Countdown: Brains, Beauty, Awesomeness!

     August 2, 2008

Written by David Kobylanski

The human form has been idolized since the beginning of art, the moon and sky. With the advent of moving pictures, the idols were glamorized as leading stars to look up to and each gender has had their own variety of ideals and stereotypes. But now, for the first time the Gender Benders are having a chance to rank the top film heroines in history based on courage, assets and badass behavior. We’ll leave the 10th up to you. No one wants an arguable runner-up on this list. We’ve gone into the makeup cabinet, rolled out the pinups and watched them bare their souls in slow-motion; assessing them all to bring you the top 9 on the countdown. Cue the satisfaction: our countdown starts at #9…

#9 Aki Ross: After a meteor strikes the Earth unleashing an alien horde known as Phantoms to ravage mankind, a survivor of one attack fights her own demons while helping a military squadron find the souls that could save the planet. Dr. Aki Ross had her own cryptic dreams while making men look at their computers in a whole new way in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It ventured away in concept and design from the video games of the same name and was a box-office disappointment. It served as a warning for the next generation of filmmakers but also served as a remarkable breakthrough in 3D and humanoid rendering. Indeed the photorealism was praised as 60,000 strands of hair were taken individually and virtually created at a rendering farm with close to a thousand Pentiums a fraction as strong as today’s. But the MHz’s were strong enough to put this digital lady at #87 on Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 of 2001 and still going today to get us off right at #9.

#8 Lara Croft: She’s intelligent, athletic, somewhat reckless and might enjoy a stroll on the beach if it’s on a horse in an obstacle course of target practice. An Englishwoman of noble birth and prominent cleavage who travels the world in pursuit of priceless artifacts, Lara Croft’s an adventurer who ventures into ancient and often very hazardous tombs and ruins. In addition to traps and puzzles, Lara encounters a variety of enemies including rivals, gangsters and dangerous creatures. She spawned a widely accepted series of videos games and two films and was even awarded a Guinness World Record in 2006 recognizing her as the “most successful human video game heroine.” The Tomb Raider star won the prize for transcending the boundaries of video games and becoming a known figure in mainstream society. Lara Croft can stand on her own without the title of Tomb Raider, but has nonetheless become the fixture of the modern techno-archeologist with her dual semi-automatic weapons strapped to her just as impressive thighs.

#7 Beatrix Kiddo: Q & U’s The Bride, codenamed Black Mamba, was a former member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, an elite, shadowy group of assassins. A formidable, ruthlessly trained warrior, she served as the right hand of Bill, her boss and lover. It was this position that provoked the furious envy of the other Vipers. She faced off against the Crazy 88’s, survived a bullet to the head, escaped a coffin by punching her way out, snatched out Elle Driver’s eye in a trailer, killed everyone on her list and still got her daughter back. To be fair so as not to exaggerate, they were only called the 88’s because it sounded cool. Even Bill, the one that overreacted by hiring his squad to blow her dreams away in a chapel in Texas, couldn’t compete with the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique. It was only rumored by legend and only Beatrix Kiddo was worthy enough to be taught it by the late and masterful Pai Mei. Slicing her way with a katana from Hattori Hanzo, she showed us to never underestimate the vows of a bride.

#6 Trinity: The Matrix trilogy solidified Mr. Smith, Mr. Anderson and Morpheus as not only punk icons but pop culture hacking figures. Yet the female that was always there for morale support and loving care for The One, and only, Neo, was the tight leather wearing Trinity. The name heavily refers to Christian theology and may have very well served as a parallel when she revived Mr. Anderson in the first film while he was plugged-in and dead on the heart monitors. As the first-mate on the Nebuchadnezzar, she was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love and had the faith to persevere. She may have been saved by Neo in the virtual world as he fiddled around with her programming through her chest, but was confident and strong by herself. In the Matrix, a sophisticated computer program in which most of the human race is imprisoned, whenever she spoke over a phone she was always quick to react and jump on walls to flee a group of policemen or agents. Sprinting and springing high above and across a street between two apartment buildings was just a tease. Trinity was the first to introduce us to the mind-bending stunts of automatic blitz possible in the system we all know and love to philosophize about.

Don’t cross a woman that’s been alongside James Bond and Jackie Chan at #5…

#5 Wai Lin: As a spy for the Chinese People’s External Security Force, she’s a formidable opponent and a fierce soldier with incredible skill in martial arts. She first encountered Bond when she was sent to investigate media mogul Elliot Carver’s plan to start a war between China and the United Kingdom, a plot he was also sent by MI-6 to foil in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. The two eventually developed a mutual trust when they were both captured by Carver’s secret partner, General Chang. A girl’s got to be respected for playfully, yet firmly, rejecting 007’s attempt at seduction when there’s a job to be done. She prefers stealth to Bond’s explosive mentality, and equips herself with zip wires and pitons to wall walk and escape buildings undetected. As a competent individual on her own, Wai Lin may not have had a patented bikini moment but did have some nice action sequences and breathless scuba gear. She always wanted to work with a decadent agent of a corrupt western power and it’s a good thing she did.

#4 Sarah Connor: Sarah Connor was a young Los Angeles resident who found herself pursued by a relentless cyborg killer, the Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 Terminator, for reasons completely unknown to her. She was rescued from the Terminator by time-traveling soldier Kyle Reese, who explained the situation of the future to her. She’d also eventually have his child which would end up being his commander in the future against the machines. With a homegrown family feud, and the unexpected help of a reprogrammed Terminator, the T-800, Sarah Conner went from chased victim to a physically trained psych patient escapee in T2: Judgment Day. Having taught her son to fight and organize during their hiding prior to the war, Sarah will be a legend among members of the resistance in the future and also for us now, to be annihilated later.

