Leading Ladies: 6 Asian Female Actors That Are Leading the Way in the Global Film Industry

Discover films led by Asian actors that are reshaping cinema norms with powerful performances and diverse narratives, and challenging the industry landscape.

Whether it's the resurgence of the popular trend of going out to watch movies or staying at home with streaming series, we are witnessing the rise of films spotlighting Asian character actors in leadership roles. Koktail presents six films starring Asian female leads for your viewing pleasure.

Past Lives (2023) with Greta Lee

“Past Lives” is a 2023 American romantic drama film written and directed by Celine Song in her feature directorial debut. Starring Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro, it follows two childhood friends over the course of 24 years while they contemplate the nature of their relationship as they grow apart, living different lives. The plot is semi-autobiographical and inspired by events from Song's life.

Nora and Hae Sung, childhood friends with a strong bond, are separated when Nora's family moves from South Korea. Twenty years later, they are reunited for one fateful week as they confront notions of love and destiny.


Greta Lee's portrayal of Nora is praised for its authentic dialogue delivery, bringing her character to life in a believable manner.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) with Michelle Yeoh

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a 2022 American absurdist comedy-drama film led by Michelle Yeoh. The film explores themes including  existentialism, nihilism, surrealism, and absurdism, as well as taboo subjects such as neurodivergence, depression, generational trauma, and Asian American identity. 

Known for her versatility and powerful performances, Yeoh takes on the role of Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese-American immigrant facing an IRS audit. As the plot unfolds, Yeoh's character discovers a startling revelation: she must forge connections with her parallel universe counterparts to prevent a powerful being from destroying the multiverse.


Yeoh's performance brings depth and resonance to the film, showcasing her talent in navigating complex themes.

Always Be My Maybe (2019) with Ali Wong

"Always Be My Maybe" is a romantic comedy film, directed by Nahnatchka Khan and written by Ali Wong, Randall Park, and Michael Golamco. The film stars Ali Wong and Randall Park in the lead roles, along with supporting performances from Keanu Reeves and Daniel Dae Kim.


The story follows childhood friends Sasha Tran (played by Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (played by Randall Park), who have a falling out and drift apart as they grow up.


After 15 years, Sasha, now a celebrity chef, returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant. Meanwhile, Marcus still lives with his father and works in the family's air conditioning business. As they reconnect, old feelings resurface, but they must navigate differences in their lifestyles and careers, as well as confront unresolved issues from their past.

The film received positive reviews for its humour, performances, and portrayal of Asian-American characters, as well as for its fresh take on the romantic comedy genre.


Ali Wong's performance in this film has been widely praised by both critics and audiences. She brings a mix of humour, charm, and emotional depth to her character. Wong's portrayal of Sasha is relatable and engaging. She effectively conveys Sasha's vulnerability, ambition, and wit throughout the film. Her performance adds to the film's comedic and emotional impact, contributing to its success as a romantic comedy.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) with Constance Wu

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a major Hollywood production with a predominantly Asian cast. This romantic comedy is based on Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel of the same name. The film was released in 2018 and became a significant cultural phenomenon.


The story revolves around Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), an economics professor in New York, who accompanies her boyfriend Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) to Singapore for his best friend's wedding. Rachel discovers upon arrival that Nick comes from an incredibly wealthy family and is one of the most eligible bachelors in Asia. As Rachel navigates the complexities of Nick's family and their social circle, she faces challenges and judgement from various quarters.

Wu's performance received widespread acclaim for its authenticity, charm, and emotional depth, contributing largely to the film's success and cultural impact.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) with Lana Condor

"To All the Boys I've Loved Before" is a heartwarming American teen romantic comedy film based on the novel of the same name. The movie stars Lana Condor as the protagonist, Lara Jean Covey.


Lara Jean is a high schooler who writes secret love letters to her crushes, but chaos erupts when they're mysteriously sent out. Amidst the turmoil, she forms an unexpected bond with one recipient, Peter Kavinsky, leading to a charming romance. The movie gained praise for its performances and spawned two sequels: "To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You" (2020) and "To All the Boys: Always and Forever" (2021).

Condor's performance was praised for its authenticity and emotional resonance, effectively conveying Lara Jean's vulnerability, humour, and inner strength. Her chemistry with Noah Centineo, who played Peter Kavinsky contributing to the film's charm and appeal. 

Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981, 2000, 2003, 2019) with Lucy Liu

“Charlie's Angels” is a media franchise that originated as a television series. The original show aired from 1976 to 1981 and was known for its combination of action, comedy, and female empowerment. The premise revolves around three women who work as private investigators for a mysterious millionaire named Charlie Townsend, who communicates with them via a speakerphone and never appears in person.

The success of the original series led to several spin-offs, including films, a reboot television series, and comic books. In 2000 and 2003, two feature films were released starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as the new generation of "Angels." The 2019 version of Charlie’s Angels was the 4th version of this franchise.


Lucy Liu played the character Alex Munday in the "Charlie's Angels" film series. She appeared in both the 2000 film and its 2003 sequel. Alex Munday is one of the three main protagonists. Her character Alex is skilled in martial arts, intelligent, and resourceful, contributing her unique abilities to the team's missions. Liu's portrayal of Alex Munday added to the diverse and dynamic ensemble cast of the films, further solidifying the franchise's appeal to audiences worldwide.


"Charlie's Angels" continues to be influential in popular culture, representing strong, independent female characters taking on daring missions and solving crimes.