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i swear by my pretty floral bonnet i will end you

8 Real Women Who Deserve Their Own Action Movies

Hollywood, we have to talk. I’ve spoken to every ticket-buyer in America and we’ve all decided that you need to make more movies about badass women. Like, starting yesterday. Oh sure, every now and then you will throw us a Salt or maybe even a Salt II, but face it, Hollywood, many of your attempts at a woman-driven action movies have been half-assed at best and soul-crushingly awful at worst (see Electra, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, or, dear God, Sucker Punch).

It should not be that hard, Hollywood. All we, the ticket-buying public of America want is a good story about a woman or a bunch of women who fight and shoot and do other badass things badassedly. And guess what?  You don’t even have to make up any stories on your own.  Real life badass women have existed throughout history! Just do a Wikipedia search on “woman warrior.” That article ain’t no stub. You could make a great movie about any of these women.

Don’t know where to start, Hollywood?  You would like it if someone compiled a list for you? Well, I just happen to have one right here that I always carry in case of emergency.

8. Lozen

Lozen was the sister of an Apache chief.  She fought alongside Geronimo. She once killed a longhorn with a knife. She stole a soldier’s shirt just because she could. She used shamanistic rituals to discover the direction of her enemies. And one time, she traveled to the future to give Bill Brasky the finger. Down that Scotch, gentlemen, and let’s make a movie about Lozen.





7. Lydia Litvyak and Katya Budanova

A wise man once said “ending a movie summary with the phrase ‘and then he stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis’ automatically makes everything about your movie better.” Here’s one:  “Lydia Litvyak and Katya Budanova are born. And then they stomp the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis.” These Russian pilots became the world’s only female fighting aces during World War II. They each racked up at least eleven kills and died in combat. Also: Nazis. Stomped the living hell out of them. I’m not big into “plane movies” but I’m guessing two chicks shooting Nazis is at least a thousand times more interesting than anything that happened in Top Gun. I mean did Maverick stomp any Nazis? Did he?

Seriously, I don’t know, I actually never saw Top Gun.

6. Candace of Meroë

According to legend, Candace of Meroë, Queen of Ethiopia, got on an elephant and drove Alexander the Great out of her country. According to killjoy author David M. Goldenberg, Alexander never traveled as far south as Ethiopia. But honestly? When has Hollywood ever cared about historical accuracy when legendary heroes are involved?

Seriously, guys, Robin Hood and King Arthur probably never existed. Actual historians have said that Braveheart could not have been more inaccurate if Mel Gibson had carried around a “plasticine dog.” So if we’re going to ignore historical accuracy for the dudes, can we ignore it once or twice for the ladies too?

Anyway, about Meroë movie… Hollywood, you really dropped the ball on this one.  This movie should have already been made in the eighties with Grace Jones as Candace and Dolph Lundgren as Alexander.  Why didn’t you get on that sooner?  You failed, Hollywood.  You failed us all.

5. Diamond Alice and the Forty Elephants

I know what you’re thinking, but this is not a kid’s movie. The Forty Elephants were not elephants. They were a notorious all-girl shoplifting gang. At the height of their power in the 1920s these ladies had London on its knees. Their leader was a woman called Diamond Alice who was known for wearing many rings and punching people. The opportunities for a catch phrase are endless: “Diamonds are forever, bitch!”  “Your face just went to Jared’s!”  “Every kiss begins with KAPOW!”

One condition about this film: no character is allowed to learn from their mistakes or regret their decision or try to be become better people. These girls were stone-cold anti-heroines and I want them to stay that way. Tarantino, you can have this one. You’ll know what to do.

4. Rani Lakshmibai

I could go on about how this queen commanded an army and fought the British and became a symbol for Indian independence, but let’s cut to the chase: all over India there are statues of Rani Lakshmibai riding a horse and raising a sword.  There’s your lobby poster right there.  The rest of the film makes itself.




