Top 5 Action Movie Heroines That Made Me Queer

There are a lot of opinions floating around out there about what “makes you gay.” Maybe it’s a gene! Maybe it’s hormones in the womb! Maybe your mom should have watched less AbFab while she was pregnant! But for many of us, we locate something in our early life — if not something that “made us gay,” then something that at least functioned as a flashing neon sign to alert us to the fact. What that thing is depends on what kinds of culture you were exposed to at a young age — maybe you were lucky, and it was Scully, Our Lady of Auburn Sexual Tension. Speaking strictly for me, I spent a lot of time growing up in a household with one single dad and one teenaged boy, so I’ve seen every Die Hard movie, and I’ve watched Starship Troopers more times than you could count. (If you think I don’t have the naked shower boob scene memorized, you are just dead wrong.)

So obviously, to the extent that I was able to squeeze in a Sapphic awakening in between driving my underage brother to his friends’ houses and campaigning for something other than canned Hormel chili for dinner, it came from the super hot ladies of action movies, who can handle their shit and everyone else’s, all while only slightly ruffling their very carefully unkempt hair. Also, man, some really solid arms. Mm mm.

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5. Charly, The Long Kiss Goodnight

The Long Kiss Goodnight is sort of the opposite of Kill Bill, in that a suburban housewife realizes she is actually a deadly trained assassin but didn’t know about it. This is unequivocally awesome. Also, Geena Davis is very pretty, both as a housewife and a deadly lady with a gun.

4. The Bride, Kill Bill

Uma Thurman is somewhere in the no-man’s-land between “wanting to be her” and “wanting to fuck her.” Also though, wanting to fuck Uma Thurman seems sort of dangerous, so there’s that. While Tarantino doesn’t necessarily win prizes for unproblematic female characters, there’s something really appealing about a female character bent on revenge; because bad things do happen, and a character who responds to them by taking control of the situation is sexy. Also, she looks really cute when she goes to that sake bar.

3. Michelle Rodriguez, Resident Evil

Ok, sure, Milla Jovovich, whatever. I see you in your red dress and combat boots (and later, booty shorts and see-through tank top?). But aside from playing for our team in real life (ahem), Rodriguez’s character is also tough as nails and does not do so with the benefit of weirdo genetic manipulation, or whatever completely implausible justification is at work in that movie. “Hey, has anyone ever mistaken you for a man?” “No, has anyone ever mistaken you for one?” Gender binarist and heteronormative as hell, but also: Michelle Rodriguez can take care of herself better than any of those men in kevlar vests. Even if she doesn’t make it to the end of the movie. Sorry, Michelle.

2. Ripley, Alien

If I remember correctly, there are significant portions of the movie where Sigourney Weaver is not wearing pants. That’s awesome, but that’s not the reason she’s so crazysexycool. Ripley is a really amazing female character, and gets to avoid a lot of the annoying tropes that female action heroines are often subject to (see above re: not wearing pants). See, in the original script for Alien, Ripley is written as a male (or sometimes “unisex”, depending on who you ask) character, and Sigourney Weaver just happened to get the part. So she gets to be strong and self-reliant and do really incredible stuff with some scary aliens without having to have a love interest or a zany marriage plot! Badass as hell, full stop.

1. Sarah Connor, Terminator 2


If I had to pinpoint an instant that instilled in me the permanent desire to hug other women with my legs, it would be the moment that the camera first finds Sarah Connor behind the door of her institutional little cell/bedroom, and she is doing badass sexy sweaty pullups with arms that make Michelle Obama’s look like Dick Cheney’s, and shooting her captors some fierce sideeye while doing so. I’m weak in the knees just typing this, and that doesn’t even make sense because I’m sitting down. Jesus God, Linda Hamilton, have mercy.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1044 articles for us.

75 Comments

    • “Princess Leia in the gold bikini.” BAM. 5 year old me had the hugest obsession with her. Goddamn, it took me so long to see the signs.

      And then right around the time I fell in love with my best friend (classic) I watched Alias with my mom and discovered sexy spy women in black.

  1. It also doesn’t hurt that Uma Thurman’s stunt double in “Kill Bill” is Zoë Bell. The woman responsible for Xena’s badass moves in seasons 3-6. If you haven’t seen the documentary “Double Dare” you *need* to (it’s on Netflix). Zoë Bell really is just that much if a BAMF.

