A $25 Million Superhero Movie Should’ve Broken the Glass Ceiling 2 Decades Before ‘Wonder Woman’

When Wonder Woman came along in 2017, pop culture fans were thrilled. It a bold new direction for the DC Universe. And it helped to establish a new look and feel for a character that had been beloved by millions of action fans for decades. There’s no doubt that Wonder Woman changed how female heroes in comic book movies were perceived. But one dedicated fandom believes another film first took those steps back in the mid-90s. In 2017, the director of that film, Rachel Talalay, opened up about why she thought her movie, Tank Girl, should have broken the glass ceiling. 

What is ‘Tank Girl’ about?


Tank Girl is an underground cult classic released in 1995. Based on the popular British comic book series of the same name, Tank Girl stars Lori Petty as the antihero of the film’s title. She’s joined by Naomi Watts as Jet Girl and a host of other talented performers, including Ice-T and Malcolm McDowell. The film follows the story of the butt-kicking female antiheroes as they square off against a corporation led by McDowell’s character, Kesslee.

The project was a labor of love for director Talalay. She worked with Courtney Love to create the soundtrack for Tank Girl. And she enlisted filmmaking genius Stan Winston to helm the special effects team, according to IMDb. Even though Tank Girl featured many talented artists on and off-camera, it didn’t do well at the box office. These days, it is best known as a cult classic that rocked feminist themes well before its time. According to Slash Film, the movie bombed at the box office when it was first released. But many fans today believe it’s an integral chapter in the superhero genre.

How ‘Wonder Woman’ did what ‘Tank Girl’ couldn’t

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Actor Gal Gadot attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Wonder Woman” at the Pantages Theatre on May 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In 2017, Talalay opened up to Vice about the genre. She spoke specifically about how far women in superhero films have come since the days of Tank Girl. “When I made Tank Girl, I truly believed that I would break the glass ceiling. I just thought, I believe in this comic. It’s so out there, it’s so outrageous, it’s so punk, it’s so me,” the director admitted.

“I said this is my shot, and I’m going to go all out there, and you’re either going to love it, or you’re going to hate it. I didn’t care if it averaged out as a five because I wanted it to be a one or a ten,” Talalay said. She noted that she met resistance from the studio from the beginning of the shoot. And the production’s slim $25 million budget made it hard to go all the way with the movie’s special effects. “The idea that Wonder Woman got made on a really healthy budget—and finally a woman-led project was allowed the budget to not be the bastard child—that was part of the huge step,” Talalay said.

Director Rachel Talalay called out Marvel

Talalay told Vice she believes the success of Wonder Woman should lead to more female-centric genre projects. But she still thinks there’s a lot of room for improvement in Hollywood in terms of inclusivity. Over the past several years, Talalay has continued directing projects that matter to her. And she’s been very open about the role of women in the filmmaking business. She also hasn’t hesitated to call out major studios from time to time. 

In 2020, Talalay took to Twitter to slam Marvel for receiving the credit for putting comic book panels in their movies – just as she did with Tank Girl in 1995. “Here we go. Now you know where Marvel stole their titles. Still waiting for my royalties. #TankGirlLives,” Talalay wrote.

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