Let's Talk About... Women in Action Movies (2019)

Updated on January 20, 2020
John Plocar profile image

I was once President of my pillow & blanket fort as a child... then my sisters came along.

Females in the Movies

A recent interview with Elizabeth Banks on the reception of her latest film, a reboot of Charlie’s Angels, started rattling some thoughts in my head. The actress brought up a controversial topic on sexism among the moviegoers and the seemingly lower stance that women have in Hollywood. Resulting in me asking, where exactly are we at right now with women in Hollywood? Are we improving to see more female empowerment on the big screen or has nothing changed at all? Banks made the claim that the reasons for her reboot’s box office failure was due to the fact that “men don’t go see women do action movies.” Is that true? I’m a man, I didn’t go see it. So, it must be true, according to her claims. Although I believed my reasons for not seeing the picture were fairly simple, no money and the underwhelming marketing for the movie honestly didn’t sell me on seeing another Charlie’s Angels reboot. Not because it features a significant female cast, I mean it’s Charlie’s Angels so of course it stars women, but because the trailers screamed “generic” to me.

Then again, I don’t speak for the entire male population. Maybe it’s possible that most men, or even other genders, simply did not want to see Banks’s movie based on the sexist reasons she had suggested. What does that mean for women in big budget action flicks though? Is it possible for a woman, or an ensemble of women, to break through in the big leagues of blockbusters? Or are we so close-minded as a society to never let that happen for a female star? Why don’t we spend a little time to talk about it! In this article, I’d like to take a look back into a little bit on the success and failures of female leads in the mainstream film industry. What may or may not support the claims of director/actress Elizabeth Banks, what examples may or may not be breaking new ground for women in genres such as action, where the success of the new Charlie’s Angels may have gone wrong, and hopefully come up with a conclusion of where exactly we stand today on the matter.

Ironic Disclaimer

Yes, I realize that I am a man talking about “a woman’s place” in the film industry. I’m not trying to force any agendas, be disrespectful to any gender, or voice any negative opinions on women in general. This topic simply intrigued me in a time that I really craved something to delve into and write about in the great world of moviemaking. To me, when it comes to film, I don’t give a sh*t about what someone’s gender is. Truthfully, the reasons why I watch film is to either be entertained, enlightened, or challenged in one way or another. That’s how I see movies. If at any point, my words come across as rude or ignorant, please forgive me and let us have a calm discussion in the comments below!

I am man... hear me roar?
I am man... hear me roar?

Where Women Started

Let’s be totally honest, women had a very minor and basic function when it came to the dawn of cinema. More or less portraying the damsel in distress or romantic interest for our male protagonist to fall in love with. Hell, one of the earliest famously known female roles is that of the woman tied to a railroad track by the villain for a strong and manly hero to save the day in the nick of time. Far from anything all that prominent or developed as a character. Although, frankly there was no real development for any character on the big screen for the silent era of film. Then again, it was a trope for women that carried over for several decades. Women were the ones that always needed saving, protecting, or falling in love with their sweet prince. Never really capable of handling most of the “heavy lifting” when it came to battling the evildoers.

Disney for several years was clearly guilty of that very cliché in many of their classic pictures; Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin, and so on have more or less fit the female role inside a relatively confined box. Restricted from giving a woman’s character more than roughly being a pretty princess in need of saving. Now don’t get me wrong, they are still brilliant animated features that have gone down in history to warm the hearts of billions. I am in no way questioning the quality of these films to be any less than stellar, but they did feed into a stereotype for women characters in Hollywood to not be provided all that much depth or handling of the action. Does that mean that these movies are sexist? A question I’m not entirely sure how to answer exactly, other than to go with my gut and say “no.” No, I don’t believe that the Disney movies I had listed are necessarily guilty of sexism. In my opinion, I feel that a more deliberately negative message or moral of what the filmmaker’s opinion on the opposite sex’s place is within the writing would explicitly be sexist. In the case of my examples, I don’t believe that these are attempting to force the stereotype of keeping women in a strict role, they so happened to tell stories that didn’t do female characters all that many favors though.

What is a Sexist Movie?

Wow... now THAT is sexist!
Wow... now THAT is sexist!

