1941: Donna punches Birkhead out for making an unwelcome pass at her early on and can fly a plane well enough to avoid being shot down in an Unfriendly Fire situation despite having zero training or experience.
Lasseter, who kickstarts the plot by revealing Mike's training to him before he can be assassinated by the TOUGHGUY operatives, and later rescues him from the crashed car before Laugher blows it up. She ends up subduing Yates during the final action sequence.
Phoebe also shows that she's a crack shot with a gun and shows some unarmed combat skills. This foreshadows that she's also CIA.
Anna: The eponymous character herself. She's a highly trained assassin for the KGB, and puts down numerous far larger men with just martial arts, never mind guns.
Anna and the Apocalypse: Anna and Steph; Anna's first reaction upon seeing the person she tried to help is a zombie is to whack it with her bag, then decapitate it with a seesaw, before going on to kill more zombies on screen than anyone else, while Steph is able to handle zombies well on her own and decapitates the first zombie we see her fight with a toilet seat.
The Archer: Lauren is a very skilled archer who uses her prowess to fight, and also knows martial arts. Rebecca also fights to a lesser extent, but isn't as skilled.
Ahn Ok Yun (Jun Ji-Hyeon), the sole female assassin in the 2015 South Korean film Assassination.
Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) in John Carpenter's original Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). She starts out as just a secretary in a police station but becomes an action girl when the nearly-abandoned station is under siege by a street gang during the night and fights them off along with the lone policeman and two convicts. She keeps her cool especially in comparison to the other secretary who panics.
Anna Valerious in Van Helsing. She is eager and ready to get into a fight. However, she is a Faux Action Girl via The Worf Effect throughout the film, though the finale acts as a redeemer. She successfully vanquishes her nemesis Aleera, and she doesn't hesitate to throw herself at Van Helsing's werewolf form to cure him. She succeeds at the expense of her life. Were it not for the fact that Anna was fighting supernatural monsters, she'd be a carbon copy of Selene.
The Car: Road to Revenge: Daria grew up in the worst neighbourhood in the city and, although more refined now, has lost none of the skills she learnt there. She is an expert shot and can hold her own in a hand-to-hand fight against the worst street scum the city has to offer, even if they are cybernetically enhanced.
Francesca Bruni in 2005's Casanova. Your brother is a poor swordsman who's got himself into a duel? No problem, just take his place and kick ass!
Kyra has developed into one by The Chronicles of Riddick, beating up various men larger than she is, evading an alien helldog, and even holding out against the Necromongers for a while.
Pam Grier made a career out of playing this kind of character in a number of Blaxploitiation movies in the 1970s, at a time when female action characters were unusual, and black ones even more unusual. Her characters are not only proficient fighters, but are usually the ones to initiate the action and take the fight to her enemies.
In Black Mama, White Mama her character, Lee Daniels, is an escaped convict who has to fight for her survival against both gangsters and law enforcement.
The title character in Coffy from 1973 was one of the first full-fledged examples of a female Blaxploitation hero. She is nurse who turns vigilante when her sister falls victim to the drug trade, using both her sex appeal to infiltrate the drug gangs and then her fighting skills to extract a bloody revenge.
In Foxy Brown, which is a Spiritual Successor to Coffy, she plays a very similar role: an ordinary citizen turned vigilante and using sex and violence to take revenge on the bad guys.
Her character in Sheba, Baby is a Private Investigator who takes the law into her own hands. Here, the sex is very downplayed, but she is an accomplished fighter, both hand-to-hand and with guns.
Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) from Conan the Barbarian (1982). Took lessons from master Kiyoshi Yamazaki who worked with Schwarzenegger and Lopez. Swung a sword, looked good doing it.
The Condemned: The two female contestants, Rosa and Yasantwa, are this by necessity to survive on the island. Rosa doesn't last long, while Yasantwa manages longer, killing an attempted rapist in self-defense.
Lynn Redgrave's character Mary O'Donnell in Don't Turn the Other Cheek! single-handedly comes to Russian conman Dmitri and Mexican bandido Max's rescue by beating down about ten or twenty of Huerta's soldiers with her bare hands.
Rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson in Dredd proves herself to be highly capable over the course of the movie. Not only does she mentally kick Kay's butt multiple times, but she rescues herself when she gets captured, saves Dredd from the corrupt Judge and even stands up to Dredd with regards to the fate of the Clan Techie. It's no wonder that Dredd gives her a pass at the end of the film.
Eastern Condors: Joyce Godenzi plays the leader of the Cambodian guerrillas who escorts the squad to their target, and racks a up a body count equal to any of the men. There are several other women in the guerillas and they are not far behind her.
Maya from Eight Below. Only female dog and the leader of the pack.
The tragic Su Lin, sister of Lee in Enter the Dragon. It was the star-making role of Angela Mao Ying, who would go on to star in many other Hong Kong martial arts films and received the nickname "Lady Whirlwind".
Fair Game: Conservationist Jessica starts out as the victim, but after she is raped she takes bloody revenge on the three poachers.
Veronica from Final Girl has trained most of her life in armed and unarmed combat. She is extremely good in either case.
In Firestorm (1998), ornithologist Jennifer manages to hold her own for most of the movie, and proves to have a host of skills that are useful when fleeing from a gang of killers in the midst of a forest fire.
Girlfight: The story revolves around Diana's goal to become a boxer. She's trained and has several bouts, but even prior to that she got into a lot of fights.
Scarlet from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is on of the Joes' best and brightest, who wields a high tech crossbow that allows her to easily take out Neo-Vipers. She also held her own in a one on one fight with The Baroness and participated in the Paris chase on the back of a motorcycle.
Laurie may be an even bigger one in the new timeline set up in Halloween (2018), where trauma of the first film's fateful Halloween night, lead to spending the next forty years training herself and her daughter to be Crazy-PreparedSurvivalists in anticipation for Micheal's return.
Mallory Kane in Haywire, played by Gina Carano no less. Notably, due to Carano's extensive background in mixed-martial arts this makes Mallory a much more physical Action Girl than most examples, with her fight scenes being comparable to something you'd see in a Bourne film.
Hercules (2014): Atalanta the Amazon. Cotys is initially doubtful about her skills, believing the coming battle is no place for women, but soon backs down when she shows off her archery prowess.
Park Nam-joo in The Host is an Olympic bronze medal archer. At one point she goes to look for her niece on her own. She survives being hurled into a wall by the creature and sets it on fire by successfully shooting an arrow into its eye
"The Mountain Girl" from D.W. Griffith's Intolerance is one of the earliest, if not the first, film example. She is a Babylonian who isn't particularly interested in romance but likes eating onions and killing Persians. When the Persians attack and she takes to the walls with the rest of the army to fire arrows, she enjoys herself.
Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) from Licence to Kill. Arguably the best example in the whole series. Tough-as-nails, sultry and Crazy-Prepared to the extreme, Pam goes through her film without ever once really needing Bond's assistance; more than a few times she saves him.
Claire from Jurassic World is this trope played in a rather interesting way. As she's the park operations manager, she's hardly an athlete or a trained fighter, but she is a very intelligent and determined survivor, so when she gets a Moment of Awesome, it comes from her wits rather than any physical prowess or training. Despite this, she still saves Owen's life from a Dimorphodon which was attacking him by clubbing it with Owen's tranquilizer rifle and then shooting the pterosaur with it, and she manages to outrun a Tyrannosaurus Rex while in high heels. On top of her, of those sent to try recapture the Indominus Rex, one of the very few survivors of that resulting massacre was also a woman.
The unnamed Girl in Kill Ben Lyk is a parody of this trope. She accidentally kills two other members of the cast.
Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill. Trained by one of the greatest warriors to ever live, she was a professional assassin and is considered the deadliest woman in the world. She single-handedly cuts her way through almost 88 sword-wielding bodyguards before going on to dispatch an entire team of highly-trained assassins in her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The other major females fall into Dark Action Girl territory.
In Last Action Hero, Slater's daughter is one of these, and at first it's played for laughs by subverting the Distressed Damsel — she's screaming mock-hysterically as she kills the mook sent to take care of her. But it's also deconstructed a bit when Slater mentions that she spent her prom night alone in her room, field-stripping an AK-47.
In the first film, Arwen Evenstar carries a wounded Frodo from Weathertop to Rivendell, outrunning the Black Riders.
Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road. Even in a series where being an Action Girl is practically a survival requirement, she's still at the top of the pile. She's a Badass Driver who leads several of Immortan Joe's Wives to keep them out of a constant life of sex slavery. She's also an incredibly good shot and physical fighter, even handing Max his ass several times. A number of critics and fans have begun to call her this generation's Ellen Ripley.
The Magnificent Seven (2016) has Emma, the one that takes to initiative to hire the titular seven to rescue her town, after the Big Bad murders her husband (among other townsfolk). While she's not exactly on par with the Seven, she's the best shot with a rifle out of the townsfolk and while she does have to be saved once by Red Harvest, she makes up for it by finishing off the Big Bad, when he almost kills Chisolm with a concealed gun.
Trinity from The Matrix is probably one of the most iconic examples of this. An unflinching badass takes out dozens of mooks with both kung fu and automatic weapons, and at one point, even manages to get the drop on one of the seemingly invincible "agents".
Mirror, Mirror: Snow White a tough, skilled swordfighter after she's trained by the dwarfs, holding her own against Alcott and even the Beast.
Alex from Momentum, a hi-tech thief with espionage training. In addition to being an expert combatant, she's also skilled in deception and spycraft. Essentially the female version of Bryan Mills.
Anna Fang from Mortal Engines, really shines in this regard, slaughtering the slaver guards of Rustwater with ease, going toe-to-toe with Shrike (albeit unsuccessfully) and engaging in an epic duel with Valentine near the film's end, to distract him while Hester shuts down MEDUSA. She's also an Ace Pilot, flying the Jenny Haniver in the final battle against London's defenses.
Miss Piggy turns into an Action Pig in numerous Muppet movies. You mess with the frog, you will get hurt.
Saga in Mitt liv som hund (My Life as a Dog). She beats all the boys at boxing and is the best on her all-boys' football (soccer) team.
Mythica: Marek is a handicapped badass initially, but learns how to fight with a staff and her magic nonetheless. Many other minor female characters also show skill at combat with regular weapons or magic.
In Once Upon a Spy, Paige Tannehill is a fully-trained K-12 agent (equivalent of a '00' agent in the James Bond franchise) and it is her job to keep Non-Action Guy Jack Chenault alive. She does all of the fighting in the film.
Elizabeth Swann starts off in the first film as a brave and resourceful, but in-experienced and somewhat naive girl, who winds up serving as Distressed Damsel for much of the first movie. But after being rescued, she still proves at least willing help out in battle as much as she can. By the sequel, she's taken enough of a level in badass thanks to her fiance, Will giving her some lessons on sword-play, that she's now more than capable of holding her own in fight, and by the third film, she's gone full on Pirate Girl and ends up leading a fleet a pirates into the Final Battle.
Red Dawn (1984). Teenaged girls Toni and Erica, who subvert the usual trope by being too rugged up in the Colorado winter to be much fanservice. After the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits kill their first Dirty Communists, they state flat out that the guys can do their own washing up. We later see them blasting away in ambushes and using their feminine wiles to get bombs into places where the Russians really don't want them going off.
Interesting little semi-subversion in Red Eye. Rachel McAdams' character is manipulated, abused, and (metaphorically) raped by Cillian Murphy's Magnificent Bastard, and eventually she decides to man up (for want of a better term) and brutalize him with a pen, a shoe, and a field hockey stick. She does pretty well (or at least, well enough not to be a Faux Action Girl), but she still needs the help of Daddy Brian Cox, who also mans up just in time.
In the third Riddick movie, Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is a seasoned mercenary and sniper, and beats up an attempted rapist.
Riot Girls: Nat and especially Scratch are, like the title implies, girls very capable of kicking ass with whatever they can get their hands on.
The women of Old Town in Sin City, as they have to rely on each other for protection from rowdy customers.
Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars often switches in and out of the Action Girl role. She must have got it from her mother, Padme Amidala, who is, incidentally, the best shot with a blaster in the entire series.
Rey, first introduced in The Force Awakens, and The Hero of the Sequel Trilogy is a self-sufficient scavenger-turned-Jedi who is extremely strong in the Force and pretty much the galaxy's last hope against the First Order and Kylo Ren. Notably, she seems to have learned all of her skill in combat by herself, receiving no formal training other than a brief visit to Master Luke on Ahch-To. Growing up on Jakku means one needs to learn to take care of themselves after all.