  2. I love the list, but I would totally add Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity, Jordana Brewster in DEBS, Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. Lastly, the moment I saw Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Carribean, I was totally in love. I don’t care how good the movie is, if she is in a movie I will watch it.

    • I remember seeing the second movie by myself at the cinema. And the first time Keira was shown in drag, it just took my breath away. Afterwards I wanted to tell everyone about it but I was just so deep in the closet that that wasn’t gonna happen. I’ve made up for it by now though! 😀

  3. Don’t kill me, but I prefer Lena Headey’s Sarah Connor.
    well-chosen heroines and although I like Michelle Rodriguez,always have, I prefer Milla Jojovich. I’ve got a friend who loves loves loves beatrix kiddo. Me, I like Keira Knightley, she’s the only reason I stuck with 3 pirates movies. I also saw Prince of Persia and Clash of the titans stricly cause Gemma Arterton was in them.

    • This. And also Lena Headey’s character in Grim Brothers. I wasn’t even close to admitting to myself that I was gay when I first saw that movie but I remember feeling a little disappointed that she didn’t have a female lover hidden away in the woods or something.

  4. I’m reeling from the fact that there are of-age gays whose parents COULD have watched Ab Fab while they were in the womb. Maybe the percentage of queers in society will shoot up really rampantly from here on in and everyone will be like “10%!? IN YOUR HETEROREAMLAND, SUCKER, THIS IS A QUEER QUEER WORLD.”

  5. Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux. In her almost sheer pajamas. I grew up in a pretty religious family, and I remember actually thanking god every night for weeks that he had allowed that movie to be made.

  6. Looking at the title I couldn’t think of any action movie heroines that made me queer. Maybe Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, but that’s pushing it. And then I read the article and realized that’s because I haven’t seen ANY of these movies! Weekend plan is set.

  7. Ohh, Michelle Rodriguez… I want her little queer babies.

    Also, RE: the whole Alien thing. I never saw the fuss about Ripley, for some reason she just never did anything for me. But Winona Ryder’s cute tomboyish android character in the otherwise awful Alien Resurrection made me feel warm and fuzzy all over, especially in the pant regions 😉

  8. OMG I’ve been looking for the title of that Geena Davis movie FOREVER!!! I remember loving it when I watched it as a little girl, but it was in French and I could never remember the title. Beatrix Kiddo is so bad*ass, I’ll watch anything with Michelle Rodriguez! Oh yeah I agree Zoe Bell in Death Proof .:fans herself:. with that Kiwi accent…

  9. “permanent desire to hug other women with my legs” YES.

    Okay, re: Michelle Rodriguez’s queerness, I’m honestly sick of ladies DECIDING what she identifies as. Last I heard, she denied being queer. It’s her choice to be out or not, and she’s the one who gets to say what she identifies as.

    As a person who gets lesbians AND heterosexuals say to her “WHAT? Nahhhh you’re not gay. You think you’re gay but you’re not” this shit is really annoying.

    I know yall don’t mean to be mean, but it kind of is.

    In other news, this list is great and really makes me want to watch people fight and shoot and explode people/things with a pretty girl.

  10. Charly from The Long Kiss Goodnight drove me crazy when I was little, especially when she died her hair and cut it. And Uma Thurman, oh god, Uma, Uma, I still can’t watch her and not want her, but I think what did it for me was Pulp Fiction, I fell in love with her then,

  11. Perhaps I fail as a lesbian, because my “a-ha” moment was not from an action movie. It was Kate Winslet in Titanic. (Although I did dress up as She-Ra for Halloween when I was 6, so.)

  12. I think you mean Vasquez in Aliens.

    I mean, I wanted to BE Ripley (still do!), but Vasquez was the one who nurtured the seeds of lifelong butch-love in my little pre-adolescent brain.

    *sigh*

  13. Ohhhh lordy this topic. xD
    My girlfriend and I both grew up on anime (best thing about the 90s in my opinion, anime was everywhere and nobody seemed to notice xD), so most of our early girlcrushes were anime characters, haha. I’d have to ask her about any others, but I do know my girl was always crushing on Sango from Inuyasha. xD
    As for me, I have had too many to count, oh lordy. My first was probably Miku Hatsune from Vocaloid… I remember having an awkward moment with some of my Vocaloid-fan , they were all gushing over how handsome Kaito was and I just felt awkward. xD
    Then there’s Rei Ayanami from Evangelion, Luka Megurine (also from Vocaloid), Kneesocks (from a certain balls-to-the-wall crazy series called Panty & Stocking), Lightning (from Final Fantasy XIII. Not anime but close enough xD), Cynthia (from Pokemon)… Damn, I could go on. xD