#3 Thelma & Louise: The good-natured housewife and girlfriend escaped their bad natured home lives to get away from it all. Their fleeing would eventually turn into the pair being wanted on the run after an altercation of attempted rape and definite murder. Both of the actresses were nominated for Academy Awards and solidified their status in history with there iconic suicidal dip over a cliff with law enforcement hot on their trail. Their friendship did prevail through thick and thin blood as they became outlaws with Detective Hal Slocumb tracing their steps. The pair didn’t let the role of criminals dampen their style as they ventured on a road trip of self-discovery as protagonists dabbling in the inks of antagonism. Thelma and Louise may not have had the best streak of deeds as anti-heroines but were sympathized by many for having had the lack of luck in their lives and environments. They were good people put in the wrong place and social status, yet also two that have taken one of our spots. They weren’t born with anger and throughout had their own set of principles, not the most lawful of ones, but the right ones.

#2 Clarice Starling: Clarice Starling was first selected while still in the FBI Academy by Jack Crawford to look into the depths of Hannibal Lecter behind his glass wall in the dungeon of a Baltimore mental institution. Do you know what she looked like to him, with her good bag and her cheap shoes? She looked like a rube. Yet Hannibal himself even found a romance he couldn’t kill in Clarice Starling as he always lectured her and brought out feelings she wanted concealed. It took two to tango in the recipe of The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal as Clarice Starling was the unsuspecting and at times insecure player that always felt like she had to prove herself. She constantly matured into a self-reliant and confident individual as the other half in a conversation of quid pro quo.

From outer space to web space, she didn’t even scream where they can’t hear you…

#1 Ellen Ripley: In 1979, our time, Ridley Scott introduced us to Ellen Ripley. She was first awakened out of cryonic stasis by an onboard computer, Mother, due to a curious transmission received from the moon Acheron LV-426. The crew of the Nostromo went down to the surface where the signal came from. Upon landing, Executive Officer Kane, Captain Dallas, and Navigator Lambert disembarked to investigate the source of the transmission, a derelict alien space craft. While surveying, an alien parasite attached itself to Kane. By-the-book, Ripley would refuse to allow the landing party back onto the ship after they were injured, citing quarantine regulations. Her order was ignored by Science Officer Ash, and everyone was reluctant to have Ellen as a leader. The bypassing of quarantine had serious consequences when an extraterrestrial embryo of alien origins deposited by the face-hugger that attacked Kane matured and erupted from his chest. Kane was killed by this alien birth, and the creature quickly took to preying upon the rest of the crew, bigger, badder and jaw-dripping.

The film catapulted Sigourney Weaver to stardom with her trademarked role and changed the course of gender roles in science fiction and Hollywood. The first film ended up grossing almost ten times its production budget and created a universal franchise. The character of Ellen Ripley served as the thread between the movies and would be continued two more times and copied in the end, establishing herself as the embodiment of survival against any alien force. For the 1986 sequel, Weaver would gather even more accolades, even having the honor of being nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

The sequel, Aliens, began where Alien lifted off, with Ripley expecting to be rescued within a few weeks. Instead, Ripley spent the next 57 years in hypersleep. Once awakened, Ripley discovered that her daughter, Amanda, died years before Ripley would be found and awoken from cryonic stasis. After her subsequent rescue by a salvage crew, Ripley was held responsible for the destruction of the Nostromo by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, with her flight license revoked as a consequence. However, she was soon promoted and reluctantly returned to LV-426 with a team of Marines from the ship USS Sulaco to rescue colonists of Hadley’s Hope. Ripley would become the unit’s de facto leader after most of the Colonial Marines were killed during their first encounter with the Aliens. Ripley ultimately escaped with the last surviving ones: Newt, Corporal Hicks, and the android Bishop.

The third time around in Alien 3, unbeknownst to her, a super-facehugger had stowed away on board their ship, which implanted a Queen embryo within her. After an electrical fire onboard the Sulaco, she subsequently found herself marooned on the furious planet Fiorina 161, a mineral ore refinery and male-only correctional facility. There, she sacrificed her own life by throwing herself into a furnace to prevent Weyland-Yutani from getting its hands on the Alien Queen that was inside of her and bursting out. She proved true commitment to the human race.

In 1997’s Alien Resurrection, a new Ripley version was cloned from a strange alien-human exchange to be known as Ripley 8. The clone wasn’t an exact mental duplicate as she proved to be more violent, fatalistic and sadistic than the original. She also had a mild empathy for the Aliens and antipathy for humans. Ripley 8 discovered seven experimental and deformed clone Ripley’s in a military lab. At the pleading of the last surviving one, she incinerated the lab and all the clones with a flamethrower, showing proper mercy.

So how did one human originally defeat an Alien? Well, as the famed Alien moved toward her, about to attack, Ms. Ripley hit a button opening an escape pod’s hatch door. Explosive decompression blasted the alien outwards, but not fast enough to prevent it from grabbing the side of the hatch opening to start crawling back into the shuttle. So Ripley then shot the alien with a grappling-gun, violently propelling it away from the shuttle. The grappling-gun was pulled out of her hands, but caught by the closing hatch door. When the Alien, still tethered to the grappling hook and the gun inside, climbed into one of the shuttle’s engine gaps, Ripley activated the engine and blasted it into smithereens. Who ever said firepower doesn’t get the job done? With her elite strength, renegade attitude, Ellen Ripley takes our #1 bullet on the countdown for reinventing the woman’s place outside the kitchen while also making the opening of a door look so cool.

Thanks for joining us on the candle-lit dinner with history’s top heroines.

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