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posted: 3/2/2013 5:44 AM

5 movie princesses who show a feisty side

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  • Harrison Ford, as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia Organa and Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker in a scene from the 1977 "Star Wars" movie.

      Harrison Ford, as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia Organa and Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker in a scene from the 1977 "Star Wars" movie.

  • The title character "Princess Mononoke," heroine of Japan's megahit movie.

      The title character "Princess Mononoke," heroine of Japan's megahit movie.
    Courtesy of TOHO

By Christy Lemire
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- This week's "Jack the Giant Slayer," a 3-D retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk legend, contains all the elements of the classic tale: farm boy, beans, giants, etc. But along for the ride is a new character, Princess Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson.

At the film's start, Isabelle has sneaked away in disguise from her overprotective father, the king, to see what the real world is like. Eventually she ends up finding more of an adventure than she'd bargained for when she's sent skyward into the clutches of some fierce, bloodthirsty giants. Still, she rolls with whatever comes her way and learns not just to survive but thrive -- and even find time to fall in love.

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Here's a look at five other movies featuring strong princesses:

• "Roman Holiday" (1953): Truly a classic in the princess-in-disguise genre, this romantic comedy charmer stars a young, radiant Audrey Hepburn in her only Oscar-winning role. She plays Princess Ann, who's tired of the schedules and demands that are forced upon her during a European tour. When she dares to sneak out one night and enjoy the people and sights of Rome, she crosses paths with American journalist Joe Bradley (a handsome and dashing Gregory Peck). Together they do all the things she's always wanted to do: drink champagne midday, race around on a scooter, dance under the moonlight and even get into a wild brawl. While she retains her elegance, she's truly up for anything.

• "Star Wars" (1977): Stands up to Darth Vader. Leads the Rebel Alliance in taking on the evil Empire. Enjoys snappy banter with Han Solo. And she does it all with enormous, symmetrical buns on either side of her head. Is there anything Princess Leia can't do? As played indelibly by Carrie Fisher, she's petite but driven, smart and smart-mouthed. She has enough foresight to hide the stolen Death Star plans inside R2-D2 but can always think on her feet. Even in subsequent "Star Wars" films, when she's tethered to Jabba the Hut in a metal bikini as Slave Leia or forced to fraternize with Ewoks, she at least maintains some shred of her vivacious, independent spirit.

• "The Princess Bride" (1987): Because any excuse to write about this movie will do. Don't let the name Buttercup fool you. As played by Robin Wright, this is a woman who's as resourceful as she is beautiful. And she'd rather risk her life than be forced into a marriage with a man she doesn't love, the evil Prince Humperdinck. Although she's kidnapped at one point, Buttercup is no damsel in distress. She survives the Fire Swamp, complete with Rodents of Unusual Size, and many other dangers to be with the man who is her destiny, the virtuous farm boy Westley. This cheeky fairy tale is one of Rob Reiner's best films: endlessly quotable and as clever and hilarious as ever.

• "A Little Princess" (1995): OK, admittedly this pick is a bit of a cheat because the little girl at its center isn't actual royalty, but she's so lovely -- as is the film as a whole -- that I had to sneak it in there. This early Alfonso Cuarón movie is beautiful and truly magical, with Oscar nominations for its cinematography and art direction. Liesel Matthews (better known as Hyatt Hotel heiress Liesel Pritzker) stars as Sara, a child of privilege at an exclusive New York boarding school. When her beloved father is presumed dead while fighting in World War I, Sara is forced into servitude by the school's cruel headmistress. But no matter the situation, she's plucky and full of personality, a loyal and generous friend who brings out the best in everyone around her. Sounds pretty regal to me.

• "Princess Mononoke" (1999): She was raised by wolves, people, come on! What more do you need to know? This gorgeous and wondrous animated fantasy from Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki features a true warrior princess: a fierce young woman named San (voiced by Claire Danes in the English-language version) who can communicate with the spirits. She finds herself in the center of a war between animals, humans (whom she hates) and demons in a mystical 14th century setting. The film is complex and densely plotted but San's strength and intensity are never in question.

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