The 12 most badass action films with powerful female leads


Hollywood is finally moving closer to equality. The past few years have seen a growing number of films starring, written by and directed by women. There's still a lot of progress yet to be made, of course. But there's one area where women have been kicking butt and taking names for decades: action films. Ironically, action films are stereotyped as the launching pad of the manliest of manly men: Schwarzenegger, The Rock, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone and so on. But some of the biggest action hits, both critically and commercially, are led by women.

If you're looking to expand your home video library for the holidays or just searching for a great holiday playlist while taking out some healthy aggression, here are 12 of our all-time favorite films featuring strong women front and center.


No. 12: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

Quentin Tarantino has a complicated relationship with some of his female actors, especially Uma Thurman, who criticized the director's disregard for her personal safety during the making of the Kill Bill films. But there's no denying Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a tour de force that brought QT back into Hollywood's good graces after the box office setback of Jackie Brown (another kickass female-led film, btw). The Bride's tale of revenge is riveting, violent and even funny at times. It's impossible not to look at, as Thurman leaves a bloody trail in her quest for justice against the evil Bill. The action peaks in an insane battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88 but the entire movie is a re-watchable blast from start to finish and will help kill the time until the dynamic duo reunites for Kill Bill 3!

Watch it now: Kill Bill Vol. 1, $3.99; on Amazon


No. 11 The Hunger Games (2012)


Jennifer Lawrence is an Oscar winner and social media icon. But she first connected with mass audiences in her role as Katniss Everdeen. The entire Hunger Games trilogy was a smash hit but the first entry in the series remains our personal favorite. Not everything has aged perfectly since the film first premiered. While we love Josh Hutcherson in Future Man, he's a little short for a Stormtrooper, as another iconic female lead once famously said. Nonetheless, J-Law carries this film on her charisma and completely sells her journey from humble daughter to deadly revolutionary.

Watch it now, $3.99; on Amazon


No. 10 Captain Marvel (2019)

Brie Larson is one of most talented young actors in Hollywood today. So, when she signed up to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were understandably excited. And Captain Marvel did not disappoint. The film is already one of the most financially successful in the Marvel franchise and Larson's character Carol Danvers was able to seamlessly take a leading role in an already massive cast of proven winners. The movie was subject to some controversy because of Larson's outspoken advocacy on social issues and some of the ensuing backlash from vocal minorities on social media. Now that there's been enough time for that noise to pass, we're left with the movie itself to judge. And it's simply a blast. Larson has natural chemistry on-screen with Samuel L. Jackson that leads to plenty of laughs. Jude Law makes a compelling foil for Captain Marvel and the film is full of surprising and fun twists. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is stronger with Brie Larson in it and this is a film we'll be watching on repeat while we wait for the next installment.

Watch it now, $14.99 with bonus content; on Amazon


No. 9 La Femme Nikita (1990)

The 1990 action thriller from director Luc Besson was ahead of its time both stylistically and, of course, in its story centered around Nikita. The story has been remixed, copied and redone so many times, we've lost count. But this one still has so much going for it. If you like Marvel's Black Widow, or pretty much any Angelina Jolie action film, you'll love this one. The less said the better, as its plot and incredible action sequences are better kept in all their surprising glory. That said, this one is a hard rated "R," so don't show it to your daughters or their friends until they are age-appropriate!

Watch the original trailer here


No. 8 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

It's hard to properly explain just how influential Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was upon its release. But consider just some of its accomplishments: An international film that was both a box-office smash and an awards contender. These days, we're a bit more accustomed to our action and superhero films also being genuinely "good" films, but that was rarely the case when Crouching Tiger first premiered. It's revolutionary fighting "wire work" continues to influence action films nearly 20 years later and Michelle Yeoh has gone on to several leading roles in other Hollywood films and TV shows including Crazy Rich Asians, Star Trek: Discovery, and the forthcoming Avatar sequels with female action star pioneer James Cameron. It's all a circle, folks.

Watch it now, $6.99; on Amazon

No. 7 Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

To most people, this is a Tom Cruise vehicle. But the real action star of the film is clearly co-star Emily Blunt. She's everything we've come to expect out of a typical Cruise role: confident, no-nonsense and ready for whatever the impossible mission requires. Their chemistry in this film is perfect, with Cruise playing off Blunt's mastery with his own anxious ticks, paranoia, chicanery and fear-driven choices. When Blunt's character Rita is forced to take Cruise's Cage under her wing, the sparks fly in a riveting, action-packed film that has a really unique and emotional story to boot. Rumors of a sequel and/or prequel (trust us, it's part of the film's charm) continue to circulate but this feels like more of a one-off gem for both Blunt and Cruise. We'd be first in line to see them pair up on the screen a second time, but only if Blunt stays in charge.

Watch it now, $7.99 with bonus features; on Amazon


No. 6 Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman is a great metaphor for the state of superhero movies. Marvel films are the dominant force and they are almost entirely centered around male characters. Then, along came this unexpected megahit from DC Comics starring Gal Gadot, who had previously made her mark in smaller supporting roles in films like the Fast and the Furious series. And Gadot is nothing short of a revelation as Wonder Woman, a film that rocked the box office and won over critics alike. Wonder Woman is a perfect bridge for women who are reluctant to watch superhero films and for guys who are hesitant to watch a film led by a strong woman. Diana is everything we want out of our heroes and she has a great supporting partner in Chris Pine's Steve Trevor. Director Patty Jenkins captures the action and emotional arcs in vivid colors and crisp action sequences. Wonder Woman truly raised the bar for women in superhero films and for the genre in general.

