FIGHTING ANGELS

Your complete guide, analysis and ranking of fighting ability on Charlie’s Angels

A lot people who grew up watching Charlie's Angels tend to reference 3 things when asked about the show: Farrah Fawcett, sexy girls with guns, and sexy girls kicking ass. Let's talk about the latter.

Sure, the Angels solved mysteries; yeah, they traveled to exotic places and helped people; and okay, they fell in love with the wrong guys. But what sticks in our minds, and apparently the minds of many other fans, is the Angels beating the bad guys down. From a dramatic point of view it is simply more interesting and exciting to us to see a seemingly helpless female take on and defeat a bigger stronger man than it is to see Starsky and Hutch resort to fisticuffs.

It's not that Charlie's Angels were the first women on television who knew how to handle themselves in a fight - Mrs. Peel over on The Avengers had been karate-chopping double agents since the mid 60's and Christie Love and Police Woman both both debuted before the Angels, but while those lovely ladies relied on their male co-stars to get them out of jams, only the Angels were their own cavalry, often riding to the rescue of their sisters in midriffs and pumps. Even ABC's Wonder and Bionic women relied on technology and magic to deal with aggressive criminals. Charlie's Angels only had their police academy training, their wits and experience, and the handy dandy Angel-chop to help them out of sticky situations. Rarely, if ever, had women who were both feminine and smart been able to take care of themselves and each other in fights with men.

The first season started out pretty light on action - in fact the first couple of episodes continued the annoying trend seen in the pilot episode, of police or FBI agents having to assist the Angels in the main takedown (Hellride, The Mexican Connection, The Killing Kind). The 10PM time slot also seemed to cause producers to focus more on mystery and sex than action. When an Angel did fight, it was usually brief and a one-on-one affair.

The show's shift to a 9PM time slot in season 2 meant the kiddies were watching - the same kiddies who were watching The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman. The Angels needed to be able to compete with both of those superheroes' rather impressive feats, so in seasons 2 and 3 not only did the Angels kick more ass, they started to fight as a group (Angels On the Run, Angels On Ice, Angels on Vacation) and individual Angels started to be able to take on multiple opponents (Angel On My Mind, Pom Pom Angels).

By the time seasons 4 and 5 came around, some of the excitement and novelty of seeing an Angel take down a criminal was gone, and it showed in the direction of the fight scenes. The final years contain many awkward (Hula Angels, Island Angels) and a few shameful (Angels at The Altar, Angel On the Line) Angel fights. A few highlights in this dark period were Tiffany kicking bad guys in the face (Angels on Campus, Angels Go Truckin'), Jill karate fighting James Bond on a rooftop (Fallen Angel), and of course Attack Angels, wherein Julie kicked everyone's ass except for Kris - who then, in turn, proceeded to kick Julie's ass.

 

"I think I can handle one wicked witch."

Any show in the 70's (and let's face it, today) written and produced by men, and starring female leads who fight, is gonna contain some chick fights. It's Aaron Spelling, for crying out loud. Have you ever watched an episode of Dynasty with Krystal and Alexis by the pool? Charlie's Angels was not immune to the cat fight, and like most other shows, when the Angels fought other women their fighting style and sometimes ability was radically altered for some reason. When faced with a female opponent, Angels typically resorted to grabbing and shoving (Night of the Strangler, Magic Fire, Disco Angels) or even hair-pulling (Lady Killer) instead of their standard arsenal of pseudo-kung fu or a good old-fashioned punch in the face.

It's interesting to note that most of the few episodes written by women, including Angels on the Run, Teen Angels and Fallen Angel, gave the Angels verbal confrontations with other women or even other Angels, but not the catfights they whet our appetites for. Only 1 of the Angels' 34 female fights was penned by a woman (Sue Milburn's Lady Killer).

