March is women’s history month in many places in the world, with March 8 celebrated as International Women’s Day. It’s a day to remember the achievements of amazing women and be proud of how far we’ve come.
It’s also a good day to honor the examples of strong women in history and in our lives—our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, teachers, community leaders and others who have inspired us to walk in our own power as well.
And in honor of Women’s Month, we’ve come up with a list of our favorite movies that show some amazing women. It would be a great idea to have a night with your favorite gal pals, order some pizza, pop some popcorn and open a bottle (or three) of wine together. Sit back and just enjoy some of the best portrayals of strong and inspiring women in recent cinematic history, in films from all over the world.
This year, International Women’s Day happens to fall on a Friday. Set aside date night with your partner, get him to take care of the kids, and have some sister-friend time. It will be great!
1. Erin Brokovitch
I officially forgive Julia Roberts for Pretty Woman which is probably one of the least pro-women movies ever, because of Erin Brokovitch. It’s the true story of a single mom who is struggling to make ends meet, but who leads an investigation of how people in a small town were getting poisoned by the water supply. The title character, played with lots of grit and gumption by Roberts, wins a lawsuit and is given a full-time job at the law firm where she works. You’ll be cheering for her at the end, I guarantee it.
2. Legally Blonde
On the outside, Legally Blonde looks like a cutesy movie about a wannabe lawyer with a little dog who likes to wear a lot of pink. But underneath that persona is a tough and smart woman named Elle Woods who excels in law school, and like Erin Brokovitch, cracks a tough case.
This movie is valuable because it’s not a typical happily-ever-after romantic comedy where she’s reunited with the man she loves. But she does find a good man at the end. Elle Woods is unashamedly feminine and cheerful and ends up winning people’s hearts.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
Who didn’t love Crazy Rich Asians when it came out last year? Aside from being set in our very own Singapore, it is a fabulous, swoon-worthy romance with not just one but several amazing female characters.
Representation is everything. And seeing a strong female Asian lead, a strong female Asian mother, a strong female Asian leanest friend, etc., must have made all of us Asian women truly happy.
Funnily enough, the romantic aspect of the movie is almost secondary to the relationships and interactions between all the strong and determined women in the film. From Michelle Yeoh as the steely matriarch, to Constance Wu as the ingenue, to Awkwafina as her funny and wise bestie, to Gemma Chan as the woman scorned—these women stole the movie and we cannot wait for the second and third novels in the series by Kevin Kwan to make it to the silver screen as well.
4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
This movie made me say, “When I grow up I want to be Michelle Yeoh,” when I saw it many years ago. The woman is brilliant, gorgeous, and all levels of bad-butt (keeping my language clean here). Even the film’s director, Ang Lee said, “This movie has magic. I feel I was blessed to do this movie.”
Characters literally fly in this movie. The fight scenes between the two female leads, Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi, were unheard of at that time and took people’s breath away. Women as action stars—yes!—complete with grace, dignity, and elegance.
5. Sister Stella L.
Since we’ve been talking about representation, we may as well visit a little known but acclaimed film from the Philippines about a young nun, the title character, Sister Stella Legazpi, played by noted Filipina actress Vilma Santos. The film follows the young woman from her early days of political indifference, to when she gets ‘woke’ and embraces activism fully, taking to the streets to protest oppression and fight poverty.
Think you need more recommendations for good movies, but of another kind? We also have our Top 10 Best Finance Movies of All Time–enjoy!
This movie, released just a few years ago, is a deeply moving telling of how women fought for the vote in England just before the First World War. It’s family-friendly, and so if you bring your daughters along on your gal-pal night, that’s perfectly fine. They’ll appreciate the lengths the women who went before us went through just to get us to be allowed to vote.
Carey Mulligan plays the young protagonist with thoughtfulness and courage. And watch out Meryl Streep’s cameo as the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Meryl elevates everything she’s in, which makes this movie doubly worth it.
7. Charlie’s Angels
I loved watching re-runs of Charlie’s Angels when I was younger, but the movies I loved even more. They showed smart, attractive, athletic women who got the bad guy in the end.
And this is a light-hearted, feel-good movie that is completely empowering at the same time. The women all look like they’re having the time of their lives making it, and so viewers end up enjoying the movie a lot as well. It’s by no means a perfect movie for budding feminists, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable romp that will leave you with a smile (and maybe even a high kick or two.)
8. Hidden Figures
This isn’t just a story about smart women, it’s a story about smart black women. And this movie is a surefire winner in my book. I loved the three central characters, especially Janell Monae’s turn as the sassiest of the trio. In a world that tried hard to keep them down, these women simply would not agree to that.
Yes, it’s about smart women in rocket science, but they are also down-to-earth mothers and wives who are all too human. Except of course for their almost superhuman IQs. We hear all about John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and all of these male astronauts, but we never knew about the women who, because of their mathematical abilities, got them safely on the moon. Powerful and inspiring.
9. Bend it Like Beckham
Yes, I wanted a sports movie to make it on this list, and this is my choice. Starring a very young Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley as working-class girls in England who love football, I must have watched this movie several times, and it never failed to uplift my spirits, particularly on days I felt blue.
As a girl from a loving close-knit Indian family, Nagra has to walk a delicate balance between pleasing her family and playing the sport she’s passionate about. Plus, in the midst of it all, she falls in love with her coach.
The plot thickens when the girls’ parents are unhappy with their love for football, but all’s well that ends well and they receive scholarships to go to college in the US.
10. A tie between Frida, A League of Their Own, and Thelma and Louise
To be honest, I did not want to leave any of these women-centric movies out. They are all pretty amazing and inspiring, in different ways. If it’s a bold and passionate artist you’re looking for, go with Frida. Salma Hayek’s turn as renowned artist Frida Kahlo is fantastic.
Want another sports movie? A League of Their Own is all that, and with an all-star cast, including Madonna (yes, she acts as well) Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.
And if it’s a true-blue gal-pal friendship movie you’re looking for, you won’t go wrong with Thelma and Louise. Geena Davis (again!) and Susan Sarandon have such obvious affection for each other, it will remind you to call your bestie ASAP. Plus, Brad Pitt (sigh).
Speaking of empowerment, maybe you’re re-thinking your feminist side, and feel like it’s not really making you a better person. Here’s a good read for you When Your Feminism Is Making You More Judgmental
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