Another difficult question to answer, all I can do is make an educated guess and go from there. From my perspective, a movie that is sexist is one that intentionally feeds into an ill moral of degrading a certain gender or even manipulating that very gender with cynical material disguised as entertainment. That, to me, feels like a sexist movie. Does that mean that practically all action movies of the last fifty years are sexist because they exclusively cast male leads as opposed to females? I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of any sort of male leading action-adventure. For instance, some of the greatest action movies of all time I wouldn’t change a thing about because the casting is damn near perfect just the way they are. Classic action flicks under the belts of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Jason Statham, etc. I would not claim to be sexist on the basis that they aren’t starring Demi Moore, Sigourney Weaver, or Molly Ringwald… Yes, starlet redhead Molly Ringwald from Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Who else? However I do agree with the argument that there should definitely be far more female led action flicks to show off women kicking ass too.

IN 3-D!!!
IN 3-D!!!

What movies are degrading to women and what aren’t? Like I had mentioned prior, I don’t think casting a male lead automatically means that the movie is sexist. What I do believe is sexist is when a movie gives a false sense of female empowerment in order to push its own agenda by using that demographic by cynical tactics. Two very dissimilar female led films based on con artists were released in the year of 2019; The Hustle, a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, the other was Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. Both star a nearly full female cast, both attempt to focus on a woman’s strengths within a crime affiliated tale targeting men for cons, and they both prominently feature blossoming friendships that evolve into a spiritual sisterhood. One of which is easily making it onto my personal ‘Best’ list of the year, while the other is at the very bottom of the barrel. Any guesses as to which one was written and directed by mainly men who had no clue how to write a genuinely feminist favoring story, while containing the “woman empowerment” element as a mere shallow layer to cover up a dreadful comedy? Click here for the answer

Good vs Evil
Good vs Evil

The Best Hustle

Which female hustler movie did you like best?

See results

Seriously, in all the marketing for The Hustle, it mostly relied on giving the impression that this was a movie about women getting revenge on all the men that have wronged them via absurd scams. That is not what The Hustle is truly about in the slightest. It’s about absolutely nothing for approximately the first forty-five minutes of screen time, then eventually becomes a petty rivalry as the two female leads place a bet on who can con a seemingly naïve man to empty his deep pockets first. Hustlers, on the other hand, is determined to unveil this real-life story of a small group of women who truly grow into becoming a family through this con artist scheme targeting rich dudes who deserve to be knocked down a peg or two. Also, what a surprise that the smarter movie is written and directed by women who actually knows how to develop empathetic female characters intelligently.

While both Hustlers and The Hustle made a profit on a budget sum of approximately twenty million dollars, Hustlers was clearly the more successful box office hit with an opening weekend of over thirty-three million and a total worldwide gross of nearly 150 million dollars. Then again, The Hustle didn’t fall too far behind with turning in a profit of almost $100 million worldwide. Does that mean that the male audience is open to seeing full female casts star in crime-comedy/drama? Why do these two “girl power” features strive when apparently Charlie’s Angels faulters at the box office? Are there any female led financial Hollywood successes from this year?

Exploring 2019’s Women in Action

Inside the genre of action, there are obvious selections that no doubt made their mark at the box office this year; Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and Spider-Man: Far From Home were never at risk of bombing. Male leading action flicks set within a thoroughly established current franchise (i.e. Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc.), there’s no chance of losing money in these titles quite frankly. What about the titles that aren’t guaranteed to be box office conglomerates? The productions that may have an audience somewhere in some capacity, but are taking a significant risk when casting a woman in a film that doesn’t exactly have the numbers to back them up.

For instance; despite the Terminator franchise certainly having its fans (me included), the series has been struggling for decades now to get its feet off the ground. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, back in the early 1990s, was arguably the last installment to receive any true praise and mind-blowing commercial success. With the utter disappointment that 2015’s Terminator: Genisys turned out to be for producers, it seems that the filmmakers have made a recent attempt to reboot the Schwarzenegger driven franchise once again under the title of Terminator: Dark Fate. This time, however, refueling with almost a total female cast that included the reprisal of Linda Hamilton in the iconic role of Sarah Conner. Not even two weeks after release, as I write this article, the film has been entirely pulled from theaters after its colossal bomb at the box office.

Linda "Badass" Hamilton is back!
Linda "Badass" Hamilton is back!

