10 Action-Heroine Halloween Costumes

If you're a woman struggling to find a good Halloween costume this year, look no further! We've chosen our top 10 favorite movie action heroines to inspire you… and your date.

By Jane Ganahl

cursory look at some of the top movies in recent months with strong female characters reveals an interesting pattern: women who kick some butt — also known as action heroines — are currently in vogue. It's no longer enough for an actress to be pretty, learn her lines and recite them professionally. Now, an actress would be wise to hedge her stardom bets by learning how to sword fight, master the martial arts or even become as sharp at shooting as any trained
90% of all female action heroes and superheroes are unmarried.

It's also been a good few years for super-heroines, too. But for many, action heroines — average women (is there such a thing?) who are skilled with superlative (as opposed to supernatural) abilities and skills are just more intriguing, at least to moviegoers. Sure, Halle Berry's Storm in the X-Men films can change the weather with one lightning-charged glance, but isn't that somehow cheating? Give audiences a real woman with martial arts skills who can vanquish bad guys with one roundhouse kick, and everybody's happy (judging by the box-office receipts, this includes men and women).

Breakout female roles of last year
Among the juicier roles for the women of action last year, fans loved Scarlett Johansson as butt-kicking spy Natasha Romanoff in Iron Man 2 and the upcoming Avengers film, Cate Blanchett as a swashbuckling Maid Marion in Robin Hood, Milla Jovovich as the dangerous Alice Abernathy in the Resident Evil franchise's latest 3-D offering, Chloe Moretz as the youthful Hit Girl in Kick-Ass and veteran action star Angelina Jolie in Salt. Even Alice from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland — as played by Mia Wasikowska — strapped on a weapon and threw herself into the bloody fray.

What's next? Will we see Fern from Charlotte's Web transformed into a crusading animal-rights activist who rescues spiders and fights evil pesticide companies? You never know!

Single ladies (get more action)
As a woman and film buff who endured too many decades of action movies that were dominated by the likes of Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I view this as a most welcome change. And as a single woman, it's also fun to note that 90% of all female action heroes and superheroes are unmarried. Because really, it would exceedingly difficult to be, say, Lara Croft and have to say to your spouse: "Honey, I'm off to prevent Armageddon. There's a frozen pizza in the fridge."

Interestingly, very few female-centric action movies preoccupy themselves with marrying off the heroine (perhaps there's no time for dating, what with enemies to kill, evil to fight and wrong to right). Besides, who needs a guy hogging the limelight when you've spent all that time designing your skin-tight outfit? Still, you can't deny that Ellen Ripley in Aliens might have been a wee bit less brittle if she'd spent the night with the yummy Michael Biehn, as Linda Hamilton did in The Terminator. Even action heroines need a good man to take the edge off after saving the world from destruction.

So, just in time for Halloween, we offer you ideas for the best characters to emulate. Remember, you are what you wear. And remember, dressing like Wonder Woman — while it might not give you a 12-inch waist or a magic lasso — can give you an Amazonian boost of confidence, inside and out!

10. Princess Leia in Star Wars
Okay, in hindsight, Leia's hair in the original film resembled raisin-colored pastries — and it was never clear how her lips always stayed perfectly glossed, even after battling Darth Vader's evil forces. But she was one of the earliest heroines to pick up a gun and kick some galactic butt. Dress your date as Han Solo and jump to warp speed in the race for cutest couple.

9. Arwen from the Lord of the Rings trilogy
In her role as the elfin princess, Liv Tyler managed to be both gorgeous and poetically sensitive — and madly efficient while wielding ancient weaponry. Remember, she saved Frodo from the Ringwraiths (the Nazgul) all by herself; that's nine against one! If you choose Arwen for your costume, dress your date as Aragorn (finding a Viggo Mortensen lookalike helps, of course!); lucky for him, you're both mortal in real life.

8. Zhang Ziyi's Jen Yu in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Hot-headed, vengeful, and still sexy while clothed in mountains of silk robes, Jen Yu took no guff from warrior men… or women, either. Rather, she was a woman on a mission, and not even a gorgeous love interest could deter her from kung-fu'ing her way across ancient China in pursuit of a jade sword. Your costume: long, silk robes and a fake sword. Your date: anyone with a shaved head and stoic attitude will do; knowing actual kung fu (or how to fake the poses) is a big plus!

