Rather than just waiting to be rescued, the 10 best wome fighting in movies can hold their own against the bad guys. Male movie stars have been playing super-heroic action roles for decades; starting in the 1980s, some female stars got their chances as well. In the 21st century, female action heroes are as popular and powerful as their male counterparts.

  1. Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens.” Writer-director James Cameron flirted with making Linda Hamilton a female action star in his breakthrough hit, 1984’s "The Terminator".  But Hamilton had to wait until the sequel for most of her action scenes, and meanwhile, Weaver became the first true female action hero in Cameron’s next film, 1986’s Aliens. In this and the following films, Weaver’s Lt. Ripley was the only force that could survive the voracious, chest-bursting alien parasites.

  2. Anne Parillaud in “La Femme Nikita.” French director Luc Besson has created several action classics, including “The Fifth Element.” His 1990 film about an ex-junkie trained as a government assassin inspired American remakes for both film and TV. The explosive action scenes set a new standard for action heroes of the ‘90s, both male and female.

  3. Patricia Arquette in “True Romance.” Quentin Tarantino’s first script gave Arquette a plum role as Alabama, a call girl helping boyfriend Christian Slater battle gangsters. Alabama’s confrontation with a mob hitman is classic Tarantino. Trapped in a hotel room, at his mercy and without weapons, she nevertheless makes him wish he’d never shown up for work that day.

  4. Michelle Yeoh in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” By 2000, Yeoh had already established herself as an action star in Hong Kong and America, playing opposite Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. In Ang Lee’s swordfighting epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” she starred in some of the most beautiful fight scenes ever filmed. Young Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi had some amazing combat sequences as well.

  5. Angelina Jolie in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” Lara Croft was one of the first videogame heroines, kicking butt and finding clues to solve archeological puzzles. The similarly-stacked Jolie was perfect to play her in the inevitable movie, which, unlike many videogame movies, was actually watchable. Jolie also showed off her fight training in the 2003 sequel and in 2005’s unrelated action thriller Mr. And Mrs. Smith.”    

  6. Milla Jovovich  in “Resident Evil.” “Resident Evil” was another videogame brought to life. But Jovovich’s Alice was a new creation just for the film, a super-powered engine of destruction making a one-woman stand against the zombie apocalypse. Alice is one of the longer-lived action heroines, starring in three sequels since her 2002 debut.

  7. Miranda Otto in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” J.R.R. Tolkien’s immortal characters include Eowyn, one of the first female fantasy heroes. In the 2003 conclusion of the acclaimed film trilogy, Miranda Otto demonstrates what makes Eowyn so special. She destroys the leader of the Dark Riders, the nightmarish ghost-warriors created by the magical rings.

  8. Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2.” Thurman’s starring role in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” did not involve any action scenes, as she spent most of the film unconscious. During the filming of “Pulp Fiction,” Tarantino promised to create an action hero Thurman would enjoy playing. The result was The Bride, who battled her way through four hours of mayhem, revenge, violence and heartbreak in 2003 and 2004.

  9. Malin Akerman in “Watchmen.” The graphic novel "Watchmen" did not reveal how a woman wearing a silk negligee could stand alongside superheroes like Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan. The 2009 film version revealed that Akerman’s Silk Spectre survived because of her incredible combat skills. Even fans who were conflicted by the film’s changes to the original story had to admit the fight scenes were spectacular.   

  10. Scarlett Johansson in “Iron Man 2.” The original “Iron Man” comics introduced the Black Widow, a superspy recruited by the good guys. Johansson’s film version of the character included the red-hot hair, the sexy skintight outfit and, most importantly, the ability to take out a roomful of thugs. Johansson’s stunning screen presence steals the show from talents like Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson, no mere feat in itself.