Why did Terminator: Dark Fate truly fail to meet financial expectations? Was it really akin to the claims Elizabeth Banks made where no men are actually interested in female led action movies or the fact that Terminator is a dying franchise that has finally run out of steam? We all know that the series hasn’t been exactly winning hearts of fans for a couple decades now. Domestically, Genisys flopped so badly it couldn’t even come close to breaking even in ticket sales. Same goes for Dark Fate for that matter. At this point, I’m fairly positive no matter what the next Terminator entry did it will likely be destined to fail, regardless of any gender specific casting.

What About Marvel?

It’s no secret that early this year, Captain Marvel earned a big score at the box office as it was shockingly close to recouping its own budget within the opening weekend of release. Eventually making over a billion dollars worldwide. Is that not considered a success under the female action picture status? According to Banks, not so much. During her interview, Banks also mentioned the success of comic book movies; such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Proclaiming their success to be only achieved through the means that they are catering to a male demographic in the comic book movie genre. How valid is that statement for the comic book genre to strictly belong to a male audience? Personally, I find that to be a rather flimsy excuse.

Comic books, no doubt, have a large male fanbase. There is also a huge female fanbase for comics as well though. Deep down, I don’t particularly believe that comic books are only for dudes. Hell, one of my best friends is a woman and she can easily whoop my ass in any sort of comic book trivia given to her. So to say that titles like Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman only made money because most males are comic book nerds doesn’t seem all that solid of an excuse. My own mother doesn’t know the first thing about comic books, but she has a blast with Marvel and DC film properties. Does the male demographic under the comic book fandom help? Of course. Not to the extent that Banks is trying to argue though. At least I don’t believe so.

What Do Women Think?

In case anyone is unaware… I’m a dude. I know, what a twist, seeing how I am so beautiful. Do not be fooled by my irresistibly feminine charms, I am in fact male of the male gender that is male… Anyways, so I thought to myself, “What do the women in my life think about this topic? Do they see a problem where I don’t or do they feel comfortable in the representation currently being handled in Hollywood?” So I comprised a list of questions pertaining to the subject at hand. Here is what a few lovely ladies had to say about the matter!

How do you feel about women starring in action flicks? Is it important to you seeing more female characters handling themselves in the action?

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This is simply adorable to me.
This is simply adorable to me.

Do you feel that Hollywood is representing the female gender properly in film today? Why or why not?

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Beautiful and can kill you.
Beautiful and can kill you.

How do you feel about women starring in comedies?

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A step backwards?
A step backwards?

Do you wish that there were more female action leads today? Why or why not?

I wish there were better ones, women are tough too.

— Ms. Kaylon

I would like to see more female action leads, but I don't want to have a woman tossed into a role just to say that there are more and I should be happy with what I got.

— Ms. Sarah
Michelle Rodriguez is easily one of my favorite female action stars.
Michelle Rodriguez is easily one of my favorite female action stars.

Who is your favorite actress and why?

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My friend, Ms. Megan R. is borderline obsessed with Anna Kendrick. I'm positive she will probably make her dream come true.
My friend, Ms. Megan R. is borderline obsessed with Anna Kendrick. I'm positive she will probably make her dream come true.

How important is it to you that men and women have equal opportunities in front of and behind the camera in the film industry? Please explain your reasons as to why or why not.

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The daily power struggle between men and women... Charlize Theron easily kicks any man's ass.
The daily power struggle between men and women... Charlize Theron easily kicks any man's ass.

Do you have any specific thoughts/opinions on the role that women have played within Hollywood up to this point? If so, please elaborate.

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Women sexualized in the movies? I don't see it...
Women sexualized in the movies? I don't see it...

Do you have a preference as to what the gender is of the protagonist or antagonist for any particular feature? Why or why not?

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Ms. Kayla makes a point about a villainess being quite enjoyable.
Ms. Kayla makes a point about a villainess being quite enjoyable.

Did you see the new Charlie’s Angels reboot in its theatrical release? If yes, what did you think of the movie? If not, why did you not see it in theaters?

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What?! No one wants to "waste" their money on all of THIS?!?!
What?! No one wants to "waste" their money on all of THIS?!?!

Do you have any thoughts on why the newest Charlie’s Angels has become such a failure critically and financially?

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The Angels over the years.
The Angels over the years.

If you have any final thoughts on this subject of women in Hollywood and action movies, please by all means, add your comments here.

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Nobody's cooler than this!
Nobody's cooler than this!

