The most underrated action star on this list, Rothrock has made more than 60 films since 1985, including No Retreat, No Surrender 2, Martial Law, the Tiger Claws trilogy, and two China O’Brien films with Robert Clouse, who also directed Bruce Lee. Her first film,1985’s Yes, Madam, co-starred another future female icon, Michelle Yeoh.
From the time she was 13, Rothrock dove deeply into martial arts, winning numerous competitions throughout the ’80s. She has mastered many disciplines in various forms of martial arts throughout her career, including five black belts in Eagle Claw, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, and Northern Shaolin. After doing a karate-themed KFC commercial in 1983, she was approached by major Hong Kong production company Golden Harvest and soon turned into an Eastern star before making her way into American action films.
In Hong Kong, her film work was credited under 羅芙洛 (Fu Lok Law). She was very active onscreen in the ’90s, and since 2004, she has focused more on teaching at her studio in Studio City, CA, and raising her daughter Skylar. She ocassionally makes movies, including 2015’s The Martial Arts Kid with fellow legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and the Mortal Kombat video game character Sonya Blade was reportedly inspired by Rothrock.
Like Chuck Norris, she has aged very well, and like him, she seems invincible. She’s won innumerable awards throughout her career, and she is one of very few people to be inducted into both the Black Belt Hall of Fame and Kung-Fu Hall of Fame. Psychology Today recently profiled her, and she has been called “The Queen of Martial Arts” by the Martial Arts Museum and others. A documentary on her life is reportedly in the works.