Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.
What Films Are Like Red Sparrow?
We love girls with guns. From the high-flying and visually-stunning precision of Alita to the comedic yet undeniably calculated cunning of Oceans 8, recent history has shown that there is no shortage of eager fans lining up to grab a bucket of popcorn, pop open their favorite drink, and watch a smart, and often very beautiful, woman take big bad guys down a peg or several.
The money makers of Hollywood have had their ears to the ground and have been only too keen to oblige. Through the years, however, a noticeable sub-genre has begun to emerge. A subgenre where female protagonists with guns carry the same premise on which the entire movie sits—the premise where the protagonist is more often than not a spy or assassin.
Take Red Sparrow for instance. The 2018 spy thriller based on a book by the
same name tells the tale of a prima ballerina named Dominika Egorova (played by
Jennifer Lawrence) who, after suffering a career-ending injury, joins a secret
intelligence service dubbed the Sparrow School. It's an organization responsible for training exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Sound familiar?
Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. The movie really begins to take off when she realizes she must now come to terms with the person she has become and the consequences of her actions to all her loved ones. With all these accelerated turns of events, she must yet still deal with her feelings for a CIA agent she has just met.
Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as the lead protagonist garnered some praise. However, the film itself earned a 6/10 rating on IMDB and 46% on Rotten Tomatoes. Believe these ratings and you may be uninspired to watch it, but let Google tell it and you’ll hear differently. 85% of the audience loved it. With such a divisive and clearly engaged crowd, one thing is clear. The thirst for this new sub-genre continues unabated.
With new offerings on the horizon such as The Rhythm Section, the third installment of Eve, and 335, which is rumored to star A-listers such as Jessica Chastain, Lupita
Nyong'o and Penélope Cruz, it is easy to miss a few hardcore heroines who have
contributed so much to the genre before welcoming the new breed.
Here are 10 movies like Red Sparrow with female spy/assassins that hold their own (and maybe even more so).
Movies Similar To Red Sparrow
- Black Book (2006)
- Salt (2010)
- Nikita (1990)
- Atomic Blonde (2017)
- Peppermint (2018)
- The Villainess (2017)
- The Assassin (2015)
- Hanna (2011)
- Haywire (2011)
- Columbiana (2011)
1. Black Book (2006)
The most iconic film of the genre you will find on this list is Black Book, and no, it’s not American. Based on true events, and “rated R” due to “many gunfights, crude language, and nudity,” the film takes us back to World War 2. The story follows a young Jewish spy in the Netherlands who has to strictly play by the book, as her very life depends upon it.
Her superiors order her to seduce a Gestapo officer, and even though she is successful, she soon finds herself falling in love with her mortal enemy. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (well regarded for cult classics such as Basic Instincts and Showgirls), Black Book brings the same violent and raunchy formula to the screen in a big way. At the time of release, it was known to be the most expensive Dutch film ever made.
The film was critically acclaimed and won the most awards at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2006, along with a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. Actress Carice van Houten received worldwide praise for her role with the press positively gushing and awarding her and the movie three Golden Calves. This movie was also voted in 2008 as the best Dutch film ever. It’s safe to say that if there ever was a standard to be set by the femme fatale spy/assassin genre, Black Book set it and should definitely be on your watchlist.
Stream Black Book on Netflix.
2. Salt (2010)
Angelina Jolie brings the character of Evelyn Salt alive, to the point where imagining anyone else playing the role is difficult. What makes it even more surprising that it was originally written for a man.
Evelyn Salt is an American CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy by a defector, which puts her in crosshairs of some very powerful people. Now a fugitive, Evelyn Salt must use every skill gained from years of training and experience to evade capture as she tries to prove her innocence. Inexplicably, however, the more she tries to prove it, the guiltier she becomes.
Salt grossed $294 million at the worldwide box office and drew positive
reactions for the high-octane action scenes and Jolie's performance.
3. Nikita (1990)
You cannot properly complete the female spy/assassin genre without mentioning
Nikita. Also called La Femme Nikita, the film follows Nikita, a nihilistic teen who seems hell-bent on making terrible life choices that include the murder of police officers.
Nikita is given the choice of becoming an assassin or being killed. A simple enough choice and one she seems to be doing well at, becoming a talented killer until a mission goes horribly wrong. Director Luc Besson brings the full weight of his directorial largesse to bear with this 1990 classic some call the “birth of the spy/assassin genre”.
The characters, plot, and performances are so well crafted and enmeshed that anyone looking to tick all the boxes for not just what this genre demands but what a good film is should watch this.
If you're looking for a jaw-dropping film like Red Sparrow, Nikita should be your best bet. This sly feature is available for purchase on iTunes.
4. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Probably more than any other film on this list, primarily because it was heavily marketed, many will recognize Atomic Blonde. The incomparable star power of Charlize Theron is enough to bring any character to life and does so in grand style with the devastatingly effective MI6 operative, Lorraine Broughton.
Another film based off written source material (a graphic novel called “The Coldest City”), Atomic Blonde takes place in 1989, revolving around a spy on an impossible mission to find a list of double agents on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Spies and pre-existing source material are where the similarities between Atomic Blonde and Red Sparrow end.
Whereas Red Sparrow treats the audience to a slow build up, fully exploring Jennifer Lawrence’s character transformation into a ruthless assassin, Atomic Blonde picks you up and plops you straight into the action. The film is directed by David Leitch in his first solo directorial credit, and it is written by Kurt Johnstad (most known for writing such cult favorites such as 300). Other noticeable cast members who add their star power to the film are James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Toby Jones.
