Women, one American female actor (Yancy Butler) famously said, have been kicking ass for centuries. Her point was that it is only relatively recently that they have been allowed to do so on the blockbuster screen, and not often at that. Perhaps more than any other action director, Ridley Scott can be credited with beginning to change that.
Sir Ridley, about to storm the multiplexes with his latest big budget offering, Prometheus, has been at pains to put women front and centre in his films, he said last week. He pointed to Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series and the lead characters in his Oscar-winning Thelma and Louise as well as Noomi Rapace in the Alien prequel which opens next week (June 1).
After more than three decades of directing, Scott has created a stir by revealing that he is returning to the project that first made his name – the sci-fi action thriller Blade Runner, this time with a female lead protagonist (the original featured all-action lead Harrison Ford). He paid tribute to his mother as his role model for strong female leads and said Hollywood is slowly changing. "It's far more... normal to have a female in the lead, and yet studios will always look at the bottom line and the value of a female lead versus a male lead globally."
In truth, Hollywood seems to have absorbed the lesson of Scott's box office success. Here The Independent on Sunday highlights the celluloid action heroines given centre stage in the wake of Sir Ridley's Ellen Ripley.
Ladies who deal in lead
Wanted and Salt
Hollywood's highest paid actress turns out as a CIA spy and then as an uber-assassin.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Malay-born Yeoh was the centre of this successful martial arts film.
Kill Bill (I & II)
Relaunched her career as The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo in the Quentin Tarantino cult classic.
Starring role in the 2003 vampire action film led to a number of sequels.
Resident Evil series
The model turned actor has been dubbed the "reigning queen of kick-butt" for this series.
Million Dollar Baby
Oscar triumph was her reward for a compelling portrayal of a waitress turned pro-boxer.
Her avenging assassin role built on those in Avatar and The Losers.
Did high intensity physical training for more than three months for her role opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Matrix series
Her "breakthrough" role was as the lethal hacker and rebel Trinity.
Moore as the first woman to join the elite Navy Seals received critical raspberries but it was a winner at the box office.
A remake of La femme Nikita starred Fonda as a hit woman for a secretive government agency.