Scarlett Johansson Kicks Butt in 'The Avengers,' Joins Ranks of Female Action Heroes

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With "The Avengers" breaking numerous box office records in its opening weekend, the success might open the door for a lot of the film's stars. Scarlett Johansson is one of the actors it might help the most. While Johansson remains mostly known for her beautiful looks, "The Avengers" allowed Johansson to get down and kick some butt along the way.

This is Johansson's second attempt at the Marvel superhero movies, also appearing in "Iron Man 2," but her role in "The Avengers' was amped up. Largely thanks to Joss Whedon's ability at creating inspiring female characters, as evident in his old television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," he was able to prove that Johansson was more than just a pretty face.

With Johansson adding her name to the list, here is a look at the ever growing face of women action heroes in movies.

Angelina Jolie

For a long time, the only face for the female action hero was that of Angelina Jolie. From her turn in the Nic Cage action thriller "Gone in Sixth Seconds" to the Lara Croft "Tomb Raider" movies, Jolie set a high bar most actresses never reached. Even later in her career, she continues to leap tall buildings in a single bound, as evident in "Salt."

"It's the opposite of actually every action movie I've ever done, because there's never really been a female action movie based in reality," Jolie said of "Salt." "They're always fantasy. I've done most of 'em."

Zoe Saldana

In 2009, James Cameron cast Zoe Saldana as one of the motion capture creatures in "Avatar" and suddenly the long-time character actress became an action star. Since that breakout moment, Saldana has morphed into what looks to be the eventual replacement for Jolie if the actress decides to hang up her utility belt. Saldana has appeared in both ensemble action movies, such as "The Losers," and a solo butt kicking adventure in "Colombiana."

"I love just playing great characters," Saldana said while promoting "Colombiana," "whether they involve me wearing a corset, crying over a lost love or kicking butt with a weapon. I am not negating any of those things."

Paula Patton

While she may not be known for her butt kicking attributes yet, Paula Patton made quite an impression in the 2011 action thriller, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." While sharing fighting scenes with heavyweights such as Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner, Patton held her own and proved that she might be ready to step in and provide young girls with another strong female role model in Hollywood action movies.

"I got to have fights and gun play," Patton said about "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol." "I wasn't forced to do all of my own stunts, but I'm a very competitive person and once I heard Tom was doing it I had to do all of mine. My stunts weren't as death-defying as Tom hanging off the Burj Khalifa, but it was really fun."

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