Jan 25 2012 12:00pm

Female Action Stars: You Know You Want Them

In “Death of the Female Action Star,” (link leads to a cached post — the original was taken down) author Joel Shepherd laments the lack of female action stars in big budget Hollywood films. In fact, when a producer shopped around his Cassandra Kresnov series, this was the result:

‘They’re just not interested,’ he [the producer] said. ‘I mention she’s female and that’s the end of the conversation.’

Wow. Like, way to dismiss half of the human race there.

In his post, Mr. Shepherd wonders why A-list actresses don’t address this imbalance more aggressively, but I think the situation is far beyond their ability to solve. In fact, in order to create the conditions that are conducive to female action stars, it’s going to take—cue clichéd phrase—a village. And that starts with questioning our own preconceived notions that a female action star is inherently impossible.

Frankly, I’m not even sure the “female action star” on the scale of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sly Stone has even been born yet, let alone died. But hang on—what do I mean when I say “female action star?” First, allow me to set the parameters. For the purposes of this post, I’m referring to the idea of female action stars (of any genre) in big budget Hollywood films at the level of The Dark Knight and Avatar.

The lack of female action stars is an abominable state of affairs. We are losing out on some great entertainment. Unfortunately, even Joss Whedon didn’t have enough influence to get a Wonder Woman film made. If he can’t do it, what hope is there for the rest of us?

As I read Mr. Shepherd’s article, a few questions occurred to me:

  • Why aren’t there more female action stars in Hollywood films? (A question that bears repeating.)
  • Why do viewers seem to forget that in fiction, anything is possible? Execution is key, of course, but it’s entirely possible to create a plausible female action star.
  • Many women command key power positions in Hollywood. Why are they not championing more female action stars?
  • James Cameron seems to be the one person in Hollywood who can push through successful female action stars. His films make money. Lots of it, in fact. So why aren’t more studios following in his footsteps? (And remember, we’re talking Hollywood here, not independents or foreign films.)

I don’t have all the answers to those questions, but I do have some theories:

  • A corporate mentality of being averse to risk-taking because job preservation is highly valued in Hollywood society (e.g., witness executive Robert Shaye being on top of the world with nearly three billion from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to “choosing to depart New Line” *wink wink* after falling on the not-so-subtle knife of The Golden Compass’s box office disaster). This leads to…
  • Fear of failure. As they are wont to say in Tinseltown, “You’re only as good as your last picture.” Execs usually don’t last very long anyway. They know they have a cushy position; they want to hang onto it for as long as possible.
  • Institutionalized sexism, i.e., “Hey, we’re only giving the audiences what they want.” Studios pander to the sexism of viewers who are assuming they will not be entertained by female action stars (for all the obvious reasons). Hollywood suits also pander to foreign markets, many of whom may not accept a female action hero. For example, imagine a male action hero with a gritty, bloody face. Now imagine (c’mon, I know you can do it) a female action hero the same way. Don’t see that very often, do you? Inherently, there’s no difference, but many audiences, both foreign and domestic, still perceive one.
  • Unimaginativeness in general. Men and women alike seem to forget that in fiction, characters can be anyone and do anything. Anyone can be a hero, regardless of the body shape. Just ask a hobbit.
  • Because Hollywood executives are so risk-verse, no one wants to be the trend-setter. Studio One waits for Studio Two to make a move. Studio Two waits for Studio One. Rinse and repeat.
  • They’re selectively bad at math. Plenty of films featuring male action heroes have failed at the box (according to Hollywood numbers). And yet they continue to operate using the same formulas and equations.
  • Size of budget. The higher the budget, the more difficult it is for them to take the risk.
  • Catch-22: there’s no precedent for a female action star in a big budget film because there’s no risk; there’s no risk because there’s no precedent.
  • Studios underestimate viewer interest in female action stars. Haven’t they ever heard of Xena or Lara Croft? What about these “tiny” films called Aliens, Terminator 2, Kill Bill, and more recently, Wanted? All made buckets of cash and featured prominent female action roles. But if, according to Hollywood logic, no one is interested in female action stars, where did all of those ticket sales come from?

I realize that creating a receptive atmosphere for female action heroes is not a “zero to three hundred miles an hour” development. More like a slowwwww, slow burn that could take 10-20 years or more to start blazing. In order to create long-lasting change, a huge factor will be the right project, at the right time, involving the right people to move it forward. Actually, we’ll probably need lots of those. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is just around the corner. Will it help or hurt the cause? It’s too soon to tell now, although my box office senses are tingling.

