Female of all ages prove their worth on film in this third chapter of the kick-ass series. They take a beating and a fall to fend for your family and friends. As care-givers, as sisters, daughters, mothers, they open the eyes of children, buttons or not. Unable to fulfill relationships, they can break a boy’s heart, or corrupt and manipulate them. They can also apply bloody, violent force against their opposers – both calculated and by instinct. Let’s go.
Erin – – – You’re Next (2011)
Erin appears to be merely along for the ride when invited and arriving at the parental house of her boyfriend Crispian. The social occasion caters for many, the mother, father, and their grown up sons and daughters, and their respective partners. As a brotherly squabble breaks out at the dinner table, the infliction of shocking violence begins as one brother is killed via a crossbow fired from outside. As all bedlam and terror breaks lose the family are plucked and killed one by one.
In the middle of the flutters of utter anguish, Erin appears to be the most clued up – alert, assertive, quickly taking action, and holding off her own personal panic that devours the house. When grabbed through a broken window, Erin draws first blood from the demented killers, each clad in what appear to be children’s mask of a lamb, a tiger, a wolf etc. As people trapped in the house are slaughtered, Erin is stabbed, finds glass shard in leg, is shot, hurls herself through a window, is bitten, but brutally fights back.
Part of Erin’s heroic, inventive instincts mean one villain is bludgeoned to death with a meat mallet, while another has part of his head literally blended with a food processor. The film, with all its gutsy gore and ferocious manner, feeds into the human longing for vengeful violence against unimaginable evil doers. Thanks largely to Sharni Vinson’s tenacious performance, the movie certainly showcases the kick-ass female character to its fullest, essentially executing a story-line with that premise directly in mind. Perhaps the film-makers had something to get off their chests. – – – Robin Write
Amy Dunne – – – Gone Girl (2014)
“I’m so much happier now that I’m dead.” The minute we hear these lines coming from Nick Dune’s missing, perhaps dead wife, the entirely of David Fincher’s thriller/drama/pitch-black satire on how media sensationalizes tragedy, changes. We not only hear how she put the events in motion, we also hear her reasoning for it, as well as, perhaps, an insight into the plight of women and feminism in the form of an archetype, the “Cool Girl”. The story transforms into a battle of wills between two people who have gone from an idealized vision of a happy and content marriage, to an ugly, rotting corpse of what’s really left between them.
Pike’s Dune isn’t likable. She’s a calculating, near-sociopathic bitch who takes the term, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and gives it a disturbing and shocking new meaning. And that’s the point, in a nutshell: Gillian Flynn, the film’s screenwriter and author of the book of the same name, wrote this character as all great writers do: as people. Sometimes they can be great, and other times they can be like Amy Dune: bad to the bone. – – – Jonathan Holmes
Summer Finn – – – (500) Days of Summer (2009)
Summer’s kick-ass credentials arise from her refusal to shake off her principles and slight stubbornness by conforming to societal expectations of relationships, and isn’t the faintest bit interested in settling down as the ‘girlfriend’ of a ‘boyfriend’ – she doesn’t do labels because she has reservations about love and relationships. Neither oblivious nor smug about her allure to men, Summer simply gets on with her life each day at a time.
She’s a refreshing character because her life doesn’t revolve around her sexuality and appearance; they’re a part of the package but aren’t the essential components. Plus, her catalogue of indie attributes was the motivation for a new wave of kitsch hipsters across the land: she loves The Smiths, she quoted Belle & Sebastian in her high school yearbook and she likes day trips to IKEA. – – – Rhiannon Topham
Mary Poppins – – – Mary Poppins (1964)
One of the great musicals, heck, one of the greatest films ever made, provides us with one of the most comforting, thrilling characters ever seen on screen. Mary Poppins (a super, uncannily majestic, affectionately ferocious Julie Andrews) arrives to tend to the children of wealthy parents, too preoccupied to give them their full attention.
Poppins is unorthodox in her methods of child-minding, as well as her means of transport, and provides a prickly reception to those who meet her. First impressions of stern and strict don’t last though (unlike the original book), the awe-inspiring, poignant coat of warmth and care she leaves in her path is enough to melt the human heart.
Mary Poppins, with the poise of a guardian angel, an idol for children and adults alike, oozes so much love and magic through her meaningful methods – that chores work best through song, being transported from Edwardian London to animated rural setting, the literal bond of laughter and levitation etc – before she is off and gone with the wind. – – – Robin Write
Coraline Jones – – – Coraline (2009)
An animated youngling but no less deserving than any other fleshy submission, Coraline trespasses fiercely into heroic territory by giving the middle finger to an artificially galvanised happiness in favour of her dry reality and all that it entails; the good, the bad, even the unfathomably ugly. How many of us wouldn’t be tempted to just allow our awareness to freefall into the fabricated euphoria of the rabbit hole, letting go of the dull and the bitter once and for all? How many wouldn’t grab the chance to make everything permanently… perfect
And this is exactly where this little azure-haired 11-year-old fighter towers over you and me – by proving that when we catch ourselves envying the greenness of the grass on the other side of the fence, all we have to do is to just lovingly garden our own freaking foliage to blinding, emerald brilliance. Really, it’s that simple. Well, that, and to avoid sewing buttons into our eye sockets but, you know, I’d like to think that’s kind of a given. – – – The Greek
Éowyn – – – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
J. R. R. Tolkien created the character of Éowyn, and countless others, in his epic fantasy compendium, long before Miranda Otto brought her to live on screen in Peter Jackson’s extraordinary trilogy. Not until the third installment does Éowyn really get her teeth into the action. Having to somehow be advised by other characters, including Aragorn to whom she holds a special place in her heart, that her female duties are with the people back home.
