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10 Movies of Historical Female Protagonists



Written by Laura Andrade and Miréia Figueiredo

The film industry is used to recreate and adapt stories we already know for somehow turn them more popular. Not diferently it would be with the women who took part in some historical events. Here, we select some of them and organize in the cronological order according to the period they represent.


• Direction: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Rouben Mamoulian, Darryl F. Zanuck

• Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy MacDowall

• Nationality: USA

Cleopatra is the historical epic about the glory and tragedy of the Egyptian queen. The Fox studio almost closed the doors because of the great investment in the aesthetic structure of the movie. However, in the end, the effort was recognized and the millionaire production won four Oscars. There were other five categories that it was running for, but none of them was “Best Actress”. Recent studies bring to discussion the ancestry of the queen and turn clearer the evidences she was african. So in this sense, Elizabeth Taylor shouldn’t be the most recommended actress to play this character.


• Direction: Shekhar Kapur

• Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston

• Nationality: United Kingdom, USA

Elizabeth I was crowned England queen in a financial, militarily and religious crisis circumstance. She got her bearings in a place surrounded by enemies, out and inside the country. At the begining, she made wrong choices, but as time passes by, she got advices from Sir Francis Walsingham and built a strong reign. The results of her government can be considered so meaningful that justify, in a certain part, the remain feeling of care and respect about the british royal family until today. The movie traces this trajectory and received seven nominations for the Oscar.


• Direction: Jayme Monjardim

• Starring: Camila Morgado, Caco Ciocler, José Dumont, Leona Cavalli

• Nationality: Brazil

“Olga” is a brazilian movie that tells the story of a germany and jewish woman, arrested in her birth country under the allegation of being involved with the communist moviment. She married Luís Carlos Prestes and has spent part of her life at a concentration camp. Further than its touchy quality, it is a fusion of the brazilian and germany politcs history in the World War II context. Athough some explicit content, which can be even harder for women to watch, regarding they can put themselves in the same place, it keeps its feet on the ground and doesn’t seem to explore the audience’s emotions without a pourpose. On the other hand, there is a number of negative comments about the focus on her love story instead of her personal conflicts. Nise  

• Direction: Roberto Berliner

• Starring: Glória Pires, Simone Mazzer, Julio Adrião, Claudio Jaborandy

• Nationality: Brazil

Nise da Silveira was a brazilian psychiatrist responsible to apply art as a method of therapy and reformulate the sort of treatment in this area. She worked against the traditional pathology adjustments, which included lobotomy (invasive neurosurgical operation), specially for schizophrenia exams. In addition, she was the only girl in a medicine class of 157 students, was also arrested before starting her research (1934-1936), accused of being part of the communism organization and shared the jail cell with Olga Benário. The chosen actress for the main role was Glória Pires and as part of her preparing, she was concerned to deal with pacients of a psychiatric hospital in Rio de Janeiro during two months. The Iron Lady  

• Direction: Phyllida Lloyd

• Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alexandra Roach

• Nationality: United Kingdom, France

“The Iron Lady” is based on the life of Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to occupy the United Kingdom prime minister charge. She received this entitlement in order to have survived a try of murder and to rigid politics conductions and ecnomic decisions. The movie establish a dialogue between an eldry Thatcher, with advanced signals of her mental situation, and the imagined figure of her recently deceased husband. Moreover, the central point is to explain the development of the war England declared against Argentina (1982). The Academy reward the production with Meryl Streep’s third best actress prize and best achievement in makeup.



Coco Before Chanel

• Direction: Anne Fontaine

• Starring: Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola

• Nationality: French

 This movie is about Gabrielle Chanel, more known as Coco Chanel, and her life before became one of the biggest stylists of the world. Everything started when Gabrielle, after leaving the orphanage, finds herself working in a provincial bal as a singer and as a seamstress at the same time. After the support of Ètienne Balsan, she started to grow. She revolutionized the fashion world, wearing clothes considered to men, without corsets and other props.


• Direction: Pablo Larraín

• Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig 

• Nationality: USA

After four days of the murder of her husband, the president of USA, John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy try to deal with the situation.


Carlota Joaquina, Princess of Brazil 

• Direction: Carla Camurati

• Starring: Marieta Severo, Marcos Palmeira, Marco Nanini

• Nationality: Brazil

The History about Carlota Joaquina, a Spanish who married the prince of Portugal. Always interested in the power and her lovers, she hated the idea to go to Brazil.


• Direction: Oliver Hirschbiegel

• Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodg

• Nationality: UK

The last years of Lady Di are show with all the difficulties and loneliness, but principally her relationship with the surgeon Pakistani Hasnat Khan and with the Egyptian Dodi- Al Fayed, that have died with her in the car accident.


• Direction: Julie Taymor

• Starring: Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush

• Nationality: USA

Frida Kahlo is one of the principal names in Mexican art history. She also had an open marriage with the artist Diego Rivera, and this relationship is show in the movie -with a lot of others, with men and women. Histories like that tell us more about this big artist from her teenager until her death.


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