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Empowering feminist movies to add to your watchlist
Looking to indulge in a movie marathon that's both inspiring and entertaining?
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Equality is a hot topic for many, with women having been in the forefront of the struggle throughout the ages — and it requires a lot of energy. So films featuring strong, witty, ambitious, intelligent and tough women are exactly what you need when you’re looking for an extra ounce of motivation.
There are many feminist movies out there, but we’ve decided to focus on titles readily available on streaming platforms to make this list as accessible as possible. Some of these movies are classics, others are plain fun, but they all have one thing in common — they feature complex and powerful female characters. Ready, set, binge!
- Year: 2019
- Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou
It took Marvel a long time to release a superhero movie centered on a woman. But when it finally did, the movie delivered. Captain Marvel revolves around Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
The blockbuster is set in the 90s, has an excellent soundtrack and is packed with visual thrills. Even better, it follows a fierce woman as she accepts her past and embraces her future, kicking some serious butt in the process. What’s more empowering than that?
- Year: 2018
- Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a triumph, filled with humor, pathos and heart. The movie follows a teenage girl as she navigates her senior year of high school, fighting with her strong-willed mother and generally dealing with the ups and downs of adolescence. At its core, this is a quirky coming-of-age story, but it boasts a level of sophistication that will keep you glued to the screen.
Moreover, Lady Bird’s appeal comes from the fact that the story is familiar. Who hasn’t bickered with their parents at one point or another? Or worked hard to simply fit in?
If you’re looking to get lost in the nostalgia of high school, Lady Bird can take you there.
- Year: 1998
- Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, Lea Salonga, B.D. Wong
A feminist story for the ages.
Fearful that her ailing father will be drafted into the Chinese military, Mulan takes his spot. As a girl living under a patriarchal regime, she is unqualified to serve, so she decides to impersonate a man. Accompanied by her dragon, Mushu, Mulan trains with her fellow recruits and uses her smarts to help ward off a Hun invasion, bringing honor to her family along the way.
Mulan is Disney’s feminist princess, strong and determined. She challenges gender roles by becoming a skilled soldier and saving her country. She refuses to conform in order to fit into and instead disrupts the standard for women by staying true to her beliefs and strengths.
To say this film is empowering would be an understatement.
Mad Max: Fury Road
- Year: 2015
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz
Set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, the movie follows Max, who joins forces with Imperator Furiosa to flee from a cult leader and his army in an armored tanker truck. But here’s the catch: Mad Max: Fury Road is actually the story of a feminist revolt, as Imperator Furiosa leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape.
The movie is riveting, action-packed and thrilling. A larger-than-life story with mind-blowing cinematography, Mad Max: Fury Road will have you on the edge of your seat. At the same time, it will make you admire these women so determined to advance life while surrounded by death and destruction.
- Year: 2018
- Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson
Widows is a heist film with the type of script that you’d expect to be written for a fully male cast, but happens to focus on women. When a police shootout leaves four thieves dead, their widows band together to pull off a heist hoping to forge a better future — one on their own terms.
Featuring a tremendous cast and an exciting plot, Widows is one of the best crime movies to grace our screens in the last few years. If you missed it in theaters, we strongly suggest you give it a stream ASAP.
- Year: 1995
- Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
Clueless is a coming-of-age romantic comedy released in 1995 that’s so embedded in pop culture that people still enthusiastically talk about it today.
In a nutshell, the movie is about Cher, a high school student who tries to boost a new pupil’s popularity and ends up reassessing her life in the process. It’s loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, doing an excellent job of adapting the tale to a modern setting. A comedy about high school life on the surface, the film’s feminist undertones are now clearer than ever.
Cher’s character may appear to be your typical spoiled rich girl, but she is fiercely loyal and ambitious. She values her female friendships, stands up for herself and isn’t looking for anyone’s approval.
When it comes to Cher, there’s more than meets the eye. She may value her appearance, but that’s only one facet of who she is. Clueless is a joyous celebration of being a girly girl, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Year: 2001
- Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge
Not only is Reese Witherspoon a precious cinnamon roll, but she gives us an iconic feminist hero to look up to — one who manages to accomplish her goals without losing the sense of who she is along the way. Legally Blonde follows Elle, a sorority girl who attempts to win back her ex-boyfriend by enrolling to Harvard and getting a law degree.