What Have We Learned?

If there’s anything we can take away from the words of these awesome ladies, it’s probably that women want to connect to story and character more than the fact if a movie is simply starring fellow women. Gender doesn’t seem to be a major factor in an enjoyable theatrical experience, it’s whether the audience can get into a thoughtful story and relate to characters with a genuine personality. What a twist? No one wants to feel manipulated by some political agenda when watching a film, we want to have a fun time at the movies. Honestly, that shouldn’t be a difficult premise to figure out. From my understanding, women didn’t go see something like Elizabeth Banks’s Charlie’s Angels because they weren’t impressed and felt the agenda seeping through its marketing campaign.

Maybe the next time a director is so quick to judge men for “not wanting to see women go do action”, they should actually ask what women thought about their movie… better yet, ask if they even bothered to see it at all. Because it seems to me that none of my female friends or family members ever came close to contemplating spending a penny on a ticket for the newest Charlie’s Angels. It’s possible that female moviegoers smelled the gender agenda from a mile away or the cast doesn’t have the name recognition and audience draw necessary for success currently. There is of course the chance that we have misjudged the picture prematurely, while the final product has more material to offer. Hard to say for sure when the advertising deters its own target demographic from giving the movie any shot at all.

You got it, pal!
You got it, pal!

Are Women Making the Big Bucks?

With the success and failures of any theatrical release, there are a number of factors playing into the equation. Marketing, word of mouth, public interest, time of year, casting, name recognition of director/writer/producer/actor, budget, franchise or independent production, and so on and so forth. That being said though, are women led casts earning a decent profit at the box office these days? I gathered up what statistics I could for comedies/action/dramas/horror/etc. released within 2019 starring female leads. Keep in mind that some of these numbers are subject to change as a couple of the titles are still in their theatrical run currently as I write this article.

The Record

 
Budget
Opening Weekend USA
Gross USA
Cumulative Worldwide Gross
Charlie’s Angels (So Far) [November 15]
$48 Million
$8,351,109
$16,020,171
$45,775,453
Hustlers [September 13]
$20 Million
$33,181,361
$104,798,279
$148,598,279
The Hustle [May 10]
$21 Million
$13,007,709
$35,417,038
$95,017,038
Terminator: Dark Fate [November 1]
$185 Million
$29,033,832
$56,836,603
$233,636,603
Anna [June 21]
$33 Million
$3,600,647
$7,743,794
$30,918,726
Captain Marvel [March 8]
$175 Million
$153,433,423
$426,829,839
$1,128,274,794
Alita: Battle Angel [February 14]
$170 Million
$28,525,613
$85,710,210
$404,852,543
The Kitchen [August 9]
$38 Million
$5,527,410
$12,180,032
$15,880,032
Crawl [July 12]
$13.5 Million
$12,005,210
$39,014,193
$90,510,445
Men in Black: International [June 14]
$110 Million
$30,035,838
$80,001,807
$253,890,701
Miss Bala [February 1]
$15 Million
$6,864,744
$15,006,824
$15,383,580
Black and Blue [October 25]
$12 Million
$8,376,846
$21,611,179
$22,214,301
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil [October 18]
$185 Million
$36,948,713
$110,715,957
$479,859,053
Dora and the Lost City of Gold [August 9]
$49 Million
$17,431,588
$60,477,943
$117,977,943
Ready or Not [August 21]
$6 Million
$8,015,590
$28,714,231
$57,273,624
Booksmart [May 24]
$6 Million
$6,933,620
$22,680,962
$24,624,917
Frozen II [November 22]
$170 Million
$130,263,358
$236,354,344
$464,594,279
Harriet [November 1]
$17 Million
$11,676,720
$37,834,530
$38,034,530
Judy [October 4]
Unknown
$2,916,548
$23,838,649
$36,984,149
Annabelle Comes Home [June 26]
$27 Million
$20,269,723
$74,152,591
$228,552,591
Dark Phoenix [June 7]
$200 Million
$32,828,348
$65,845,974
$252,442,974
Poms [May 10]
$10 Million
$5,361,937
$13,631,124
$16,418,218
Little [April 12]
$20 Million
$15,405,455
$40,673,960
$48,800,575
Ma [May 31]
$5 Million
$18,099,805
$45,373,120
$60,582,764
Unplanned [March 29]
$6 Million
$6,382,298
$19,005,109
$19,320,481
Isn’t It Romantic [February 13]
$31 Million
$14,247,758
$48,791,187
$48,791,187

If Money Talks, What Does It Say Here?

