ByHeather Snowden, writer at
Lover of bad puns, nostalgic feels and all things Winona. Email: [email protected] Tweet: @heathbetweetin
Heather Snowden

French director was 10 years old when he first picked up a copy of the trippy '60s comic series Valérian and Laureline, and it seems as though he's carried its influence with him ever since. Over the last 30-something years, through movies like The Fifth Element and Lucy, we've been given insight into the vivid, distinctive, dimension-bending creations that make up Besson's world. However, it's his next cinematic venture — an adaptation of those comics titled and the City of a Thousand Planets — in which we can expect to see his vision the clearest.

In a nutshell, the story will follow the adventures of two intergalactic space agents, traversing the cosmos in a bid to solve crimes — and while I'm totally stoked to see another alien-esque escapade from one of 's king creators, for me, his movies are exciting for one reason in particular: the strength of his leading ladies. And, considering Valerian's leading lady — Laureline, played by Cara Delevingne — was Besson's first crush, I'm sure we're in for one hell of kick-ass performance.

The director's need for a concept-shattering female lead dates back to the 1980's, when he pioneered the stylish cinéma du look — a specific approach that challenged Hollywood's tired stereotypes of strong women. His characters are often charismatic, killer-femmes, commander types and, more often than not, outrageously attractive. Yet what really sets them apart from your Lara Croft's and your Katniss Everdeen's is that, while these girls are clearly genetically blessed, they're also all deeply flawed — honing less of a teenage boy's wet dream kind of vibe, and more deranged dominatrix.

The character of Laureline sounds as though she'll be no different: She's described as a rebellious soul with fists of steel, she's a woman who's unafraid to exploit her own sexual prowess in return for personal advantage — a manipulative vixen of sorts. She also boasts a strong moral compass, wild independence and worldly smarts. In other words, she's a fucking boss. And she looks like this:

Valérian and Laureline comics
Valérian and Laureline comics

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Enviable looks, intelligence and carefree attitude is something has in abundance, so we we're confident of her fit to the role — plus, has Besson given us a drab leading lady yet? No, he has not — and here's a list of some of his best to prove it.

1. Héléna — Subway (1985)

Isabelle Adjani in Subway
Isabelle Adjani in Subway

Actress: Isabelle Adjani

Best quote:

"Stop! Tell your story to someone else... because I don't give a fuck about all this bullshit."

To say that Héléna's social etiquette could do with a little polishing would be an understatement — but that's what makes her character so fantastic. This is a woman who has zero fucks to give, and unfortunately for her, being the young trophy-wife to a mafia mob boss meant she was expected to give them on a fairly regular basis. Though expectations don't always lead into reality as you'll see in the hilarious clip below:

2. Nikita — La Femme Nikita (1990)

Actress: Anne Parillaud

Best Quote:

"What's the worst that could happen?"

Many of Besson's characters aren't what you'd consider typically femme — these ladies flirt with the concept of gender stereotypes; but none celebrate fluidity quite like Nikita. By watching the scene below you'll see a woman who looks like she's just stepped out of Capote's Breakfast At Tiffany's and into the mind of a determined — and incredibly capable — assassin.

3. Mathilda — Léon: The Professional (1994)

Actress: Natalie Portman

Best Quote:

"I don't give a shit about sleeping, Leon. I want love, or death. That's it."

Ok, watching a 12-year-old running around with a gun while training to be an assassin makes for pretty disturbing viewing, but that's kind of the whole point. Léon tells the story of Mathilda, a girl whose family is murdered by a corrupt drug enforcement team, after which she's taken in by a hitman and falls promptly in love with him. The girl is thick skinned, ambitious, fearless and a little bit cuckoo — all the things the protagonist of a captivating thriller should be.

4. Leeloo — The Fifth Element (1997)

Actress: Milla Jovovich

Best Quote:

"What's the use in saving life when you see what you do with it?"

If you didn't instantly fall for Leeloo's tangerine dream aesthetic, then the fact she can dodge bullets with ease, learn 5,000 years of human history in a matter of days and literally leap through metal walls should sway you in the right direction. Yes, she's odd AF, but as far as A.Is go, she's one of the coolest.

5. Lucy — Lucy (2014)

Actress: Scarlett Johansson

Best Quote:

"Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge."

In most of Luc Besson's leading ladies you'll find an element of naivety paired with a super-powered skill set — a balance of odds that Scarlett Johansson nailed with her portrayal of the titular Lucy. Thanks do a healthy drug dosage (administered unwillingly), the previously vulnerable Lucy is able to unlock a bunch of very neat pre-encoded conscious capabilities that essentially turn her into a supercomputer that can travel through time. Would you mess with a chick that could pull those kind of stunts?

Didn't think so.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theaters July, 2017. Are you ready for Luc Besson's next adventure?


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