    Oh and before I had my sexuality figured out I had a thing for Deidara from Naruto (back when I was young enough to not realize Naruto was crap. xD) because at first I thought he was a girl. You can’t blame me, he really really looked the part. xD

    Annnnd lately I’ve gotten back into Hellsing, and somewhat rediscovered the huge flame I had for Rip Van Winkle… Androgyny = sexy. And vampires = sexy. And evil = sexy. And German accents = sexy. Swear to gog, that character is like all of my strange kinks rolled into one. xD

    …so yeah. Some ladies discovered their sexuality through action girls, I discovered mine through anime girls. That’s close enough, right? xD

  14. my top 5 include TV as well:

    Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (I was young, ok?!)
    M-Rod in…everything she’s been in, basically.
    Eliza Dushku as Faith on Buffy
    Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider

    ..And Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. You really can’t get more badass than that. She’s a tank, y’all. A tank of hotness and anger.

  15. I’m also an anime girl and I grew up primarily with shonen anime, so for me to be honest..fucking Android 18 from DBZ. Like, seriously. Kickass android who will forever be known for destroying the pride of a certain green-eyed Prince. Not to mention, her English VA (in the Canadian Ocean Dub) was a girl of color (Enuka Okuma, look er up) and made her sound so fucking…umf.

    Her and of course, our beloved Lesbian senshi Queen of Uranus, Haruka Tenoh/Amarah Tenoh from our reigning Lesbian anime, BDSM. Like, how can you not gush everytime she and her seiyuu Megumi Ogata, said…ANYTHING? I looked up to Makoto too cuz she was soo cute and perky yet kickass. Her English VA is coming to my local con along with the majority of the English Cloverway/Dic cast I heard. So my childhood is weeping feels…

    And then, in the live-action…Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. I’m surprised no one here’s even mentioned that yet but with that list dominating, it’s understandable why. I also might’ve given my own recording device a But seriously guys…think of her a precursor to Jane Rizzoli, except she’s Gracie Lou Freebush. <3 I take credit for all future squeals from this comparison.

  16. “I also might’ve given my own recording device a few hits when I saw the fighting scene between her and Benjamin Bratt. Because It was THAT awesome. Also, Milla Jovovich and Missy Peregrym in Stick it.” (I didn’t finish that sentence, so I thought I should finish it.)

    And also, Dragon Ball Z is a shonen anime and Juuhachigou (I’m sorry if I get her japanese number mispelled) was in the latter of the Dragon Ball movies and therefore can be included in this movie list. And Sailor Moon is the SECOND-best crossover shojo anime in my personal opinion; next to the manga classic Banana Fish.

  17. I had an innocent crush with Lara Croft since I was little and loved every Tomb Raider videogame with each Lara model (specially Rhona Mitra and Jill de Jong); but Kate Beckinsale in Underworld and Van Helsing?! God knows she was the one who made me gay.

  18. The Long Kiss Goodnight will forever remain in my top 5, most likely at #1. Her transformation into her bad-ass persona gave me a lady boner before I knew what a lady boner was. Between Charlie Baltimore and Red Sonja, it’s a wonder I didn’t run screaming from the closet in junior high!

  19. Everyone needs to buy the Resident Evil DVD and watch it WITH the cast commentary. Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez talking about Michelle’s leather underwear. Sold? I thought so.

  20. i definitely watched snippets of kill bill when i was WAY too young for tarantino because my dad would fall asleep on the couch while it was on TV and i was definitely in love with uma.
    as a feminist i’m conflicted about this but slave leia occupied a lot of my thoughts. she was so beautiful! and she killed a monster with a chain! her endor thigh-holster soldier look was also very good. and the fairy princess dress. fuck it, everything leia wore in rotj was great.
    dr. ellie sattler was definitely my first love and my root when i was ten and still is everything i want in a woman: iconic double-denim looks, supermodel legs, ph.d., snappy feminist one-liners. hot.
    marion ravenwood pounding shots at the beginning of raiders of the lost ark instilled in me a love of tough-talking femmes, drinking men under the table, and tough-talking femmes who can drink men under the table.
    the great thing about all of my baby-gay crushes is that i stand by all of them a decade later. Ten-year-old me had *great* taste.

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