Out of the entire 2019 lineup, it appears that womanly features of Hollywood have roughly similar highs and lows of any other mainstream release. Then again, it is difficult to dispute the fact that some of the biggest box office bombs out of the year were from female leading pictures. Dark Phoenix was possibly the most shunned and despised X-Men installment since 2006’s The Last Stand. Terminator: Dark Fate fled theaters faster than it entered them. I don’t think there’s a soul in the United States that gave a damn about Men in Black: International, for good reason. The Kitchen died a horrible death in its laughably short stint… deservedly so. And did anyone reading this even know the newest Luc Besson action flick, Anna, came out like six months ago? Don’t worry, it was just a remake of Besson’s better movie Le Femme Nikita; go watch that instead.

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One of the rare occasions when the debut is practically the same as the exit date. Arnie may not be back...I've never cared less about what I was watching in a movie theater more than I have with this....I honestly hated this one...My advice here is to basically watch any other Luc Besson movie.
One of the rare occasions when the debut is practically the same as the exit date.
One of the rare occasions when the debut is practically the same as the exit date.
Arnie may not be back...
Arnie may not be back...
I've never cared less about what I was watching in a movie theater more than I have with this.
I've never cared less about what I was watching in a movie theater more than I have with this.
...I honestly hated this one...
...I honestly hated this one...
My advice here is to basically watch any other Luc Besson movie.
My advice here is to basically watch any other Luc Besson movie.

Taking a look at the other side of the spectrum for woman leading features, setting aside the big name franchises; Hustlers was a sleeper hit crime comedy/drama that no one was expecting. Ma, Ready or Not, and Crawl made some big splashes within the horror genre. Black and Blue experienced a modest success for women in action. Dora and the Lost City of Gold weirdly found a crowd with its theatrical debut. Alita: Battle Angel may not have done wonders in the states, but it did seemed to make the big bucks in the foreign markets. From all these details provided, I feel as though there is clearly an audience that loves seeing women kick ass in the movies and we’ve proven that with our contributions to some of what I just listed off.

According to a couple of articles in Forbes Magazine from late September, there seems to be a slight gap between the highest paid actors and actresses of 2019. Whether this shows that there is a definitive bias on public demand of the genders or maybe Hollywood is gipping these fine women from pay they deserve, I cannot say for certain. All I know is that if money talks then it is most likely saying something in the numbers down below.

Highest-Paid Actresses Of 2019

Apologies to Ms.Pompeo for not being in the picture. This isn't my doing, I swear!
Apologies to Ms.Pompeo for not being in the picture. This isn't my doing, I swear!
Actress
Revenue
Scarlett Johansson
$56 Million
Sofia Vergara
$44.1 Million
Reese Witherspoon
$35 Million
Nicole Kidman
$34 Million
Jennifer Aniston
$28 Million
Kaley Cuoco
$25 Million
Elisabeth Moss
$24 Million
Margot Robbie
$23.5 Million
Charlize Theron
$23 Million
Ellen Pompeo
$22 Million

Highest-Paid Actors Of 2019

Actors
Revenue
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
$89.4 Million
Chris Hemsworth
$76.4 Million
Robert Downey Jr.
$66 Million
Aksay Kumar
$65 Million
Jackie Chan
$58 Million
Bradley Cooper
$57 Million
Adam Sandler
$57 Million
Chris Evans
$43.5 Million
Paul Rudd
$41 Million
Will Smith
$35 Million
The Rock has come such a very long way from this...
The Rock has come such a very long way from this...

As we can see from the information above, Scarlett Johansson seems to be the highest paid actress this year with a sum of 56 million dollars. More money than I will ever see in my lifetime, that’s for sure! To anyone, like myself, that’s one hell of an impressive earning right there and deservedly so seeing how this talented actress’s versatility ranges within several genres of film; from action to sci-fi, drama, comedy, and everywhere in between with the exception of horror. However, when we look over at the male spectrum of an actor’s earning from the same industry, we see that Johansson’s $56 million doesn’t even match with half of the top earning men of Hollywood. The top moneymaker in the acting business seems to be that of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at 89.4 million dollars. It’s insane to think that these salaries are normal for some people. Holy moly!