It’s difficult to predict what type of female action star in a big budget film will shatter that glass ceiling. But if we don’t keep talking about the issue, we’ll never get to meet her.

What’s your take?

Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express. She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade (starring a female action heroine!) from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit

1. SherylNantus
I think my superhero series, "Blaze of Glory", has a faboo heroine who's waiting for a film or television series.

Danny Bowes
2. DannyBowes
Haywire, though awesome, opened to a fifth-place $9 million weekend. Hopefully that isn't interpreted as a sign to not make more movies with female action heroes by the Hollywood system; for one, I think Haywire has a long and fruitful future on DVD, as it's an excellent movie with unique action scenes.
3. a1ay
For the purposes of this post, I’m referring to the idea of female action stars (of any genre) in big budget Hollywood films at the level of The Dark Knight and Avatar.

But Avatar did have a female action star. OK, not female human, but still.

And isn't it a bit odd to start writing a post about how "The lack of female action stars is an abominable state of affairs" and then mention not only Avatar but also "these tiny films called Aliens, Terminator 2, Kill Bill, and more recently, Wanted?"

So the best selling film of all time had a female action star. And two of the most successful SF/action franchises of all time had female action stars. Then you've got Lord of the Rings, Shrek, The Matrix, The Incredibles, X-Men, and that's just from the top of the list...
4. SF
I'm pretty sure that audiences are receptive to the idea of female action heroes. It's a matter of studio execs thinking the audiences don't want that, rather than the audience not wanting that. I wouldn't blame the viewers, personally.

Also, not that they're good films, but you left out the Resident Evil franchise, which is reasonably successful. The most recent one did almost $300M worldwide, and the franchise as a whole has done $675M worldwide. I remember reading an article some months ago that pointed out it's one of the more successful female-led action franchises in Hollywood history.

Oh wait, I guess there's Underworld as well. Not as successful, and again not great films, but that franchise has done a bit over $300M worldwide.

Haven't seen Haywire yet, but a friend saw a preview, said it was good.

@a1ay - I think she's referring to films where a female star is the lead and the main protagonist. None of the films you list at the end of your post fit that.
5. SF
One other point, re: foreign audiences. Hong Kong, at the very least, has a long tradition of female action heroes and stars. That's part of the inspiration for Kill Bill, actually.
6. Mysterium
Tomorrow, When the War Began had multiple strong female leads in the books who were... changed for the big screen. From memory, it did nto fare well outside Australia.
What I found interesting was they felt the need for the "Oh, it's alright, but not that much of thing to make a fuss about" attitude towards the loss of one character's virginity in the books into a case of "Oh, it was the best thing ever! I feel like I'm finally a woman!" in the film.
7. J-Ro
Both Hanna and Salt did pretty well recently. Hanna made about double its production costs ( as did Salt (

That's comparable to Unknown with Liam Neeson (

All of which is to say - I hope this is the start of a trend, not a couple of isolated incidents.
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
I think this is a complaint without basis. There have been plenty of films with female action stars. I am more concerned with the lack of new action movie franchises. Where are any new action stars? It isn't just the lack of women, but the lack of good men too.
9. a1ay
"Yes, but apart from Sarah Connor, Trinity, Eowyn, Evelyn Salt, Hanna, Ellen Ripley, Neytiri, Beatrice Kiddo, the Fox, Lara Croft, Selene, Alice, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth Swann, Jia Long, Princess Fiona, ElastiGirl, Yu Shulien, Catwoman, Aeon Flux, Domino, Zoe, River Tam, Mrs Smith, Storm, Mystique, and Jean Grey... when has Hollywood ever made an film with a female action hero?"
Jack Flynn
10. JackofMidworld
I was going to bring up the Rez Evil series, too. I think the point that Ms. Massey's trying to make is that for every Hanna, you've got a dozen Die Hard knock-offs and for every Salt that makes it big at the cinema, you've got two dozen direct-to-DVD Deathrace 2s.

