History’s Warrior Women: Stories We Want To See on Film

Although they own half the fandom universes, The Walt Disney Company has been spending their time bringing the animated classics of the Disney renaissance to life in a series of live-action remakes.

While some of their offerings have been lackluster, to say the least, their latest endeavor Mulan, promises to be their most epic. A remake of their 1998 animated classic, the live-action will depict the story as it might have happened, bringing to life the history of China.

Taken from oral legend dating back to the early AD’s, The Ballad of Mulan is still taught to school children in China today. The woman who risked her life for her father, for her emperor, and for her fellow soldiers, Mulan has inspired warriors on the battlefield for centuries.

The film, starring Chinese American actress Liu Yifei, will be about more than mystical creatures and musical numbers this time around. While fans are sure to miss the wise-cracking dragon Mushu, Disney’s choice to stay true to Chinese culture and to tell Mulan’s story in a real way highlights the changing landscape of how we tell women’s stories.

Now that warrior women are getting more than bikini armor, we’d love to see more female-driven action epics. Here are 4 more legendary warriors whose movies could use a reboot

Mandukhai Khatun (1449-1510)

The Wise One graces a stamp.

A thousand years after Mulan’s story had become legend, “Mandukhai the Wise”, in control of her own region, reunited the fractured Mongal kingdom and gave China such a hard time she is credited with causing them to double their efforts on an expansion of the Great Wall itself!

Fun Fact, she also gave birth to twin sons on the battlefield – and still won said battle. That’s pretty impressive.

Queen Mandukhai the Wise, a 1987 Mongolian film was the last attempt to tell her story.

The Dahomey Amazons (Approx. 1654-1907)

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Called “Amazon” by western traders, these female warriors were highly trained and decorated in uniforms of honor, they were formed in the 1650s by King Houegbadja of what is now the modern-day Republic of Benin, in West Africa. The female battalions made up nearly a third of Dahomy’s army by the time they were disbanded.

While the warriors inspired the Dora Milaje of Marvel’s Wakanda, their story has only been featured in a seriously dated light – Werner Herzog’s Cobra Verde. They are certainly deserving of having an accurate version of their exploits depicted on the big screen.

Boudica: Queen of the Celtic Iceni (Died 61 AD)

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Queen of the Celtic Iceni people, Boudica, like many soldiers before her, first took up arms in vengeance.

The good old road-building Romans played nice at first, but when Boudica’s husband died and she refused their rule, she was flogged and her daughters raped. She raised an army against the occupiers, leading a nearly successful rebellion. Before her ultimate defeat, she and her army destroyed three cities and took out nearly 100,000 Roman soldiers.

Her story was told in the made for TV movie Warrior Queen (2003) It starred Alex Kingston (Doctor Who) and marked the screen debut of Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place).

Grace O’Malley: The Pirate Queen (1530–1603)

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The story of Grace O’Malley, a.k.a Grainne Uaile, has only been told on film by the dedicated independent filmmakers at Loose Gripp Films in Grace O’ Malley: A Prelude to a War.

Her’s is the story of an Irish noblewoman who patrolled the seas, fending off British rule and supporting rebels, quite successfully for a rather long time.

“a fearless leader, by land and by sea, a political pragmatist and politician, a ruthless plunderer, a mercenary, a rebel, a shrewd and able negotiator, the protective matriarch of her family and tribe, a genuine inheritor of the Mother Goddess and Warrior Queen attributes of her remote ancestors. Above all else, she emerges as a woman who broke the mold and thereby played a unique role in history.”  – Biographer Anne Chambers

Grace O’Malley, “Ireland’s Pirate Queen” maintained her independence to her death, despite charges of piracy!

Modern history offers up its own list of stories to tell of women taking to the battlefield from the modern-day legends of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit to the brave young women of the 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, filmmakers have plenty to choose from if a remake isn’t their game.  The evolution of storytelling in Hollywood has opened up a whole new world of epic adventure.

Sources: The Walt Disney Company,
Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, Loose Gripp Films, ITV

Images: Disney, Candlewick Publishing, Hambledon Continuum 



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