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Top 23 Movies to Watch for Women’s Herstory Month 2023: Part 1

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kutztown chapter.

What better way to honor Women’s History—I mean, Herstory— Month than to watch movies about fierce females. Instead of listing twenty like I did in my previous listicle, I will be listing twenty-three in honor of our current year. Also, if you haven’t seen any of these movies, a spoiler alert is warned before you read this. I hope you like the selection!

23.) Moxie!

This Netflix flick centers on Vivian Carter, a shy teenager who secretly creates zines to call out the hypocrisy and sexism that plagues her high school. This movie is a compelling coming of age story filled with heart and humor thanks to comedy star Amy Poehler who directed the film, which is based on the book of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu.

22.) The Little Mermaid

With its live action adaptation coming this summer, it’s best to rewatch this Disney classic before then. Disney’s take on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale stole the hearts of audiences everywhere with its stunning animation and memorable songs. None of it would be possible without its lead voice actress Jodi Benson who voices Ariel, a daring princess who longs to journey beyond the sea, and finding true love in the process. This movie wouldn’t be complete without its villainess, the bombastic sea witch Ursula, played by the late great Pat Carroll. Can’t wait to see Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy’s take on these two icons.

21.) Matilda The Musical

Many of us grew up either reading Roald Dahl’s book or the Mara Wilson film adaption or both, regardless both tell the whimsical and empowering story of Matilda Wormwood, a girl with a passionate love for books and an exceptional mind that not only holds great knowledge, but a power to levitate objects and to take down a tyrannical headmistress. Netflix’s film adaption of Tim Minchin’s musical was 2022’s biggest hit, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the actresses who brought these characters to life such as Alisha Weir as the bookish heroine herself. Alongside her Lashana Lynch, Sindhu Vee, Rei Yamauchi Fulker, Winter Jarrett-Glasspool, and Meesha Garbett who play Matilda’s friends and allies. There’s also Andrea Riseborough as Matilda’s neglectful mama Mrs. Wormwood, and the epic Emma Thompson who portrays our heroine’s main antagonist Agatha Trunchbull.

20.) Gracie’s Choice

Kristen Bell plays Gracie Thompson, a girl on a mission to keep her family together. Based on a Reader’s Digest article “A Lifelong Fight” by Rena Dictor LeBlanc, this film is about Gracie’s fight to keep custody of her younger brothers after her helpless grandmother and drug addicted mother failed them. Bell’s performance was absolutely captivating as she portrays her character’s horrendous struggles and hard sacrifices to give her brothers and herself the life they deserve.

19.) Million Dollar Baby

Rocky Balboa and Adonis Creed got nothing on Maggie Fitzgerald. Hilary Swank delivered a powerful performance about a scrappy waitress with a desire to be a champion boxer. This woman bravely endured countless ridicule from her peers and family for her gender and advanced age, and that is far better than any championship title. Maggie proved her worth to her coach and ultimately herself in spite of her tragic demise in the end. Relentless and determined, no one could stop the Mo Chuisle!

18.) What’s Love Got to Do With It

Angela Bassett can do no wrong when it comes to portraying empowering women, and her role as music icon Tina Turner is no exception. Tina had to overcome many hardships in her rising  career, but nothing compared to her fight for independence and freedom against her abusive husband and former singing partner, Ike Turner. With her newfound faith and confidence of self, Tina became the woman and musician we know and love today.

17.) Bedknobs & Broomsticks 

From amateur detective to a motherly teapot, there’s no question that the late and legendary Angela Lansbury’s talent was exceptional. Though she’s known for her previous roles mentioned, one role that’s sometimes overlooked is her leading act as Eglantine Price in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In this magical musical adventure, our heroic apprentice witch searches for a lost spell that is vital to defeating the invading Nazis, all while traveling on an enchanted bed. Courageous, plucky, and sharp focused, Lansbury’s Eglantine Price is part of a long line of inspiring Disney heroines that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

16.) Coraline

Whether you liked Neil Gaiman’s original book or the Henry Selick film adaptation, you’ll be under the spell of this girl’s tale. Coraline Jones is like any other kid—whiny, impatient, and always looking for something to do to entertain herself. However her mettle is put to the test when a dark creature called The Beldam aka The Other Mother kidnaps her parents after a failed attempt to entrap her into her world. Coraline’s resourcefulness and strong nerve was captivating to watch and all praise go to Dakota Fanning’s voice acting, and alongside her to play both her mother and Other Mother is the charming Teri Hatcher.

15.) Betty & Coretta

Angela Bassett makes the list again. Only now, she co-starred with the equally phenomenal Mary J. Blige as they portray real life heroines Coretta Scott King and Dr. Betty Shabazz. The wives of Martin Luther King Jr. And Malcolm X carry on their husbands’ legacies after their tragic deaths while also creating legacies of their own right. These women weren’t just wives of famed political figures of the movement, they were forces of nature that came together in a time of tragedy and rose up to advocate human and civil rights while honoring the memory of their husbands’ dreams for this country. This film also depicts a united female friendship that neither guns nor fire could destroy.

