A Feminist Movie List

The movies that make up this “Feminist Movie List” amplify women’s strengths, weaknesses, quirks and vulnerabilities. These stories show women who overcome sexism and society’s debilitating expectations in order to chase their ambitions to the finish line. Some of these movies are directed or written by women but all of these movies remind us of how important it is to empower women.

Brave (2012)

Brave is the most underrated movie. In the movie, Merida’s mother is grooming her to be a princess, a life she doesn’t believe she is fit for. Suitors arrive to compete in physical competitions for Merida’s hand. She is appalled and as shown in the GIF above, she competes for her own hand . . . and wins. More importantly, this movie emphasizes the importance of communication and listening in mother/daughter relationships. It is vital to understand where the other person is coming from and strategize your persuasion carefully so you don’t turn your mother into a bear and have your father leading a manhunt to hunt her.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich does not want to choose between her children and herself. She wants to support her kids and prove something to herself. Realistically, motherhood and a having career do not exist in two separate spheres. They collide especially for single mothers who are trying to “have it all.” While pursuing all realms of womanhood, Erin finds her niche and something to fight for besides her children, environmental rights on behalf of families. She is also the black sheep of her workplace - she dresses provocative and has to prove her street smarts are the near-equivalent of a college education.

Frida (2002)

Frida Kahlo. At any given moment in Forever 21, there is some crop top or sweatshirt with her face on it. Frida, directed by Julie Taymor, follows the life of the renowned Mexican-artist and her tumultuous marriage to Diego Rivera. She discovers her passion for painting while she is bedridden after a trolley accident. Through deaths in the family and Diego’s infidelities, she finds her artistic voice through strife.

Hidden Figures (2016)

In Hidden Figures, which was co-written by a woman, these women had to overcome blatant racism but also sexism from the men in their lives. Intersectionality is deeply at play here. The men in these women’s lives question them at every turn. When Katherine is getting courted by her future husband he is immediately and rudely in disbelief that she works at NASA. When Mary tells her husband that she needs to take college classes to be properly accredited for her position but is in need of a court order since black people are not allowed in the building, he tells her to count her losses. Dorothy has to persevere to get that “supervisor” title she rightfully deserves. This movie is about how excuses do not progress your life but taking action does.

Legally Blonde (2001)

The most important lesson to take away from Legally Blonde (the novel is by a woman and the screenplay is by two women) is “support the women in your life.” While Elle is trying to pursue her ex-boyfriend Warner by going to Harvard Law, she also uplifts her manicurist, Paulette. Elle helps her leave her old life and attract the delivery man she has been eyeing. By the end of the movie, Elle has awakened a type of knowledge and talent she didn’t know she had. As Elle finds out, there are a bunch of ways to be “smart” and is able to combine her passion and knack for fashion, beauty, and trends with her application of the law. Elle finds her place in the world that allows her to be three-dimensional, which is what all women want - a chance to be the best woman they can be and have someone in their corner, rooting for them.

Mustang (2015)

Like Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, this movie is about the potency of sexism and the catastrophic value of virginity in some mindsets. After a day at the beach hanging out with boys from their class, five Turkish sisters return home to spankings from their grandmother, are banned from returning to school and go into town unsupervised. Their uncle places bars on their windows and the sisters are imprisoned in the house. One by one, the sisters are married off. One willingly, two arranged. Another kills herself before her marriage and the youngest runs away. It's a powerful depiction of how society’s antiquated ideals can strangle teenage girls to death (somtimes literally) or prevent them from coming anywhere close to their potential.

She’s the Man (2006)

A lot of the movies Amanda Bynes made in the 2000’s were about teenage girls taking control of their destiny. Two of the screenwriters of this modern adaptation Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night are women. In She’s the Man, Viola Hasting impersonates her brother, Sebastian, at his new school to play soccer since the girl’s soccer team at her school was cut. The movie also starts off with Viola dumping her boyfriend because he does not support her dreams. Her mother tries to imprint on her a doily, frilly femininity that revolves around her ability to be presentable and attract a handsome man but Viola adopts typically masculine traits like assertiveness and confidence to successfully deceive people. Her priorities are in perfect order even if she has to go to outlandish lengths to win.

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