Today marks the 20th anniversary of the prestigious action classic Léon; a picture that saw a 12-year-old Natalie Portman take her first role on the big screen, alongside Jean Reno as the 'assassin with a heart' Léon, and a madcap Gary Oldman as the decidedly psychotic Norman Stansfield. Both a bloody masterpiece and a heartwarming tale of friendship, Léon is as iconic today as it was 20 years ago. In celebration of the anniversary – and the re-release of the film – we have compiled our Top 10 Anti-Heroines, from a impeccably dressed Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, to a vengeful, sword brandishing Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and a pierced, tattooed and ill-tempered Noomi Rapace in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
1. Bonnie Parker, Bonnie and Clyde
In the 1967 film based on the dramatic, gory tales of their real life counterparts, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty starred as the ruthless crime duo Bonnie and Clyde. Dunaway’s hot-headed portrayal of Parker was accompanied by effortless 60s beatnik styling, transforming the legend of the original character into a deadly, cigar-smoking beauty, with both a knack for shotguns and an impressive array of headwear.
2. Nikita, La Femme Nikita
A sullenly beautiful Anne Parillaud plays the role of teenage drug addict turned female assassin in 1990 film La Femme Nikita. Taken from a life sentence in prison and thrust into a secretive future, fuelled by killing, Nikita becomes the ultimate – albeit unwilling – femme fatale.
3. Beatrix Kiddo, Kill Bill
Uma Thurman donned her now iconic yellow jumpsuit to play the role of deadly, revenge-seeking assassin Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Black Mamba) in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. After waking from a 4-year coma, inflicted on her by her former fellow assassins, Kiddo seeks to make them suffer at the hands of her notorious Samurai sword, taking part in numerous (and typically Tarantino) bloody battles and near-death experiences during her quest.
4. Shoshanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino’s bloodthirsty foray into World War II sees young Jewish refugee Shoshanna Dreyfus brutally orphaned at the hands of ‘Jew Killer’ Colonel Lander (played by a sinister Christoph Waltz). Shoshanna seeks revenge on Lander, Hitler and his army, plotting to burn down the cinema she owns with them locked inside. Empowered and determined, she is the epitome of the anti-heroine.
5. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie took on the role of the archaeologist/adventurer video game character Lara Croft, transforming her into a smouldering, gun-wielding vixen. Croft successfully and violently battles countless enemies throughout the film, via a series of caves, ruins and, ultimately, an alternate universe.
6. Mathilda, Léon
The unlikely friendship between lethal professional killer Léon, and the 12-year-old, newly orphaned Mathilda is one that has reached iconic status over the years. Vowing to seek revenge on the psychotic policeman who slaughtered her family, Mathilda convinces Léon to take her on as his protégée, culminating in a new bond and a spectacularly violent fight scene.
7. Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Noomi Rapace was first to take on the role of cutthroat computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel. Dripping with piercings, punk styling and a ferocious attitude, she takes on both a sadistic rapist and a murderer with vicious determination.
8. Hit Girl, Kick Ass
A foul-mouthed, nunchuck throwing Chloe Moretz played pint sized assassin Hit Girl in the 2010 film Kick Ass. Trained by her ex-policeman father, Big Daddy (played by a slightly demented Nicholas Cage) they join forces with the hapless Kick Ass in a quest to take down merciless drug lord Frank D’Amico.
9. Hanna Heller, Hanna
Born and bred to be a killing machine – albeit an underage one – Saoirse Ronan played the fearless 15-year-old Hanna in the 2011 film of the same title. Raised and trained relentlessly by her father in rural Finland, Hanna knows nothing of a world outside her closeted home, until her mission is activated and she begins an tense game of cat and mouse with the vengeful CIA officer Marissa Wiegler.
10. Ellen Ripley, Alien
Often voted one of the greatest female characters of all time, a young Sigourney Weaver made her mark on the world of science fiction playing the courageous Ellen Ripley in the award winning Alien. Ripley takes charge when her ship is attacked by a deadly creature which is set on killing her fellow crew members. She succeeds in ridding herself of the creature and saving both herself and the ship's cat Jones after a series of terrifying events.
Text by Rhiannon Wastell