Lucy Beats Her Male Counterpart at the Box Office

Lucy came out on top at the box office this weekend, making $44 million in North American theatres. The action thriller, starring a drug-enhanced, superhuman Scarlett Johansson, made 10 million more than the number two movie, Hercules (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). The Hollywood Reporter called it “an impressive start for an action film featuring a female heroine.” Maybe it’s a sign that times are changing.

Johansson plays a woman who is kidnapped and turned into a drug mule for a new synthetic drug. When the bag of drugs inside her leaks, the substance gives her complete access to her brain’s abilities. She becomes mentally superhuman, and seeks vengeance against her captors.

Lucy’s director Luc Besson has a history of films featuring female action heroes. He directed La Femme Nikita, in which the protagonist is trained as an assassin. The Fifth Element set Bruce Willis and Mila Jovovich on equal footing, while Bandidas (written by Besson) starred Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek as bank-robbing, town-defending outlaws. Granted, Besson has also directed mainstream men-centric hits like the Taken and Transporter franchises. He doesn’t identify as any kind of female character-specialist.  “I was maybe not very happy in the ’80s and ’90s, when all the big parts were big guys with muscles and simple minds. And the girl was always in the back, crying, waiting for the hero to return. That’s not the energy I have from women. I always try to write the best I can for women, and the best I can for men,” he told Vulture.

It’s clear he managed to convey complexity with Lucy, but that doesn’t always translate to box office success. "It's a great result in every depressed marketplace," Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco told The Hollywood Reporter. "And I think it says that more female action stars are called for."

We, predictably, agree. Click through the gallery to meet more other-worldly women warriors you should watch (or rewatch).


La Femme Nikita Anne Parillaud played a young street thug who is trained to be a highly-skilled assassin by a mysterious French spy organization in the 1990 movie. In 1997, the premise became an American TV show, later reprised in 2010 on the CW. When she’s not gun-slinging, Nikita sometimes wears a holey sun hat. 

The Fifth Element Besson started to write The Fifth Element when he was 15 years old because he wanted an escape. When he finally made the twenty-third century film, Milla Jovovich took the role of fiery-haired LeeLoo, a rebel humanoid. “When I worked on the character of Leeloo, my first feeling was, when we wait for the supreme warrior, we always expect The Terminator or Schwarzenegger or Stallone," Besson said. He wanted to do something different.  

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Michelle Yeoh plays a warrior whose primary weapon is a sword. She's in conflict with another female warrior, played by Ziyi Zhang. If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, reminisce with the incredible bamboo fighting scene. You run the risk of losing yourself in strangely poetic dance-swordfights.    

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sarah Michelle Geller rules as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon. Whedon wanted to create a protagonist who would invert the Hollwood script of “the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie." Buffy battles evil-doers who often come in the form of vampires, demons, and beasts.

Hanna In the 2011 film directed by Joe Wright, Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna, a girl whose father trained her in combat, languages, and survival in the wilderness of Finland. She’s hunted by the CIA (headed by a very scary Cate Blanchett) and has to fight for her life. She’s a bit like Chloe Grace Moretz’s character from Kick-Ass, just more wide-eyed, and a lot stealthier. See the trailer.

Tags: Actress, Movies