3. Anne Bonny and Mary Reade

Everybody loves pirates, when they make sense (Let’s not speak about Pirates of the Caribbean 3, I’m too sober right now). It would be kind of hard to mess up the tale of Anne Bonny and Mary Reade. Bonny, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, ran away from a privileged life to marry a poor sailor. Reade was born poor and dressed as a man most of her life to find work. They both eventually became pirates and after some Three’s Company-style misunderstandings, became swash-buckling BFFs forever. Friendship and piracy. Just imagine: Thelma and Louise with swords. Yes, I remember Thelma and Louise. No, I will not tell you how old I am.

2. The Trưng Sisters

Yay, more elephants! These two Vietnamese legends are famous for their resistance against Chinese occupation in the first century. With an army of men and women they fought the Han dynasty (on elephants!) for three years. If you think that’s amazing, wait until you hear about Phung Thi Chinh. She was a noblewoman who fought alongside the Trungs. At their final battle she went into labor right on the front lines. She gave birth, got up, and kept on fighting.

That’s just… how do you even do that? I don’t want to leave my bed when I’m feeling “crampy”, and this woman was out there choking soldiers with an umbilical chord! You have to make this movie, if only to give me some motivation once a month. With elephants (audiences love elephants, Hollywood).

1. Boudica

Okay, seriously, you guys? How has there not been a movie about Boudica yet? No, that one Masterpiece Theatre production doesn’t count. Boudica deserves to become a giant Hollywood epic heroine. She burned London to the ground, Nero considered abandoning England all together because of her rebellion, and… look, can I be honest with you a second? We need a new Braveheart. No, seriously, none of us can watch the old Braveheart anymore. It’s too Mel Gibsony. Boudica’s story of rage-filled revenge and rebellion against the Roman Empire could fill the historical, blood-soaked, bagpipe sound tracked, slow-motion battle-montaged, stirring-monologued hole in all of our souls (and could be made more inaccurate with the addition of a plasticine dog). Consider it a reboot, if you will. Do it, Hollywood. Make this movie. I dare you. You can throw in some elephants if you want, just make a decent Boudica movie before I die.

(Photos via WW2Talk, TinPan, The Native American Taoist, Africa Forever, Daily Mail, Badass of the Week, Military Art Gallery, War and Game,  and Rockhopers)

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  • Jeanne Andrew

    How can the Masterpiece Theatre one not count? It had River Song (Alex Kingston) in it and she’s great!

  • Eva Marie Heater

    I’m positive that the comments thread will become an index of overlooked female historical figures. My addition to your list is Sybil Luddington. Oh sure, Paul Revere cruised around the greater Boston area and got an epic poem written about it. Big fat hairy deal. Just read what Sybil Luddington did:

    Did I mention that she was only 16 at the time???

  • IMSH

    Ironically, Maverick took on Russian fighters in Top Gun. In a six degrees of separation reasoning, since Lydia and Katya as Russians stomped Nazis and Maverick bested Russians, then if it came down to it Maverick would wipe out some Nazis.

    All kidding aside, I would go see any of the movies you suggested above.

  • Amanda LaPergola

    I actually loved the Masterpiece Theatre one.  But I also want to see Boudica up on a movie theatre screen, bigger than life, killing people in slo-mo.  It’s no less than what she deserves.

  • Rebecca Schaffner

    Grace O’Malley! Another fabulous female pirate, and Irish to boot: She even had a historic meeting with Queen Elizabeth I, so we could throw Cate Blanchett back into the mix!

  • ainok

    Although there are lots of kickass historical female figures, frankly I cringe a little at the thought that some Hollywood director or producer might try to make a movie about one of them, because there are so very, very few modern female actors with the screen presence to pull it off. I’m sorry to say that, but when I look at most modern actresses they look like a stiff breeze might knock them over. I have a hard time taking them seriously as anything other than a pretty face. While I’m sure there*are* those who could pull off the role of one of these awesome women here, chances are that in order to ensure box office success what we’d actually get is some skinny idiot in a chain-mail bikini, rather than a powerful, badass, ass-kicking war-leader.

