Girly to Gutsy: 6 Actresses Who Went from Chick Flicks to Action Movies

by Jennifer Lafferty

Girly to Gutsy: 6 Actresses Who Went from Chick Flicks to Action Movies

Many actresses start out in chick flicks and are so appealing in these romantic comedies or tragic tearjerkers that they can’t seem to break out of the genre. But there are a few female stars who have managed to go all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum by successfully transitioning to major action films. Here are six great examples of gals who have proven that they can be both girly and gutsy on the big screen.




On the movie spectrum, chick flicks and action movies couldn’t be further apart, but many actors and actresses cross over between the genres. Of course, it’s not always easy to make the transition, especially when you’re going from the adorable journalist love interest to the kick-ass secret agent, but it can be done! These six actresses prove that breaking out of the chick flick genre is not only doable, it’s career-changing.


Scarlett Johansson

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1. Scarlett Johansson
First popular in female-centric fare like the 1998 drama The Horse Whisperer and the historical romance The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Scarlett Johansson has since expanded her horizons. Appearing first in 2010 in Iron Man 2, Johansson has reprised her role as Natasha Romanoff for Marvel’s Avengers and Captain America franchises, and she broke new ground for women in action films just last year when she played the lead in the action blockbuster Lucy.


Emily Blunt

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2. Emily Blunt
For years Emily Blunt was best remembered as Miranda Priestly’s high-strung, snarky assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, and roles in films like The Five-Year Engagement helped to firmly cement her place in the chick flick genre. A turning point came last year, though, when she starred opposite Tom Cruise in the sci-fi adventure epic Edge of Tomorrow. Blunt can currently be seen in the crime actioner Sicario.


Keira Knightley

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3. Keira Knightley
Although she started in action movies early on, Keira Knightley really made her mark as a young actress in sweeping TV mini-series like Doctor Zhivago before toughening up for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And just when it looked as if she was going to get stuck in the chick-flick box forever—after starring in movies like Pride & Prejudice or Love Actually—she reminded audiences of her versatility with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and the newly released Everest.


Cameron Diaz

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4. Cameron Diaz
Chick flicks, like her recent hit The Other Woman, may be Cameron Diaz’s go-to genre, but Diaz proved in the early 2000s that she is a force to be reckoned with in action films like Charlie’s Angels and Gangs of New York.


Zoe Saldana

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5. Zoe Saldana
After bursting onto the scene with the music drama Center Stage in 2000 and following up with girly flicks Get Over It and Crossroads, Zoe Saldana quickly made the leap to action films, beginning with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Of course, Saldana is now best-known for smash-hit action films like Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy.


Bryce Dallas Howard

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6. Bryce Dallas Howard
The sweet, soft-spoken Bryce Dallas Howard, who originally made a name for herself in the romantic mystery The Village, is the latest example of an actress who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to succeed in action films. Howard scored huge at the box office last summer, starring alongside Chris Pratt in Jurassic World.