There has been an insurgence for female lead action movies since the late 90s. Since then, there has been no ending for women, breaking stereotypes to kick-butting the villains on the big screen. Female Leads just took a halt from being the typical love interest of the hero and snatched the lead to be the superhero they are.
And isn’t it more impressive to be the Hero yourself than just being saved by a hero? Of course, Hollywood has many male-dominated action movies, and women characters appear to be just sexy love interests or, more typically, damsel in distress. For God’s sake, enough of that cliché character.
Thankfully, there are many female-lead action films where women are fierce, kicking butts and saving the world, enough to inspire the younger generation. If you want to see more badass women leading the way, breaking the stereotypes, and smashing the patriarchy, this list of female-lead action movies will be helpful for you.
Top 30 Female Lead Action Movies:
30. Captain Marvel
- Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
- Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace
Don’t know what took so long for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to make a female-lead superhero movie. MCU ultimately got the time to launch the first female lead superhero movie Captain Marvel in 2019. Brie Larsson, as Captain Marvel, really uplifts the woman superhero category that young girls can look forward to.
Captain Marvel Plot:
In the film, Carol Denver transforms into Captain Marvel and finds herself in the middle of a battle between two intergalactic alien civilizations on earth. She must save the people and discover her real identity.
29. Kill Bill: Volume 1
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Sonny Chiba
This Quentin Tarantino film is an action-packed mixed martial art film. The character even had to go to Tokyo to fight the yakuza.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 Plot:
The story follows a disaster incident as a pregnant assassin, code-named The Bride, was attacked on her wedding day. Her jealous ex-boyfriend tried to kill her with the help of her assassin friends. After four years in a coma, she woke up and sought revenge.
28. Resident Evil
- Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
- Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon
Resident Evil is an action film based on a game series of the same name, with some strong female leads. It is one of the highest-grossing franchise movies based on a video game, and why not? It has five sequels in total.
Resident Evil Plot:
Alice, an amnesiac heroine, and the umbrella Corporation Commandos fight the powerful supercomputer. They tried to contain the outbreak of the flesh-eating T-virus at a secret underground facility.
27. G.I Jane
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Cast: Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft.
About G.I Jane:
The film G. I. Jane really broke all the stereotypes about women not being strong enough to be in the army. It is always persuasive that the army and navy are for strong men who undergo brutal training and fight in the war, but G.I. Jane broke all the gender norms and proved all wrong.
Demi Moore played the character Lieutenant Jordan O’Neill, who got the chance for special operation training to test if a woman can handle rigorous navy training. After some severe backlash, this headstrong woman proved to be worthy of her position.
26. Wonder Woman
- Director: Patty Jenkins
- Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, and more.
About Wonder Woman:
DC Universe’s first female lead movie, Wonder Woman, single-handedly raised the bar too high for women in general in superhero movies. Gal Gadot, as a lead in superhero films, surprised everyone, won over critics,and became an inspiration to younger women.
Princess Diana grew up on an all-female island and is a highly skilled warrior. An American spy and pilot crash-landed on her island and informed her about the ongoing war. She sets out into the world of men to stop the war led by her long-time enemy, Ares, the God of war.
25. Dark Phoenix
- Director: Simon Kinberg
- Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Jessica Chastain, and more.
Sophie Turner led the X-Men franchise movie as young Jean Grey. Dark Phoenix is also the first female lead X-Men movie and the final installment of the X-Men franchise featuring an ensemble cast.
Dark Phoenix Plot:
The film talks about how she transforms into the Phoenix, which gives her a dangerous superpower, enhancing her psychic abilities. Her incredible strength brings her repressed traumatic memories, making her unstable and unpredictable. Jean constantly threatens everyone, and the X-Men want her destroyed.
24. The Hunger Games
- Director: Gary Ross
- Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and more.
The Hunger Games franchise is a popular movie with intense action scenes, a love triangle, dirty politics, and thrilling suspense. Jennifer Lawrence jumps into action in Katniss Everdeen’s role, proving how brilliant she is as an actress.
The Hunger Games Plot:
Katniss voluntarily took her younger sister’s place in a TV game show. Each district selects two candidates to compete in the hunger games, where the sole survivor is the winner. The story continues in the sequels- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.
23. Black Widow
- Director: Cate Shortland
- Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, and more.
The first female Avenger of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, finally got her solo movie after many years of waiting. Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh’s duo thrilled everyone with their performances in this action-packed spy movie.
Black Widow Plot:
The movie reveals the past life of Natasha Romanoff before she became an Avenger. A dangerous conspiracy entangles her in her darker past. She became a spy and an assassin and, together with her sister, must bring down the culprit.
22. Atomic Blonde
- Director: David Leitch
- Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella
Charlize Theron’s action thriller movie, Atomic Blonde, leaves no space for a dull moment. This female-led action film’s stunts and fight scenes are beyond the imagination.