Classic Scar-Jo and Dwayne!
Classic Scar-Jo and Dwayne!

Why is there such a substantial increase from the paychecks of women to men amongst the acting department? Let’s take a closer look and compare the current careers of the respective parties to see if we can scrounge up any insight on the matter. When we inspect the top three male actors on the list, it’s rather easy to conclude as to why they are probably so high on the totem pole. Dwayne Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, and Robert Downey Jr. are part of the absolute biggest franchises to date; spanning across the cinematic universes of Marvel, Disney, Fast & Furious, among other box office conglomerates. So it definitely makes sense as to why the three top earning actors are garnering such big incomes. On the other hand, the same can be said about Johansson and her filmography spanning across many of the same territories, along with more independent features that make a solid impression critically and commercially speaking. Scar-Jo has quite a few fan favorites outside of Marvel; such as Her, Lost in Translation, Under the Skin, and The Island. To me, it seems that Johansson well warrants the good pay.

What about the other ladies at the top of the list? Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon are undoubtedly well-known and successful celebrities in their own right, but are they on the same professional level as Scarlett Johansson currently? Truth be told, they aren’t remotely close to being in the same league as Johansson. Occasionally it seems that Witherspoon has a gem that stands out slightly, nothing to the extent of what Johansson has pushing out with Marvel or even her solo ventures like Ghost in the Shell. Vergara is respectably doing well in her television career, but doesn’t seem to be offering up all that much in cinemas right now. I mean, the biggest cinematic efforts that these two actresses had to offer recently were The Emoji Movie and A Wrinkle in Time… I don’t think they’re doing too hot.

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She seems to be doing just fine...Nothing terrifying about this...
She seems to be doing just fine...
She seems to be doing just fine...
Nothing terrifying about this...
Nothing terrifying about this...

Who’s to Blame?

So when we compare some filmographies and careers to others, we can see that there is a relative contrast between the two genders. Modernly speaking, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of actresses debuting inside big name franchises, especially in terms of the action genre. Although is that at the fault of casting directors, production companies, general audiences, or the actresses themselves for not taking on the more action heavy titles? Could be possible that those specific actresses want to, but are not granted access to those roles. I wish I knew, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to definitively tell unless someone comes forth with a bit more light on the subject. At least we can take comfort knowing that all of these women are still massively successful and are likely set for life with the profits they’ve earned from their impressive careers thus far.

Art is Subjective

Should there be more of an effort from filmmakers to connect with audiences rather than patronize them with manipulation and unsubtle agenda pushing? Possibly. Art is subjective, film is a form of art, and any art can be cynically made for disingenuous reasons. Are general audiences catching onto those cynical motives within advertisements and motion pictures? Maybe we’re reading into ideas and agendas that aren’t there to begin with. Who says Terminator: Dark Fate was made to appease the female demographic specifically? Could it be that the filmmakers genuinely strived to create an action spectacle that also attempted to empower women in general? Unfortunately I cannot say with 100% certainty since I, along with the rest of the nation, did not go see the newest Terminator in its short theatrical run. Again, because I’m broke.

Another big budget female empowering action adventure, Captain Marvel, I found to be a total blast from start to finish with a badass lead played by Brie Larson. However, according to one of my lady interviewees (Ms. Sarah) she found the movie to be boring and she “hated every minute of it.” Why is that? Am I some male simpleton easily amused by big explosions and a feminine body? Is there something that men don’t see with a woman led action flick, but fellow females do? If that’s the case then one would assume that all women would have a similar reaction to Captain Marvel, but when the same subject was brought up with another interviewee (Ms. Megan), she seemed fond of the recent Marvel installment. Seems as though there’s no clearcoat answer to these questions, only what we interpret for ourselves.

Ms. Sarah did at least seem to like Goose the Cat... That's all the positivity she had for the movie though.
Ms. Sarah did at least seem to like Goose the Cat... That's all the positivity she had for the movie though.

