Zoe Saldaña has had quite a successful career in action movies. She’s snagged several iconic roles across multiple franchises, and kicked plenty of butt along the way. Now that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has arrived, let’s look at five of the best Zoe Saldaña action movies.
Star Trek (2009)
Zoe Saldaña was the perfect choice to play a modern version of Nyota Uhura, originally played by Nichelle Nichols in the 1966 Star Trek series. All three of the modern Star Trek films leaned more towards the action genre than most previous interpretations. This allowed Saldaña to show off her chops as this new, re-imagined iteration of Uhura.
The actress mixes the perfect amount of confidence with vulnerability, which contrasts well with her emotionally absent love interest, Spock. She excels throughout the movie, whether she deciphers distress calls or brings some much-needed maturity to the bridge. Saldaña stuck with the role for the two sequels – Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Known in the Marvel comics as “the deadliest woman in the galaxy,” the character of Gamora couldn’t have been played by just anybody. Saldaña pulls it off perfectly, and depicts the anti-heroine as both equal parts badass and vulnerable. She can go toe-to-toe with Thanos or have contemplative conversations with her sister Nebula, and neither side feels out of character.
Though Saldaña is excellent in all three Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the second one is where the character is at her apex. From her relationship with Nebula to her complicated feelings for with Star-Lord, Gamora gets to shine with the entire cast of the sequel.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War is easily one of the best Zoe Saldaña action movies. The Marvel Studios sequel focused heavily on Gamora’s “adoptive father,” the Mad Titan Thanos. This allows for plenty of brilliant Gamora moments, as she grapples with the villain and revisits the trauma he inflicted on her and Nebula. The character is a key part of making Thanos work as a villain, and Saldaña nails their complicated relationship.
While Gamora dies in this movie, the performance that leads up to that moment is amazing. The sacrifice scene is gutting and leaves viewers with a pit in their stomachs, which can be chalked up to Saldaña’s emotive delivery. Plus, fans get a different Gamora in Avengers: Endgame when the other timeline’s version of the character crosses over. This allowed for more development in both Endgame and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The latter film seems to be the end of Saldaña’s time in the MCU, which has been a great ride all around.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
2022’s Avatar sequel blew audiences away, which is impressive given the 13-year wait the second movie had. Fans keen to return to Pandora were treated to a moving story about the cycle of life. This was given additional weight by Zoe Saldaña’s intense performance as Neytiri.
Neytiri goes through a lot in Avatar: The Way of Water, so committed acting was required to sell viewers on the heavy emotional stakes of the sequel. Saldaña pulled it off in spades, as she fluctuated between deeply loving mother and unstoppable warrior. There’s a scene near the end during the battle with Quaritch that is especially poignant, which fully displays Saldaña’s range. Future Avatar sequels will certainly thrive if they keep Neytiri as an active presence, as she’s been one of the best parts of both of James Cameron’s blockbuster epics.
Colombiana could be one of the best Zoe Saldaña action movies on the basis of her getting to lead it herself. Though it features a lengthy intro following the nine-year-old version of the actress’ character played by Amandla Stenberg, Saldaña hits the ground running once she debuts and performs an undercover hit.
Between disguises and assassinations, Cataleya Restrepo is an exceptionally experienced contract killer. She’s dangerous, and Saldaña’s convinces you of that. There’s a particularly exciting scene later in the movie that has Saldaña escaping a SWAT team, then taking out a whole gang right after — further proof that the actress is an action legend.