What's kind of funny to me is the abundance of quirky, first-person-POV novels out there with a female protag. It's not that there's a lack of wheat out there to harvest from, just seems that the uppity-ups are afraid that they're going to lose that 18-35 male demographic.
11. SF
She's a) talking about female leads, not co-stars, and b) talking about the fact that they are much less common than action films with male leads. At least, that's how I read the article. The films she mentions (Wanted, etc.) are the exception rather than the rule.
12. SF
My last comment directed @9 a1ay.
Sky Thibedeau
13. SkylarkThibedeau
They produce the occasional Haywire, Aliens, or Hannah (I don't include terminator cause Awnald was really the star in the first three) with strong female leads but then ruin things with swill like Sucker Punch. The failure of the later with a bevy of action babes lead the brain dead myrmidons (who remember are trying to terminate fandom with SOPA and PIPA) in Hollywood to conclude that action movies with a female lead not surnamed Jolie do not perform.
Daryl Strickler
14. Seacaptain13
I think with every action movie there needs to be a reason for suspension of disbelief. You have to be able to feel that the star on screen is capable of doing the things that they are doing. Arnold movies were ridiculous but you thought in the back of your mind, well if anyone can charge into a burning building with 10 bullet wounds vaporizing 500 enemies on the way to saving the world, Arnold can. I think people have just as hard of time accepting someone like Woody Allen in an action role as a female. It has to be believable to a degree. Audiences for the most part have no trouble accepting an Asian female in a butt kicking role because of the ninja/martial arts mystique. It gives them an air of believability.
Fredrik Coulter
15. fcoulter
This is the year that I get two of my guilty pleasure movie series in the theaters. Last weekend I watched the latest Underworld movie. In September I'm waiting for the my latest Resident Evil fix. Guess what? They're female star driven, not male.

No, they're not art. But action movies aren't meant to be art.

If the author was right and female action stars are dead, what the heck and I watching, and why are the studios still making them?
16. Izeinwinter
Honestly, hollywood does do female action stars. There are two ongoing series of movies both of which have as their entire selling point Milla Jonovic and Kate Beckinsale respectively, and if having a franchise backed solely by your name is not action star power, what is?
Does the girl with the dragon tatoo count, or not actiony enough?
Anthony Pero
17. anthonypero
Ok, it seems to me that pointless action movies are made as vehicles for "star" actors who can't really do anything else, or want to make a fairly easy, safe, quick buck (I'm looking at you, Bruce Willis).

Hollywood has a female version of this: the romantic comedy (I'm looking at you, Jennifer Aniston). So the question is, are there females out there with no real acting chops who want hollywood to produce more crappy action movies for them? Or is that mostly a boys club by choice?

It seems to me that the really prominent action movies with female leads all have actresses in them who are really good at other types of roles. See Mila Jovovich, Kate Beckensale, Sigorney Weaver, Sarah Michell Gellar, Angelina Jolle, etc... They don't need the action movie to keep their careers going. In fact they aren't likely to keep taking roles in these kinds of movies without doing four or five other roles in between.

On the other hand, Hollywood has an abundance of male action "stars" who really can't do anything else, and are legitimate box office draws. So, if you are a studio exec, tell me what you're going to do? On the one hand there is this so so action film script with a female lead. Then you have another sos script with a male lead. You think to yourself, can I get one of the five women I know are box office draws to do this, or will they be busy shooting something else? Or can I get one of the 25 male action only stars who are box office draws to do this? Of course the exec buys the script with the guy in it. Water, path of least resistance, etc...

No one is saying that a male-lead action movie is a better movie, or even that it would be a bigger box office draw, but in Hollywood, whom you can cast almost exclusively determines the risk level of a movie. Especially in this particular genre. You go to see the new Stallone movie, or the new Bruce Willis movie. Half the time, you don't even know what the title is!

The exception to this is if the producer/director is a big name. You go and see the new James Cameron movie, or the new Quentin Tarrentino movie. If the director acheives pop culture star status... you get Kill Bill. The director's name lessens the risk associated with the project. Also, the directors name can attract one of the female "big box office" draws to the title.
Dave Thompson
18. DKT
Kind of off-topic, but is there a reason why Joel Shepherd took down his post?
Heather Massey
19. sfrgalaxy
SF said: "I think she's referring to films where a female star is the lead and the main protagonist."

Yep, nailed it! I'm thinking the female action star equivalent of Christian Bale as Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday...that kind of level. Films with budgets of $150-200 million or more.

@Sheryl I'd green light it!

