1. Pam Grier
Movies: The Big Doll House (1971), Women In Cages (1971), The Big Bird Cage (1972), The Twilight People (1973), The Arena (1974)
Pam Grier is to blaxploitation films what Clint Eastwood is to westerns—it's just hard to imagine the genre without her. Not only is she show-stoppingly seductive, she was also unabashedly fierce and tough, a unique quality Corman was the first to recognize, casting her in a slew of his early titles, and eventually connecting her with director Jack Hill, who would place her in her most well-known role, as Foxy Brown.
But it was Grier's early appearances as a sultry gladiator in The Arena, a subdued revolutionary in Women In Cages, and her first role as imprisoned, but far from defenseless, tough girl in The Big Doll House, that launched not only our obsession with her soft curves, but also the exploitation genre on the whole.