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Female Assassin Movies
August 22, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Female assassin movies?

I saw Hanna last night, and realised that it was very much part of an ongoing tradition, but one that extends way beyond teen girl assassins. I've only seen a couple of others (Nikita, Mr and Mrs Smith) but have the sense there must be many more.

So I'm looking for other films that feature female assassins, contract killers, etc, maybe also snipers? Happy to accept answers with a female assassin of any age, ethnicity, etc. Films from any country, long or short. Lead roles preferred but not required. I guess the key stipulation is that the assassin character be a "killer" not a clever problem solving spy or anything like that.

Also, if it is a genre, where did it start? Does it have its roots elsewhere, or is it just a film thing? Where would the boundaries of such a genre lie?

On the chance anyone has a whole list, recommendations of particularly good ones would also be great.
posted by Ahab to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kill Bill!
posted by beau jackson at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Colombiana
posted by Jahaza at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pistol Opera
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just wrote an article about this (to tie in to the upcoming Columbiana) connecting it with the biblical story of Judith.

Movie-wise look for almost anything with Angelina Jolie. Also, Kill Bill, The Professional, The Brave One etc. etc. You'll also want to look at the tradition of women's rape/revenge films such as "I Spit on Your Grave" and "Ms. 45".
posted by hermitosis at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Æon Flux
posted by Toekneesan at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lady Snowblood

And, this movie is kind of of dumb, but: Mr. and Mrs. Smith
posted by Ideal Impulse at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nikita/La Femme Nikita, while late in the genre, is a classic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's a twenty item list from Amazon.com it appears that many of these may be obscure because they're terrible.
posted by Jahaza at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


For Angelina Jolie, particularly Salt. Fun trivia, possibly not true: It was originally intended for a male lead, I think Tom Cruise.
posted by like_neon at 9:31 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia offers a "Girls with guns ... sub-genre".
posted by Jahaza at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Long Kiss Goodnight. And its pretty awful too.
posted by davidjohnfox at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


In case my comment was vague, what I meant to say is that I made an argument that the history of "female assassin" stories could be traced back to the story of Judith, who ended a war with the Assyrians by infiltrating the enemy camp with her womanly wiles and then beheading their general in his sleep. She's not the only mythological example, but she's one of the most prominent, and the story's main plot points wouldn't be out of place in any of these movies.
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw this movie last night too! You might enjoy IMDB's female assassin tag. Angelina Jolie has done this in Salt [above] and also sort of in Mr and Mrs. Smith. I was surprised at how few of these I had seen. Elektra looks like representative of the genre and also sort of terrible.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although the film version of William Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic" is ....regrettable, the "Molly Millions" razor-girl character is pretty much what you're looking for.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:34 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to recommend Kill Bill and Pistol Opera, but I see the hivemind beat me. Also, if you haven't seen the original La Femme Nikita it's definitely worth a watch.

You want a list? I'd suggest playing with the keywords a little, too.
posted by dee lee at 9:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Professional

and

Hanna

...are both woth the effort. Hanna, in particular, is a great film.
posted by bonehead at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Point of No Return which is a remake of La Femme Nikita.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever which is pretty bad.
I actually really liked The Long Kiss Goodnight, mentioned above, but maybe I just saw it at the right time.
posted by ODiV at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prizzi's Honor.
posted by Specklet at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Female Assassin movies on IMDB
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]



...are both woth the effort. Hanna, in particular, is a great film.
posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on August 22 [+] [!]


eponysterical.

I think La Femme Nikita, mentioned above, is the pinnacle of the genre. Also, the short lived TV series based on it was great.
posted by spicynuts at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Judith reference that Hermitosis makes is very apt and quite possibly the first example of the trope. My favorite portrait of Judith assassinating Holofernes is Artemisia Gentileschi's which is about as violent a painting as you can imagine. It's thought Artemisia did the painting either during or just after the trial of her rapist and in looking at the painting it seems very plausible. It's as if two injustices are being addressed in a single painting.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hit Girl in Kick Ass.

