It was 20 years ago today that the legendary action movie Léon was released to critical and commercial acclaim. 12-year-old Natalie Portman stole the show as the apprentice hit-woman, despite world-class acting support from Gary Oldman, Jean Reno and Danny Aiello.
We take this opportunity to present 9 other classic anti-heroines who have blown away generations of film-lovers with their sexiness and sassiness.
Bonnie Parker, Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde were a real-life crime duo who caused havoc in 1930s America. This 1967 film portrayed Bonnie Parker (played by Faye Dunaway) as a cigar-smoking femme fatale who you would not want to get on the wrong side of. Check out her skills with a shotgun and gorgeous choice of hats throughout the movie.
Nikita, La Femme Nikita
Assassins seem to be the theme of cinematic anti-heroines. Wan and drug-addicted Nikita (Anne Parillaud) goes on a killing spree after escaping a life sentence in this 1990 tale of cruelty and revenge.
Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill Parts One and Two
Who can ever forget that yellow jumpsuit? Samurai sword-wielding Beatrix “the Black Mamba” Kiddo was played with understated charisma by Uma Thurman, directed with dark and bloody humour by Quentin Tarantino. Vengeance is the name of the game once Beatrix awakes from a 4-year-long coma…
Shoshanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds
After his homage to Eastern martial arts movies, Tarantino turned his camera on World War II. Perhaps the most memorable of all the characters in Inglourious Basterds is the young Jewish girl Shoshanna Dreyfus whose parents have been murdered by the coolly psychopathic ‘Jew Killer’, Colonel Lander (played by the marvellous Christoph Waltz). Shoshanna’s aim is to kill the top brass of the Third Reich when they visit her cinema.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
Not many good films get made from computer games but Tomb Raider is an exception. This is partly due to a dynamite performance from Angelina Jolie as the titular heroin, jumping, kicking and shooting her way through jungles, deserts, caves and – eventually – an alternative dimension of reality.
The on-screen chemistry between Natalie Portman and Jean Reno is unsurpassed in action film history. Reno’s hitman trains the pubescent Mathilda in the art of extreme violence so that she can take revenge on the corrupt, drug-addled detective who massacred her family.
Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Few screen anti-heroines exude attitude in the same way as Noomi Rapace, the punk rocker-cum-computer hacker from the first adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s much-loved crime novel. She makes light work of an evil rapist and an equally evil murderer.
Hit Girl, Kick Ass
Yet another apprentice hitgirl, except this one is even smaller and even more ferocious. She takes pity on the goofy and inept superhero Kick Ass and helps him try and destroy a criminal empire.
Hanna Heller, Hanna
This 2011 thriller sees our eponymous anti-heroine brought up in rural Finland to be a bloodthirsty killing machine before being sent to chase down the wily CIA officer Marissa Wiegler.
Ellen Ripley, Alien
For many reasons is the protagonist of Alien (1979) regarded as one of the greatest female characters in cinema. In deep space, Ripley’s (played by Sigourney Weaver) starship is assaulted by a terrifying alien beast…
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