The Classics

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One of Luc Besson's very best films.For anyone who doesn't want to deal with voice dubbing or subtitles with 'Le Femme Nikita', there's an American remake... which is still better than 'Anna'.During my interview questions, this franchise was brought up quite a bit.Classic blaxploitation!Oddly more well regarded than I realized and deservedly so from what I remember. Easily one of my favorite action movies to come out in the last decade! A "must see" for any action movie fan. Who doesn't immediately think of Ripley in the line of awesome badass action leads?Been a long time since I last watched this... I should give it another look sometime soon.Director, Kathryn Bigelow, is actually a pioneer of great action and suspense in filmmaking!.....marry me, Linda!Can't forget Spacehunter!
One of Luc Besson's very best films.
One of Luc Besson's very best films.
For anyone who doesn't want to deal with voice dubbing or subtitles with 'Le Femme Nikita', there's an American remake... which is still better than 'Anna'.
For anyone who doesn't want to deal with voice dubbing or subtitles with 'Le Femme Nikita', there's an American remake... which is still better than 'Anna'.
During my interview questions, this franchise was brought up quite a bit.
During my interview questions, this franchise was brought up quite a bit.
Classic blaxploitation!
Classic blaxploitation!
Oddly more well regarded than I realized and deservedly so from what I remember.
Oddly more well regarded than I realized and deservedly so from what I remember.
Easily one of my favorite action movies to come out in the last decade!
Easily one of my favorite action movies to come out in the last decade!
A "must see" for any action movie fan.
A "must see" for any action movie fan.
Who doesn't immediately think of Ripley in the line of awesome badass action leads?
Who doesn't immediately think of Ripley in the line of awesome badass action leads?
Been a long time since I last watched this... I should give it another look sometime soon.
Been a long time since I last watched this... I should give it another look sometime soon.
Director, Kathryn Bigelow, is actually a pioneer of great action and suspense in filmmaking!
Director, Kathryn Bigelow, is actually a pioneer of great action and suspense in filmmaking!
.....marry me, Linda!
.....marry me, Linda!
Can't forget Spacehunter!
Can't forget Spacehunter!

It seems to be a pretty easy go-to in the discussion of women in action pictures to point out that some of the action genre’s major classics actually star women. I can’t lie when I say that there is a valid point to the fact that strong female leads have starred in action flicks for decades now with astonishing success; Aliens, Le Femme Nikita, Mad Max: Fury Road, G.I. Jane, Kill Bill, [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon], Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Blue Steel, The Hunger Games, Foxy Brown, and Colombiana have made a huge impact on action movie fans over the years. Obviously there is a strong argument to be made on behalf of this perspective with the multiple highly regarded action classics starring women.

Everyone knows the iconic characters of Ripley, Sarah Connor, and Katniss Everdeen that are perfectly portrayed by some of the most talented actresses from the last few generations. These awesome female characters became so widely known and popular largely because of the actresses that stepped into the role, as well as the smart writing that went into fleshing them out as human beings first rather than lazily making a “badass chick” in the lead in order to appease a female demographic. We get to know them as people, empathize with their situations, and become charmed by their personalities before the movie injects their “badass” moments. By doing so, the “badass” moments feel far more earned and enjoyable rather than forced to coerce an audience into instantly liking them. From my point of view, that is how any solid character writing should be evolved within a story. Doesn’t matter if they are male, female, or somewhere in between; we need to like the character in order to root for them.

She's fully loaded, boys!
She's fully loaded, boys!

The Women of Hollywood Today

After all this blabbering, have we solved anything? Are women still being oppressed in the film industry or has society come a long way from tying ladies up to train tracks for amusement? Part of me says that women still deserve better in the great wide world of moviemaking, the other part sees the enormous progress made by women in the film industry and are doing more than just fine for themselves in the modern world of cinema. To say the very least, we’re living in a total mixed bag here. There are accomplishments and shortcomings that need acknowledgment. Women in the film industry seem to be kicking ass in today’s filmmaking world, yet there also seems to be something holding them back from bigger paydays at the box office.

After taking a long look at it all, there seems to be quite a bit of evidence piled for both sides of the argument on what the status of women in the film industry and the action genre are like today. Better than ever, yet there could be more progress made. Movie studios are catching on that audiences want more female heroes, some of which don’t quite understand how to properly execute them onto the big screen though without seeming shallow in some way. If someone delves deeper into female action ventures from recent years then they may come across epic greatness witnessing women ass-kickery like Annihilation and Atomic Blonde, or they could run into the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and The Kitchen where it is pandering shallow schlock that offers nothing to empower women, only to condescend instead.

