Empowering Movies for Young Girls

Even at an early age, what girls watch in the movies can influence them in later life. Seeing only damsels in distress who rely on men to save them might give them the idea that they are powerless and weak without the help of a man. However, there are plenty of movies out there that go against that stereotype, inspiring girls to take charge of their own destiny and be in control of their own situations. 

Here are some movies featuring powerful women that young girls can look up to! 

  1. 1. Wonder Woman

    Since its release, Wonder Woman has been praised as an empowering movie for all women, who, up until then, struggled to see their gender represented as the lead in a superhero movie. The movie displays a woman who is not just physically strong, but strong in her ideals and passions as well, fighting for what she believes in, even if the men around her view her as naive. Wonder Woman represents women as strong, effective leaders, and women who can be emotional and strong at the same time—women who can use their emotions to further add to their strength and power. Overall, Wonder Woman doesn't answer to anyone, staying with what she knows, even if her male companions, like Steve, understand the new world that she has entered better than she does. 

    No matter what message you find most important from this movie, one clear message still stands out: girls can be super, too. 

  2. 2. Hidden Figures

    Like Wonder Woman, Hidden Figures has received a ton of praise for its empowering message to all women. Unlike the DC movie, which praises women as superheroes, Hidden Figures highlights the real geniuses behind an American historical event and women in academic settings. Often, girls are told that they won't succeed in the science fields because it is a male-dominated one. This movie not only counters that, but it encourages women in science. By showing the accomplishments and additions that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson made while working for NASA, it shows young girls now that they can make the same impact in the world by following what they are passionate in and good at, and by not ever giving up, no matter what obstacles that they face along the way. 

    Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson are also black women, which allows for black girls to see themselves represented in the media, further empowering them to pursue their passions and make their impacts on history. It also tells the story of these incredible women, allowing black women to learn more about their history, which is often omitted from the history books. 

  3. 3. Barbie Movies

    While Barbie tends to get a bad rap because people believe that Barbie's perfect figure will cause other girls to feel bad about their own appearences, the Barbie movies are incredibly well-written, with passionate characters who work hard and follow their ambitions. The Barbie protagonists are able to overcome adversity, often times by just showing kindness and love to those around them, and save the day. Some might argue that Barbie's love interests undermine her independence, but Barbie never sets out looking for love, and she definitely never gives up on her own ambitions and missions in order to keep her love interest in her life. Barbie finds love along the way, allows for the relationship to develop naturally, and enters a healthy relationship with someone who respects her desires and goals, which can help young girls understand what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. Overall, Barbie encompasses hard work and kind-hearted power, something that more girls needs to be taught. 

  4. 4. Spirited Away

    Spirited Away, a Studio Ghibli movie with stunning animation, is set up to have the male love interest, Haku, be the hero, while the main character, Chihiro, fills the role of the helpless damsel in distress. However, later, Chihiro finds the strength within her to become the hero that she always was in order to save Haku from the spell and curse that a witch placed on him, rendering him helpless in his situation. The movie, unlike other movies where the girl is the hero, has minimal violence, and the girl doesn't have to sacrifice her kindhearted and forgiving nature in order to assume her position of power. If anything, that's where it stems from for Chihiro. 

  5. 5. Lilo and Stitch

    Long before the reign of Frozen, Lilo and Stitch preached the power of unconditional love between sisters during the aftermath of tragedy and in the face of adversity. The Disney movie showcases both Lilo and Nani as empowering female characters: Lilo, who never sacrifices who she is because of the expectations of those around her, and Nani, who works hard to provide for herself and her sister, even though she is only 19. Even though Lilo is weird, Nani still loves her, and assures her that she doesn't need to settle for friends who will only love a fake version of her; this helps to assure young girls who feel like they don't fit in that it is okay to wait for the right set of friends to come around instead of conforming to what society expects of them. Nani works hard, but she doesn't sacrifice all parts of her life, making sure to still make time to do things that she enjoys, like surfing. She also expresses that it is okay to ask for help in times of need, represented through her turning to David at several points during the movie. Nani helps to show girls that even though you are strong and independent, it doesn't have to be at your expense. Asking for help and taking time for yourself is not a sign of weakness; it can be a sign of strength. 

    Both of the sisters are also indigenous Hawaiians, which helps to empower young Hawaiian girls who do not usually get to see themselves represented in the media. 

  6. 6. Penelope

    Starring Christina Ricci, Penelope is about a girl who is born with the nose of a pig, which will only disappear after she is truly loved by someone. Her whole life, she is shamed for how she looks by the people around her, forcing her into hiding her nose out of shame and low-confidence, the main enforcer of this being her own mother. Still, her family pushes her to find her true love so that the curse can be lifted. But (spoiler alert!) Penelope learns to love herself for how she is and decides to stop trying to change for those around her. Because she is truly and deeply loved by herself, her pig nose disappears and her curse is fulfilled.

    This movie is an incredible narrative about self-love and how your self worth isn't defined by what others believe of you, and that sometimes all that is missing is the love that you are depriving yourself of. By accepting the one thing that she has been told to hate the most, Penelope can finally be free. 

  7. 7. Miss Congeniality

    While rated PG-13, Miss Congeniality is a great movie for female empowerment. One of the main messages within the film is that it is okay to be tough and that it is okay to be yourself, as represented by the movie's main character, Gracie, an FBI agent placed undercover in a Miss America beauty pageant. Even though Gracie is given an extreme makeover to make her pageant ready, she continues to keep her sense of humor and tough personality. These are displayed mainly in the talent portion of the pageant, where she decides to showcase self-defense techniques, and through her snarky responses during the question portion of the show. The makeover just helps to show Gracie that self-care is healthy and beneficial, and that it can help boost her confidence and self-esteem to give her a happier life that she enjoys living. It is important for young girls to learn that changing yourself doesn't mean that you don't love yourself, but rather a form of self-love and care to improve the life that they are already living. 

    Another incredible part of the movie addresses the typical stereotype that people have for models and pageant girls. At first, Gracie dreads going to the pageant, saying how she doesn't want to be surrounded by a bunch of dumb girls who only care about their looks. However, once she is there, she realizes that the other girls are incredibly generous, caring, smart, and unique. She makes genuine friends there that she continues to keep in the sequel, and they change a lot of prejudices that she has about pageant girls and pageants in general. It also combats the idea that girls need to view other girls as the enemy, and that only one girl can succeed. In the movie, all the girls help each other out and encourage each other, despite the fact that they are all competing for the same prize. 

While superhero movies starring women definitely empower young women, helping them recognize that they have a place as heros as well, narratives like Barbie and Studio Ghibli movies, which preach power in kindness, are also an important lesson for girls to learn at a young age. Girls need to learn that they don't necessarily have to be tough in order to be powerful, and that kindness is sometimes better and more effective than any malicious behavior.