    Maybe an independent film….(I vote for Boudica *so hard*)

  • Abel Undercity

    During the advance publicity for the release of Julie and Julia I learned that Julia Child had actually been a spy for the OSS during World War II.  I was like: “Well where’s THAT movie?”

  • Jema McCardell

    Before I got to the end, I was worried that you’d forgotten Boudica!  Make mine another vote!!!

  • Eva Marie Heater

    That’s an EXCELLENT question…

  • Frodo Baggins

    You think Milla Jovovich can’t handle a stiff breeze? Sure, she’s a garbage actor, but she gives the impression of being able to face unfavorable weather conditions.

    Demi Moore tells stiff breezes to suck her dick, Hillary Swank punches stiff breezes in the face, Charlize Theron murders even innocent stiff breezes, Linda Hamilton terminates stiff breezes through time, Sigourney Weaver casts stiff breezes out into the vacuum of space, Daryl Hanna chokes stiff breezes with her thighs, Pam Grier cuts stiff breezes’ balls off, Geena Davis uses stiff breezes to guide her pirate ship in regrettable films, Michelle Rodriguez grimaces and one-liners at stiff breezes in various interchangeable roles, and Glen Close scares the ever-loving shit out of stiff breezes when she inexplicably pops up out of the bathtub.

    And while they haven’t been given the chance to show it yet, try and tell me Carla Gugino and Rachel Weisz couldn’t fucking ruin some stiff breezes’ shit.

  • Anonymous

    My runner-up vote goes to Sadie the Goat (, a pirate whose trademark move was a swift headbutt.  She got into piracy after coming across a New York gang trying unsuccessfully to steal a ship.  Taking pity on them, she walked over, smacked them across the backs of their heads, and went, “No, no, you idiots, like THIS.  No not like… Ugh.  Here, just let me do it!”

  • Ashley Cook

    Some of my favorites as a kid:
    Pharaoh Hatshepsut
    Hannah Szenes
    Deborah Sampson:

  • Ema

    Any movie about a woman kicking some ass (like really kicking ass) would be sha-weet!. The only problem is, it seems the majority of women prefer wimpy, plastic women, who fall in love with the wrong guys and marry their best friends. Ugh. It’d take a miracle.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing Ben over at Badass of the Week ( – and there’s a kickass book) doesn’t overlook the badass chicks of history. There are some great ones on the list. Language isn’t always safe for work per se, but it’s text. The book is great, Hollywood would have enough on its hands if it made a movie about each chapter. But he covers a lot of unknowns better than I could.

  • Anonymous

    You put Anne Bonny and Mary Read on the list, but not Ching Shih? She was probably one of the most successful pirates in the world! Not only was she successful, but she also managed to set the terms of her “retirement” with the Chinese government and keep all of her loot. Better than Bonny and Read who both were captured and imprisoned.

  • Jill Harness

    From what I hear, Anne Bonny and Mary Read were more than just “friends.” Personally, I think that would make the movie more interesting and it would certainly draw a large enough male audience.

  • Anonymous

  • Edcedc8

    I want my main girl Diana the huntress to get a spartacus style show.

  • kalsangikid

    I believe she’s the inspiration for the Chinese lady pirate in POTC 3. But, I guess that doesn’t really count.

  • Eva Marie Heater

    AWESOME LIST!!! I didn’t know about Deborah Sampson!!! Thanx!

  • Anonymous

  • Esther Rosenfeld

    Very cool list. I’d definitely plunk down a movie ticket for #7.

  • ainok

    I knew making a comment like that would illicit this very list-y response. That’s good though. And again, although there are plenty of female actors who *could* pull such roles off–because of the bulk of Hollywood directors and producers being Hollywood directors and producers, it’s unlikely (to my mind anyway) we’d get kickass women, and far more likely we’d get little waify things pretending to be kickass. This is mostly based on my searches for vids stitching together scenes of supposedly ‘ass-kicking’ chicks, most of which are really just prancing boneheads in skimpy outfits there to titillate 14 year old boys. Sure, some attention is given to characters like Ripley and Sarah Connor, but it’s worth pointing out that those two *always* get named. Because they kind of head off the pack, and stand apart as being more about the action than about the scanty outfits.