There is a HUGE difference between these two...
There is a HUGE difference between these two...

Many female moviegoers don’t seem to mind too much the gender of any specific character, so long as they are entertained and supplied a reason to give a crap about their protagonist. Men aren’t exclusively the reason why Banks’s Charlie’s Angels bombed at the box office since it apparently failed to appease a female audience to even care about supporting it in any fashion whatsoever. Men want to see women kick ass, women want to see women kick ass, but we don’t necessarily put that at the forefront of our minds when we walk into a theater. We all go into a movie with the intent of being entertained; when a film accomplishes that, it doesn’t matter what gender the action hero is, we’re already happy customers since the experience is so much fun. Maybe that should be taken into consideration for the next blockbuster effort including a full female cast rather than cashing in on the fact that it is strictly starring women. Just a thought.

Not gonna lie, this poster looks so lazily made...
Not gonna lie, this poster looks so lazily made...

Best Ass-Kicking Woman Features

Which female leading action flick is your favorite?

See results

That’s All Folks…

Well that was a long article, wasn’t it? Did you stick through it and read to the very end or was a quick skim sufficient enough? Do you have any thoughts on the women of modern filmmaking? Are women in a good spot with moviemaking and action pictures or is there still much needed improvement to be made in Hollywood? Are there enough movies dedicated to empowering women via the action genre or not even close? Whatever you may believe, comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my thoughts on this particular subject then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a wonderful day!

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 John Plocar

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      • profile image

        Jacqueline G Rozell 

        7 weeks ago

        The TV series Revenge ran for four seasons. It starred Emily Van Camp, Madeline Stowe, Nick Wechsler, Gabriel Mann and Karine Vanasse. There were many guest roles of well known stars as well.

        The Quick and the Dead was a 1987 movie so as you can see, Leonardo DiCaprio was quite young, just a boy. Along with Sharon Stone it also had Gene Hackman and Russel Crowe. The only reason I sat down to it (at home one night) was because it was a Western, and had I known its plot I probably would not have as its violence was not my cup of tea. But Sharon Stone was very good in it. And she's not one of my favorite people.

        Thank you for the comment on Michelle Yeoh. She is one of a kind. Her martial arts is REAL and her acting is great. I think she made the best "Bond Woman" of them all. She's the only one who could keep up with him.

      • John Plocar profile imageAUTHOR

        John Plocar 

        7 weeks ago from Weatherford

        @Jacqueline

        I don't think I've heard of the TV series you're referring to, but I definitely want to check it out now! =D how many seasons did it run for?

        I also like the original 'Charlie's Angels' show. I didn't watch it often honestly, but when I did I tended to have a good time with it.

        I LOVE 'Le Femme Nikita', such an underrated gem!

        Right? Ripley rocks!!

        Sarah Connor, in my opinion, is a huge reason why the first two films are so great.

        Michelle Yeoh deserves far more attention and appreciation honestly, she's always great in everything I've seen her in.

        I actually don't believe I've seen that Sharon Stone flick, but I don't really dig Stone so I'm totally down to check that one out!

      • profile image

        Jacqueline G Rozell 

        7 weeks ago

        The TV series Revenge was edgy and had a great mixture of feminine wile and physical action scenes. She was smart,sometimes cold and sometimes explosive. I couldn't wait for the next episode.

        I enjoyed the original Charlie's Angels. They didn't rely just on their looks to solve crimes and at the time it had an original bent.

        Le Femme Nikita.... awesome! (That word again..)

        The "Alien" movies... who can top Ripley? I would have dropped dead with a heart attack in the first round.

        Sarah Conner in Terminator 2... a woman on a mission that most men could never have handled.

        My favorite female action icon? Michelle Yeoh.

        And Sharon Stone was no slouch when she starred in The Quick and the Dead. And I'm not a real fan of the lady but she carried the role with conviction and steel.

      • John Plocar profile imageAUTHOR

        John Plocar 

        7 weeks ago from Weatherford

        @Tasha

        Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it! =D

      • profile image

        Tasha 

        7 weeks ago

        Love the article, John!

      • John Plocar profile imageAUTHOR

        John Plocar 

        7 weeks ago from Weatherford

        @Umesh

        Thank you, I hope that you enjoyed my article!

      • bhattuc profile image

        Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

        7 weeks ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

        Very elaborate and exhaustive. Interesting.

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