top 10 Action Actresses

It's been awhile since my last top-ten list, which concerned action-movie villain actors. As a sort of a follow-up, I want to briefly recognize some names I missed, or simply neglected in my selections. First and foremost, Gary Busey (a big duh)--even though I mentioned him along with Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege, I didn't recognize him for his individual accomplishments as an action-villain, which are many. Secondly, the late Brion James, a stalwart character-villain who is sorely missed in that respect and in general. And finally, William Dafoe, Alan Rickman, and Jack Palance are some other names I'd like to drop as great action-villain actors. Anyway, moving on...

Yancy Butler kicking ass as usual

In the spirit of the upcoming Fighter, I present to you the top ten women of action movies. In a genre where the female gender is often told to "stay here," these are the actresses who have struggled through this oppression and, in some cases, broken away from it. Both starring and supporting roles are recognized here, as the ultimate goal is to feature the feminine few who get the most action (filmically speaking, of course). There is a long list of honorable mentions including one fairly noteworthy exemption which I will (try to) explain afterwards.

A quick note-- While checking my six, I stumbled across this absolutely rockin' site called Girls & Guns. Despite its classically-bad title, the site is actually pretty interesting, and I suggest you check it out (I've added it to my links section). So, though I came up with most of the choices on my own, I owe the validity of the list to Girls & Guns, which I plan to resource frequently. But without further ado, here are my top-ten actionesses (actioner-actioness)!:

10. Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King, Cradle 2 the Grave, X2)

The American-Chinese-Filipino-Hawaiian beauty queen hit the action scene running in the early 2000s with supporting roles in Mummy-spinoff Scorpion King, Cradle 2 the Grave, and most notably in the X-Men sequel X2 where she had a conclusive showdown with Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman). Also, she is starring in the upcoming assassin-flick The Tournament, aside Ving Rhames Robert Carlyle, and Scott Adkins, among others, which The Action Reaction is most looking forward to.

9. Yancy Butler (Hard Target, Drop Zone, "Witchblade," Striking Range)

Fierce, ferocious (see The Ex), and tough to no end, Yancy Butler made her debut in a less intense, damsel-in-distress role in the Van Damme/John Woo collaboration Hard Target. The following year she switched to a much stronger archetype aside Wesley Snipes in the skydiving flick (which also may be the dorkiest action movie ever made, making it the awesomest) Drop Zone. She later hit the big time with the cult TV series "Witchblade," and recently she starred in the low-budget Striking Range, with Lou Diamond Phillips. Her next project is Wolvesbayne, a werewolf vs. Nazi vampires film with Mark Dacascos (need I say more?).

8. Angelina Jolie (Gone in 60 Seconds, Tomb Raider series, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Wanted)

Everyone's favorite humanitarian-hotness got her start in the lowly Cyborg 2, a sequel to the Van Damme original. She made her way in the action scene through the popular Gone in 60 Seconds remake as well as two Tomb Raider adaptations. Since then, she has starred in more alternative action flicks, in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Beowulf, and Wanted, all more or less box-office duds. Irregardless, she’s not letting her reputation as an action girl (even Mr. and Mrs. Smith counts) go away, despite her nobler pursuits.

7. Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil series, Ultraviolet)

A true action star, Milla Jovovich has existed in the trashy realm of video-game adaptations, horror flicks, and campy cameo appearances. That being said, she's become immensely popular since her Fifth Element debut (action-wise), and continues to be a force in her own right. I'm simply waiting for the day when Uwe Boll and her finally collaborate in the name of pure awesomeness (or the King)!

6. Lucy Liu (Payback, Charlie’s Angels series, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Kill Bill series, Domino)

Despite her popularity, Lucy Liu's contributions to the action world have gone largely unnoticed, to the point where you could almost call her 'underrated.' Pre-2000 alone she was featured in Payback, True Crime, and Play it to the Bone, and since then the list just keeps adding up: the Charlie’s Angels series, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Cypher, the Kill Bill series, Domino, Lucky Number Slevin, and so on. It seems she’s finally settled down and/or become washed up, taking a role in a throwaway TV series, but I sincerely hope she returns to the action stage because obviously that’s where her home is.

