Pop Culture’s Fiercest Warrior Women

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From her shaved head and war rig to her mechanical arm, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road has been a high point of the new film. A determined action hero who is resourceful and fierce, Miller’s surprisingly feminist post-apocalyptic tale is a welcome addition to the canon where badass female warriors reign. While Furiosa is become compared to Ellen Ripley from Alien, we’ve rounded up a few other great warrior women to appreciate. Feel free to add your favorite picks, below.

Zula

Grace Jones trained for her role as warrior outlaw Zula in Conan the Destroyer for 18 months, and accidentally put two stuntmen in the hospital during pre-production. Jones’ character is just as fierce as Jones herself: she saves the Queen’s niece from certain death and even challenges the heroic Conan’s treatment of her. Did we mention her warrior outfit has a tail? And Zula’s advice on love and relationships remains the best of any: “Grab him! And take him!”

Xena

Lucy Lawless’ Xena was groundbreaking. She didn’t look like the sexpot warrior women of pop culture past. She fought alongside an Amazon princess (later, a queen) — and their relationship was full of lesbian subtext. And Xena was a complex blend of vulnerable and brave.

Aunty

Yas queen.

Yu Shu Lien

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Michelle Yeoh on the feminist aspects of the film:

If you read a lot of Chinese literature, there has always been very strong women figures — warriors, swordswomen — who defended honor and loyalty with the men. So it’s not new to our culture, it’s always been very much a part of it. It’s good that now the Western audience would have a different image of the Chinese women. Where for a while, it was very stereotypical — the demure, very quiet, strong in a very silent way.

Yuki

Quentin Tarantino was influenced by Lady Snowblood when he made Kill Bill for a reason. A rape revenge classic about a young girl raised for vengeance, Meiko Kaji’s Yuki is a ruthless fighter who will stop at nothing to avenge the wrongdoings against her family.

Brienne of Tarth

Actress Gwendoline Christie talks about her role as loyal warrior Brienne of Tarth on HBO’s Game of Thrones:

I wanted the part so very badly because from reading the books the character was so like elements of myself and the kind you’d always want to play. I’ve not come across a part like this before, whereby the complexities of being an extremely tall woman are explored. So I decided I had to go all out for it.

Katniss Everdeen

Trading a loin cloth and metal corset for fashion-savvy modern duds, Katniss is every bit the warrior woman on a mission of survival. Film critic Manohla Dargis on why Katniss is a new heroine for a new age:

One reason Katniss may be speaking to so many is that she doesn’t just seem to be a new kind of female character but also represents an alternative to an enduring cultural type that the literary critic R. W .B. Lewis described as the American Adam. Lewis saw this type as “an individual emancipated from history, happily bereft of ancestry, untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of family and race; an individual standing alone, self-reliant and self-propelling, ready to confront whatever awaited him with the aid of his own unique and inherent resources.” Katniss, by contrast, is never liberated from history or ancestry, but deeply formed by them and they, as much as her awesome archery skills, help her through the slaughter of the games.

Éowyn

Miranda Otto played shieldmaiden Éowyn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film series adaptation. In Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Éowyn disguises herself as a man before riding into battle — which is the best middle finger, ever.

Mulan

A young girl goes to war and overcomes adversity, becoming a Disney heroine. Mulan’s character is based on a legendary woman warrior from the Southern and Northern Dynasties in China. Read more about the brave Hua Mulan, over here.