@DannyBowes At least it was beaten by UNDERWORLD. :)

@SF I agree that audiences are receptive (at least, more than studios think), but are they showing their receptiveness by buying enough tickets to films like HAYWIRE and WANTED to send a clear message?

There's easily been progress given the number of female action stars in modestly budgeted films, but there's still a definite ceiling to shatter.

Re: Hong Kong: Those films have long been a staple for me for exactly that reason. If the films won't come to me (in American theaters), I'll go to them, e.g., Japan's FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION.

@Mysterium Oh, nos! Say it ain't so. Gah.

@Skylark Exactly. The misfires can really damage the evolution of future female action stars, and unfortunately more so than for male action stars.

@Seacaptain13 Absolutely. Plausibility is extremely important, which is why I like my female action stars to have some muscles. I need to believe she can hoist those big guns!

That said, I don't think it's difficult to come up with plausible ideas. Getting them made into a film, of course, is a whole 'nother story.

@fcoulter There are definitely female action stars, but are the numbers artificially suppressed? And why haven't we yet seen one with staying power at the top level? That's one of the points I took away from Joel Shepherd's post.

@DKT I was wondering the same thing.

anthonypero said: "On the other hand, Hollywood has an abundance of male action "stars" who really can't do anything else..."

Or maybe they are being unnecessarily typecast, which would be a by-product of the current status quo. Maybe they want to do other things, but are pressured to do action films if they want to stay employed. Meanwhile, many actresses who want the jobs are shut out entirely.

And I agree, execs will take the path of least resistance. Hollywood used to have more risk takers. They are few and far between now. Most are out to ride their current positions for as long as they can. Like I said, the mortality rate is very, very high. And as they say in Japan, the nail that stands up gets hammered down.

I think it will take someone like James Cameron who not only has the power to back a female action star, but also has a successful film/film franchise to go with it. That, hopefully, will take things to the next level.

@J-Ro Me too.
Gerd K
20. Kah-thurak
There are no films with female action heros? What? The whole premise is nonsense. What kind of article is this? It even insults "The Dark Knight" as an "action movie" and ignores that "Avatar" wasnt even about actors (of which there female and male ones included) but about special effects to proove its nonexistent point... some people will really claim anything if it fits their political agenda. Sad.
Iain Cupples
21. NumberNone
@17: "On the other hand, Hollywood has an abundance of male action "stars" who really can't do anything else, and are legitimate box office draws. So, if you are a studio exec, tell me what you're going to do? On the one hand there is this so so action film script with a female lead. Then you have another sos script with a male lead. You think to yourself, can I get one of the five women I know are box office draws to do this, or will they be busy shooting something else? Or can I get one of the 25 male action only stars who are box office draws to do this?"

But this is simply begging the question: why is it that there are 25 (at a conservative estimate) potential male leads compared to 5 female ones in the first place?

Linked to that, of course, is the issue that all of the above-mentioned female action leads did not make their name as action leads, nor are they primarily known as action leads. They're regular actresses who happen to have been cast in action movies - usually in only one franchise. There simply isn't a female equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel, or even Jet Li: actors who started out in action movies, who specialise in action movies, and who are capable of supporting an action movie franchise - in fact, multiple franchises - on the strength of their reputation as 'action movie stars'.

This, I think, is what is meant by 'the lack of female action movie leads' - rather than the silly straw man of 'no action movie has ever been made with a female lead character' that people are so keen to knock down so they can get on with ignoring the issue.

A similar thing can be (and is) said of black action movie leads, of course. Although there have been male black action movie stars capable of supporting multiple action franchises, there's typically only one of these in Hollywood at any given time. (Just now it's Will Smith, before that it was Wesley Snipes.) I think the reasons are the same: risk-aversion, as Heather says. If women would prefer a female lead but will go and see a male lead, then so long as the studios believe that the converse isn't true - or even might not be true - for men, they have no logical reason to take the gamble. If we want to see more female leads, we have to find a way to persuade them that there is one.
22. beerofthedark
@20 - trip-trap, trip-trap
Maiane Bakroeva
23. Isilel
Yea, but isn't it just a side-effect of there being much less meaty roles in big-budget Holywood movies for women in general?

Add that to the fact of women actresses' window of opportunity being much narrower - most become unemployable in big pictures (or even series, really) after 40 or so, while the men keep going for 20-30 more years, and do the math.

