Lucy, the latest film from renowned French director Luc Besson, arrives in U.S. theaters on July 25. In the film, Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, who is forced to become a drug mule for a criminal gang in Taiwan. However, after she accidentally absorbs the drugs that have been stashed in her body, Lucy acquires superhuman powers. As seen in the trailer above, the film uses the premise that humans are only using 10 percent of their brain and that the drugs ingested by Lucy somehow unlocked her brain’s full potential. Besides Johansson, Lucy also stars Morgan Freeman as a scientist who is researching the human brain.
Johansson is becoming a familiar face to fans of action films from her recurring role as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, a highly trained martial arts expert and S.H.I.E.L.D. operative who has appeared in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But based on the trailer for Lucy, it appears that Johansson’s character in this film will be an even more formidable fighter than Black Widow.
For Luc Besson, Lucy is just one of the many films that he has directed that feature a strong female lead character. While many of Besson’s movies include female characters with amazing martial arts fighting abilities or gun skills, some of his other films also feature women who are spiritually or mentally tough. Although none of the characters in his other films have the Neo-like abilities that Lucy possesses, they are each incredibly strong in their own way. Here are five other memorable female characters featured in Luc Besson-directed films.
5. Nikita in Nikita aka La Femme Nikita (1990)
Played by French actress Anne Parillaud, the title character in this film first appears as a drug-addled robber who is arrested after killing a police officer. However, after being forcibly enrolled into a secret government training program, Nikita evolves into a formidable fighter and assassin.
This influential film has maintained its popularity over the years and currently has an 88 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. In 1993, director John Badham remade Nikita as an American action film starring Bridget Fonda called Point of No Return. Nikita has also spawned two different television series, including one that just wrapped up last year.
4. Mathilda in Léon: The Professional aka Léon (1994)
In what became her breakout role, Natalie Portman plays a tough young girl named Mathilda in this action film. After managing to survive the massacre of her entire family, Mathilda is taken in by a highly skilled assassin named Léon, played by Jean Reno. Despite only being 12 years old, Mathilda insists that Léon train her as an assassin in order to avenge her brother’s death. While Mathilda’s first assassination attempt doesn’t go quite according to plan, her survival skills and mental toughness unquestionably qualify her as a strong female character.
Léon was a commercial success and received mostly positive reviews from the critics. The film currently has a 71 percent “Certified Fresh” approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes and a 95 percent audience approval rating.
3. Leeloo in The Fifth Element (1997)
Well-known action star Milla Jovovich plays Leeloo, a “perfect” alien being, in this blockbuster sci-fi epic. While Korben Dallas, played by Bruce Willis, tries to protect Leeloo from Zorg, played by Gary Oldman, Leeloo demonstrates her own remarkable powers by surviving a multistory drop onto a taxicab and by later dispatching several evil Mangalores with her fighting skills.
The Fifth Element raked in nearly $264 million in worldwide box office gross, according to Box Office Mojo, and kicked off Jovovich’s career as a butt-kicking action star. The film currently has a 71 percent approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes and an 87 percent audience approval rating.
2. Joan in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
Milla Jovovich teams up with Luc Besson once again to play a strong female character in this drama about one of the most famous figures in French history. Jovovich plays the title character of Joan, a 15th century peasant who was inspired by religious visions to lead the French to several military victories against the English. Although she wins several battles, Joan is eventually captured and burned at the stake by English forces. However, just like the real-life of Joan of Arc, this female film character demonstrates both physical and spiritual strength.
1. Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady (2011)
Michelle Yeoh plays renowned pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in this film that focuses on the relationship between Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris. While Yeoh typically plays characters that that are physically strong — such as the Chinese spy Wai Lin in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies or the warrior Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — she changes gears in The Lady by playing a morally and mentally strong character.
This biopic covers Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to reform Myanmar’s oppressive government as she endures a long separation from her family while she is under house arrest. Although the overall film received mixed reviews from the critics, Yeoh’s performance was widely praised.
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