40 Feminist Movies That Will Empower You
These films centered on powerful women will inspire you to be your best self, achieve your dreams and make positive change happen.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global holiday that honors women and their accomplishments, and acknowledges what women have yet to achieve. The best feminist movies make for great viewing during March, Women’s History Month, and on International Women’s Day. There’s nothing like the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s rise to success as an attorney or Katherine Johnson’s brilliant math mind to inspire you to be your best self, achieve your dreams and make positive change happen.
Have a watch party with friends, pop on any one of these best feminist movies, get some pizza ready, and start obsessing over all the women who have come before you. This is not the time to forget the history that women have made or the female characters that began on the page and live forever on the screen. Take a note from Jo March and write your own story. But first, watch these films.
Related: March Is Women's History Month! Learn More About Its Backstory and Celebration!
Best Feminist Movies
The Woman King (2022)
Make no mistake: Viola Davis was absolutely robbed of an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of General Nanisca in The Woman King. The film tells the (somewhat) true story of Agojie, an all-female, all-fierce unit of warriors who guarded the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. Lashana Lynch also has a star turn as Izogie (and though he's a man and not the focus, John Boyega is stellar as King Ghezo).
Imagine all of the trouble that could have been avoided if the men on the Nostromo just f**king listened to Ellen Ripley.
Hidden Figures (2017)
This movie follows the true story of the three black women behind NASA’s early feats in the Space Race. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), in particular, was the mathematician whose calculations made the first U.S. space flights a success. Octavia Spencer plays mathematician and human-computer Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe plays aerospace engineer Mary Jackson.
Related: Remember Hidden Figures Inspiration Katherine Johnson
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Emma Stone stars as Billie Jean King in this fun take on the true story of the tennis icon's defeat of sexist pig Bobby Riggs (played with aplomb by Steve Carell).
Related: Billie Jean King Tells All
Captain Marvel (2019)
Higher, further, faster, baby! It took way too long for Marvel to release a solo female superhero movie, but we're glad that they did. Brie Larson is a badass as Carol Danvers, the titular Captain Marvel, one of the most powerful Avengers.
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Women Talking (2022)
Sarah Polley wrote and directed the acclaimed Women Talking, based on Miriam Toews' novel. The book focuses on the true story of women in a remote Mennonite colony banding together against rape culture.
Love, Lizzo (2022)
Where my grrrls at?! This HBO documentary channels Lizzo's incredibly inspiring rise from Detroit and Houston to Grammy-winning megastar.
"Nobody was trying to sign a fat Black girl that rapped, sang, and played the flute," the "About Damn Time" singer says in the film. "It took so much hard work to get to where I am today, but I found my voice. Now, when people see me on stage, they see themselves."
Through it all—and it didn't come easy—Lizzo's positivity is absolutely infectious.
Related: Lizzo's Most Powerful Lyrics
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, The Price of Salt,Carol is about a married mother, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and a younger woman, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). The two meet in the department store where Therese works during the holiday season, and soon they fall in love and embark on an affair. This is the story of their forbidden love during an unforgiving period in history.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Charlize Theron is ferocious as Imperator Furiosa, with women literally saving a post-apocalyptic planet and fighting against white (literal, snowy white) male tyranny.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Gal Gadot radiates both strength and vulnerability as Diana Prince in Wonder Woman, showing that love can be just as powerful as an Amazon warrior with Bracelets of Submission.
If you loved Wonder Woman, be sure to check out her entrance scene in Zack Snyder's Justice League—her "believe it" is iconic.
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On the Basis of Sex (2018)
This is based on the true story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (otherwise known as The Notorious RBG) and her journey to winning a groundbreaking tax case, and eventually, a place on the Supreme Court. Felicity Jones stars as the feminist judge, who, while inspiring to many, wasn't without her flaws.
The Punk Singer (2013)
The Punk Singer examines the influence of Kathleen Hanna, singer of Le Tigre and Bikini Kill and founder of the "riot grrrl" movement—because she deserves to be known for much more than inspiring Kurt Cobain to title Nirvana's biggest hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit." (Although let's be honest, that in itself is pretty awesome.)
Little Women (2019)
Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is as much the story of the courageous Jo March and her sisters as it is about Alcott herself. Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep and more star.
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Promising Young Woman (2020)
It's dangerous out there to be a young woman, a message Promising Young Woman delivers very clearly—even down to its title, which slyly references the adjectives often used to defend male students who are also sexual predators. The film shows that even "nice guys" can be dangerous, and that even women in power positions may not be enough to help until true systemic change comes.
Becoming Jane (2007)
Anne Hathaway plays Jane Austen as a young woman who resists her parents’ wish for her to marry the grandson of the wealthy Lady Gresham (Maggie Smith). She already has creative ambitions and does not want a loveless marriage to destroy her future. Instead, she meets a poor lawyer who inspires her future novels.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), an unemployed single mother, gets into a car accident for which she is not at fault. Afterward, she convinces her attorney (Albert Finney) to hire her at his firm. There, after investigation, she figures out that a nearby town is being contaminated by water that is causing devastating illnesses. These events are based on a true story.
Eighth Grade (2018)
Yes, this movie was directed by a male comedian (Bo Burnham), but it’s about a 13-year-old student named Kayla who is just trying to make her way through her last week of middle school. Anyone who’s been through middle school will relate. Heartfelt best wishes to all the Kaylas of the world.
