14 Actresses That Totally Stole Action Movies From Their Male Costars

List Rules
Vote up the performances that left the lead actors in the dust.

It's an unfortunate reality that action movie leads skew so wildly male, but that hasn't stopped scene-stealing actresses from continuously upstaging the guys over the years. A smaller actor stealing the show is always an impressive feat, but even doubly so in a genre that so heavily focuses on the strengths of its main star, as an action movie does. When the competition for the show is actors like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Reaves, it can be hard to get a word in and make that word count. 

Action movies don't have the best track record when it comes to women. Typically, women in these films are seen as little more than objects to be rescued or fought over. Luckily, there's a new breed of action movie taking root that features equally awesome action heroines to match (and overshadow) the more common male action hero. 


  • In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays US Major William Cage, who finds himself caught in a time loop on the day of an important battle against an alien species. It's not until Emily Blunt's character, Sergeant Rita Vrataski, steps in that Cage is able to discover what causes the time loop he's a part of, and Vrataski begins to train Cage to be a more proficient fighter. 

    In a different character for Cruise, he plays someone that's unsure of themselves and doesn't really know how to fight. In stark contrast, Blunt's Vrataski is calm, cool, collected, and decisive. Vanity Fair commented on this being an odd role for Blunt, but said she was "doing her first real action role and proving herself more than up to the task." Is there anything Emily Blunt can’t do with an abundance of smarts and charm?

  • Chloë Grace Moretz In 'Kick-Ass'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Kick-Ass tells the story of the absurdity of a teenager named Dave Lizewski putting on a super-suit and deciding he can fight for justice. Naturally, Dave absolutely gets his butt kicked, yet still manages to become a national star thanks to a viral video showcasing his exploits. 

    While Dave may not be the best fighter, Hit-Girl, a pre-teen who has trained for years with her father, definitely is. Hit-Girl's star shines even brighter when compared to Dave, who is much older and bigger than her, yet much less of a fighter. 

    After the demise of her father, it's basically Hit-Girl and Hit-Girl alone that allows Dave to defeat Frank D'Amico once and for all, as she is the one who takes out most of the men in the high rise. 

    Chloe Grace Moretz is so good as Hit-Girl that in their review of Kick-Ass, B*tch magazine challenged readers to "find one review that doesn’t say that Hit-Girl steals the show." 

  • Very few characters in cinema have ever been cooler than Sarah Connor, and that includes the Terminator. In Terminator, Sarah Connor is frightened and unsure of how to protect her son. In Terminator 2, on the other hand, Sarah Connor has been preparing for the return of killer robots, and she is now more than capable of handling herself. Not only is she protective of her son throughout the movie, but she goes on the offensive and sets out to slay those who will one day be responsible for starting Skynet. 

    Sure, Arnold is awesome as the Terminator. But, there's something a lot cooler about a mother protecting her son in the face of impossible odds, as opposed to a virtually indestructible robot programmed to fight other robots. 

    SlantMagazine recently wrote about how Hamilton doesn't get the credit she deserves for the role, and that "Hamilton’s doing the heavy lifting in articulating Sarah’s coming to grips with a brutal past, and her monstrous decision for her future that has more to do with making the nightmares stop than with saving humankind." 

  • Mad Max: Fury Road is named for its male star, but it's Theron's Furiosa who steals the show. The film follows Max as he's captured by a warlord named Immortan Joe. While imprisoned, Furiosa, a leader in Joe's army, becomes the driving force of the film's action after she breaks Joe's five wives out of their lives of servitude and escapes with the women. 

    A correspondent for NPR commented on Theron's performance saying that "Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron with the requisite furiosity, more or less owns Fury Road, but she lets Tom Hardy's Max and Nick Hoult's war boy tag along."