Jennifer Lopez‘s new movie, Niki Caro‘s action thriller The Mother, is already a massive success for Netflix. The film sees Lopez as the titular character, a highly trained assassin pursued by multiple enemies who comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she gave up for adoption.
The Mother is a classic nail-biting thriller elevated by Lopez’s committed performance. It’s classic and satisfactory entertainment, and fans might want to check out other similar films after finishing it. Luckily for them, there are numerous riveting, tense, and badass female-driven action movies that will scratch that itch.
10 ‘Atomic Blonde’ (2017)
Charlize Theron stars in David Leitch’s action thriller Atomic Blonde. Set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the plot follows Lorraine Broughton, a spy tasked with finding a list of double agents before it gets smuggled into West Berlin.
Atomic Blonde perfectly represents the new wave of overly-stylized action flicks that changed the genre in the mid-2010s. With Theron’s compelling, assured performance in the lead and several neon-colored action sequences that leap from the screen, Atomic Blonde is a thrilling and kinetic action thriller and a modern classic in the making.
9 ‘Hanna’ (2011)
Four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan stars as lethal child assassin Hanna Heller in Joe Wright‘s 2011 action thriller Hanna. The film chronicles Hanna’s training under her father’s guidance and her efforts to escape from a ruthless CIA agent pursuing her. Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana also star.
Elegant and elevated by a trio of raw performances from Ronan, Blanchett, and Bana, Hanna is a stellar yet underrated action flick that deserves far more love from audiences. Ronan cements herself as her generation’s best actress, delivering a nuanced yet resolute performance, while Blanchett shines in one of her most villainous roles.
8 ‘Salt’ (2010)
Angelina Jolie is a bonafide action icon, cementing her legacy through numerous films, including 2010’s unsung action thriller Salt. The Oscar winner stars as Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative accused of being a Russian double agent. Pursued by her former organization, Salt must clear her name and find the real culprit.
Although Salt‘s plot is pretty by-the-numbers, Jolie’s passionate performance elevates it to new heights. The film embraces some campier aspects, especially toward the third act, when the story descends into a mayhem of ideas. However, Salt‘s refined action sequences and a talented ensemble led by the ever-reliable Jolie make it a must-watch for action fans.
7 ‘The Old Guard’ (2020)
Charlize Theron is one of the 21st century’s best action heroines, delivering incredible performances capable of improving even the laziest screenplays. Fortunately, The Old Guard gives her a story worthy of her talents, resulting in one of the best modern action thrillers. The plot centers on a team of immortal warriors turned mercenaries who must fight to protect their secret from outside forces.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, one of the many female directors ruling the action genre, The Old Guard is the perfect, thrilling mix of fantasy and action. The film receives a generous boost from Theron’s commanding performance, but its plot, cast, and dazzling action sequences are all on-par with the actress’ superior efforts,
6 ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ (2021)
Gunpowder Milkshake stars an impressive ensemble, including Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett. The plot follows Sam, a highly-skilled assassin tasked with protecting a young girl from a rival gang with ties to her former organization.
Driven by an explosive ensemble of incredible actresses at the top of their game, Gunpowder Milkshake is clever, darkly funny, stylish, and electrifying. With a distinctive and playful visual style and heart-pounding action sequences, the film is an instant classic and one of the most underrated action movies of the 2020s.
5 ‘Widows’ (2018)
Viola Davis leads a large ensemble of A-listers in Steve McQueen‘s 2018 neo-noir thriller Widows. The plot centers on three women who team up to resolve the debt left behind by their recently deceased husbands by stealing a large sum from a local politician.
Masterfully crafted and with an outstanding cast driving the thrilling plot, Widows is a modern neo-noir on its way to becoming a classic. The film is a riveting and insightful exploration of revenge, morality, and sexism that deftly blends thought-provoking themes with thrills, resulting in the perfect mix of artistry and mainstream entertainment.
4 ‘La Femme Nikita’ (1990)
The French classic La Femme Nikita stars Anne Parillaud as the titular character, a teen robber condemned to life imprisonment after a robbery gone wrong. Recruited by the government to become a professional assassin, Nikita undergoes gruesome training and becomes an infallible killing machine.
Bonkers in the best possible way, La Femme Nikita is dynamite in movie form. Hectic, stylish, sexy, and emotionally poignant, La Femme Nikita is a character study posing as a violent action thriller, with Parillaud shining in one of her most complex and fascinating characters.
3 ‘Aliens’ (1986)
James Cameron changed the Alien series from a cosmic horror nightmare to a kick-ass action sci-fi, arguably for the better. Aliens sees the return of Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, recently awakened after 57 years in stasis. When communications are lost with a human colony on the moon where Ripley and her crew first found the deathly xenomorphs, she agrees to lead a team to investigate the situation.
Full of heart-pounding sequences and with an immersive, unrelenting atmosphere, Aliens is a game-changer in the sci-fi genre. The film is a fascinating exploration of trauma and femininity, especially within a genre seldom allowed to dive into these issues. Led by Weaver’s timeless, ferocious performance, Aliens is a classic of the action genre whose influence is still felt today.
2 ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991)
Cameron continued pushing the boundaries of sci-fi and action well into the 90s. His road led to what is arguably his masterpiece, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the follow-up to his groundbreaking sci-fi The Terminator. The plot centers on a teenaged John Connor, pursued by an advanced terminator, the T-1000. The resistance sends a reprogrammed T-800 to protect him, leading to a relentless pursuit.
Like Weaver before her, Linda Hamilton redefined the feminine role in action and science fiction with her take on Sarah Connor in T2. Fierce, angry, determined, and borderline unstoppable, Hamilton’s Connor might be the greatest female icon in action cinema. Judgment Day is a 10 out of 10, a triumph of storytelling and action and a landmark point for female representation on the big screen thanks to Hamilton’s groundbreaking performance.
1 ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1 & 2’ (2003-2004)
Uma Thurman reteamed with Quentin Tarantino for the revenge duology Kill Bill. The Oscar nominee plays The Bride, a skilled assassin betrayed by her former organization on her wedding day. Awakening from a coma after five years and believing her child dead, The Bride seeks revenge against those who wronged her, taking them down one by one.
Hyper-violent and stylish to a fault, Kill Bill is a classic revenge story brought to exciting life with skilled precision by Tarantino’s all-consuming talent. However, it’s Thurman who shines the brightest, delivering the performance of her career as the relentless Bride. Finding purpose in the violence, Thurman’s Bride is the ultimate representation of the fearless courage of motherhood and a legendary cinematic icon.
NEXT: 12 Best Female Assassins From Movies, Ranked