Rogue 10: Ten Sci-Fi Action Heroines Who Unapologetically Kick Ass

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:22 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Sci-Fi Action Heroines Who Unapologetically Kick Ass

Did you know that Jennifer Lawrence has her own record in the Guinness Book?

She's the highest-grossing action heroine in the history of movies.

It's true.  And it's all thanks to her role as Katniss Everdeen, the Tribute who incites an oppressed nation to rise up in The Hunger Games series, which has hauled in $1.6 billion between just the first two movies.

The penultimate installment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I is adding to that total, grossing $17 million from Thursday night shows before properly opening nationwide today.

Lawrence's can't be credited enough for the phenomenal popularity of this franchise.  It's a hell of a performance and a hell of a character, one in whom we can emotionally invest, placing us right in the middle of a vast, complicated science fiction world that's a frightening funhouse mirror of our own.  Katniss is a serious action hero, one whose chops as a kicker of asses is never in doubt.  She's not a damsel in distress and she's certainly not just a love interest for a man.

She's part of a proud tradition in recent scifi cinema, a tradition of female characters who have their own agency, who take shit from nobody, and who don't rely on guys to save the day.

With Mockingjay: Part I hitting theaters, out latest ROGUE 10 is devoted to ten of our very favorite action heroines in scifi movies:

River Tam (Summer Glau), Serenity (2005)


It's actually sort of funny that her brother spends fourteen episodes of a TV show and most the movie's runtime so desperate to protect his sister, when the zoned-out River is, in fact, the most dangerous person aboard Serenity.  A graceful, quiet creeper with intuitive precognition, River occasionally turns into a pint-sized tornado.  Her tendency to fly off the handle finds it most perfect expression when the gang is totally pinned down and outnumbered, leading her to really cut loose for the first and only time.

Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster), Contact (1997)


Eleanor doesn't physically throw down against anybody, but this inquisitive and indomitable scientist has the right stuff.  Let's put it this way: if mysterious aliens sent directions for a massive, untested wormhole-generator that looks like a dentist's office in your worst nightmare, would you sign up to ride that lightning?  And would you be able to maintain a stiff upper lip getting grilled by a fightin' mad Congressional investigation afterwards?  One led by James Woods no less?

Go Go Tomago (voiced by Jamie Chung), Big Hero 6 (2014)


Aside from a certain Tribute, Go Go's the most recent character on this list, but how could we resist?  She's a demon behind in a five-speed and an even fiercer force on her mag-lev wheel blades.  She's by far the most no-nonsense member of Disney's tech superteam and the one with the coolest moves, skating and slicing with dangerous grace. 

She even insists that her fellow heroes not "man up," but instead "woman up."  How could we not include her?

Tank Girl (Lori Petty), Tank Girl (1995)


Tank Girl gets her name from the fact that she tears around a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a tank.  She's all attitude, sneering in prime punk rock fashion as she flips the bird at the Man alongside her boyfriend, a mutant kangaroo. Who else could hope to keep up with the anarchic force of nature and violent rebellion that is Tank Girl? 

Barbarella (Jane Fonda), Barbarella (1968)


Because sometimes, a spacefaring hero on a mission of galactic import uses advantages other than blasters or hyperdrives. 

Inspired by French comics, Barbarella reads differently to modern audiences. The frequency with which the title character is asked to get down with men who've put forth the most marginal effort on her behalf is both a little surprising and a lot softcore.  To audiences on the tail end of the swinging sixties, though, Barbarella's adventures read differently, more liberated and empowering.  Plus, she overloads a machine designed to kill through too much pleasure.

Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Okay, yeah, Trinity basically becomes the hero's girlfriend in Reloaded and Revolutions, but in the Wachowski's 1999 diamond-bullet-to-the-brain of action cinema, she's the baddest wire-fu hopper, skipper, and jumper in Morpheus's crew.  While Neo spends most of The Martix cluelessly whoa-ing and doubting himself, the steely Trinity's out leaping concrete canyons, evading agents, and saving the digital messiah's virtual ass.

Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Pacific Rim (2013)


The single most gloriously anime moment of this monster mash – when Gypsy Danger whips out a mega-sword to slo-mo slice apart a flying kaiju at fifty thousand feet – is all Mako.  Right before, the movie's ostensible hero, Raleigh Becket, has completely given up, even saying, "We're out of options" like a damn quitter. But Mako, an orphaned swordmaker's daughter, knows better, and she saves the day with an action beat cooler than any Raleigh busts at any point in Pacific Rim.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


Sarah goes from a frivolous party girl to homicidal warrior, from feathered hair and dance clubs to jacked biceps and sniper rifles.  When The Terminator starts, she's of strategic importance to Skynet just because of the baby she'll someday carry, but she's resilient enough to squish the ultra-macho T-800 the unkillable future-bot.  By the time Judgment Day rolls around, Sarah Connor's her own player, whupping the hell out of pervy orderlies, sticking a syringe full of drain clear in a man's jugular, and stacking up against any mechanical time-travelers.

Lena Headey played her on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and her fellow Game of Thrones star is taking over in the upcoming reboot Terminator: Genisys, but in our hearts, Linda Hamilton is the one and only Sarah.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Parts I and II (2014 and 2015)


She's handy with a bow and calm under pressure, tough enough not only to make it through two televised survival competitions, and strong enough not to buckle under the manipulations and machinations of a horrifying totalitarian government and the silver-haired despot who sits atop it.  She's so awesome that Peeta and Gale both openly pine after her like dewy-eyed middle schoolers, but what really sets Katniss apart is how much she cares.  Her compassion goes so deep it gets her into the Hunger Games, upends the whole despotic propaganda machine, and ultimately starts a revolution. 

No male hero would have the balls (figuratively) to follow her empathy even when the personal cost is so, so huge.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997)


She's the most obvious choice for number one, but our goal here isn't to be cunning or subversive; our goal is to celebrate the badass leading ladies of science fiction cinema.

And nobody leads more strongly than Ellen Ripley.  Tougher than a bunch of space truckers, more capable than a squad of colonial marines, and more fiercely maternal than a riled-up xenomorph queen, yet always achingly human, Ripley is the indomitable scifi heroine who casts the longest shadow in the popular culture.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)


Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), Aliens (1986)

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