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10 Best Female-Led Crime Films, Ranked


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From Hustlers to Oceans 8, these are some of the best crime films that have women leading the nefarious way.

The crime genre has produced some of the most thrilling movies of all time. However, when thinking about the genre’s most acclaimed movies, like The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Reservoir Dogs, they are mostly male-dominated stories. Female characters can sometimes get overlooked in movies like this, but that is not to say the genre is lacking in some truly great female-led stories.

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These movies feature complex and compelling lead characters in the middle of intense and thrilling situations. These movies stand shoulder to shoulder with the best male-focused stories in the crime genre and deserve to be seen by any fans of these types of stories.

10 Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Original cast of Ocean's 8 (2018)

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The Oceans movies were a star-studded trilogy of glamorous and cool movies. But despite the large ensemble casts, there weren’t too many female parts to speak of. So the series was revisited, this time with Danny Ocean’s sister (Sandra Bullock) leading an all-female team of thieves.

The excellent cast included the likes of Cate Blanchette, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway. While the new movie was sorely missing the style of Steven Soderbergh, the cast made it a fun and light romp.

9 Thelma And Louise (1991)

Shootout in Thelma & Louise

There have been plenty of movies about runaway outlaws, but Thelma and Louise felt new as it focused on two female best friends running from a world that has mistreated them. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star as the titular pair who kill a man in self-defense and hit the road to stay ahead of the law.

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Ridley Scott directs the film with fun energy that mixes the crime element with a charming story about friendship. The two leads wonderfully sell these outlaws as people worth cheering for.

8 I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017)

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is not as well-known as the other movies on this list, but it is a great small indie crime story worth seeking out. The movie stars the great character actor Melanie Lynskey as a woman whose confrontation with a burglar puts her in the middle of a dangerous world.

This darkly comedic odyssey takes a look at violent and sadistic crime within the setting of a seemingly normal suburban world. Lynskey is wonderful as this woman who can’t understand the ugliness of the world around her.

7 Set It Off (1996)

Set it Off is an exciting and wild ’90s heist movie that has become a cult movie over time. It stars the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifa in the story of a group of Black women struggling to make ends meet who become bank robbers in Los Angeles.

The movie’s action, directed by F. Gary Gray, is intense and energetic while the central story is surprisingly powerful.

6 Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Not all crime movies have to have guns and heists to be compelling as is the case with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, based on an incredible true story. Melissa McCarthy gives her best performance to date as Beth Israel, an abrasive struggling writer who begins forging rare letters to sell to collectors.

RELATED: 10 Best White-Collar Crime Movies, Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes (Including Bad Education)

McCarthy’s wonderful performance is paired with Richard E. Grant’s similarly wonderful performance as her partner in crime. The result is a quiet yet gripping crime story of someone who uses their considerable talent to break the law.

5 Widows (2018)

Another female-centric heist movie that came out in recent years is Widows from Oscar-winner Steve McQueen. The movie stars Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez as women whose criminal husbands die during a heist gone wrong, and they are forced to finish the job.

The all-star cast also includes Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, and Daniel Kaluuya. It is a grounded and stylish crime story with some amazing performances, especially from Davis in the complex lead role.

4 Hustlers (2019)

Sometimes the most amazing crime stories are actually based on true stories. Such is the case with the incredibly entertaining movie, Hustlers. Constance Wu stars as a young woman who works as a dancer at a strip club. She is taken under the wing of a veteran dancer (played by Jennifer Lopez) as they concoct a plan to make more money from the men they dance for (by any means necessary).

The movie feels like a female version of Goodfellas as it follows the intoxicating rise in the life of crime and the inevitable crash. Lopez gives an extraordinary performance as the ringleader who is intense yet always caring.

3 Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt in Sicario

Emily Blunt has now established herself as one of the best action stars in Hollywood, but by the time she starred in Sicario, audiences hadn’t seen her in this type of role. She plays a young FBI agent who becomes a part of a covert operation into Mexico to take down a major drug cartel.

Blunt is the audience surrogate as this haunting crime thriller gets more and more intense while she tries to find her footing. She gives a grounded and powerful performance while being joined by an equally impressive turn by Benicio Del Toro.

2 The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

While Hannibal Lecter is the character everyone thinks of when they think of The Silence of the Lambs, he is not in the movie very much. The story is really all about Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), the young FBI agent who is brought into this serial killer investigation.

The movie is a classic crime thriller that keeps its audience on the edge of their seats the entire time. Foster makes for a realistic and sympathetic hero who is sometimes out of her depth but never willing to turn back.

1 Jackie Brown (1997)

Based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown is a wildly fun crime caper from Quentin Tarantino. Pam Grier stars as the titular character, a flight attendant who is caught smuggling money for her arms dealer boss. While the authorities attempt to make her an informant, she uses the opportunity to get herself rich.

Jackie is the smartest person in any room she walks into which makes her such a fun character to root for. She plays all the players off each other in just the right way as the audience watches her plan take shape.

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Updated: November 14, 2020 — 11:00 pm

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