It's the male writers we have to thank for our best fighters' paradoxical abilities: Kris can beat up men and women, but is terrorized by women who look like men. Of course it was always she (as the most petite Angel) whom the writers liked to assign big butch lesbian adversaries, and making her uncharacteristically losing her nerve (Caged Angel) and even skill (Angels in Springtime) in their presence. Likewise, Kelly can beat up men and women, but the only time we've ever seen her look truly terrified during a fight was when she faced a drag queen (Angel on the Line). This was the only time any Angel was left sobbing and deeply shaken even after the others arrived, or had to be driven home while the others wrapped up the case. It was just a guy in a dress, Kelly.

 

"Hey lady, where'd you lean to fight like that?"

Fights on the show ran the gambit of pretty cool (Jill in The Seance, Kris in Angel on My Mind) to the campy (Julie vs. everyone in Attack Angels) to ludicrous (Island Angels, Kelly's stuntman karate fights a 85-year-old Asian shopkeeper for no other reason than the writers forgot to fill up the episode with.. y'know, writing).

One of the more consistent themes of the show was that these former policewomen - like many women in real life - while maybe smaller and less physically powerful, were just as fast, agile, skilled, and resourceful as any man. In fact, they were helped in a lot of fights by the opponents' tendency to underestimate them simply for being beautiful women. When attempting to capture TJ Hooker or the Duke Boys, bad guys would be on their guard. When attempting to capture Cheryl Ladd? Maybe not so much.

 

"Don't worry, I'm not gonna share you with her."

While at times the actress themselves seemed to do their own fighting (particularly Kate Jackson and Tanya Roberts) in other instances it is painfully apparent stunt doubles are used (see Island Angels, Little Angels of The Night, Angels On Vacation). Some of the more frequent stunt women included Jean Coulter (Farrah's), Darlene Tompkins (Cheryl's), and Hilary Thompson (Kate's, who you'll know best as the faux-Sabrina in Counterfeit Angels).

In the 5 years the show aired, all 6 Angels had an opportunity to kick some ass (and in some cases get their asses kicked). The first recorded instance of an Angel using hand-to-hand combat on a bad guy can be found in the pilot episode when Kelly (of course) rather ignobly kicks a bad guy from behind. As the season and series progressed, each Angel not only developed her own individual fighting skills, but the Agency even developed some specialized martial arts moves often used by the whole team. We here at TA have attempted to document not only each Angel's individual fight history, and also to document each fight in each season.

So when it's time for a fight, which would you want in your corner? Click your favorite Angel in the menu below to find out how she really ranks as a fighter.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Townsend Agency original article by Anna and Greg January 15, 2011

ANGEL FIGHTS BY THE NUMBERS

TOTAL ALTERCATIONS

179

Tally of times the entire Townsend Agency fought, physically owned, or got owned by bad guys. (Excluding Bosley, it’s 168.)

OVERALL EFFECTIVENESS

69%

Charlie’s Angels as a whole triumphed in the majority - but not quite overwhelming majority - of their physical confrontations.

BUTT-KICKINGS DISPENSED

123

The Angels collectively owned 123 of their opponents in combat.

BUTT-KICKINGS RECEIVED

43

Although the Angels won more often than not, they still found themselves on the losing end of many a beatdown.

FIGHT FREQUENCY

  • JILL
  • JULIE
  • KRIS
  • TIFFANY
  • KELLY
  • SABRINA
  • BOSLEY

BATTLES BY GENDER

142 - 37

The team fought over a hundred more men than women.

74% - 69%

Although their chick fights tend to be more memorable, the Angels are actually less likely to be victorious in fights against their own kind.

BATTLES BY SEASON

WORST: 2

If you want to mess with the Angels, Season 2 is the time to do it; they won scarcely more than half of their fights this year.

BEST: 3

The very same Angel lineup improved quickly, though: Sabrina, Kelly and Kris won by far the largest percentage of their battles in the third year.

% FIGHTS WON

  • KRIS
  • TIFFANY
  • KELLY
  • JILL
  • SABRINA
  • JULIE
  • BOSLEY