12 Times Jennifer Garner Was A Total Badass

Photo: Norman Jean Roy/Getty Images.
Whether you'll be lining up at the theater with your own box of tissues to see Miracles From Heaven or you've long ago dismissed it as too weepy for your taste, you have to admit: Jennifer Garner is convincing as a nurturing, warm mama to a miraculously healed kiddo.

But remember when she was a badass?

Garner broke out in 2001 as the fearsome, fearless star of ABC's Alias. She could dodge bullets, pose as ambassadors, speak myriad tongues, disarm nuclear weapons, and save the world — all while juggling the demands of grad school. Sydney Bristow was a super-spy superhero who could kick ass like no one else in prime time.

Then, following the box office failure of her actual superhero movie, 2004's Elektra (the disastrous spin-off of the slightly better Daredevil), Garner's filmography went a little...mushy. She put away her martial arts skills and started showing up in movies as softie girlfriends, wives, and mothers. Which is fine and all, but we prefer to remember her as the unvanquished, take-no-shit, ass-kicking heroine that we know she is at her core.

So, in the following slideshow, we give you Jennifer Garner versus...
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...Torture Dentist & Parking Garage Assassins, Alias, Season 1 (2001)

In the Alias pilot, "Truth Be Told," we first met Sydney Bristow in a Run Lola Run-like bright red wig, which she rocked even while her teeth were being yanked out by an evil overlord. She also proved capable of speaking a zillion foreign languages, Krav Maga-ing her way out of machine gun fire, keeping up her grades as a grad student, and working as a double agent to take down the criminal organization that tricked her into thinking she was part of a super-secret CIA black-ops division.

Watch Alias on Netflix.
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2 of 12
...French Scumbags & Gravity, Alias, Season 2 (2003)

We don't think James Bond ever had to seduce the keeper of a super-secret computer server in black or red lace. We think 007 would be quite impressed with the way Sydney takes out the guy and his guard before hopping out of a rapidly falling plane.
3 of 12
...Fake Francie, Alias, Season 2 (2003)

Without the benefit of nostalgia, a non-Alias fan might be fixated on the fact that the evil doppelganger of Sydney's BFF, Francie (Merrin Dungey), probably could have shot and killed her at least 10 times in this fight. But avid lovers of the show know there is some kind of force field that makes guns nearly ineffective in the face of a kick from Sydney.
4 of 12
...Creepy Guy Following Her, Daredevil (2003)

On the one hand, we wish we had Elektra Natchios' martial arts skills to deal with unwanted pickup artists who follow us into playgrounds because they just want to know our name (gross). On the other hand, if you view this as our window into Ben and Jen falling in love, it's rather sweet (even if the end result was a mediocre movie and a marriage that ended in divorce).

Watch Daredevil on YouTube.
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...Mean Girls & Herself, 13 Going on 30 (2004)

You may argue that as the gem in Garner's romantic comedy oeuvre, this can't possibly be an example of her badass nature — but we beg to differ. This is about 13-year-old Jenna's battle against convention, against the stifling rules of adulthood, and against the backstabbing career woman she became, literally, overnight.

Watch 13 Going on 30 on Netflix.
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...Ninja Tattoos That Come To Life, Elektra (2005)

After dying at the hands of Colin Farrell in Daredevil, Elektra springs back to life in her very own spinoff, which was so terrible, it is sometimes (unfairly) blamed for the dearth of female superhero movies to this day. No matter, just enjoy the trailer and all of its fight-scene badassery without worrying about cringe-worthy dialogue or convoluted plots.

Watch Elektra on YouTube.
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...al-Qaida, The Kingdom (2007)

Though critics were mixed about this Jamie Foxx-led action movie set in post-9/11 Saudi Arabia, Garner was at her Sydney Bristow best as an FBI forensic investigator using her brain and aim to shoot down bad guys. Cool to see her get tough again.

Watch The Kingdom on Amazon.
8 of 12
...Her Fellow Dairy Sculptors, Butter (2012)

After watching her husband (Ty Burrell) dominate the butter-carving world for 15 years, Garner's Laura Pickler decides to try her hand at the exalted art, all the more driven when she finds out her husband has been sleeping with a stripper (Olivia Wilde). She may look like a good Midwestern wife, but when the competition heats up, look out!

Watch Butter on Amazon.
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...AIDS & Big Pharma, Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dressing in spandex and wigs to defeat criminal masterminds is good and all, but there are few superheroes as brave as the doctors who did everything they could for their AIDS patients in the '80s. Garner went without glamorous makeup and costumes to play the compassionate Dr. Eve Saks, who risked her career to help Ron Woodroof and his buyers club get access to medication they needed.

Watch Dallas Buyers Club on Amazon.
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...Poverty, with Save the Children

As an artist ambassador and a trustee of the charity, Garner has gone way beyond the call of a typical star. She's visiting the poorest of families in California's Central Valley and her home state of West Virginia. She also traveled to Capitol Hill to make a case for early education for children of poor families.
11 of 12
...The Paparazzi (2013)

Here's a mama bear in action! We're not going to link to some of the startling videos of Garner and her three children being mobbed all over Los Angeles by swarms of vulturous paparazzi. Suffice to say, things got so intense that she teamed up with Halle Berry to get California to pass a bill increasing fines for harassing children. It was signed into law in the fall of 2013.
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...The Shame Of Gossip, Vanity Fair (2016)

If we'd recently split from the love of our life and father of our three children, only to be barraged by rumors that he slept with the nanny, we'd probably go into hiding for a few years. Instead, Garner went to work on a movie, and when it was time to promote Miracles From Heaven, she spilled her guts — in the most poised way possible — to Vanity Fair. She was gracious while still expressing heartbreak and disappointment. That's some strength, lady.
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