Best Spy Movies with Female Leads

From 'Atomic Blonde' to 'Red Sparrow'

Spy movies have been a popular genre for decades, with iconic characters like James Bond and Jason Bourne captivating audiences worldwide. However, in recent years, female leads have been making their mark in the world of espionage, starring in action-packed thrillers and complex dramas. From the fierce Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” to the enigmatic Jennifer Lawrence in “Red Sparrow,” these films showcase the talent and strength of women in cinema.

In this article, we will explore ten of the best spy movies with female leads, highlighting the unique characteristics that make each of these films a must-see for fans of the genre. From high-octane action sequences to intricate plots and character development, these movies offer a fresh perspective on the world of espionage and the women who inhabit it.

“Atomic Blonde” (2017)

If you’re looking for a thrilling and action-packed spy movie with a female lead, look no further than “Atomic Blonde.” This 2017 film, directed by David Leitch, features Charlize Theron as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton in Cold War-era Berlin.

The movie is based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, and it certainly lives up to its name with its icy visuals and intense fight scenes. Theron’s Broughton is a force to be reckoned with, and the film doesn’t hold back on her physical and emotional struggles as a spy.

But beyond its thrilling story and impressive visuals, “Atomic Blonde” is a significant addition to the genre thanks to its female-driven nature. Theron not only stars in the film, but she also produced it, proving that women can not only hold their own in the spy world but also succeed behind the camera.

If you’re looking for a female-driven spy movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat, “Atomic Blonde” is the perfect choice.

"Atomic Blonde" (2017)
“Atomic Blonde” (2017)

“Red Sparrow” (2018)

“Red Sparrow” is a gripping spy thriller that features a female lead spy played by Jennifer Lawrence. The movie, which is based on the novel by Jason Matthews, tells the story of Dominika Egorova, a former ballerina who is forced to become a spy for the Russian government.

The film is notable for its intense portrayal of espionage and the psychological toll it takes on its characters. Lawrence delivers a nuanced performance as Dominika, balancing vulnerability with strength as she navigates a dangerous world.

The movie features a complex storyline that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. It touches on themes of power, loyalty, and the lengths people will go to protect their country. Alongside Lawrence, the film boasts a talented supporting cast including Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Charlotte Rampling.

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“Red Sparrow” is a must-watch for fans of female-driven spy movies. It showcases the depth and complexity that women can bring to the genre and further establishes Lawrence as a versatile and talented actress.

"Red Sparrow" (2018)
“Red Sparrow” (2018)

“Salt” (2010)

Salt is a 2010 spy film starring Angelina Jolie as the lead character, Evelyn Salt. The plot follows Salt, a CIA agent, as she is accused of being a Russian spy. She goes on the run to clear her name and uncover the truth.

Aside from Jolie’s captivating performance, Salt is notable for its action-packed storyline and thrilling chase scenes. The movie also flips the traditional gender roles of spy films, with a female lead who is just as capable and ruthless as any male spy.

Directed by Phillip Noyce
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Sunil Perkash
Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer
Starring Angelina Jolie
Music by James Newton Howard

Overall, Salt is a standout film in the female spy genre, paving the way for other female-driven spy movies to come.

"Salt" (2010)
“Salt” (2010)

“La Femme Nikita” (1990)

“La Femme Nikita” is a classic spy film that broke new ground with its portrayal of a strong, complex female lead. Directed by Luc Besson, the movie tells the story of a troubled young woman, played by Anne Parillaud, who is given a second chance at life as a spy for a secretive government agency.

The movie’s success helped to pave the way for other female-driven spy movies, and its influence can still be seen in the genre today. “La Femme Nikita” remains a powerful example of women in espionage films and female-driven spy movies.

"La Femme Nikita" (1990)
“La Femme Nikita” (1990)

“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” (2015)

“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” features a captivating performance by Rebecca Ferguson as a skilled and complex spy named Ilsa Faust. Ferguson’s portrayal of Faust as a formidable and multi-dimensional character was a refreshing addition to the franchise. She held her own against Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and proved to be a valuable asset to the team.

The action sequences in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” are thrilling, and Ferguson’s portrayal of Faust during these scenes was impressive. She brought a level of intensity and realism to the action scenes that added to the overall excitement of the film.

In addition to her physical skills, Ferguson’s portrayal of Faust also highlighted her intelligence and resourcefulness. She was a character who could think on her feet and adapt to any situation, making her a valuable ally to Hunt and the rest of the team.

Ferguson’s performance in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was praised by critics and audiences alike, and it solidified her place as a talented actress capable of carrying a major action movie. This film is a must-watch for anyone looking for action movies with women spies.

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How Many Mission: Impossible Movies Are There?
How Many Mission: Impossible Movies Are There?

“Spy” (2015)

If you’re looking for a spy film with a comedic twist, “Spy” starring Melissa McCarthy is a must-watch. This movie sees McCarthy play an unassuming CIA analyst who volunteers to go undercover to prevent a global disaster.