    I’m not saying that awesome female characters *have* to be de-sexualized, but I do think that most of the ones we’re getting from the last 10 years or so tend to be heavy on the fanservice. I notice that a lot of the names up there are from an earlier era of film. I think that’s significant. I think it says a lot about the valuing of female roles in current movies, about the way they’re approached and the kinds of actors selected and eventually elevated to stardom. I’d pay good money to see a movie with Grier, Weaver, Hanna and Hamilton. I’d also pay good money to never, ever see a movie with Mila Jovovich in thigh-high stockings and garter making pouty lips at the camera.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Sound points, all. In this era of Hollywood relentlessly playing it safe, a strong, desexualized female protagonist might be too much to hope for. Still, a guy can dream, can’t he?

  • Frodo Baggins

    By “spartacus style” do you mean, “low-rent 300?” Because I emphatically do not want that.

  • Amanda Ross

    You do realize, writer, that if Boudica was made into a movie that her and her daughters rapes at the hands of Roman soldiers would kickstart her into badass-mode. Just pointing out a little hypocrisy. Otherwise, good list.

  • Edcedc8

    no. I mean full of sex and violence.

  • Sean Lenz

    I have got to see this…

  • Seag Goats

    Sigourney Weaver for Boudica!

  • Samuel Hutchison

    If you’re going to talk about lady pirates, how can you skip Ching Shih, the most successful pirate in all of history? She kicked so much butt, the chinese emperor offered her amnesty and a noble title just to retire.

  • Anonymous

  • Alisa

    what about Lyudmila Pavlichenko?

  • Rachel Murray

    I’ve always thought the Radium Girls trial has been overlooked by Hollywood, especially given the success of Erin Brokovich/Silkwood type films.

  • Katherine Ryan

    Nellie Bly!

  • Alice Tordoff

    What about Princess Pingyang?

    Or has that already been movified?

    Or the Pankhurst women?

  • Cassie

    Only problem with that is that Diana is a virgin goddess…

  • Rowan Watson

    back in the day virgin didn’t mean “no sex,” it meant a woman had never given up her power to a man.

  • Rowan Watson

    i don’t see the hypocrisy. are you trying to say that because she didn’t go into bad-ass mode until after her daughters’ being raped (while she was away from home, btw), she’s not really a bad-ass? because i disagree. you can be bad-ass all your life without ever having circumstances that force you to bring out the bad-assery.

  • Whitney Hall

    I’ve always loved Anne Bonny’s last words to Capt. Jack Rackham before his execution – if he had fought like a man he need not have been hanged like a dog.

  • Anonymous

    “Back in the day”? When was this? (Seriously, cite your sources here because I have never heard of such a thing.)

    Diana was still virgin goddess in the sense of saying “No, thank you” to any man who wanted to put his junk in her naughty bits. Or not-so-naughty-bits, as it were.

  • Anonymous

    “Back in the day”? When was this? (Seriously, cite your sources here because I have never heard of such a thing.)

    Diana was still virgin goddess in the sense of saying “No, thank you” to any man who wanted to put his junk in her naughty bits. Or not-so-naughty-bits, as it were.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t trust Hollywood with such an idea. They’d turn it into lesbian fanservice for a male audience to boost sales.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t trust Hollywood with such an idea. They’d turn it into lesbian fanservice for a male audience to boost sales.

  • Mark Nowotarski


    Well if we are going to go into
    antiquity, I’d have to say Jael from the of Song of Deborah belongs
    on the short list. Lured the enemy king into her tent, plied him
    with milk and honey, and then put a tent stake through is head.
    (Judges 5)

  • Stefanie Fernandez-Paradis

    Seriously, nixiesticks is right. She and Athena demanded of their female followers to never know the touch of a man while under their service. One dude tried to bone Diana, he got turned into a deer, and was eaten by his own dogs.