14.) Promising Young Woman

As we know ladies, revenge is never the answer… unless you’re Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas that is! Carey Mulligan plays her most compelling role yet as med school dropout Cassie Thomas is out in the streets stalking, luring, and catching predatory men as an act of vengeance after her close friend, Nina, committed suicide after experiencing a rape at their college, and nobody believing her story. Mulligan’s character took helm on the revenge train by using her clever tactics and psychological warfare to hunt down and punish the people who discredited Nina and other victims to the monster who assaulted her. If you like a good female revenge film, then I totally recommend watching this masterpiece.

13.) Belle (2021/2022)

What do you get when you cross a Beauty and the Beast tale with a Ready Player One/The Matrix twist in the mix? An exciting coming of age musical anime film starring a relatable heroine. Suzu is a talented but shy teenager who lost her love of music after the loss of her mother. She finally found the strength to sing again after creating an avatar called Belle in the virtual world of U, and became an instant sensation. Things get complicated when a beastly avatar calling himself The Dragon makes trouble in U with his brutish strength and anger. Suzu/Belle takes it upon herself to learn more about this angry creature and later sees that he’s not the monster people see him to be. This movie is an enjoyable modern take of a classic fairy with compelling themes of grief, rediscovered passion, compassion, and the willingness to sacrifice for what’s right. This amazing character wouldn’t come to be without Kaho Nakamura who voiced the original Japanese dub and Kylie McNeill who voiced the English dub.

12.) Selena

We all know how the famous American Tejano singer died, but for this list, we’re talking about how she lived. Thanks to the stellar performance of Jennifer Lopez, Selena was brought to life in so many ways in this biopic movie. For one thing, her musical talents, and given the actress’s singing history it was no sweat to channel the voice of Selena. Another thing she used her voice for was to comfort and support her loved ones in need and standing to her convictions from how she wants to be represented to fighting for her love for Chris Perez against her well-meaning, but strict father. Selena Quintanilla Perez is gone, but her spirit will forever live on in her music and in the people who loved her, and this movie helps cementing her legacy.

11.) The Hunger Games Franchise (2012-2023)

Suzanne Collins has no shortage of empowering women in her famed book series. Thanks to the talents of Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Natalie Dormer, Jena Malone, Amandla Stenberg, and other female actresses in this YA dystopian sci-fi film adaptation franchise we’ll be watching and rewatching the harrowing story of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire who fights against a maddening government that forces people to kill each other for what they deem is humanity’s survival, but really for their own sick entertainment.

10.) Cruella 

We can NEVER condone this Disney villansess’s desire for killing and skinning innocent puppies for clothing. However, we can root for Cruella’s need to make an impact on the fashion world, while also sympathizing her questionable decisions to avenge her mother’s death. Emma Stone brilliantly performed the complexity and madness of her take on Cruella De Vil, and next to her is the excellent Emma Thompson playing the film’s antagonist, The Baroness, who’s cold heart matches with those icy fashion instincts of hers.

9.) Easy A

Emma Stone appears on this list again as the insightful and funny Olive Penderghast in this teen comedy flick. What started off as a simple lie about Olive’s lost virginity, turns into a huge high school scandal as her peers labeled her as a high school harlot. Olive at first welcomed the reputation in order to fit in with the school’s social hierarchy, but it quickly turned sour as the consequences of her lie not only hurt her loved ones but herself in the process. Stone delivered a wonderful performance about her character’s need for love and recognition, but turns things around by loving herself, reclaiming her good name, and sharing her story with a comedic bang!

8.) A Call to Spy

This espionage film tells true events about three badass female spies who’re recruited by the British to fight against the Nazi’s during World War II. Sarah Megan Thomas portrays cantankerous American Virginia Hall, a heart full of determination and a limping leg, Hall was able to save countless lives under various disguises. Stana Katic portrays Vera Atkins, a Romanian-born Intelligence Officer who saw greatness in the women she recruited and trained for the missions ahead. Radhika Apte portrays Noor Inayay Khan, a Muslim pacifist princess whose skills in wireless communication helped the mission forward. She’s also the first female wireless operator to be sent into occupied France to help the resistance and send messages back to Britain. This movie is better than all the James Bond and Charlie’s Angels films combined.

7.) Te Ata

You may not have heard about this Chickasaw storyteller, but you will by watching this biopic. Q’orianka Kilcher astoundingly portrays real life heroine, Mary Thompson Fisher who travels under the pseudonym, Te Ata, to tell the true stories of her people and of all indigenous communities in a time when the United States forbid all forms of public cultural practices. No one can silence the powerful voice that is Te Ata.

6.) Enough 

Jennifer Lopez graces this list again with her role as Slim Hiller, a mother on the run with her daughter to escape from her abusive husband, Mitch. Lopez’s character went through a powerful transformation from victim to fighter in order to protect herself and more importantly her daughter. Throughout the film we see her grow to sharpen herself mentally, emotionally, and physically for her final confrontation against Mitch. Truly there’s nothing earthly powerful than a mother’s love.

