We’re just a few months into 2012, but it’s already shaping up to be the return of female protagonists handing out swift justice to the forces of evil. In January we saw Kate Beckinsale kicks some serious ass as “Underworld: Awakening” opened to wide release and Michael Fassbender, secure in his manliness, admitted that fighting MMA brawler Gina Carino in “Haywire” was a freeing experience. Over the coming months we eagerly anticipate seeing leading ladies such as Noomi Rapace in “Prometheus,” Scarlett Johansson in “The Avengers” and “Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” prove that estrogen can be just as dangerous as testosterone. Tough women, it would appear, are the new black. And who among us doesn’t love a sexy bad-ass woman on screen? Here, without further ado, are my ten toughest women film characters.
10. Trinity, “The Matrix”
Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity can only be properly construed under the category of icy hot. Decisive, brilliant and kick ass, Trinity was hacker chic before the hacker chic of Lisabeth Salander. As with most of the female characters on this list, Trinity is well-versed in the martial arts, technology and, of course, the care and maintenance of firearms. You know: the important things in Life. Further, Moss’ ‘Trinity dominated nearly every scene she was in in during that first Matrix film, one of the all time favorites of all men. And no wonder.
9. Yu Shu Lien and Jen, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Again, the martial arts figure strongly on this list. The martial arts equalizes the body mass differences between most men and women. But in the epic five minute fight scene outside of a school courtyard in Crouching Tiger, we see a stunning array of weapons, including: broadswords, an iron pipe, a spear, hook swords and, of course, the Green Sword of Destiny (wouldn’t you like to have one of those bad boys?) These two ferocious fighters (played by Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang) forever silenced the critics as to whether or not women can play tough on screen in the same way that Tina Fey’s 30 Rock answered Chris Hitchens’s ridiculous assertion –for all time – whether or not women indeed are funny. Hello?
8. O-Ren Ishii, “Kill Bill”
The so-called “Queen of Tokyo’s Underworld,” Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii stands out among the other also badass members of the Deadly Vipers Assassination Squad mainly because of the delicate beauty with which she slices and dices her victims. O-Ren Ishii creates such beautiful Death. And — at least visually from the perspective of a removed viewer — dying, as Ishii does, bloody and in the snow, is as spectacular a way to go as any other. Very, very Zen. Which leads us to …
7. The Bride, “Kill Bill”
Uma Thurman’s Bride suddenly wakes up in a hospital after a coma. The Bride has lost her baby and she has been abused by an incredibly disgusting hospital staff worker and his Vaseline. That, and that questionable yellow track suit gives her as good a reason to be pissed at the world as anything else. What ensues thereafter in Kill Bill is roughly one hundred minutes of wildly inventive methods of spectacularly brutal murder and exquisite bloodletting (88 yakuza members and Lucy Liu’s scalp). What makes the Bride one of the toughest women in all of film is not just because of her ability to mete out fantastic violence, but also the unbelievable amount of punishment she is able to take and keep moving, gradually, towards the object of her revenge, this mysterious “Bill.”
6. Princess Leia, “Return of the Jedi”
In a space bikini, the leader of the rebel alliance strangling the perverse Jabba the Hut with the chains of her own captivity is how we best like to remember the woman of all of our crushes. An early adopter, Princess of Leia of Alderaan was down with the rebellion, outlasting the mechanical tortures of Darth Vader within the fetid bowels of the Death Star, even before Luke and Han were on board with saving the galaxy. Princess Leia so clearly rocks.