  • NerdMom

    So does the fact that my daughter dressed up as Bodica for Halloween 2 years ago (at age 6) prove my girl geekiness;)?

    Any of these would be awesome!!!

  • Anonymous  Cheapest Max Shoes,Discount Brand 

    Purses,Wholesale A&F Clothing 

  • Amanda Ross

    No I’m pointing out the hypocrisy in the author’s hatred of women being subordinate until being raped or equally humiliated. In a previous post she complained about the prevalence of women’s rapes provoking the woman into action (to take revenge as Boudica took revenge for her daughters rapes). I’m not saying she wasn’t badass beforehand just that she didn’t get violent until that moment (after all she was a mother, the queen of her people, and a woman: in their society women often held roles of power, taking prominent positions in religious, artistic and political realms). As for her not being there when the Romans came to take over the Iceni’s land, all the books I’ve read, and documentaries I’ve seen on the life of Boudica claim she was witness to the public rape of her daughters (thought to be around 12 at the time) after she was flogged.

  • Amanda Ross

    Oh, if someone out there is interested in the life Boudica I suggest this great book called, “Boudica: The Life and Legends of Britain’s Warrior Queen” by Vanessa Collingridge. It has a lot of information. Just be prepared for about 175 pages of Roman history before you get to the good stuff.

  • Amanda Ross

    Actually, she is the first person that popped into my head! :)

  • Amanda Ross

    I would watch that!

  • Edcedc8

    virgin meaning unmarried. not unsexual.

  • aya

    you do realize that this one post has made me your fan for life, right?

  • tracismixedbag

    Wow! What an amazing list. I would love to see these movies made, with the same amount of detail given to excellent man centered movies. There’s nothing worse than a bad script to ruin a potentially good story. My husband will LOVE that Bill Brasky line in the beginning. I can’t wait to read it to him. I want to be the kind of woman that travels to the future to give BB the finger.

  • Anonymous

  • Wulfy

    Whilst a good choice, I fear Weaver is too old for the part now. Personally I would want Boudica to be played by some previously unknown British actress.

    Failing that, Lena Headey would fit the bill pretty damn nicely.

  • Anonymous

    I love any movie that ends with ‘stomps the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis’. Indy Jones and Wonder Woman were always at their best when stomping the living hell out of a bunch of Nazis. The Russians had squads of female snipers who worked in two women sniper teams to stomp the living hell out of Nazis. World War II female snipers, how could this not be a kick ass movie? I would love to see good, no great movies about bad ass women from history. 

  • Emily Grace Veale

    I wouldn’t hapen to know you, would I?

  • Angelia Sparrow

    How about Annie Londonderry Kopchovsky? She was the first woman to bicycle clear around the world. In 1895.

    Or Stagecoach Mary Fields, who still holds the record for noses broken in the state of Montana. she began life as a slave, and traveled west after emancipation to help her friend, Sister Amadeus. At age 60, she was driving the mail stage coach. At 70, she worked as a laundress for the nuns. it’s said when a man refused to pay her, she broke his nose, beat him senseless and dumped him down the latrine. At the age of 77.

  • Barbara Chambers

    Don’t forget Sarka!  Famous for getting a small army drunk, then slitting their throats.  See
    Smetana’s Tone Poem Ma Vlast commemorates her in one of its episodes.

  • Anonymous

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  • Martina Amalia

    I suggest a woman who’s an example and our history text book often “forget” to mention her, Doña Juana Azurduy

  • Anonymous

  • Brant l. McFarland

    Don’t forget Julie d’Aubigny – “La Maupin”. A swashbuckling duelist like the musketeers at their best, a scandalous and freespirited lover, and a star of the opera as well.'Aubigny

  • Anonymous

    Hey thanks, I had never heard of her. That was some interesting reading. I agree with you. What she did was awesome.

