Examples of men over 40 leading or starring in action franchises seem endless. Jason Bourne’s Matt Damon is 48. John Wick’s Keanu Reeves is 55. Mission: Impossible’s Tom Cruise is 57. Indiana Jones’ Harrison Ford is 73. The Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs and Shaw stars a 47-year-old Dwayne Johnson and a 52-year-old Jason Statham. And the list goes on! But when it comes to women of a similar age kicking ass on screen, they are unfortunately sparse, even in 2019.
Here are some of the much-too-rare examples of women who have proven that action heroes know no gender, nor age. (Are you listening, James Bond?)
1. Linda Hamilton, 63
Film: Terminator: Dark Fate
Hamilton is famous for playing Sarah Connor, the mother of future resistance leader John Connor in the Terminator franchise. She has demonstrated incredible range in the role, going from a damsel in distress in the original Terminator to a warrior-mom in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Though there have been attempts to replace her over the years, the keepers of the franchise eventually realized that Hamilton is irreplaceable — which is why she stars in the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate as an older (but no less formidable) incarnation of Sarah.
2. Helen Mirren, 74
Films: Red, Red 2, Hobbs and Shaw
In the Red series, Mirren plays Victoria Winslow, a retired M16 wetwork agent who rarely misses. And in Hobbs and Shaw, she portrays the nefarious matriarch Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw, mother of the unstoppable killing machine known as Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Mirren is a delight in all three movies and routinely proves that ass-kicking continues well past your 30s.
3. Viola Davis, 54
Films: Suicide Squad, Widows
In Suicide Squad, Davis plays Amanda Waller — a high-level intelligence officer and the fearless assembler of the ragtag team of criminals who give the film its title. Waller is calculating and unapologetic about everything she does because she is sure she’s always right. She’s so menacing that even Batman is wary of her. In Widows, Davis plays Veronica, the wife of notorious bank robber Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson). When Harry’s van is blown up in a botched getaway attempt and goons show up to collect on a debt he owed them, Veronica quickly morphs into a crime ringleader in her own right. Davis is quite good here and continues to get even better as her career progresses.
4. Pam Grier, 48 (at the time)
Film: Jackie Brown
In Quentin Tarantino’s third film, Grier plays the title role, an unassuming flight attendant by day and tough-as-nails smuggler by night. Jackie plays on everyone’s assumption that she’s just some boring old stewardess and ends up flying into the sunset of Madrid by the end of the film as a result. While Jackie Brown is more than 20 years old, the film and its star land on this list because of its keen callbacks to the blaxploitation era and because Grier absolutely killed the role.
5. Jamie Lee Curtis, 60
Film: Halloween (2018)
In last year’s long-awaited sequel Halloween, Curtis reprised her iconic role as Laurie Strode from 1978’s Halloween, one of the earliest examples of the horror trope known as the “final girl.” The sequel picks up 40 years later as Laurie, still battling PTSD, prepares for the showdown with Micheal Myers that she has always known is coming. There’s something extremely cool about seeing a silver-haired Laurie running around with a shotgun, and Curtis definitely sells it well.
6. Cate Blanchett, 50
Film: Thor: Ragnarok
Blanchett portrays Hela, the goddess of death and the eldest daughter of Asgardian god Odin (Anthony Hopkins), in the third Thor movie. Although she’s the villain, Hela kicks major Asgardian ass and looks exceedingly good (and green) while doing it. Blanchett is a vision of charming wickedness in the role, which was further bolstered by her being the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first live-action female villain.
7. Halle Berry, 53
Film: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum
In the third installment of the John Wick series, Berry plays Sofia — close friend to Keanu Reeves’ title character, former assassin, and current manager of Casablanca’s Continental Hotel. After she is informed that John is a marked man due to events from John Wick 2, she agrees to aid him — partly because of friendship and partly because she owes him a favor. Sofia is just as skilled and as vicious as John, and you can just tell Berry is having the time of her life mowing down all those bad guys.
8. Charlize Theron, 44
Film: Atomic Blonde
Fresh of the success of Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron played top M16 agent Lorraine Broughton in the Cold War thriller Atomic Blonde. In the film, she’s charged with recovering a document that contains the identities of double agents who are being snuck into the West just before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This role is of note because the brutality of its action is similar to that of the John Wick series and the movie doesn’t take it easy on Theron just because she’s a woman. And of course, Theron rises to the occasion.
9. Michelle Yeoh, 57
Film: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, Yeoh reprises her role as renowned warrior and swordswoman Yu Shu Lien, who has emerged out of retirement to reclaim the legendary sword known as the Green Destiny, which once belonged to a lost love. Of course, because is a movie and this sounds like a relatively simple task, chaos immediately ensues. Even though this film takes place 16 years after the first Crouching Tiger, Yeoh doesn’t miss a single beat and is just as skilled in swordplay as she was almost two decades ago.
10. Regina King, 48
TV show: Watchmen (2019)
In HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series, set in an alternate version of America, King plays Angela Abar, an Oklahoma police detective with an alter ego named Sister Night. She’s pushed to the brink by the Seventh Calvary, a white supremacist group inspired by the extremist ways of the long-dead vigilante Rorschach. While the series won’t premiere until Oct. 20, seeing King taking down white supremacists in the trailer is just downright exciting.