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TIFF presents Beyond Badass: Female Action Heroes

TIFF presents Beyond Badass: Female Action Heroes

MAD MAX:FURY ROAD was released earlier this year, audiences all over the world were floored. Not only was it a thrilling action flick loaded with incredible practical effects, but to much of our surprise, it wasn’t about Mad Max at all; the female characters took the reigns in this one, and the result was compelling on so many levels. While the film was lauded by almost every critic that saw it, there was also a puzzling backlash from a small group of misogynistic men who thought that director George Miller had tricked them, and ultimately ruined the franchise by making it female-centric. Insert giant eye roll here.

The truth is women have been been in leading roles in the male dominated action genre for years, but contemporary cinema has one woman to thank for paving the way. Back in 1973, a blaxploitation action flick had Pam Grier in the leading role as COFFY, a vigilante nurse who takes out the mobsters responsible for getting her sister hooked on drugs and eventually her death. Two years later, she starred in FOXY BROWN, where she essentially played the same badass woman taking names and kicking ass as a high class prostitute getting revenge for her boyfriend’s death. An African-American woman leading an action film back in the 70’s with her signature beauty and acting ability opened up audiences to a new type of film experience, one where woman could kick ass just as good (and often better) than men. Quentin Tarantino payed homage to Grier in his 90’s exploitation-style JACKIE BROWN, in which he crafted the role just for her.


If you haven’t seen either of these movies, TIFF is giving us a chance to catch them on the big screen with their Beyond Badass: Female Action Heroes program running this autumn, as programmed by fellow badass, Kiva Reardon.

Thanks to Grier, many of action cinema’s most iconic roles have been woman. Sigourney Weaver became the first woman to head an action franchise when she starred as the unforgettable and forever quotable Ellen Ripley in ALIEN, which is not only a great action movie, but an absolutely terrifying horror movie that keeps you tense from the opening credits.

In the late 80’s and 90’s during the height of beefcake cinema, Linda Hamilton arrived and kicked some major ass. Alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, Hamilton displayed a rock hard bod in TERMINATOR 2:JUDGMENT DAY and showed audiences that a mother would protect her son any way she could, even in the face of a cyborg war.

Luc Besson took the basic formula for female transformed by men, and applied that to LA FEMME NIKITA; and Anne Parillaud definitely showed us that a woman could be turned into a killer just as easily as a man. Sam Rami’s THE QUICK AND THE DEAD is a trope-filled western that challenges the genre’s depositions of women, by putting a female (Sharon Stone) in the leading role of you’re typical western story.


CHARLIE’S ANGELS brought martial arts action films with female leads to the big screen, but made all attempts to keep the stars as feminine as possible, while keeping it fun with a lot of laughs along the way. Owning femininity in a totally different way, the visually stunning HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, lead by the remarkable Zhang Ziyi, gives us a story that is not only gripping but at the same time heartbreaking and beautiful; this is one that should not be missed on the big screen.

In the 2000’s we have seen woman leading major action franchises like TOMB RAIDER, RESIDENT EVIL and now MAD MAX, and with stars like Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich and Charlize Theron, it’s no wonder that audiences are supporting these films from the box-office to home viewings, to programs like the one being offered by TIFF.

Beyond Badass: Female Action Heroes runs until December 3rd and also includes Tarantino’s KILL BILL double bill and Steven Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE. Check out for programming times and ticket information.

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