7. Trinity from The Matrix franchise
Sure, it made no sense without a Cliff's Notes guide, but the Matrix trilogy was still watchable
Good luck finding someone that's not threatened by you.
thanks to Carrie Ann Moss, who looked stunning in a skin-tight cat suit while mowing through legions of nasty virtual fellows. That she fell in love with Neo, also referred to as "the one," was just icing on her cake. Good luck finding your own shiny cat suit, and simply tell your date to dress as a piece of wood in order to emulate Keanu Reeves (although donning a long, black trench coat certainly helps).

6. Pam Grier as the title character in Foxy Brown
Okay, the fashions were absurd, but this was 1974, people! Foxy was one angry woman, but it was only because the mob murdered her lovely boyfriend. Nothing could stand between her and revenge; channel her combination of strength, style and sex appeal and nobody will stop you from getting what you want, either. To channel your inner Foxy, find a giant Afro wig, a vintage-style halter top and a really big gun in a costume store. And don't worry about a date: Foxy did just fine without one!

5. Beatrix Kiddo, "The Bride" in Kill Bill
Kill Bill is yet another revenge drama that turned the lead female character into a killing machine, but in Beatrix Kiddo's case, she had good cause for racking up the body count: Bill sent assassins to kill everyone at her wedding, and we all know how hard it is to find someone decent to marry these days. Forget guns — Beatrix became a ninja with a sword and unbelievable self-discipline. For a comfy, cost-effective costume, an old Adidas track suit from any thrift store in the right color will suffice. You can go ahead and wait until next week to look for a date; after all, you have a few people to kill first!

4. Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Linda Hamilton was all angry sinew and muscle on her mission to save the world, and both law enforcement and cyborgs had better stay the hell out of her way. Was that a spark we saw between her and Schwarzenegger? Perhaps she was wondering about his iron constitution! Connor served as an inspiration for all women to add weight training to their cardio regimen. To transform into Sarah Connor, simply wear no makeup, dress in jeans and a tank top, and do 50 chin-ups each day between now and Halloween. Looking for a date? Try scouting for one in your local "big and tall" men's clothing store.

3. Ellen Ripley in Aliens
Sigourney Weaver became an immortal action heroine for her role as Ripley, the baddest female galactic warrior to ever take on a swarm of man-eating space bugs. Unfortunately, though, she was in a chronically bad mood — possibly due to the fact that she was this-close to the delish Michael Biehn, but didn't have time for romance (Ripley was too busy strapping two guns together and rescuing a precocious child from certain death). For your Ripley costume, don an asexual jumpsuit and leave it unbuttoned in strategic places. As for your date? Good luck finding someone that's not threatened by you.

2. Elizabeth Swan in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy
After Keira Knightly began this Disney film saga as a pampered rich girl, it was especially fun to watch her character, Elizabeth Swan, evolve throughout the series into a primo swashbuckler — even heading up a motley crew of pirates herself in subsequent films. For her pains, she earned the right to choose between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom for her love interest. For an Elizabeth Swan costume, wear a corseted dress tight enough to make you faint. And for your date, all you need is someone with dreadlocks (real or fake!) to catch you.

1. Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider series
Angelina Jolie has dazzled fans as the famed video game heroine brought to life. There is seemingly no weapon she can't fire, no vehicle (or plane) she can't transport herself in, no man she can't seduce, no enemy she can't vanquish or treasure left undiscovered. One question, though: how does her hair always stay so perfect? If your personal superpower is your hair, then work it! For a do-it-yourself Lara Croft costume, think "safari chic" — the tighter, the better. For your date: anyone resembling Gerard Butler would be in the ballpark, but wouldn't Lady Lara prefer discovering what dates are waiting for her out there during her Halloween adventures?

In fact, if you want to dress up for Halloween as a real action heroine, why not go as Angelina Jolie herself — she's a mother of six, an Oscar-nominated actress, and a humanitarian, all at the same time! I mean, let's see Lara Croft try to pull that off. See how easy this is?

Jane Ganahl is the author of Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, editor of the anthology, Single Woman of a Certain Age, a journalist of two decades, and codirector of San Francisco's Litquake literary festival.
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