Premiering on March 12, 2017, Atomic Blonde went on to gross $100 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised Theron's and McAvoy's performances, the soundtrack and the film’s action sequences drawing comparisons with the now iconic – and super-efficient assassin of a similar mold – John Wick.
With an Atomic Blonde sequel in development, you would be remiss not to see how the plot unravels before then.
5. Peppermint (2018)
Peppermint may be the most divisive movie on here just on reception alone. Taking
a break from the Russian spy trope yet staying full on assassin, Riley North played by Jennifer Garner, awakens from a coma after surviving a brutal attack that killed her husband and daughter. When she seeks justice from a corrupt system that then
shields the murderers, Riley goes into hiding. Years later, she emerges as an efficient killing machine and an unstoppable force out for revenge. Eluding the underworld, the police, and the FBI, Riley embarks on a mission to exact revenge. Seems like the premise for some great action, yes?
So, why the division? Well, the critics absolutely hated it, with some sites like Rotten Tomatoes giving it ratings as low as 12%. The fans however absolutely loved it. Rotten Tomatoes sits with the low score side by side with an audience rating of more than 72%, with some platforms registering as high as 92% of people polled saying they enjoyed it.
Either way, this emotively compelling narrative stays true to the coldly efficient
female assassin theme and delivers action sequences and a strong performance by
Jennifer Garner. Peppermint can be found on the iTunes store for purchase.
6. The Villainess (2017)
If you’re into heart racing fight montages, crisp camera movements with a fully
loaded backstory, look no further. This movie was so well shot and choreographed,
the audience at the Cannes Film Festival gave it a four-minute standing ovation.
This 2017 South Korean action film directed by Jung Byung-gil follows the story of Sookhee, who honed from childhood to be an elite assassin. She is recruited as a sleeper agent with the promise that she'll be freed after a while. Craving a chance at normalcy, she jumps at the opportunity. Soon enough, however, secrets from her past come back to haunt her. Sook-hee embarks on a rampage of violence and revenge in an attempt finally earn her freedom and escape her past.
The Villainess sits comfortably on my list as a prime reminder that the love for female spies and assassins extends far beyond Europe and America.
Those looking for a spellbinding movie like Red Sparrow will not be disappointed here. The Villainess is available for streaming on Netflix.
7. The Assassin (2015)
Another immense female spy/assassin offering from beyond Hollywood, this deeply
cinematic movie will capture your senses. However, stunning visuals are not all that
this film has to offer. Set during the ninth century, The Assassin tells the story of a
general's young daughter who is kidnapped and trained to become an exceptional
When she doesn't execute a mission, she is ordered to kill her betrothed, forcing her to choose between love, family and the assassins she has come to be a part of. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating.
Metacritic reports an 80 out of 100 rating and was also ranked 50th in a 2016 BBC poll of the 21st century's greatest films. With such high praise for this fierce feminine feature, The Assassin should definitely make your watchlist.
8. Hanna (2011)
What do you get when you raise a young girl away from civilization and educate
her on how to become a lethal killing machine? This is the premise for the 2011 American action-adventure thriller, Hanna.
Directed by Joe Wright, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, who plays the role of Hanna, a girl raised and trained as an assassin in the wilderness of northern Finland by her father, an ex-CIA operative (Eric Bana). Her father sends her on a mission and as she stealthily makes her way across Europe, she has to evade agents sent after her by a ruthless operative who once worked with her father named Marissa (Cate Blanchett).
On her mission, Hanna begins to face startling revelations about her existence and starts to question her humanity while contending with Marissa, who for some reason is hell-bent on seeing her dead. The film takes its audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and gritty action scenes, making Hanna an obvious addition to this genre’s collection.
Hanna is available for purchase on Amazon.
9. Haywire (2011)
Haywire is a 2011 American action thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh,
starring Gina Carano of MMA fame. The film follows the story of Mallory Kane, a
highly trained operative for a government security contractor whose missions
constantly take her to the most dangerous places this world has to offer.
After Mallory successfully frees a hostage journalist, she is betrayed and left for dead by someone in her own agency. With her survival dependent on learning the truth behind the double-cross, Mallory uses her black-ops training to set a trap. But things quickly spiral out of control and Mallory knows she'll die unless she can turn the tables on her enemies.
Just as in Red Sparrow, the web of secrecy, lies, and fatal repercussions are what sell this movie. If hardcore black ops action is what you crave, Haywire provides it in spades. In addition to a star-studded cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas, Carano draws on her mixed martial arts abilities to perform her own stunts, making this particular entry a tantalizing standout for fans of the genre.
It's closest you'll get to finding a movie like Red Sparrow. Haywire is available for streaming on Netflix.
10. Colombiana (2011)
From blockbuster hits such as Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean to Guardians of the
Galaxy, Zoe Saldana proves why she is one of the most sought-after actresses in the world by showing off an impressive performance in Colombiana.
From the mind of Luc Besson – famously known for another action-packed franchise Taken along with other iconic projects such as The Fifth Element, Transporter, and Nikita, Colombiana tells the story of a young girl who witnesses the murder of her parents by a Colombian crime lord and grows up in the U.S. as a contract killer.
Working for her uncle (yes, as a contract killer), Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) carries out her assignments with cold, frightening efficiency, all the while quietly plotting revenge for her family. As far as female contract killers on this list go, Zoe Saldana is intense with this performance, knocking this feature out of the park. Watch Colombiana on Netflix
This is it, for now. I did my best to create an ultimate list of movies similar to Red Sparrow. If you think I missed on any key entries, please let me know in the comments section.