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).
categories Columns, The Rundown