With all of the damsels in distress and borderline-desperate women looking for love, it can be tough to find role model-worthy leading ladies on the silver screen. Y'know, smart, savvy women who can kick ass if necessary and even save some men from danger along the way. Think Starbuck from 'Battlestar Galactica,' except on the big screen.

This month, you can find two formidable female leads in the theaters. The ultimate tough-as-nails, smarter-than-everyone hero, Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) in 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest,' and Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts), the real-life CIA agent outed by the Bush Administration in 'Fair Game.'

While 'Fair Game' falls flat and really just rehashes everything we already know about the Plame Affair, it's refreshing to see a heroine who's focused on saving lives and bringing home the bacon, while her husband shares the homemaking duties without being portrayed in an emasculating light. (It would have been nice to see a bit more of Plame's back story in 'Fair Game' to get a better sense of just how tough she is and what drives her.)

Lisbeth, a.k.a. The 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,' is definitely someone you want in your corner if things turn sour. She may be tiny, but she can take down biker dudes, serial killers and muscle-bound freaks. And she's much more than an ass-kicking machine – she can outsmart the best of them. In a nod to 'Fair Game' and in honor of the iconic new heroine Lisbeth, here's a list of my favorite, awe-inspiring leading ladies who foil bad guys with their smarts and, in some cases, some awesome ass-kicking moves. And no, I'm not including the heroines designed more to titillate teenage boys than inspire young ladies (ahem, Catwoman. Elektra. Lara Croft).

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in 'Alien'
See what happens when you disobey Ripley's orders? Chaos, that's what. If everyone had just followed her calm, cool instructions, that nasty alien would have never gotten on the ship in the first place. Now Ripley's got a ton of s--t to deal with, from an undermining robot to a hysterical co-worker who keeps screaming and crying – not to mention getting rid of that pesky alien. Luckily, she's super-smart with nerves of steel, so that indestructible alien is no match for her.



Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt in 'Salt'
It ain't easy being a spy. Especially when you're accused of being a double agent. But with a little hair dye, an ugly hat, incredible endurance and cunning moves, Salt manages to evade her pursuers, kill some bad guys and save some dignitaries. Now that's heroic. Here's hoping for a 'Salt 2', where we can see her maneuver her way out of even more impossibly tricky situations.



Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in 'The Matrix'
Even though Neo is the lead character, Trinity is way more than a sidekick or glorified love interest. She helps Neo navigate the strange new world he finds himself in, and employs her significant ass-kicking skills when necessary to protect him. She never loses her cool, and is instrumental in one of the movie's key rescue operations. Plus she looks super bad-ass in her (presumably) aerodynamic suit and slick shades.



Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in 'The Silence of the Lambs'
Clarice's primary weapon is her brain. The rookie FBI agent is (relatively) unfazed by her series of creepy tete-a-tetes with the notorious cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Her assignment is to get him to help the feds profile fellow serial killer Buffalo Bill, who is on the loose. Tough Clarice holds her own against the tricky Hannibal, and manages to pry enough information out of him to ultimately catch that nasty freak Buffalo Bill.



Uma Thurman as The Bride in 'Kill Bill Vol. 1'
The Bride doesn't need a man to avenge all of the wrongs that have been done to her. She can do it herself. And all without a gun, too. The Bride does an incredible amount of damage using just her martial arts and her sword. Oh, and that little move called the Five Point Exploding Palm Technique. While The Bride's bloody rampage doesn't exactly make her an ideal role model, she does have morals. She doesn't kill in front of kids, after all. Besides, extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures.



This, of course, is just a list of my own personal picks. Please feel encouraged to add your own in the comments below. After all, as Brian the commenter so aptly pointed out last week, I'm just a little child who rarely watches movies made before the '80s. Help me fill in the gaps, people.
CATEGORIES Columns, The Rundown