  • Anonymous

    hey, thanks for the link, really cool reading there

  • Anonymous

    What about Charlise Theron?  She did an awesome job in Monster. I think she could do it up right.

  • Rori

    Now I want to re-read Antonia Fraser’s Warrior Queens (and anyone excited about this list who hasn’t TOTALLY should :D)!

    On suggestions, Artemisia Gentileschi or her historical subject Judith would be pretty awesome.

  • loretta obuchowski

    I did not know a Masterpiece Theatre Boudica existed  but my first thought was that if it a Boudica film was made  River Song should be in it

  • Sarah Molloy
    I got this book when I was 12 years old, and I plan on giving it to my daughter in the next few years. Every woman in it deserves her own movie. 

  • Anonymous

  • Anonymous

    Most independent films and filmmakers can barely afford the catering on their movies after other costs have been added up; what makes you think that an indie film could tell Boudica’s story in the manner that the author of this article wants?

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, the points she made were bogus, plus nobody talks smack about my gal Mila Jovovich (and I think that she’d do a great portrayal of Lydia Litvyak or Katya Budanova, since she’s Russian anyway!)

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Szenes didn’t even succeed at what she did, so that would leave her off of the list, I’d think.

  • Anonymous

    So what? It’s about time for lesbian fan-service in film anyway, and besides, nobody else around the world could afford to do this.

  • Anonymous

  • Chris Ingram

    its possible you have already answered this, and I mean no offense, but why don’t you make them. The Boudica, that would be awsome. agreed on the tarantino handling diamond alice. But still, what about a script?

  • Tinman XL

    Umm yeah:

    There is a movie about  Boudica, and it’s not from PBS.

  • Columba

    Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae, should be a hell of a lot more famous… a movie about her would do the job. She only defeated the greatest army in the world when they invaded her country. Not to mention personally desecrating the corpse of Cyrus the Great as further punishment.

    Also, when I first saw the trailer for the upcoming Pixar movie, I really, honestly thought they were going in a bold new direction and making a film about Boudicca. How I was disappointed.

  • Anonymous

    Pixar wants to do their own original characters, not somebody else’s. Trust them to tell the story the way they want to.

  • mittbabysqueak

    they actually had a REALLY confusing relationship. they were also both disguised as boys for various reasons during childhood, and followed a similar life even though they came from different backgrounds. bonny stabbed a servant girl in the stomach when she was thirteen. 
    i WILL make this movie. maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not until i graduate…
    but i will make it.also, they weren’t lesbians exactly. bonny fell in love with reade while she was dressed as a man… which must’ve been very embarrasing.

  • Cathy Kemelmacher

    You left out Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen who had an audience with Queen Elizabeth I.  There’s definitely a Hollywood epic in her life story.

  • Brittany Equality VanHorn

    While I agree that Hollywood needs to make these movies, I have another stipulation for them. The women cannot be costumed like they’re skanks. That pisses me off. In every female based action movie, the female lead (and any other female in the move who is not under 12 years old) is dressed like they belong in a window in the red light district. ex. Electra, Suckernpunch (both horrible), Nikita (not a movie). You get the point. Maybe give me a badass woman that I won’t be ashamed of. For instance, Prentice Brennan in Bones, she’s intelligent, takes down bad guys and wears tasteful clothing. She is not showing her ass and her boobs in every other shot.
    Sorry for my feminist rant. I just want someone I can look up to without being embarrassed or sexualized for wanting to be her.

  • Anonymous

    I was not aware that most superheroines were ‘costumed like skanks’ at all.

  • Dominica Richie

    Female Domination Rules

  • Kate O’Keefe

    I’m still waiting for a movie/TV adaptation of the life of Grace O’Malley. That would be awesome!

  • Kitalaq

    Hollywood would never make any historical movies right or factually based to their historical context. Who would or can? It is like trying to correct what 2nd, 3rd party story tellers tales of the first person’s story.
    Best bet is to just read a book that are usually more or less factually based!?!