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10 Actresses I Didn't Realize Were Total Badasses Until They Took An Action Role

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

There are some actresses out there that are so good at what they do, they often stick to those roles for their career. A great example is Meryl Streep, a queen of dramas (and sometimes hilarious comedies). But other times, actresses who started off in one or two genres, like comedies or dramas or others, take on an action role. 

And it’s then that you realize just how amazingly badass they are. 

From some Marvel superheroes that have become icons for all to gunslingers in zombie worlds, these are ten actresses that have proved they are just as badass at kicking butt as they are acting in general. 

Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider)

At this point Angelina Jolie is known for taking roles in all kinds of genres these days, but it wasn’t until Lara Croft: Tomb Raider that she cemented herself as an action star. Prior to her taking this role, she had appeared in films like Lookin’ to Get Out (alongside her father), Hackers, and even won an Academy Award for Girl, Interrupted - none of which were action roles. 

But as soon as she portrayed the famous video game icon, Lara Croft, in the 2001 adaptation, she showed just how badass she could be. And after that, she went on to be in other badass roles too, including Mr. And Mrs. Smith, and most recently, was a part of the Eternals cast. Thank goodness she ended up taking the role.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1

(Image credit: Miramax)

Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)

Uma Thurman had a career long before both Kill Bill parts came out in the early 2000’s. Prior to that, she had appeared in the film, Dangerous Liaisons (a romantic drama) and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (a black comedy crime movie). Besides that, she also made appearances in other films like Les Misérables, Batman & Robin and more. 

But Kill Bill was the ultimate role for her. I mean, have you seen how badass this woman is here? I could re-watch that scene of her taking on the Crazy 88 every day and still not get sick of it. She’s skillful with a sword and will knock your ass out. Now, if Kill Bill 3 could happen, I could die happy.

Zoe Saldana in both Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox/Marvel)

Zoe Saldana (Avatar/Guardians Of The Galaxy)

Zoe Saldana, at this point in her career, is known for how badass she is, but at one point, she got her start in drama films like Center Stage, Crossroads, The Terminal and more. But then 2009 came along, and the mega-hit that was Avatar released to the world, alongside Saldana as Neytiri, a badass alien that had no qualms about taking her enemies down. 

Saldana further pushed how badass she was by taking on the role of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, a space assassin and a role she would reprise several times in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Seeing as how she is set to both appear in Avatar 2 and Guards of the Galaxy 3, the next couple of years for Saldana are looking quite badass.

Halle Berry in X-Men.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Halle Berry (X-Men)

Before she became a superhero, Halle Berry starred in several different kinds of projects, including the romantic comedy, Boomerang, the comedy Bulworth, and even the television film, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, which she won an Emmy for. 

But in 2000, she took on the role of Storm, a mutant who can control the weather, in X-Men, and she would reprise it for several years afterwards. This in turn led to her appearance in many other badass roles - so much so that she directed her own badass film, Bruised, in 2021. 

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2)

I remember the first time I saw Black Widow in Iron Man 2, I turned to my dad and said “girls can be just as superpowered as boys!” And while he wholeheartedly agreed, it wasn’t until now, as an adult, that I realized just how much Black Widow, and Scarlett Johansson in general, impacted me as a child. 

Scarlett Johansson had done so much prior to stepping into the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, and furthermore, in the MCU. She’s been in dramas like Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Prestige, Match Point, and so many more, but when she donned that classic Black Widow suit and kicked the asses of bad guys all around her, I wonder if she knew how many girls would aspire to love her and want to be just like her - a pure badass. 

It’s because of Black Widow originally that I got into the MCU - and now, with the conclusion of her story in Black Widow, I can say she is one of the most iconic female superheroes ever.  

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld.

(Image credit: Screen Gems)

Kate Beckinsale (Underworld)

Kate Beckinsale was primarily known for dramas prior to her badass role, appearing in Much Ado About Nothing, Cold Comfort, Emma, Pearl Harbor, and more, but in 2003, she decided to step into the badass world with Underworld. 

She played Selene (based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name), who was a vampire-warrior and could freaking kick ass any day. While her movies weren't all super-well received by critics, there’s no denying that they’re a heck of a lot of fun, and opened many doors for Beckinsale to continue starring in action films after, like Total Recall and Van Helsing.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Charlize Theron freaking scares me in Mad Max: Fury Road - and I mean that in the best way. 

I was so used to her in dramatic roles, such as The Italian Job, or North Country, and while Theron had experience with action films before this one, like in Hancock or Prometheus, this film was where she truly shined. There were so many great standouts in Mad Max: Fury Road, but Charlize as Imperator Furiosa was an amazing pick and I could watch her drive across a desert and beat men down anyway. While she isn’t going to be returning to the role for the Furiosa prequel, I can still look back and love her role here.

Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Emily Blunt (Edge Of Tomorrow)

I have to admit - when I first saw Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada cast, I didn't pictured her as a badass. But Edge of Tomorrow changed that. 

Blunt made her way in Hollywood through both dramatic and comedic roles, with some of her biggest being The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau and more. But in 2014, she starred in Edge of Tomorrow alongside Tom Cruise, and damn does she know how to shoot a gun. She’s badass in all the right ways and I will gladly watch her again if there’s ever a sequel. 

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel)

Captain Marvel (in my opinion) is the next Black Widow for the next generation of superhero loving girls, a badass figure to look up to that is so powerful. And she is portrayed by the lovely Brie Larson. 

Prior to this role, though, Larson was not known for being an action star - in fact, she was quite the opposite. Some of her biggest roles were the comedy, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, 21 Jump Street and Room, a serious drama that she won an Academy Award for. 

But in 2019, she entered into the MCU with Captain Marvel, becoming one of the most powerful Avengers there is - while also kicking some Skrull butts along the way. I for one can’t wait to see her in The Marvels soon enough. 

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class.

(Image credit: Lionsgate/20th Century Fox)

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games Series/X-Men)

Last but not least, we have Jennifer Lawrence. While Lawrence was still establishing herself as an actor before she appeared in these roles, action roles weren’t what got her famous originally. She appeared in films such as The Poker House, Winter’s Bone (which got her nominated for an Academy Award) and more, but 2011 and 2012 were game changers for her. 

In 2011, she took on the role of Mystique, a shapeshifting mutant in the X-Men series, a role she reprised several times. In 2012, she starred as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series, which made her a household name. 

Seeing her both as a mutant as well as a heroic woman with just a bow and arrow cemented her spot in history as a badass, and I wish I could get to see her in more roles just like that - besides, don’t lie, you wanted to be Katniss’ bestie and storm the Capitol together, because I was that person too. 

With so many amazing actresses, it’s no wonder most of them ended up going in the direction of action roles and freaking rocking them. Now I need to rewatch all of Black Widow’s appearances again - for research purposes. Where’s my remote?

Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!