8 Greatest Martial Arts Actresses

8 Greatest Martial Arts Actresses

There’s been a lot of badass women in the history of cinema. Many of the best female action stars are even practicing martial artists with real fighting abilities.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of 8 of the greatest martial actresses of all time. Read about these great actresses below and learn about their martial arts backgrounds.

Martial Arts Actresses

Gina Carano

Gina Carano

Let’s start off the list of the greatest martial arts actresses with Gina Carano. Before Gina was starring in numerous blockbuster movies and tv shows, she was a pioneer for women’s MMA.

The former MMA star went 12-1 in professional Muay Thai before making the jump to MMA. After going 2-0 as a pro, Carano fought for the promotions EliteXC and Strikeforce. 

This was when she began getting the attention from MMA fans for her beauty and abilities. She became the first female MMA star in the sport’s history, who finished her career with a 7-1 record.

Carano then moved into the world of acting with her film debut starring in the action film Haywire. From there, Gina co-starred in some of the biggest action movies of the 2010s from F&F 6 to Deadpool.

After those roles, Gina played Cara Dune in seven episodes of the hit show The Mandalorian. The former MMA fighter proved she could be a star in anything she sets her mind to.

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey

Next on our greatest martial arts actresses list is the former MMA legend Ronda Rousey. During the 2010s, Ronda was one of the biggest MMA stars in the world.

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She debuted in the first female UFC match and helped move women’s MMA to a global audience. Her star was bright, which enabled her to jump into the world of acting.

Her first big role was co-starring in the hit Expendables 3 and then another hit with Fast & Furious 7. After making films and fighting, Rousey then moved on to the world of pro wrestling.

For a few years, Rousey was one of the biggest stars in the WWE, who headlined some of their biggest events.

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh

Any list of the greatest martial arts actresses must include the legend Michelle Yeoh. Michelle has starred in some of the greatest martial arts action films in the history of cinema.

The crazy thing about Yeoh being in so many of these films is that she had no prior martial arts training. Everything she learned was on set, where she learned from some of the greatest martial arts actors.

Michelle trained and learned alongside legends like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. From her decades of working on numerous martial arts epics, Yeoh has developed legitimate skills.

After decades of hard work, Michelle’s work paid off when she won an Oscar for best actress in 2021. You can see more of Michelle’s martial arts abilities in the new hit Netflix series, The Brothers Sun.

Cynthia Rothrock

Cynthia Rothrock

We knew if we were going to make a list of the greatest martial arts actresses, Cynthia Rothrock must be included. If you don’t know who Cynthia Rothrock is, she starred in some of the cheesiest and fun 1980s action movies.

Cynthia holds black belts in several styles from Taekwondo, Karate, Tang Soo Do, Eagle Claw, Wushu, and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. From 1981 to 1985, Rothrock won five straight world titles for weapons and forms demonstrations.

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This success in forms competitions led her to acting. Her first film was a Hong Kong action flick called Yes Madam, where she co-starred with Michelle Yeoh.

Rothrock would then spend the next two decades in various films like the China O’Brien series. She was also the inspiration for the character Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat.

For that alone, we have to give Cynthia Rothrock respect as one of the greatest martial arts actresses.

Gal Gaddot

Gal Gaddot

Gal Gaddot is currently one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. She’s starred in numerous hit movies and obviously her biggest role being Wonder Woman in multiple films. 

It was no coincidence that the Israeli actress got this role as she is beautiful with legitimate martial arts skills. Before Gal got into acting, she was a soldier in the Israeli military.

For her training, Gaddot learned Krav Maga, where she earned a black belt. She also holds a black belt in karate and is currently practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Gaddot is a legit martial artist and definitely deserves a spot on our greatest martial arts actresses list.

Milla Jovovich

Milla Jovovich

Milla Jovovich has done it all in her lift from being a supermodel, martial artist, and actress in blockbuster films. She got the attention of many when she starred in the 1997 action movie The Fifth Element.

From that point forward, Milla became a fixture as one of the top action film stars. She went on to take out zombies in the Resident Evil franchise for years.

Most recently, Jovovich starred alongside fellow action movie legend Tony Jaa in the Monster Hunter film. In all of these films, Milla showcases her legitimate martial arts skills from her background in taekwondo and wushu. 

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These days, Milla Jovovich practices BJJ when she isn’t starring in action movies.

Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu

Another action movie legend that deserves to be on any list of the greatest martial arts actresses is Lucy Liu. Since the 1990s, Liu has played significant roles in some of the best action movies in history.

Everything from the hit Charlie’s Angels movies Shanghai Noon and her legendary role in Kill Bill. She even voiced Viper in the hit Kung Fu Panda series.

If you’ve watched any of these movies, it’s obvious that Liu does have legitimate martial arts training. Before she got into acting, Lucy was a kali-eskrima silat practitioner as a teen. 

This weapons training helped her land many of her famous roles that we know and love her for.

Angela Mao

Angela Mao

Last but not least on our list of the greatest martial arts actresses is the legend Angela Mao. Mao was a huge star throughout the 1970s, who starred in numerous Kung Fu classics.

She originally practiced Hapkido, which was the name of the film she got her first starring role in. From there, Mao saw the popularity of Kung Fu flicks rising, so she began practicing different styles.

This along with her great acting ability allowed Mao to land a lot of big roles. She starred in everything from Enter The Dragon, Lady Whirlwind, Deadly China Doll, Dance of Death, and Battle of Shaolin.

Angela Mao was one of the original female action stars, who deserves to be honored for her work.