Jyn Erso, The Hero of Rogue One, is a Rebel soldier trained from childhood by a particularly violent sect of anti-Imperial militants called the Partisans, and is also the person responsible for securing the Death Star plans that allowed the Rebellion to claim victory in A New Hope.
Emma in Steps Trodden Black carries around a switchblade and benches more than her male friends. Her first reaction upon seeing the films monstrous antagonist is to attack it with a hatchet.
Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber from Sucker Punch. They go up against robot zombies, medieval knights, a furious dragon mother and army of robots with barely any protection, and leave scores of bodies behind every single time.
Swashbuckler: Far from being a spoilt. pampered noblewoman, Jane Barnet is fanatically dedicated to freeing her father, regaining her family fortune and liberating Jamaica from Durant's tyranny. She also shows herself be as good with a sword as most of the men, and able to hold her own in Bar Brawl; decking Alice with a single punch.
They Look Like People: Mara playfully demonstrates judo throws and submissions during a date with Christian. Later, when she's Alone with the Psycho, she confidently threatens to knock Wyatt on his ass unless he gets out of her way. Still later, when he's following her to apologize, she pops him in the nose.
Selena in 28 Days Later has this kind of scheme going on. Since 28 Days Later is on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, she may be badass and violent, but she's still just a rather athletic chemist (pharmacist) with a machete. It's therefore understandable when she gets a bit Chickified toward the end when surrounded by a bunch of soldiers.
Undercover Brother. Both Sistah Girl and White She Devil (after she reveals herself as The Mole) demonstrate exceptional martial arts combat skills, including beating up several trained male combatants.
Voyage of the Unicorn: Miranda turns into one near the end, taking down multiple trolls with only a staff despite her lack of any fighting skills or training shown before.
Fox in Wanted. So much that some people on this wiki have gone as far to say that every scene she was in was a Moment of Awesome.
All orc women in Warcraft (2016), as they go to battle alongside their male counterparts. The two named she-orcs stand out especially - Garona's kill count rivals that of Lothar, while Draka at one point murders another orc with her teeth.
We Are the Night: The female vampire quartet are all quite capable of combat, largely with their super strength. Lena kills a Russian mobster, then the others slaughter all but one among their gang. Charlotte then kills an entire SWAT team, while Lena and Louise get into a vicious battle later.
Went the Day Well?: Ivy and Peggy, Land Army Girls who play a role in the climatic shootout, being among the few locals with any kind of military training in a position to help during the climax. Both are decent shots, move around to counter the German advancement, and keep cool heads.
What Keeps You Alive: Both Jules and Jackie are good with guns, particularly the latter, who is also handy using a knife.
Gwen Conliffe from The Wolfman (2010) eventually becomes the Victorian equivalent of this when she becomes so motivated by trying to save Lawrence that she totes a gun around while running around in a dark forest in the middle of the night — certainly breaking the Damsel in Distress version of her character from 1941.
Blink's powers make her extremely effective in fighting the Sentinels, both in taking them out herself and assisting the others in fighting them.
Mystique is the only mutant back in the past who's been doing anything for the last few years (Magneto has been incarcerated inside the Pentagon for a decade, and Xavier's been moping around the house since the start of The Vietnam War). Even when the plot takes off, she's still the most active character.
Franchises and creators with large bodies of Action Girl work:
Action Girls were not common in early movies, as the true form usually requires convincing hand-to-hand combat skills. However, a female character in a Western or Pirate movie could get away with the role. Maureen O'Hara is probably the most famous. She had a powerful screen personality, great acting skills, and an ungodly beauty that could carry any part. She also always looked to be having enormous fun whenever she got in a swordfight, most particularly in Against All Flags (as a Pirate Girl) and At Sword's Point (as the daughter of one of The Three Musketeers!).
Marybeth from Hatchet is a deadly shot with a gun and never backs down from a fight against Victor Crowley.
Sidney Prescott from the Scream films always stands up to the killer at the end of each movie, and truly grows into the role in Scream 4, where she actively hunts down the killer and fights them with confidence.