5.) I Am Elizabeth Smart

2003’s telling of the Elizabeth Smart story was a tame documentary compared to the raw realism depicted in Lifetime’s “I Am Elizabeth Smart”. This true life film about Elizabeth’s kidnapping heavily presented the horrors she went through under her torturers Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. It also showed how resilient, determined, and clever Elizabeth was in surviving the months of her kidnapping, and how she outsmarted her tormentors in the end when she was finally found. This movie was told by Elizabeth Smart herself while actress Alana Boden brilliantly portrayed her to visually depict the true events of her story. Smart’s faith in God, her loved ones, and herself are what got her through the hellish times Mitchell and Barzee put her through.

4.) The Divergent Franchise (2014-2016)

Veronica Roth’s thrilling book series may not have had the perfect film adaptations, mainly the last two films, but it still brought exciting action, intense political themes, a beautifully realistic romance, and a strong female lead. Shailene Woodley’s performance as Beatrice “Tris” Prior was perfected to a T as she portrays her balancing strengths and vulnerabilities that make her a grounded and relatable heroine. What’s best about Tris is her ability to overcome the most difficult obstacles in the fast paced world of a dystopian Chicago, from being constantly underestimated for her gender and small height to enduring the losses of her loved ones. Through her intelligent thinking, strong will, selfless heart, and badass dauntless fight skills to boot, Tris was able to takedown corrupt government leaders who’d divided humanity’s virtues and differences in factions. This film wouldn’t be complete without these fierce females such as Zoe Kravitz, who plays Christina, Tris’s always honest bestie. Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Tris’s selfless, but secretive mother. Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson, the complex leader of the Factionless. Maggie Q as Tori Wu, a dauntless tattoo artist with a knack for secret keeping. Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes, the peaceful leader of Amity, and lastly the amazing Kate Winslet as the cold and calculative Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews.

3.) Redeeming Love

Francine Rivers marvelously created a passionate historical romance based on the Book of Hosea. While the story is about humanity’s redemption towards God, it’s told through the story of Angel, a prostitute who lives her life in darkness looking for a way out. One day she comes across a farmer, Michael Hosea, who God told him to marry her. Angel initially refused as she turned away faith and hope after losing her mother, being neglected by her father, and being sexually mistreated by countless men. After a violent encounter with her madam’s handler, she finally accepted Michael’s unconventional proposal and would later see that he’s different from all the terrible people she knew. Watching Michael’s relentless compassion and faith helped Angel see that though she didn’t choose the life she had, she can choose the life she wants. This allowed her to break free of The Duke’s hold on her, and was able to use her savvy business skills to build a women’s shelter for fallen women like her. With her newfound faith in God and a softened heart, Angel reclaims her life and name, Sarah.

2.) The Woman King

Viola Davis is Queen on this list, or in this case The Woman King. In this true event story, Davis portrays General Nanisca, who gathered a new group of women to join the king’s guard after the threat of invaders’ plan to destroy their home and kingdom. Davis’s portrayal of the powerful figure is commanding at every scene she’s in whether it’s training the newbies or giving cold hard facts to a conflicted King. This general would also give advice full of wisdom to her naïve recruits, hearing her words cut deeper than the blade she carries. She also presents her as a woman of vulnerability as the traumas of her past have disturbed her present. Nanisca was able to break free from the pain as she sees it doesn’t define her as a woman and warrior. Davis isn’t the only powerful heroine of this story as it has Lashana Lynch as the wise and sometimes wisecracking Izogie. There’s also Sheila Atim as the loyal and spiritually gifted Amenza and Thuso Mbedu as newbie warrior in training, Nawi.

1.) Mean Girls

This listicle crown goes to the Queens of female ensemble teen comedy. What hasn’t been said about this movie? Is it the gut punching humor? The memorable character? The never ending lines that many fans still quote today, “Four for you Glen Coco! Yo go, Glen Coco!” Well this “fetch” film wouldn’t be the favorite flick it is today without Lindsay Lohan as new girl Cady Heron, Rachel McAdams as queen bee Regina George, Lacey Chabert as the tea spilling Gretchen Wieners, Amanda Seyfried as the lovably dumb Karen Smith, Lizzy Caplan as the outspoken rebel Janis Ian, and of course we can’t forget the comedic all stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the wise Ms. Norbury and the irresponsibly fun June George. Also fun fact: this movie was based on Rosalind Wiseman’s book, “Queen Bees and Wannabees”.

That’s it for this exciting list, tune in for part two!

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Meaghan Torres

Kutztown '23

My name is Meaghan Xenia Alexandra Torres, I like to be called Alex. I’m a Christian, Autistic, & I’m studying for writing and art in Kutztown. I enjoy movies, books, tv shows, chocolate, swimming, writing, art, and spending time with my family & friends