Jennifer Lawrence Thinks She Was The First Female Action Lead?

By Nathan Kamal | Published

jennifer lawrence hunger games

Jennifer Lawrence seems to believe that her role as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise was the first time an action film had a female lead. In a conversation between Lawrence and fellow Academy Award winner Viola Davis featured in Variety, the X-Men actress stated that “nobody had ever put a woman in the lead of an action movie.” While few could deny that Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss was one of the defining YA action film roles of the 2010s, it is also pretty factually inaccurate to describe her as the first female action movie lead. 

Jennifer Lawrence’s statement on the subject reads:

I remember when I was doing “Hunger Games,” nobody had ever put a woman in the lead of an action movie because it wouldn’t work — because we were told girls and boys can both identify with a male lead, but boys cannot identify with a female lead.

To be fair to Jennifer Lawrence, the actual point she is making about female leads being unfairly perceived as not being relatable to male audiences is a valid one. However, her intro to the concept, relying as it does on the erasure of pretty much every female action star who paved the way for Katniss, is a bit bizarre. It may not be that Jennifer Lawrence is being deliberately self-aggrandizing by claiming to be the first of her kind, but it is equally as odd to think she might be genuinely unaware of the lineage of action heroes before her. 

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Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley

For example, Jennifer Lawrence’s claim relies on not knowing that Sigourney Weaver has been the lead of the Alien franchise of films since the first Ridley Scott-directed film in 1979, and her character of Ellen Ripley is considered an icon of action movies.

Pam Grier in Jackie Brown

It would also require Jennifer Lawrence to be unaware of Pam Grier’s pioneering work in Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), for which none other than legendary film aficionado and director Quentin Tarantino dubbed her the first female action star.

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Uma Thurman in Kill Bill

Then there is Uma Thurman as the Bride in Tarantino’s own Kill Bill movies, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in the Terminator series of films, Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider series, Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil series, Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld movies, and you get the point. 

While no one presumably expects Jennifer Lawrence to be an expert in the history of action films, it does seem strange for someone claiming a pivotal role in a genre to be not all that versed in it. On the other hand, Lawrence did make the claim recently that the majority of her bad movies were because of other people making choices for her, so it could simply be that she does not keep up with what’s going on in the entertainment industry all that much. 

Jennifer Lawrence starred in the Hunger Games films from the first film in 2012 to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 in 2015, with the enormously successful dystopian science fiction films making her one of the biggest stars in the world. Along with her role as Mystique in Fox’s X-Men franchise, The Hunger Games made Jennifer Lawrence the single highest-grossing female action star in history. Maybe she should be highlighting that instead of “first.”