5. Sharon Stone (Above the Law, Total Recall, The Specialist, The Quick and the Dead)

The reigning queen of trashiness (see Casino for the greatest example) could only achieve that title through, what else, action movies! After a forgettable supporting role in Seagal's debut, she went on to make her name through Paul Verhoeven films as well as the Stallone vehicle The Specialist and most significantly through a starring role in the over-the-top western The Quick and the Dead. Recently, despite some earnest performances, she still delved down to do Basic Instinct 2. Oof. More power to her.

4. Sandra Bullock (Demolition Man, Speed series, Miss Congeniality series)

Though she’s since turned away from the action scene, Sandra Bullock was once its to-be-queen. The run of Demolition Man, Speed, and The Net (and Speed 2, but we won’ talk about that) cemented her as one for the books in terms of action ladies. It’s a shame, really, that the second Speed pretty much turned her away from the genre. Nowadays, we only have remnants and references found in the questionable Miss Congeniality movies of her action-inflicted past. I hope she makes it back, like a trout, or something.

3. Linda Hamilton (The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dante’s Peak)

Where would action actresses be today without Linda Hamilton? That, above all, is the reason she is placed (and so highly) on this list. Despite few action-movie appearances, Linda Hamilton defined toughness in Terminator 2: Judgment Day—as I like to say, Linda Hamilton is not only your mother, but your daddy, and your commanding officer as well (and a pretty hot one at that). Sigourney Weaver (uh-oh) may’ve started the tough-woman image, but Linda Hamilton perfected it, much in the same way that T2 did for the genre as a whole.

2. Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown, Above the Law, Escape from L.A., Jackie Brown)

From her blaxploitation beginnings, Pam Grier was known as "queen of coolness," and with her revival in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown she escalated to a hall-of-fame likeness. There is a long list of action movies she’s been featured in, but some notable titles include the aforementioned debut of Steven Seagal (Above the Law), and John Carpenter's Escape from L.A, among others. A strong argument could be made to put Grier one ahead on this list, but I think she'll do just fine here.

1. Michelle Yeoh (Police Story/Supercop series, Twin Warriors, Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Though she may not have the knockout looks of some of the other actresses on this list, Michelle Yeoh is an action goddess. A product of Jackie Chan, Yeoh went on to rival him on the martial arts stage, most famously from her performance in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She’s worked with Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, and even starred in a Bond movie. There have been many action queens to come out of Asia, but Michelle Yeoh is my choice for the number one action actress of all-time.

Disagree? Well, here's some ammunition for you--Honorable mentions:

First and foremost, Sigourney Weaver was most obviously left out. Why? Because she's not really an "action" actress. Sure, Aliens and Alien: Resurrection could be called action films, but what other than the Alien series has she done in the name of action? Not much. She's never 'taken the dive' to do a truly bad action movie like most of the above actresses have. Either way, feel free to combat me on it. I'll do my best to my hold my ground.

Other names I feel I should mention range from classics (Brigitte Lin, Joanna Cassidy, Maria Conchita Alonzo, Lori Petty, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Adrienne Barbeau), to middle-of-the pack (Bridget Fonda, Daryl Hannah, Maggie Cheung, Uma Thurman, Halle Berry, Tia Carrere) to up-and-coming (Ziyi Zhang, Kristanna Loken, Michelle Rodriguez). I hope those satisfy your discontent.

If not, feel free to tell me in the comments section below.

1 comment:

Tom said...

First of all, Devon Aoki. She was in a racing movie, or something.

Secondly, I'm surprised you're completely leaving out Natalie Portman. Not only was she firing lasers with the best of them in Star Wars and committing fake assassinations in The Professional (already pitting her against #3 and #4 in your Top Ten Action-Villain Actors list) but V for Vendetta is under her belt too. You could at least include her to set up putting Jean Reno in your action heroes list.

Third, I'm just pointing out that Milla is married to Paul W.S. Anderson, who, if I were a director, is the director that I would be. He hehehehehehe he snarf.

Also, I love the Quick and the Dead, so props to Sharon Stone, but hey, where is the Trinity?

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