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Let's face it: every year should be the Year of the Woman. But the past couple years in particular have been brutal with a capital B. The global pandemic added to all of the B.S. we've been putting up with for the past few years...and centuries. Like, did you know women accounted for all the jobs lost in the U.S. in December? That sucks! And don't even get me started on Roe v. Wade and how every local election makes me feel like I'm Joan of Arc suiting up for battle these days. So, if the state of the world has you feeling down, this list is here to help. Get inspired by these powerful stories of even more powerful women, from Erin Brockovich to the women of Hidden Figures and even a few ordinary women who remind us that our stories are important.
Obviously, this movie made the list. Whether you want to watch the 2019 Greta Gerwig version with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet or the 1994 Winona Ryder classic, both films tell the same story of four sisters living out their very different dreams and coming together to be there for each other when they need it most.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Céline Sciamma made an achingly beautiful romance about a rich girl named Héloïse and the woman, Marianne, who is commissioned to paint her portrait on the occasion of her wedding. They're so isolated in their little world that you hardly see men at all in the film, though the whims and societal demands of men make up for the majority of the film's conflict. If you feel weird about watching Call Me By Your Name nowadays for reasons...watch this as an alternative. It has all of the young love vibes but none of the toxic men.
10 Things I Hate About You
They took one of Shakespeare's most problematic plays, The Taming of the Shrew, and turned it into a sexy feminist romantic comedy. Come for Heath Ledger singing, stay for Julia Stiles' heartbreaking poem at the end.
If you're looking for a feminist movie that's kind of chill and a little obscure, I recommend this collection of vignettes directed by Kelly Reichardt. It's about ordinary women with different strengths, different desires, and different hardships. Sometimes feminism means that women don't need to be exceptional to have their stories told. They can be ordinary and even relatable!
What The Constitution Means To Me
The streaming/filmed version of this Broadway play was directed by Marielle Heller, a director you should absolutely be keeping tabs on, and it is absolutely required watching. Heidi Schreck, the writer and star of the show, talks about her decades-long relationship with the United States Constitution and the generational trauma of women in America. Don't worry, it's not as Civics lesson-y as it sounds. You'll learn a lot of things and feel a lot of feelings, but "entertained" is one of them.
Have you heard? We all love Jennifer's Body now. Your brother's best friend might have told you it sucks... well he's the one who sucks! Diablo Cody's horror movie about a girl who exclusively murders fuckbois is kind of perfect. Send your apologies to Megan Fox ASAP.
Enough boring movies about kings and knights and dukes—booooo!!!! Gimme this lady-centric messy period piece, based on true events and real people. BTW, Queen Anne really was manipulated by her gal pal Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, an intelligent woman with limited ways to make a difference in the world. Her whole life really did blow up when Abigail Masham came to court. Movies should be telling stories like this all the time. Women have always been there and we have always been interesting.
Lulu Wang made the perfect millennial coming-of-age movie with Awkwafina at the center. The movie isn't feminist in an in-your-face way. It's subtle. Awkwafina's character doesn't defy conventions or break any glass ceilings. It's just an incredible film with a nuanced protagonist that will, particularly if you're immersed in Western culture, will expand your perspective while also tugging the strings of familiarity. It's a reminder that we should all be seeking out and watching more films made by woman directors as much as we can.
The true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a biracial heiress in 19th-century England, makes for a Jane Austen-esque tale (or Bridgerton if ya nasty) and a history lesson all in one. Also, if you've been enjoying the new Interview with the Vampire Series—and if you haven't I don't even want to know you—you might enjoy Sam Reid as a love interest in this. He's a progressive lawyer, so you don't even need to throw out your feminism to thirst.
The Last Duel
When this movie was announced, people learned it was about a real woman who accused her husband's rival of rape, and instead of just believing her, the husband and the rapist duked it out in the titular duel, they were like no way! Sounds depressing! Who needs a movie about men not believing women? We know they don't! Folks, I'm here to tell you that we were all wrong. This is, no joke, one of the most nuanced takes on sexual assault and how women move through the world that I have ever seen. It's also very funny, in a cathartic way and a laugh-out-loud satirical way.
I love when predominantly male franchises are reimagined with female characters as much as the next gal. If we girls can relate to boy space orphans, superheroes, and wizards, they can relate to the girl ones! But can we get an original story?? Director Steve McQueen and writer Gillian Flynn, the power creative duo I never knew I needed, collaborated on this film about four women who team up to heist their way out of a debt left by their dead criminal husbands. Watching it feels like chugging an energy drink! (In a good way!)
It’s Julia Roberts playing a badass single mother working as a legal assistant who single-handedly takes down a corrupt energy company that had been contaminating water in a California community and (almost) successfully covering it up. Oh, and it’s a true story.
Hidden Figures tells the story of the three Black female NASA employees who were the mathematicians behind John Glenn’s launch into space (and his safe return, obvs) in the 1960s. And did we mention the women are played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe? You’re going to want to stream this.
A League of Their Own
Another obvious choice. An absolute classic from 1992, where women form their own baseball league after all the men are deployed in WWII. Not only is it a story of real women doing things people thought only men could do, but it also gave us this iconic line: “There’s no crying in baseball.” Which, honestly, is debatable. There’s crying in everything. When you're done, watch the Amazon series adaptation that somehow manages to be twice as feminist and intersectional to boot!
Kill Bill: Volume 1
Or Volume 2. You literally cannot go wrong here. Uma Thurman sets out to straight-up murder her ex (named Bill, in case you didn’t figure that one out), who tried to kill her first. Deadly revenge on an ex? Here. For. It.
The Hunger Games
Katniss is the female heroine that fantasy movies have been missing. (Give Elizabeth Swann her own film, for the love of gawd.) Watch as J. Law saves her sister’s life (and many others') by volunteering to take her place in her country’s effed-up fight to the death.
I’m about to yeet on over to that exotic island made up solely of female warriors that Diana originates from. Even a washed-up Chris Pine couldn’t make me leave that paradise. However, a few years after Wonder Woman inspired a generation of female filmgoers, Birds of Prey brought feminism a little closer to home in Gotham. If you love Diana Prince, check out the Harley Quinn solo movie!
Gonna have to stan an all-female take on a classic film. Sandra Bullock leads her army of goddesses to carry out the heist of all heists. I, too, would risk prison for that $150 million necklace. Check out the all-lady Ghostbusters while you're at it, too.
This movie is my own form of fanfic—except it’s based on a true story, which makes it all the more amazing. Four exotic dancers come together to take money from their sleazy Wall Street clients. Female solidarity, my friends.
9 to 5
This 1980 classic stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as working women who have some revenge fantasies (and then actual revenge) against their sexist, awful boss. In a pre-#MeToo era, this movie was, well, pretty much sending a message to the world that the #MeToo movement needed to happen. We got around to it... 40 years later.
With all the bending and snapping and overwhelming amount of pink and sparkles, it's easy to forget sometimes just how feminist Legally Blonde is. It's almost like femininity can be feminist and not something to be ashamed of! Even before all of her character growth and self-affirming realizations, Elle Woods just wakes up one morning and decides to go Harvard Law School, is told that's a basically impossible goal, and then is like, "Yeah, but I'm going to" and actually does. Goals.
Salma Hayek was very rightly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as legendary artist Frida Kahlo in this biopic. She lost to Nicole Kidman for her performance as Virginia Woolf in The Hours, another iconic performance as a famous female artist in a feminist film. What an embarrassment of riches! Frida Kahlo is a feminist icon, which makes her life story a must-see.
Want more movie recs? Yeah. We know you do. You can find all of our recommendations here.
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