Éowyn, with her huge spirit and brave soul, is listening to nobody shackling her good intentions, she armors up and travels with Merry to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Her crowning moment comes after seeing her uncle Théoden mortally wounded by the witch-king riding a fell-beast. Éowyn stands herself between her uncle and her enemy, quickly severing the head of the fell-beasts before being out fought by the witch-king – “No man can kill me.” Intervening Merry gives the upper hand back to Éowyn – “I am no man!” before jolting her sword full force through the witch-king’s head.
Théoden witnesses with pride. Although disguising herself as a man, it was far better that Jackson and his team allowed the audience to know of her identity, rather than trying to surprise us with the gender reveal. Éowyn may not be chosen by Aragorn in the end, but that was ultimately his loss. – – – Robin Write
Dame Marjorie “Maude” Chardin – – – Harold and Maude (1971)
When asked to write about a kick-ass female character, why did I choose Maude – an 80 year old lady? Maude is one of the most life-affirming characters there is. The film introduces us to the surprisingly energetic woman, who despite her age is trying new things to life to the fullest. In the film she acts as a symbol of adventure, showing Harold who at so young has already become bored.
Maude is at a point in her life where she doesn’t care what others think of her, and believes in the philosophy of “you are as young as you feel.” Against all conventions, she is not your usual old lady. That is why, she is a kick-ass female character. – – – Thomas Pollock
Marquise de Merteuil – – – Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Marquise de Merteuil has transcended Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ book Les Liaisons dangereuses and the following play by Christopher Hampton, before Glenn Close took on the role with immaculate disposition in Stephen Frears’ marvelous film version – also adapted for the screen by Hampton. Accompanied by the remarkable John Malkovich and magnetic Michelle Pfeiffer, not to mention Philippe Rousselot’s photography and James Acheson’s costumes, Merteuil shines in Close’s hands – a villainous, relentless woman of stealthy wit and power.
Looking to take vengeance on her former lover, arranging the seduction the virgin Cécile, Merteuil enlists sometimes lover Vicomte de Valmont into her torrid plans. His unexpected love for Madame de Tourvel turns the cogs of human impulse on its head, but Valmont being embroiled heavily already in Merteuil’s wicked games means this does not end well. Merteuil subtly pushing people into the wrong arms and places is soon her downfall. Although a disgraced Merteuil’s schemes are later revealed to the entirety of Paris, she remains a character that echoes a dangerous intelligence and unequivocal influence. – – – Robin Write
Pina – – – Roma città aperta (1945)
Roberto Rossellini’s Roma, Citta Aperta (Open City) is known for two things: kicking-off the groundbreaking Italian Neorealist Movement that changed international cinema forever and, second, launching international recognition of “la Lupa”, Anna Magnani, who Rossellini called “the greatest acting genius since Eleanora Duse” and who already had a well-established acting career domestically.
In the film, Pina (Magnani) is caught between occupying fascists and Nazis and resistance fighters in WWII Rome while trying to maintain a normal semblance of life, including marrying her fiancé by whom she is already pregnant. Yet all attempts at normalcy are constantly challenged, even threatened.
Pina tries to maneuver her way through the entangled web of informants and betrayals to save a simple family life, and it’s Magnani’s fiery presence on the side of human decency that anchors the film’s moral core as she takes on everyone from friends and family to the clergy to the oppressors themselves. Anna Magnani was “salt of the earth” – powerful, unglamorous and in a class of her own. – – – Steve Schweighofer
Ree Dolly – – – Winter’s Bone (2010)
Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough role in Debra Granik’s gritty, compelling Winter’s Bone is arguably her finest. As teenage Ree stuck in rural America, taking it upon herself to look after her brother, sister, and mentally unstable mother, here is a character dealt a very rough hand, but will not be backed into a corner without a fight. On the verge of losing their home because of the long time absent father, Ree wants only to protect her family from this hardship, but is determined to, and kind of pushed towards, finding proof of either their father’s disappearance or his death.
Stepping into the neighborhood of drugs and violence, and amidst all the threats on the family’s livelihood, Ree is assaulted by the hostile folk she seeks out for answers, but gets to her feet again and digs a little deeper. The horrific truth uncovered paradoxically settles the waters, and we can take solace in the resolution with a handful of hope, that Ree can return to teaching her younger brother and sister the basic survival skills they might need to survive. – – – Robin Write