Erin from You're Next deserves a special mention while most Final Girls are victimised before they take a level in badass, her treatment of her attempted killers is so gloriously brutal that it becomes a case of The Hunter Becomes the Hunted. Shes so vicious that when the police arrive they mistake her for the killer.
Jessie from Wrong Turn is proactive throughout the movie, but although she picks up a Distress Ball in the climax, she ultimately proves herself to be this by fighting back against the evil cannibals harder than before. She wields a bow& arrow and an axe within the same fight.
In Aliens, Ellen Ripley was slowly converted from a Final Girl into an early example of the Action Girl. Her performance earned her an oscar nomination and the number 8 spot on the AFI's Greatest Heroes list. She frequently appears on lists of the best female Heroes. We also see Vasquez, a butch action girl.
In the first two Terminator films, Sarah Connor grows from Distressed Damsel to one of the most badass heroines of all time, perhaps the only other that can truly stand beside Ellen Ripley.
Mace in Strange Days. It pretty much takes an entire police SWAT team to kick her ass. Justified in that she's a professional bodyguard, whom you'd reasonably expect to be able to kick someone's ass if necessary.
Most recently, in Avatar we have Trudy Chacón who goes out all guns blazing, the Na'vi princess Neytiri and — while not quite an Action Girl in this film — Sigourney Weaver's Dr. Grace Augustine, who's still no Distressed Damsel.
The "Fighting Woman" or "Da Nu" has a long tradition in Chinese and Hong Kong cinema. In particular, characters played by Cheng Pei-Pei (60s and 70s), Brigitte Lin, Michelle Yeoh (both 80s and 90s; coincidentally, she played the aforementioned Wai Lin), and now Zhang Ziyi.
Yeoh, Zhang and Cheng came together as Shu-lien, Jen, and Jade Fox of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The sequence in the bar is FANTASTIC, as well as the fight between Shu and the rebel Jen.
Thai actress Jeeja Yanin has also made a name for herself in martial arts movies in recent years, starring in films such as ChocolateRaging Phoenix, and Jukkalan (a.k.a. This Girl is Badass)
In the 1980s, the so-called "girls with guns" subgenre took off in Hong Kong action cinema. Despite its name, the "guns" in question were usually quickly discarded in favor of bareknuckle brawling, thus making more straightforward Action Girl stars out of Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Khan, YukariOshima and Cynthia Rothrock. The latter two were actual martial artists (and Oshima was also a stuntwoman), making this borderline Truth in Television.
Tony assembles the Mark 42 around Pepper in one scene, which she then uses to save Tony. Pepper also gets injected with Extremis later, allowing her to save Tony from the similarly super-powered Killian.
Black Panther gives us Okoye, the commander of the Dora Milaje, and Nakia, an exceptional Wakandan spy. Even T'Challa's little sister Shuri, whose primary aptitude is in designing Wakanda's incredible technology, proves herself capable of combat in the film's climactic battle.
None of the aforementioned women can hold a candle to Carol Danvers, the eponymous Captain Marvel. She is touted as the most powerful character in the entire MCU, even more powerful than Thanos.
Ukrainian model/actress Milla Jovovich frequently plays Action Girls. She has the attractiveness to get by in Hollywood, and the lean, rangy body of a female athlete.
Mothra has been the Kaiju version of an action girl since her first appearance, and is arguably one of the most successful ones ever, starring in her own film series, and appearing frequently in the Godzilla franchise. In the case of the latter, she's one of the few monsters to ever defeat Godzilla (and did it with no fancy powers), is willing to stand up to King Ghidorah in her larva form, and usually takes on the role of The Smart Guy and Only Sane Man during team-ups.
The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen has been the breadwinner in her family since her father died, and was a talented hunter even before that. She's lethal with a bow and when she enters the Hunger Games, she puts those skills to use. She quickly proves herself to be formidable, intelligent and determined. She manages to beat out other competitors that are not only physically stronger and working together, but whom have been training their entire lives to kill.
Her first solo movie introduces the rest of the Amazons, a literal Amazon Brigade of Action Girls, including her mother, Hippolyta and her aunt, Antiope. They also appear in both versions of Justice League. The latter films also have the goddess Artemis during the battle in ancient times against the armies of the New Gods, in which she shoots divine arrows that are powerful enough to down spaceships.