A Question of Morality: A Look At Our Favorite Female Action Characters

There’s no doubt that everyone loves a hero they can root for.

Classic superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Captain America and recently, Wonder Woman, swept their respective movie box offices. They've catapulted theaters into a new age of back-to-back (intense but family-friendly) action flicks. 

Here’s a look at some of the most important female-driven action movies of the last decade.

No doubt, I’m partial to the first female action star I ever witnessed: Linda Hamilton’s portrayal of Sarah Connor in The Terminator and its sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Though having two movies to flesh out the same character does leave more opportunity to show range and complexity, the signs of such an evolution are even present in the first movie.

In the second movie, Sarah was tough and fit. She was skilled enough to nearly break out of a mental institution, but also vulnerable and scared enough to run away in fear the moment she saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 model terminator. 

Audiences responded well to their heroine, making Terminator 2 the highest grossing film of 1991. And while Schwarzenegger was a large draw for the film, Hamilton’s performance definitely helped to carry the film into the iconic status it retains today.

Next, we have Salt, an action-thriller starring Angelina Jolie. The character she portrays, Evelyn Salt, remains an enigma throughout the film. Up until the end, the audience is never really sure if we should be rooting for or against the protagonist. Still, Jolie’s star power was enough to turn the tide as “Salt” grossed almost twice its budget.


Then there are young adult, action-films such as The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Everdeen was a reluctant hero, forced to become the face of a movement after a self-sacrificing act placed her in the middle of rebellion. Viewers empathize with their heroine, understanding the stress she’s under not only to keep her family safe, but to honor the faith that people everywhere have put in her.

Ultimately, The Hunger Games was a box office hit, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars, similarly to Wonder Woman, another movie in which people depend on the morality and ethics of their protagonist to champion a movie’s financial and critical success.

In the end, it’s most important that no matter how good or bad a character may seem, he or she is presented in a way that highlights the complexity of character. And while Julianne Moore stars as the antagonist of the latest action film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, audiences' perception will surely serve to expose how the film industry is reacting to villains in action movies portrayed by women.