The Favourite (2018)
It’s the early 18th Century, England is at war with France. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is on the throne, but she’s not the one calling the shots. Her close friend, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), is actually the one making all the combat decisions, and she also happens to be Anne’s lover. Enter Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), Sarah’s cousin, who learns just how she can take over control from Sarah as the monarch’s new “favorite.”
Merida needs no prince to save her or her kingdom—she's got brains and some killer archery skills.
Knock Down the House (2019)
Knock Down the House examines several progressive campaigns for the House of Representatives in 2018, with the most famous being the victorious upset win of former Bronx bartender Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, affectionately known as AOC. Also featured is Missouri's Cori Bush, who would win her own race two years later.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Shy housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) joins her friend, the outgoing, independent waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon), on a road trip to escape from their lives. Soon, the innocent getaway turns into an escape from the law after Louise shoots and kills a man who tries to rape Thelma at a bar. If you’ve only seen the iconic ending, maybe think about rewinding and watching the whole thing.
Gloria: In Her Own Words (2011)
This documentary follows the story of the feminist pioneer through her tough Ohio childhood, her Smith College days, the women’s movement and the founding of Ms. Magazine. You’ll also get glimpses of her New York apartment, where Ms. was born.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
This movie features so many accomplished actresses that you’ll want to write down all the names just to keep track. M’Lynn (Sally Field)’s daughter, Shelby, is a newlywed who also has diabetes and struggles with her health. She risks her life by having a baby with her new husband, and though her mother disapproves, she’s got a team of women in her corner. Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine and Daryl Hannah all star.
Amazing Grace (2018)
This documentary shows old footage of Aretha Franklin performing gospel songs at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. The film, which was directed by Sidney Pollack, was not released on schedule in 1972; Franklin’s family agreed to release the film after her death in 2018.
The Love Witch (2016)
A take on femme fatale film tropes, The Love Witch is a horror-comedy that satirizes men's fears of women, male projection and how women aren't necessarily allowed to embrace their full power.
Based on the true story of the suffragette movement in Britain, this film stars Carey Mulligan as a working wife and mother named Maud who ends up devoting her life to the cause of women’s rights. Meryl Streep stars as real-life suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
The Color Purple (1985)
Steven Spielberg directed a magnetic Oprah Winfrey and a magical Whoopi Goldberg in this adaptation of Alice Walker's story of Black women coming into their own and fighting sexism and racism to get the respect, reverence and lives they deserve. A musical remake is in the works.
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing (2006)
Before "cancel culture" was a thing, The Chicks—then called the Dixie Chicks—were largely canceled by their country fanbase for having the nerve to criticize the war criminal and then-President George W. Bush. (The Iraq War is still going on, by the way, despite there never being any actual evidence of weapons of mass destruction in the country.)
Shut Up and Sing examines the exile they faced, including death threats, and their major comeback with "Not Ready to Make Nice."
In the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's 2012 book, Wild, Reese Witherspoon plays the author after she loses her mother and decides to grapple with the loss by walking the Pacific Crest Trail. The decision to hike the trail is only the first challenge. As she makes the trying trek, she faces her biggest mental hurdles.
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A League of Their Own (1992)
During World War II, America’s men are fighting overseas, which means less are around to play America’s favorite pastime. And we can’t live without baseball! Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks star in this Penny Marshall-directed film about an all-women’s baseball league in the Midwest.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
On its surface, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an atmospheric vampire love story set in the Iran underground. When you dig slightly deeper, it's clear the film is a criticism of the dangers of societies prioritizing cis hetero men's interests at the expense of their women and LGBTQ+ communities.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut focuses on two straight-A students Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who decide to have one wild night before college. Things get a little out of hand as they attempt to party with all the “cool” kids and end up realizing they were the cool ones all along. This one has Leslie Knope Galentine’s Day vibes written all over it.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), 10 years old, lives in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. One day, she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), who introduces her to the game of chess. Soon, Phiona becomes a chess champion whose world is completely changed. Lupita Nyong'o also stars.
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Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé (2019)
This is the documentary of Beyoncé’s 2018 iconic Coachella performance, how it came together and why the Grammy-winning artist wanted to bring black girl magic to the stage at Coachella. Come for Beyoncé, stay for the historic moments.
9 to 5 (1980)
Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as three women who are fed up with their sexist, egotistical boss (Dabney Coleman). They plan to teach him a lesson, but they end up doing so much more than that. This movie’s message, among other things, is that real change comes from women who dare to make it.
Sisters are literally doing it for themselves in Frozen, with Elsa becoming an instant icon of the Disney canon.
His Girl Friday (1940)
Though a romantic comedy at its core, His Girl Friday was groundbreaking at the time of its 1940 release simply because it took lead character Hildy's career seriously—and she was great at her job as a reporter.
Related: The Best Romantic Comedies for Singles
The Invisible Man (2020)
A surprise smash hit, The Invisible Man is less about the titular invisible man (cleverly an "optics expert") and more about the optics of domestic abusers and survivors and the gaslighting that the latter face. Terrifying, tense and full of twists, Elisabeth Moss is a powerhouse as a woman who finds the strength to escape her torment, even when traditional legal avenues fail her—as they so often do in real life.
Adam's Rib (1949)
Married attorneys are on opposite sides of a criminal case in which a woman shoots her cheating husband. Equality is a huge part of the discourse here, and it's refreshing to see a female attorney kicking butt in court.
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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
The Dora Milaje, Ironheart, Queen Raimonda (Angela Bassett did the thing!) and, of course, Letitia Wright's Shuri, show that when women work together, they're unstoppable—and that vulnerability is a sign of strength.
After watching these movies, put on these 40 girl power songs.