Atomic Blonde Plot:
Lorraine Broughton, a spy of MI6, went on a mission in Berlin just before the collapse of the Berlin wall to retrieve the documents containing information about the atomic bomb. While doing her task in Berlin, she fights every suspicious person.
- Director: Alex Garland
- Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac.
What makes a female lead action movie better is the five strong women lead characters in an action flick of five powerful actors.
Lena, a biologist, and an army veteran explores a mysterious space, “the shimmer”, a world with mutating creatures and a landscape threatening their livelihoods. After her husband’s return, Lena and her team must find whatever is happening inside this mysterious world.
20. Red Notice
- Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
- Cast: Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos
Starring Gal Gadot alongside Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, the movie Red Notice is the most recent action movie on the list.
Red Notice Plot:
FBI agent John Hartley’s sentiment got hurt when he couldn’t catch the most-wanted art thief, the Bishop. To catch her, he teams up with the second most-wanted criminal, Nolan Booth. Shocking, isn’t it? Wait for the actual plot and get more astonished.
- Director: Steve McQueen
- Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson.
Another more than one woman-led action movie starring some strong women of Hollywood like Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki.
In the film, they are the four widows of four husbands who lost their lives in a robbery attempt. The widows teamed together and planned a heist when criminals knocked on their door demanding their debt to be paid, which was stolen by their husbands.
18. Charlie’s Angel
- Director: McG
- Cast: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry.
About Charlie’s Angel:
Charlie’s Angel, one of the most famous female lead action films of all time, features the trio of Lucy Lie, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz. These three beautiful and fierce women work as investigators in a private detective agency under millionaire Charlie.
They took the task of finding the kidnapped owner of Knox Enterprises. These three angels are skillful, fighting criminals in disguise or in full action with hand-to-hand combat. Using the most incredible gadgets or the fastest car, this movie never lacks the element of an action film.
17. Mad Max: Fury Road
- Director: George Miller
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough.
One of the best action movie franchises, Mad Max’s fourth installment, is Mad Max: Fury Road, which is set in the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland.
Mad Max: Fury Road Plot:
Max Rockatansky teams up with a warrior named Imperator Furiosa against the evil Immortan Joe and his army, who control the land’s water supply. Furiosa saves Immortan Joe’s five wives and later fights Joe’s army in a battle on the road.
16. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Director: Gareth Edwards
- Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed.
Rogue One is the first installment of the Star Wars anthology, set a week before Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Plot:
The Galactic Empire forcibly took Jyn’s father when she was a child. When she grows up, she learns that her father is working as a head scientist, helping to build the most lethal weapon in the galaxy, Death Star. Jyn then joins the soldiers who plan to steal the Empire’s blueprint.
15. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
- Director: Simon West
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, and more.
We saw Angelina Jolie as a lead character in many action movies, and Lara Croft is among the most popular ones. Lara Croft is based on the video game Tomb Raider, and Jolie brought the action figure to life on the big screen.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Plot:
The lead, Lara Croft embarks on an adventure to attain the ancient artifacts with unimaginable time-controlling power. The enemy, a secret organization “Illuminati”, tried to obtain it for their own advantage. A reboot film of Lara Croft came out in 2018.
- Director: Neil Burger
- Cast: stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, and more.
Divergent is another action-packed film of a trilogy series. Shailene Woodley received much praise for portraying her uncompromising character.
Set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world, people divided themselves into different factions. Beatrice Prior realizes that she doesn’t fit in any of the groups. She is divergent, decides to join the Dauntless faction of thrill-seekers, and hides her identity from powerful forces.
13. V for Vendetta
- Director: James McTeigue
- Cast: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and more.
A Guy Fawkes mask symbolizes the government’s oppression of innocent people. It has become very prominent in protests, and even in the pop culture industry, a mask is pretty evident. V for Vendetta is one of them.
V for Vendetta Plot:
Set in a dystopian world, the fascist totalitarian has taken over the UK. V, a masked fighter and anarchist, try his best to bring down the government with some terrorist schemes. A young woman, Evey Hammond, joins V in his mission.
- Director: Steven Soderbergh
- Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan MacGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, and more.
Haywire is an action-packed thriller film with the lead role of a woman. Gena Carano, a former mixed martial artist who played the lead character, did her own stunts in the movie. Honestly, she set the bar too high.
Mallory Kane is a black-ops operative. Betrayed by her team, she seeks the reason. With her training tactics, she must set a trap. This fast-paced, thrilling film mainly received good reviews for better action, thrill, performances, and direction.
11. Gunpowder Milkshake
- Director: Navot Papushado
- Cast: Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Chloe Coleman, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and more.
This Netflix original action film is full of strong female leads.
Gunpowder Milkshake Plot:
27-year-old Sam works as a trained assassin in the firm, which took care of her when her mother abandoned her. Now, she must team up with her estranged mother to save an eight-year-old child from the rival assassins.
- Director: Joe Wright
- Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng.