Also, there are many more male martial artists, who partly provide a pool for potential action stars/stuntmen than female ones, so finding somebody feasible is much easier too.
Iain Cupples
24. NumberNone
@23: There is certainly a significant pool of martial-arts trained female stunt artists: after all they currently work in all sorts of films (including action films). And there's absolutely no reason to think that pool doesn't include lots of women who could feasibly carry an action film as a lead.

So I'm not buying any excuse that suggests there simply aren't any, or enough, women who could do it. The problem is, there's no real career path for a 'female action lead' specifically (as opposed to a 'regular' female lead who gets cast in an action film). Making a male martial artist and/or stuntman into an action star is simply following a well-trodden path: doing the same with a woman is something that would probably never occur to most action film-makers.
25. Kid_greg
2-words: Hells Yeah!!
Anthony Pero
26. anthonypero
The solution is for writers to write films starring female leads that can be made on a micro budget, with unknown actors and actresses. If these start doing well at the box office, Hollywood will make more with a normal action film budget. My point is that Hollywood doesn't have a female bias, it has a green (money), risk-aversion bias, because the budget numbers have escalated ridiculously in the last 15 years. They have a lot more to lose in 2012 than they did in 1992.
James Whitehead
27. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Hollywood executives are definitely 'scared' of doing anything new; kinda why the actions movies are pretty much the same with only the names changing. Also why when one movie from 'out of the blue' does well there are 2-5 copycat versions released shortly after. Don't forget these people haven't changed much from the people who said that Katherine Hepburn was 'box office poison' and that Fred Astaire could 'sing & dance a little.' ;-)

As for going to see an action movie with a female lead, I'd go for the same reason I'd go see an action movie with a male lead; that is, is it fun, full of thrills, & enjoyable? I'm not expecting Citizen Cane from these kinds of movies. Nor do I need huge amounts of 'believability' either; I mean, come on, I love the James Bond movies & we all 'know' that he shouldn't make it out of the trailers. ;-)

Katherine Heigl's new movie, "One for the Money," should be a test of whether or not female action heroes can carry a film, from a box office POV at least. She's a female bounty hunter after a bail jumper. The movie was taken from the Stephanie Plum series written by Janet Evanovich. I don't know the series but have been told that it is very enjoyable from those who have read it.


PS - In the spirit of 'full disclosure' I heard that Heigl's movie was being made for the simple reason that my cousin is the bad guy. ;-)
Anthony Pero
28. anthonypero
Of course, I get the impression that "One For the Money" isn't really a strict action flick, more of a hybrid Rom-Com with some action chase scenes... is this not the case? It looks good and funny, and like something my wife would actually watch. Which by definition makes it not an action flick, if my wife wants to watch it, lol.
James Whitehead
29. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@28anthonypero, you could be right. I haven't seen a proper trailer to get a good feel for it. Still, Heigl's character is doing the 'heavy lifting' if you will so if it is a hybrid of comdey/action it might be like that bounty hunter movie of the Rock's. That had lots of action but was far more of a comedy really. Or possibly like "Midnight Run' w/ De Niro & Grodin.

Don't know if there is a'romance angle' to it or not. Just hoping for a fun and successful movie, honestly.

Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
No, I know Stephanie Plum and Stephanie Plum is not an action hero. Goofball bounty hunter with attitude, gumption and big New Jersey hair. Flirtatious too, so some boy-girl attraction fun. Enjoyable books until I got bored of them 8 or 9 into the series (and, one hopes, fun movie) but she's no Sarah Conner or River Tam.
31. gcox
As noted above, the big movie last weekend was UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING--starring a female action hero. (And Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale, is very much the star of that franchise. Just look at the posters and ad campaign. It's all "She's back!")
32. PBSutherland
Expecting there to be female action stars on the level of Dark Knight or Avatar is not realistic because, well, there aren't any male stars on that level either. The star of Avatar was James Cameron, not any of the actors. The star of Dark Knight was the mythos. People laugh and joke about the performance of the lead people in those movies, I don't discredit their craft, but they are not movies that star action heroes, not like a Bruce Willis movie stars Bruce Willis.

Stalone's opening weekend average is lower than Milla Jovoich, Bruce Willis only has an 8% higher opening weekend average. Considering the lengths of their careers, that is probably a better measure than lifetime box office.