McCarthy’s character proves to be a capable and hilarious spy, as she navigates dangerous situations with both wit and skill. The film also boasts a talented supporting cast including Jason Statham and Rose Byrne.

While “Spy” may not be a typical espionage thriller, its portrayal of a female spy is refreshing and entertaining. McCarthy’s performance, coupled with the film’s action and humor, make for a fun and empowering viewing experience.


"Spy" (2015)
“Spy” (2015)


Hanna” is a unique spy movie that follows the story of a young girl trained as an assassin by her father. Saoirse Ronan delivers a captivating performance as the titular character, showcasing her physical prowess and emotional depth. The movie is an excellent example of a female-driven spy film, with Hanna serving as a strong and complex lead.

The action sequences in “Hanna” are expertly executed, with director Joe Wright employing a kinetic and stylized approach. The movie also explores themes of identity and connection, as Hanna navigates a world she has been sheltered from for most of her life.

“Hanna” is a must-watch for fans of female-driven spy movies and women in espionage films. Its unique story and Saoirse Ronan’s magnetic performance make it a standout in the genre.


“Salt and Fire” (2016)

“Salt and Fire” is a lesser-known spy film that showcases a female lead spy played by Veronica Ferres. Directed by Werner Herzog, the movie explores the themes of environmentalism, politics, and espionage. Ferres plays Laura, a scientist who is kidnapped along with two other scientists while on a mission in Bolivia.

The movie’s unique plot and strong performances make it an interesting addition to the genre of female spies in cinema. Ferres’ portrayal of Laura is nuanced and complex, and the movie’s exploration of the female spy’s internal conflict adds depth to the storyline.

“Salt and Fire” may not be as action-packed as some of the other movies on this list, but its focus on the environmental crisis and the intersection of politics and espionage make it a standout film. It is a valuable addition to the genre of spy films starring women.

"Salt and Fire" (2016)
“Salt and Fire” (2016)

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” (2018)

The action-comedy film “The Spy Who Dumped Me” revolves around two best friends, Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), who become entangled in a dangerous espionage mission after Audrey’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be a CIA agent. The movie serves as a refreshing addition to the female-driven spy movies genre, combining humor with thrilling action sequences.

The film’s two female leads drive the story forward with their comedic chemistry and their ability to handle themselves in high-pressure situations. Mila Kunis portrays Audrey as a relatable character who is thrust into a world of spycraft and danger. On the other hand, Kate McKinnon’s Morgan is a scene-stealer, providing the film with a quirky and eccentric energy.

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The movie’s blend of humor and espionage is refreshing, making it stand out from other action movies with women spies. It effectively showcases the strength and skill of its female characters without relying on tired tropes or stereotypes. The Spy Who Dumped Me is a must-watch for anyone looking for a fun and action-packed spy movie with a female-driven narrative.

The Spy Who Dumped Me & James Bond Movies Connection
The Spy Who Dumped Me & James Bond Movies Connection

“Red Joan” (2018)

“Red Joan” is a historical spy drama that explores the life of Joan Stanley, a British woman who became a spy for the Soviet Union during World War II. The movie is based on a true story and features Judi Dench in the lead role. Her character is complex and multi-dimensional, showcasing the emotional toll that espionage can take on a person.

Unlike many spy movies that feature high-octane action sequences, “Red Joan” takes a more subtle approach. The film highlights the power of information and the ways in which spy work can impact political events. It also delves into the themes of loyalty and betrayal, as Joan must choose between her love for her country and her commitment to a cause she believes in.

“Red Joan” is a female-driven spy movie that stands out for its historical accuracy and its exploration of complex themes. The film is a testament to the fact that women have always played a significant role in espionage, even if their efforts have often gone unnoticed. If you’re a fan of women in espionage films, this is a must-see.

"Red Joan" (2018)
“Red Joan” (2018)


In conclusion, spy movies with female leads have become increasingly popular in recent years, showcasing the strength and complexity of women in the espionage genre. From “Atomic Blonde” to “Red Sparrow,” “Salt,” “La Femme Nikita,” and “Hanna,” these movies push the boundaries of what it means to be a female spy.

The portrayal of women in these films is crucial, as it challenges traditional gender roles and offers a new perspective on the spy genre. The female-driven spy movies bring in a unique perspective that is increasingly relevant and empowering to women in today’s society.

By featuring female characters in pivotal roles, these films encourage the audience to question gender stereotypes and embrace the possibilities of women in the genre. The portrayal of female spies in action movies like “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “The Spy Who Dumped Me” provides for an immersive experience, entertaining the audience, and giving them a character they can root for.

Overall, these spy movies with female leads are a testament to the importance of representation in cinema, highlighting the need for more inclusive and diverse storytelling. We encourage you to watch these movies and appreciate the incredible performances by the talented actresses who bring these characters to life.

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