Watch it now, $7.99; on Amazon

No. 5 The Force Awakens (2015)

Oh, how time flies. It's only been four years since Star Wars returned to the big screen. And it's easy to forget what a big deal this film was. It shattered the domestic box office record and silenced most of the critics who thought the George Lucas prequel trilogy was a serious letdown. And the whole thing hinges on the performance of Daily Ridley's young Jedi in training, Rey. Yes, millions of us showed up to catch a glimpse of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo back on the big screen, but director J.J. Abrams was clear this would be a story about the next generation of galaxy heroes and he didn't disappoint. Despite some backlash over whether Rey was "too strong" in the Force, this movie and its sequel The Last Jedi were both massive hits. And re-watching The Force Awakens is a reminder of what a journey Rey has already gone on before her trilogy is even complete.

Watch it now, $12.99 with bonus features; on Amazon


No. 4 Rogue One (2016)

The strongest of the non-Skywalker Star Wars film, Rogue One continues to grow in audience appreciation over time. Jyn Erso is a classic Star Wars character while also feeling entirely new. Her journey as a reluctant member of the nascent Rebel Alliance is highly relatable and emotionally satisfying. And unlike so many other prequels, Rogue One brilliantly queues up the original Star Wars trilogy in a surprising and heart-racing fashion. Rogue One is the most "adult" of the Star Wars films but never feels gloomy despite high stakes and ultimately tragic story. It's also one of the most re-watchable movies of the past decade and would make a fine addition to your home library. The Force is strong with this one.

Watch it now, $3.99; on Amazon

No. 3 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

And now we're in true action epic territory. Much like with Edge of Tomorrow, it's easy to mistakenly assume this is an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. After all, his Terminator is all over the marketing and has become a timeless global icon. Arnie's T-800 is the only character to appear in all films, including the increasingly weak sauce sequels and spinoffs. But purists know there are really only two Terminator films and Linda Hamilton's Sarah Conner is the star of both. In the first film, Conner is a frightened woman on the run who discovers her inner strength through her comrade, savior and future lover Kyle Reese. It's a tender romance hidden in the confines of a action-horror masterpiece. By 1991, director and writer James Cameron decided to push the budget, story and female empowerment to an entirely new level. When we catch up with Sarah Conner she's a broken woman. No one believes her story about the futuristic killing machine out to destroy humanity, not even her young son, John. It's a set-up that is reminiscent of so many action films previously starring men. But the simple gender twist puts an entirely new meaning into the proceedings. In the same way that Conner learns to be tough in the first film, she rediscovers her vulnerability through her son John but not before kicking an extreme amount of ass along the way. Despite being very much a product of its time, Terminator 2 has aged nearly perfectly after almost three decades, something even the best of films can rarely say. The fact that this applies to a film heralded for its special effects, is even more surprising. And that's all because it's anchored in the incredible story of Sarah Conner. Arnold may "be back" but Sarah Conner isn't going anywhere.

Buy it now, $9.99 Special Edition; on Amazon

No. 2 Aliens (1986)

Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Ripley in the Alien sequel, also written and directed by James Cameron. Like Sarah Conner, Ripley has transformed physically but carries deep scars of emotional vulnerability. In its own powerful way, Aliens is a textbook guide to countering gender norms and sexism. Ripley is never judged for being a woman. She's judged for her personal capabilities and wow is Ripley ever capable. Aliens is a film that spawned a dozen catch-phrases and countless other signature visuals and plot elements that have been shameless copies by other filmmakers over the past 30+ years. If you've never seen Aliens, it might almost feel familiar because you've probably seen so many of its elements in lesser films that came later. But it's themes are timeless: corporate greed run amock and a hero standing alone in the face of doubt against seemingly insurmountable odds. The superior Director's Cut is over two and a half hours but rest-assured this isn't the Irishman. We challenge you to put on Aliens and see if you're able to stop before it's over. Some film critics prefer the original and we're here for Alien any time, anywhere. But put us in the camp of preferring the sequel when it comes to pure storytelling, that re-watchable factor and the sheer mastery of craft on display. It simply doesn't get better than this.

Watch it now, $3.99; on Amazon

No. 1 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, this isn't just the best female-led action movie ever, it's one of the best films of the 21st century, period. The fact that it's the fourth entry in a loosely connected series of action films previously starring Mel Gibson is even more impressive. And let's not forget this film came out at a time when Tom Hardy was on top of the world. But anyone who sees Fury Road will quickly realize this film absolutely belongs to Charlize Theron and the band of "mothers" she's set out to protect from the radiation laden war boys who want to use them as baby factories to populate their dying world. On the surface, Fury Road is a two-hour action sequence, full of cars, guns and, yes, guitars with flame throwers on them. We're here for you, Duff. But it's almost a subtle and satisfying master class in feminism that breaks and reshapes so many cinematic tropes that it's nearly impossible to keep count. Fury Road is the kind of film that will be taught in universities for decades to come but can also be thrown on at any respectable midnight movie screening. It's the purest form of pop culture as art, commentary and cinema. It's a shame that it didn't take home the top prize for Best Picture but it's also obviously the one that will be remembered as the best movie of the year as it endures the test of time. An absolute classic and the perfect popcorn film with layers of depth for anyone looking for a great time (with great women) at the movies.

Watch it now, $3.99; on Amazon


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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Wikimedia Commons and Goalsetter

America's ethnic wealth gap is a multi-faceted problem that would take dramatic action, on multiple fronts, to overcome. One of the ways to help communities improve their economic well-being is through financial literacy.

Investopedia says there are five primary sources of financial education—families, high school, college, employers, and the military — and that education and household income are two of the biggest factors in predicting whether someone has a high level of financial literacy.

New Orleans Saints safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and social justice activist Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation hope to help bridge the wealth gap by teaching students about investing at a young age.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.