One could easily argue that we missed the window for female action stars because movies don't typically have a lone-gun action star anymore. Ensemble action casts are very common now, usually with some racial and gender variety thrown in for kicks. The film industry is still very much slanted toward men, but not so much "the leading man" anymore. The most successful movies today, especially action movies, have at least a handfull of important characters. How many real characters were in Harry Potter or Fast Five or X-Men? How many were in Die Hard?
Anthony Pero
33. anthonypero
I'm currently remembering an action movie from the 90s starring Geena Davis, called "The Long Kiss Goodnight"

Samuel L. Jackson was in a supporting role in that film, and the villain was a female as well.

EDIT: As was pointed out to me in a comment below, the movie I'm referring to is actually The Long Kiss Goodbye, not The Long Kiss Goodnight.
Anthony Pero
34. anthonypero
Now, of course, when we compare this to TV... well, the dearth on the Big Screen becomes more apparent. There are all KINDS of Action/Adventure tv shows with female leads.
Rob Munnelly
35. RobMRobM
@34 For example, we get a new female action hero in Game of Thrones Season 2, coming to your TV in April (the really tall one, for those who have read the books). (Arguably, there is a second one as well (the one north of the Wall).
Joe Vondracek
36. joev
@33: Unfortunately, that film is offset by "Cutthroat Island", which, to quote from the Wikipedia article, "is widely believed to be a contributing factor to the demise of the film's production company, Carolco Pictures, and of Davis as a bankable star." (Never mind that it came out the year before "The Long Kiss Goodnight".)
Anthony Pero
37. anthonypero
Her character is subordinate (plotwise) to those around her, so she certainly doesn't qualify as a female action protagonist.
Anthony Pero
38. anthonypero
Yeah, and all Van Damme films are offset by The Quest, which sucked enough for ten movies.
Danny Bowes
39. DannyBowes
@anthonypero In re: The Long Kiss Goodnight, Craig Bierko may be good-looking, but he's not a woman.
Anthony Pero
40. anthonypero
I stand corrected, the film I was referring to was The Long Kiss Goodbye.
Joe Vondracek
41. joev
Not to be contrary, but "The Long Kiss Goodnight" is a 1996 action movie starring Geena Davis and Samuel Jackson. Craig Bierko was the main villain, which I believe is what Danny Bowes is commenting on. The director was Renny Harlin, who at the time was married to Geena Davis. Since he'd directed the hugely profitable "Die Hard 2" (1990) and "Cliffhanger" (1993), he may have had some Cameron-ish clout in getting an action movie starring his wife made at that time.
42. gcox
I can't resist pointing out that the novelization of "Cutthroat Island" was actually published by Tor . . . .
Laer Carroll
43. LaerCarroll
For those of you who enjoyed Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov books he's working on a fourth in the series. So naturally I'm checking the web site of my favorite Aussie bookstore (Galaxy) every month or two for its appearance. I don't mind paying the airline postage, equal to or greater than the cost of the book, to get it as soon as possible here in L.A.
44. jennygadget
"One could easily argue that we missed the window for female action stars because movies don't typically have a lone-gun action star anymore. Ensemble action casts are very common now, usually with some racial and gender variety thrown in for kicks. "

One could also argue that the reason why lone-gun action stars are passe is because they still make so few non-white and non-male ones. I don't know about anyone else, but the diversity is a big reason why why I like ensemble casts. My fiction reading, however, trends very differently. In no small part because it's a lot easier to find female main characters - action hero and otherwise - in books than it is in movies.

Also, in response to everyone who has been all "but Underworld! but Haywire!" etc.:

Does it not tell you something that the few movies/franchises with female action heroes premiere in January and February rather than the height of the summer and Christmas season? It tells me that Hollywood sees them as not just risky, but as filler. This is the time of the year that you move movies to when you think they can't compete or you think their potential box office revenue is going to be fairly static no matter what you do in terms of advertising.
45. lady action
Some things I did not see mentioned:

Charlies Angels - The 2 movies made with Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz were action adventure movies and fairly big budget

I will also mention an action/drama called Set it Off that had 4 female leads. More serious than Charlie's Angels.

I think both had some success.

Tarantino likes to cast strong women - Jackie Brown is another one, although less action driven than Kill Bill.

Finally there used to be all those women in prison exploitation movies.
46. mis
Can I just say that The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) rocked? Geena Davis as amnesic killer spy - gimme more!

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