Joe Wright-directed action thriller film Hanna also has a strong female lead. Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett grace the silver screen with their thrilling performance.
Hanna, a 16-year-old girl, grew up to be an assassin, trained and raised by her father in the woods, an ex-CIA operative. She goes on her own mission in Europe, and a senior CIA operative tracks her down and tries to destroy her.
- Director: Phillip Noyce
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andre Braugher.
Another female lead-action movie on the list is Salt, starring Angelina Jolie. Initially, it was a man in the lead role, but they decided to change it for good. Jolie took the lead role of Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent. Some people accused her of being a Russian agent, and she must go on the run and prove herself loyal.
8. The Assassin
- Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
- Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Zhou Yun.
This Chinese action-drama film takes place in seventh-century China. It is undoubtedly one of the best foreign language action films.
The Assassin Plot:
The story centers around a daughter of a general, Nie Yinnian, who was abducted when she was young. Her master, Jiaxin, a nun who raised her to be assassinated, orders her a cruel task. She must kill the military governor, who is also her family.
- Director: Paul Feig
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Jude Law, Allison Janney, and more
Melissa McCarthy, the queen of comedy, when landed into the action scenes, it has to be a better woman-led action film. If action with a touch of humor is your type, then you should watch this one.
Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst who works behind the desk, and obviously, she has no knowledge of action. But when an agent lost his life right before her eyes, she volunteered to be a spy and jumped into action.
- Director: Luc Besson
- Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked
Scarlett Johansson portrayed another kick-ass woman in the action movie Lucy.
In the film, Lucy gains extraordinary physical and mental power when a psychedelic drug is set in her body. She kills her captors, escapes, and tries to find sources to remove the drug.
5. Birds of Prey
- Director: Cathy Yan
- Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ewan MacGregor, Chris Messia, and more.
Who doesn’t know the quirky and chaotic character Harley Quinn from the DC Extended Universe? Well, as Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie got her standalone film in 2020, which serves as the spin-off of The Suicide Squad.
Birds of Prey Plot:
Birds Of Prey is not a standalone film but an empowering women-led film indulged in fast-paced action. After a messy break-up with Joker, Harley Quinn is thrown out in the streets and targeted by Gotham City warlord Roman Sionis. She teams up with Black Canary, Huntress Helena Bertinelli, and Renee Montoya and forms Birds of Prey to save a young girl and defeat Sionis.
- Director: Paul Feig
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Andy García, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, and more.
Another women-led action-comedy film on the list is Ghostbuster starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wigg, Leslie Jones, and McKinnon. This is a reboot of the 1984 film Ghostbusters, but this time it is the four eccentric solid women in the lead.
Paranormal enthusiasts Abby and her colleague Erin first sense the presence of ghosts in Manhattan. Together with Abey and Eren, two other women, Jillian and Patty, join the team. All four set out to capture ghosts when thousands of spirits swarmed Times Square.
3. The Old Guard
- Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
- Cast: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, Harry Mellong and more.
Charlize Theron is undoubtedly a badass action movie queen. Her next action flick on the list is the 2020 film The Old Guard.
The Old Guard Plot
A team of five immortal mercenaries regularly saves their lives while fighting in the underground world. They must fight to protect the secret. Andy became a new recruit, and their secrets get out while doing a new mission.
- Director: Len Wiseman
- Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Shane Brolly, Erwin Leder, and more.
Next up on the list is an action film with a female lead in a vampire-werewolf world. Kate Beckinsale took the lead role as Selena, a vampire, and a badass assassin.
Selena is stuck in a war between vampires and Lycans (werewolves), who are considered rivals forever. She falls in love with a human named Michael, with whom Lycans are pursuing experimentation. The film follows four sequels.
1. The Long Kiss Goodnight
- Director: Renny Harline
- Cast: Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Malahide, Brian Cox, David Morse, and more.
This film is one of the best underrated 90s action movies featuring a powerful woman played by Geena Davis.
The Long Kiss Goodnight Plot:
Samantha Caine is now a mother of an eight-year-old girl and a small-town school teacher who suffers from amnesia. Her past begins to appear as she gets flashbacks. She sets out to discover her identity with the help of a detective.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q1. What are some other female lead action films?
Run Lola Run (1998), Unlocked (2017), Red Eye (2005), Montana (1998), Panic Room (2002), Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021), The Call (2013), Foxy Brown (1974), Ocean’s eight (2018), Till Death (2021), Army of One (2020), Enola Holmes (2020), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), The Quick and the Dead (1995).
Q2. What are some female lead action films with the highest IMDb ratings?
Everly (2014), Point of No Return (1993), Violet and Daisy (2011), The Brave One (2007), Planet Terror (2007), Sucker Punch (2011), V for Vendetta, Ava (2020), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Nikita (1990), Colombiana (2011), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).
Q3. What are some not-so-good female lead action films?
Catwoman (2004), Aeon Flux (2005), BloodRayne (2006), Elektra (2005), Ultraviolet (2006),