The movie shows that women can achieve anything they want without sacrificing their femininity. It highlights supportive friendships between women and proves that it’s not okay to allow others to define you.
Finally, Legally Blonde is plain fun. You’ll laugh, you’ll sigh, you’ll cheer. It’s the perfect flick to watch when you’re feeling down.
- Year: 2000
- Cast: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart
This biographical movie follows an unemployed single mother who becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a Californian company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
It stars Julia Roberts, who delivers a nuanced and memorable performance. You’ll root for Erin from beginning to end and you’ll likely appreciate the movie’s smarts and humor along the way.
More than that, though, Erin Brockovich showcases the true strength of women. Erin doesn’t let people who judgmental attitudes bring her down. She doesn’t let the fact that she doesn’t have a higher education get in her way.
She’s strong and unafraid to fight for success, despite the odds being against her.
A League of Their Own
- Year: 1992
- Cast: Geena Davis, Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell
This iconic movie tells a fictionalized account of the real-life, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Not only does the subject matter qualify it as a feminist flick, but it also stars Geena Davis — an outspoken feminist — and was directed by Penny Marshall. Marshall also directed Big, which became the first film directed by a woman to gross in excess of $100 million at the US box office.
A League of Their Own showcases the importance of female friendship and teamwork. At the same time, the movie proves that women can do everything men do. While the female team doesn’t become as popular as its male counterpart, the women build a devoted audience and earn respect among baseball fans.
After all, there’s no crying in baseball.
- Year: 2015
- Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep
A historical drama, Suffragette focuses on the women who were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality in early-20th-century Britain.
Inspired by true events, it tells the story with grace and compassion. Looking back, it can be difficult to believe that women earning the right to vote took so much blood and effort. But it’s important to remember.
Add in the fact that Carey Mulligan delivers a memorable performance as she transforms from working mother to first-wave feminist superhero, you’ve got a movie that’s not only important, but brimming with emotion at every turn.
Queen of Katwe
- Year: 2016
- Cast: David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga
Looking for a feel-good movie to watch after a gloomy day? You can’t go wrong with this one.
Queen of Katwe tells the true story of a young girl who sells corn on the streets of rural Uganda — and her world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess. Encouraged by her loved ones, she finds the confidence to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
In many ways, Queen of Katwe is your typical, uplifting Disney flick. But what sets it apart is the talented cast, who are more than willing to go the extra mile to bring these characters to life. Plus, the movie grounds itself in exposing the harsh realities of poverty, which deepens the narrative. It doesn’t hurt that the story is pretty engrossing as well.
- Year: 2015
- Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, Kyle Chandler
Set in 1950s New York, Carol takes viewers on a memorable ride into the forbidden world of love and friendship between women.
An adaptation of the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, the movie revolves around a love affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a divorce.
Carol is compelling and visually striking, melancholic and seductive. To put it simply, this is a breathtakingly beautiful film, one that focuses on two complex women and their powerful bond.
Who said that a period piece can’t be relevant for today’s modern times?
- Year: 2018
- Cast: Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Olivia Colman
Another memorable historical film, The Favourite is set in early 18th-century England and revolves around the relationship between two cousins, both vying to be Court favorites of Queen Anne.
The twist? The Favourite is actually a black comedy, so besides admiring the costumes and following the power plays, you’ll also laugh out loud thanks to the sharp script and clever dialogue. Colman is divine as Queen Anne, delivering a performance for the ages.
The movie is naughty and entertaining, a brilliant tale of devotion, revenge, and manipulation. More importantly, these women are portrayed with nuance. They’re not proper and prim — quite the opposite.
- Year: 2018
- Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
There is no shortage of movies about teens out there, but Eighth Grade is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before. That’s because the movie is unflinchingly honest, following an awkward eighth-grade girl, Kayla, as she deals with the insecurities, anxiety and the boredom associated with middle school, while also growing up in an era of total social media immersion.
No twenty-somethings are cast as teens here. Being a teenager isn’t romanticized. Instead, we get to dive deep into a young girl’s psyche as she struggles with the kind of problems that seem absolutely earth-shattering during puberty. You might cringe, but you’ll also fiercely root for Kayla as she slowly discovers who she really is.
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