Rambo? Ancient history. Jason Bourne? Soooo 2008. Forget the dudely heroes of yesteryear; these days, the name of the game is ass-kicking women. This year’s movie lineup was rife with smart, sexy, ultra-confident ladies who hang tough, play hard, and fight dirty…and, of course, gleefully murder the unfortunate punks who get in their way. And as we look back on 12 months of fine female leads, the 2010 year-end roundups wouldn’t be complete without a countdown list of the Ass-Kickingest Females of the Year. From legitimate superheroes to intellectual heavyweights to vengeful victims, there’s no question that these performances carried a serious dose of girl power.
10. Chloe Moretz in “Kick-Ass”
Fact: 99.9% of the ass-kicking in “Kick-Ass” comes courtesy not of the same-named main character, but is effortlessly executed by the ruthless Hit Girl. Trained from childhood in the exquisite art of beating the crap out of bad guys, Chloe’s character is the one who saves the day—while her male compatriots quietly sit in a corner and pee their pants.
9. Emma Watson in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
A more apt title for this movie might have been “Harry Potter and His Much-Smarter Gal Pal,” seeing as Hermione Granger spends pretty much the entire film saving Harry’s magical ass. In fact, without her keen intellect and powerful witchery, the hero of the series would have been captured by Death Eaters and avada kedavra’ed into oblivion before he hit puberty. Can we get a “Thanks, Hermione”?
8. Mia Wasikowska in “Alice in Wonderland”
It’s not just any heroine who could handle a trip through the looking glass—particularly when Johnny Depp’s demented Mad Hatter and the terrifying Jabberwocky are waiting on the other side. But Mia’s Alice not only slays the monster and saves Underland from the evil Red Queen, she ends the movie with the ultra-empowering move of becoming a tradeship apprentice and setting out to explore the world. Oh frabjous day!
7. Ellen Wong in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
Too bad that Scott was too lovestruck by Ramona Flowers to notice that Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) was about a billion times cooler. Despite starting out the film in the throes of clingy jealousy, Knives is ready to defend the man she loves to the death—and without her bacon-saving appearance at the end of the movie, it’s a pretty sure bet that The World would have been victorious.
6. Angelina Jolie in “Salt”
Even some serious plot holes couldn’t take away from the thrill of seeing Angelina star as a double agent on the run, especially when her role was originally written for (gasp!) a man. Leaping off of buildings, wielding weapons and outsmarting her would-be captors at every turn, Evelyn Salt was an adrenaline-fueled paragon of epic female ass-kickery. LOVE.
5. Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
If you’ve seen this mind-bending melodrama, you know that Natalie Portman’s prima ballerina is a dedicated, intense, ultra-talented girl who will sacrifice anything to give the greatest performance of her life. Of course, she’s also certifiably insane…but whatever.
4. Kristen Stewart in “The Runaways”
Let’s be real: Not all of Kristen Stewart’s roles are, er, strong female leads. (*Cough*Bella Swan is a whiner*cough*.) But her turn as real-life rocker Joan Jett in the musical biopic “The Runaways” was so fierce, all is forgiven.
3. Jennifer Lawrence in “Winters Bone”
Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence is a possible Oscar contender for her role as Ree Dolly—and Ree Dolly is one tough girl. With a mission to learn the truth about her father’s disappearance and save her family from eviction, Jennifer’s character doesn’t back down and won’t give up…even when her quest leads to a serious beat-down and a lost molar.
2. Ellen Page in “Inception”
Ariadne the Architect is a (heh, heh) dream of a female lead: smart, self-assured, and ready to defend herself against Leonardo DiCaprio’s seriously unstable subconscious. Oh, and she can also fold Paris in half with her mind!
And the number one ass-kicker? Obviously, it’s…
1. Noomi Rapace in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels
We’re looking forward to the American remake of the thrilling Lisbeth Salander trilogy, but it remains to be seen whether anyone can top Noomi’s incredible performance in the titular role. A gifted hacker with a photographic memory and a vengeful streak, Lisbeth spends her free time giving corrupt, sadistic, evil dudes their karmic comeuppance. And she has tattoos. And she rides a motorcycle! Seriously, we’d say “You go, girl!”… but she’d probably kick our teeth in.
Did we miss any of your favorite 2010 film heroines? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!