AnOther's Favourite Female Assassins on Film

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The Assassin, 2016
The Assassin, 2016

To mark the release of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Cannes-winning drama and its empowered female lead, we chart the most deadly women in cinematic history

After a brief hiatus, acclaimed Taiwanese new wave director Hou Hsiao-Hsien makes a glorious comeback with his awe-inspiring martial arts drama, The Assassin. Set in eighth century China, the movie tells the visually arresting story of Nie Yinniang [Shu Qui], a general’s daughter who is sent to seek refuge with a nun during a time of political unrest. There, the child is trained to become a righteous assassin, tasked with murdering corrupt government officials. A master in her craft, her only weakness is her soft heart. Upon returning to her birthland after 13 years of exile, she is faced with the choice of sacrificing true love or betraying her mission and everything she has been taught to believe in. Here, inspired by Yinniang’s empowering and charismatic performance, we chart the ultimate female assassins on film.

The Point Of No Return, 1993 
Directed by John Badham and starring Bridget Fonda, this 1993 action movie follows Maggie Hayward, a ferocious and unstable young woman charged with the murder of a police officer, who agrees to train as a government assassin in order to escape her death sentence. As she converts from drug addict to a sophisticated hitwoman, Maggie grapples with her merciless nature in this faithful remake of Luc Besson’s cult psycho-romantic thriller La Femme Nikita.

The Quick And The Dead, 1995 
Since seducing the entire world’s male population in her role of Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone was pigeonholed professionally as the desirable sensual predator until her performance as a female gunslinger in The Quick And The Dead. Co-starring Russell Crowe and a baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio, Sam Raimi’s 1995 western trails Stone’s unexpected return to a prairie town as she seeks revenge for her father’s death.

Colombiana, 2011 
In this Olivier Megaton-directed action thriller, Zoe Saldana plays Cataleya, a girl who decides to become a cold-blooded killer after witnessing the murder of her drug-dealing parents as a child. As Cataleya machine-guns her way through the mean streets of Bogotà in search of revenge, Saldana establishes herself as one of Hollywood’s top-rated female action stars.

The Long Kiss Goodnight, 1996 
After getting struck with amnesia, Samantha Caine [Geena Davis] forgets her real identity until her past starts coming back at her following a violent car accident. Samantha thinks she’s a schoolteacher but really she’s an expert secret services assassin named Charly. With the help of a private investigator [Samuel L. Jackson] she slowly brings her past back to light, all the while dealing with powerful flashbacks and trying to protect herself from a sinister bunch of criminals who thought she was dead. 

Sin City, 2005
A collaborative effort by directors Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, Sin City investigates a town’s corrupt law enforcement through the unfolding of three different tales of crime. In the 2005 pulp noir film adaptation of Frank Miller’s eponymous graphic novel, Devon Aoki portrays Miho, an easily offended, mute female assassin of Japanese heritage who’s exceptionally good at killing people courtesy of her sadistic dexterity with samurai swords.

Wanted, 2008 
From Mr. & Mrs. Smith to Tomb Raider and Salt, Angelina Jolie has become an expert at handling weapons and leaning out of moving cars, so it’s no wonder she did a fantastic job at pulling off the character of beautiful assassin Fox in Wanted. As she teaches a dweeby office worker [James McAvoy] how to become a skillful killing machine like his late father, Jolie delivers her most unforgiving and visually remarkable action performance to date. 

The Assassin is in cinemas nationwide.