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Movie Recommendations from Every Decade for Women’s History Month

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Susqu chapter.

Since it is Women’s History Month, there’s no better time to travel through the decades and discover amazing feminist films you may have never known about previously than now. These are some of my favorite movies with a strong female lead but just researching these movies has made me realize I have so much more to watch!

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

This forgotten classic stars the ever-enchanting Katherine Hepburn as a rich, engaged woman trying to stay out of the limelight of the press. When her old flame, Cary Grant, returns to her life, all bets are off. This sounds like a basic rom-com plot, but this film is so much more than that. Hepburn’s character pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a “likable” female character, especially for the time period the movie was made in. I love this movie because there are as many female characters as there are male characters, and the female cast definitely steals the show! It is currently available to watch on HBO Max.

colorful \"action\" sign being held up by the hand of a director in the center of a desert
Photo by Jakob Owens from Unsplash

All About Eve (1950)

This underrated gem is one of my favorite feminist films to quote. Talk about your cast of talented women too! This film stars Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Baxter. Davis plays a famous Broadway star whose career is threatened by a younger star trying to replace her. What I love about this film is that it confronts the agist stereotype that older women aren’t still beautiful and talented. While Davis can be a difficult character to root for, she represents innumerable women struggling to regain their status in the world around them.

Broadway sign
Jordhan Madec from Unsplash

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

While not everyone will agree with this film being a feminist classic, I’ve always seen it as a beautiful story about a woman living on her own and defying the odds. Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a quirky woman trying to survive in New York City. Instead of accepting the ridiculous proposals and entreaties of every man she meets, Holly tries to see how long she can survive on her wits. I love how much faith Holly has in herself and how she won’t allow any romantic attachments to dictate her future. This film is now available on Amazon Prime.

book, flowers and audrey hepburn
Magda fou / Unsplash

Wonder Woman (1974)

Enough can’t be said about how influential Wonder Woman was for generations of young women. She’s one of the first female superheroes to become a part of the public consciousness, made even more so with Patty Jenkins’s directorial pursuits. However, before we acknowledge the 2017 and 2020 films, we must remember that Wonder Woman graced our screens long before then. 1974 was the year of Wonder Woman’s debut from a television show star to a full-blown movie star.

Warner Bros

Dirty Dancing (1987)

This is another rom-com with strong feminist themes, as well as an unforgettable female lead. Jennifer Grey stars as “Baby,” a young woman staying at a summer resort with her family. During the vacation, Baby falls for a dancing instructor played by Patrick Swayze. While romance is at the heart of this film, my takeaway from it was Baby’s stunning character arc. She goes from obeying everything men tell her, including her father and her boyfriend, to learning to stand up for herself and fight for every opportunity that comes her way. Whenever anyone suggests a future for Baby other than the one she wants, Baby dismisses the stereotype of her getting married and is instead proudly planning to join the Peace Corps. This film is now available on Hulu.

Dirty Dancing
Great American Films Limited Partnership

A League of Their Own (1992)

Searching for an action-packed film with a strong female cast? Look no further than A League of Their Own, one of the most beloved baseball movies of all time. I have such fond memories of watching this movie. I’d never seen so many women in uniforms working together and proving that they could do anything a guy could do. If that isn’t impressive enough, this film stars Geena Davis, Madonna, Tom Hanks, and tons of other talented people. It is a fictionalized version of the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and even though it’s not a true story, it’s a trailblazing and culturally significant film.


Erin Brockovich (2000)

This film is a biographical legal drama based on the true story of the Hinkley groundwater contamination crisis. Julia Roberts stars as the main character, a single mother trying to support her family until she uncovers a giant conspiracy led by a powerful company. Not only does this movie address sexism, classism, and capitalism, it is a moving and emotionally memorable story. After watching this film, you are left with an empowering and inspirational feeling that women can do anything. This film is now available on Peacock.

Laptop with white mug that says the future is female with a lipstick mark
Pexels / CoWomen

Hidden Figures (2016)

This movie is based on the true story of the women who worked as mathematicians for NASA, overcoming both racism and sexism while they made history. Not only is the stellar cast made up of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, but the soundtrack is killer, the set design is transformative, and the story is so empowering. Not only is this film showing Black women at the forefront of history, but it shows women excelling in STEM fields usually dominated by men as well. This film is now available on Disney Plus.

The Invisible Man (2020)

I can’t wait to see all the amazing female-led movies produced in the 2020s, but for now, we already have a few spectacular ones! I loved the newest interpretation of the classic Invisible Man story. In the 2020 horror-thriller film, Elisabeth Moss stars as a woman on the run from her invisible ex-boyfriend. While not classified as a feminist film, the theme is a woman overcoming everything to rescue herself. It also deals with themes of psychological and physical abuse, and it does so in a brilliantly tactful way. While Moss’s character is really fighting an invisible enemy, she’s really wrestling with a gendered legacy of domestic abuse. This film is now available on HBO Max.

woman throwing fist at camera
Photo by Timothy Eberly from Unsplash

I'm part time yoga teacher and a full time reader. I never miss an opportunity to listen to audiobooks on a car ride, or to read ebooks during breaks in my classes. I'm a senior at Susquehanna University where my major is creative writing with a minor in women and gender studies.
Writers are contributing from Susquehanna University