Not so much an assassin, but definitely a killer.
posted by jefftang at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just about every Bond movie ever.

Arguably there are a bunch of kung-fu movies that fill the bill—I think House of Flying Daggers would.
posted by adamrice at 10:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Long Kiss Goodnight
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Shosanna in Inglorious Basterds.
posted by Chenko at 10:17 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The 10th Victim
posted by cazoo at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Similar to Judith is Jael's killing of Sisera. The enemy captain comes to her for help, she feeds him and lets him go to sleep in her tent, and then drives a tent peg through his temple with a mallet - with such force that the peg goes through his head into the ground.
posted by bunderful at 10:21 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh dude... you've gotta watch Azumi
posted by ph00dz at 10:25 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chocolate
posted by bricoleur at 10:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Killing Time

I thought it was pretty clever, actually. But hard to find.
posted by Master Gunner at 10:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts: "I think La Femme Nikita, mentioned above, is the pinnacle of the genre. Also, the short lived TV series based on it was great."

The 1997 TV series was just OK (in my opinion), but I'm really enjoying the 2010 reboot, with Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca both playing kick-ass female assassins.
posted by benzo8 at 10:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


More killers than assassins, but: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! might fit if you were drunk enough.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:09 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


TVTropes: Action Girl

You specified movies, but how about an anime series? Noir
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Helen Mirren's character in RED is pretty awesome.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You might enjoy Angel's Dance
posted by and for no one at 12:10 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wanted. On reading the list it seems Angelina Jolie has played quite a few assassins in her time.
posted by pyro979 at 1:24 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not film as such, but Aeon Flux might fit the bill.
posted by allelopath at 2:07 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This far in the thread and no ones has said the best of the best:

Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1974) [also known as They Call Her One Eye]

Plot
The story is about a quiet girl, Frigga/Madeleine (Christina Lindberg), who is sexually assaulted during her childhood and the trauma makes her mute. When she becomes older, she accepts a ride from a man, Tony (Heinz Hopf), who makes her a heroin addict, and then becomes her pimp. At one point, she is stabbed in the eye (a scene for which the director, to much controversy, used an actual cadaver) for refusing a client. She starts saving up money to buy weapons and take classes in driving, shooting, and martial arts to finally take revenge.
posted by wcfields at 4:25 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't believe no one's mentioned the Truffaut classic, The Bride Wore Black. Tarantino actually had the balls to claim he'd never seen it. Kill Bill is essentially a genre-reworking of this film.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh, this is kinda embarassing, but... Terminator 3.
posted by Tom-B at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Thank you all. That's much bigger than I ever imagined, and will probably fill all the film watching time I've got for months. I think I'll start with Salt, just because one of my housemates already has it, and then move onto the parts of the Nikita franchise I haven't seen.

Thanks for the big lists, that helps a lot in judging the scale of the thing. And thanks for the personal recommendations. That'll help with knowing what to watch first.

Thanks heaps hermitosis, Toekneesan and bunderful for the refs to the older, non-film representations of the idea. That puts a really fascinating cultural light on the matter - almost like it was some kind of sleeper trope in Western culture that took hold a few decades ago, and has since exploded.

Thanks also to the people who linked to Chinese, Japanese, French and Scandinavian (and.. Italian?) stuff. It's good to know that it exists outside English language film and I suspect those films will be instrumental in helping me define my own idea of the edges of the genre / sub-genre.
posted by Ahab at 12:56 AM on August 23, 2011


Pardon the self-link, but the article I wrote has been posted. Hope it helps!
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you watch Léon (aka The Professional), make sure you watch "la version intégrale" which has some 23 extra minutes, including most of the Natalie Portman scenes in which she handles a weapon.

There used to be rumors about a sequel with a surviving character in the lead role.
posted by Akeem at 3:47 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks hermitosis, that is indeed helpful. And interesting and well written too!
posted by Ahab at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2011


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