I love the movies. They give me a chance to explore new worlds, fall in love and expand my mind while laughing, crying and cheering. In honor of Women’s History Month, it only seems appropriate that I celebrate with some of my favorite movies featuring women. Now I am not a movie critic, nor have I seen every movie ever released (thus no Beaches, Steel Magnolias, 9 to 5, Waiting to Exhale or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), so I won’t even pretend that this is a comprehensive, definitive list. It’s not. It is, however, a list of my personal favorites and movies I watch when I need a “hear me roar” moment.
20 Movies Where Women Rule the World
Rule the world might be a bit dramatic but all these women rule. There isn’t a Mary Jane among them. Do they perfectly encapsulate women and all of our complexities? Probably not. Hollywood has a long, troubled history with how women are portrayed, but these women are showing the world how strong, funny, tough and amazing we are and the special, unbreakable bond of sisterhood.
Movies that Make You Go Awwwww
Romance is tricky. For many, many years rom-coms were … errrrr … not so great when you look back at them. Women were often hopeless ninnies who needed a man to save them. A good man (or woman for that matter) is an awesome blessing but women exist beyond needing to be saved.
This movie has several things going for it: Johnny Depp in his prime, lots and lots of chocolate and strong women. Women who chose to walk a different path, even when society preferred them to walk a more convenient or traditional path. It is funny, sexy and empowering. And it really, really makes me crave chocolate. 😀
Pride and Prejudice
Yup, I’m a Jane Austen fan and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite. While I consider the mini-series with Colin Firth to be superior because Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy, this is a post on movies! I do like Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth and it amuses me greatly that the American version included a kiss between Elizabeth and Darcy because Americans needed the reassurance of true love’s smooch.
I saw this movie when I was 10 (I think) and didn’t fully understand it at that time. But I loved the dance scenes, in particular, and that made the movie good for me back then. Now, I fully understand and appreciate the story even more because “Nobody puts Baby (or any woman) in a corner” and women should be in control over their bodies. And yeah, the dance scenes still make me squee today, because — sing it with me — “I’ve had the time of my life and I owe it all to Patrick Swayze”.
Movies Celebrating Sisterhood
Movies where friendship plays center stage, whether we laugh or cry or do both.
Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion
I really can’t explain why I love this movie so much. It’s completely silly and yet it makes me smile. Maybe because Romy and Michelle, while not on the shortlist for Mensa recruitment, are not idiots either. They are loyal, caring and ambitious people. Sure, they came up with a really, really bad lie and got busted (post-it notes, really?) but they prevailed and sometimes the “losers” actually become the “winners”. And who am I kidding? I love this movie for the weird dance between Romy, Michelle and Sandy and the mean girls out mean-girled because I love an underdog story.
The First Wives Club
My guess is anyone women who has ever been dumped and replaced by a newer, younger model turns to this movie. Because not only do the women get their revenge — they survive AND thrive on their own two feet. Strong females, the power of sisterhood and finding yourself are all present and accounted for in this chick flick. And ironically one of the best moments is when Ivana Trump tells the women to “Get everything.” Oh, dear Ivana: You should have taken more.
Fried Green Tomatoes
This movie really shows the power of sisterhood and friendship. Where you step-in to help an abused friend, raise their kid with them and maybe hide a murder without a second thought. Now that’s friendship! My high school English teacher made us see this movie and I loved it. It is one of the rare movies I prefer over the book. And now that I am “old”, I also drive around glowering at those young whippersnappers who attempt to steal my parking spots and mutter “I’m older and have more insurance” to myself.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
I honestly lost count of how many times I have seen this movie. We used to watch it at every slumber party, followed by a dance contest afterwards. It starred a young Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Shannon Doherty and I thought they were awesome. Is it the most feminist movie ever? Probably not. But did it convince a young girl that she should dance, even if she danced more like Elaine than Sarah Jessica Parker? Yup.
P.S. To be fair, Elaine didn’t exist yet when I was watching Girls Just Wanna Have Fun in heavy rotation. And even if it did, I still would have thought I danced more like SJP.
How To Make an American Quilt
This one of those movies that I have stuck with me, even though it’s probably been close to 20 years since I saw the movie. I love the rich tapestry of the women’s lives it wove. We witnessed heartbreak, strength, friendship, hope and loss. We saw women fall apart, pick up the pieces, love, and stand by one another. Pure, true friendship.
One of the first movies to show how raunchy and gross women can be. It also gave us the gift of Melissa McCarthy and her no-shame antics. It was also very real about women. Sometimes we are portrayed as either saints or bitches. And we are both. We can be petty and jealous and judgmental. We can be immature, scared and lonely. We can be loyal, caring and strong. This movie showed all of our sides, the good, bad and the hilarious.
Movies Where Woman Kick Ass
These women prove we are not the weaker sex.
Kill Bill, Volume 1 and 2
The women in this movie were tough as nails killers. They didn’t need Bill to defend them; they were his defenders. They were, perhaps, not good people but they didn’t apologize for not being saints either. They were badass, loving and strong and took care of business themselves. I will forever love that scene where the Bride takes on the yakuza gang. Fierce.
I consider Ripley to be one of the first female action heroes. When things get tough, she didn’t wait for someone to come up with a solution or to save her. She contributes, figures things out herself and leads. She’s compassionate but practical and tough — a great leader. I also love her because she is not a soldier but just a regular person who got stuck in a colony with a hungry, hungry alien.
Sarah Connor is another great female action hero. In the original Terminator she started out as a bit of a Mary Jane but became a hero in the end. In T2, she’s tough as nails. Physically strong (remember those pull-ups!), determined and kick ass. This is one of my favorite, all-time movies and my go-to every time I need a “I am a woman: hear me roar” moment.
Legend of Billie Jean
I was 10 or 11 when I saw this movie for the first time and loved it. I fell in love with Benetar’s Invincible (such an awesome song!), and Billie Jean. People (boys) done did her and her family wrong and she didn’t sit down and shut-up. In today’s terms, she #persisted. And after seeing it, I promptly went home, dug up my old Barbie with blond hair to her knees and cut her hair short like Billie Jean. I took a blue pen and gave her heavy eyeliner too. My Mom wasn’t thrilled but I like to believe Barbie enjoyed her new tough look.
Silence of the Lambs
I avoided this movie for a long time because it sounded scary and I didn’t do scary when I was young. Now I do. And I completely understand why it got rave reviews and earned Anthony Hopkins an Oscar. He is, of course, fabulous but so is Jodie Foster. I like her vulnerability and strength because real people experience both, sometimes even simultaneously.
Lady spies are often merely fodder for James Bond to devour and discard. They rarely stand alone and do the work themselves. Nor are they middle-aged and overweight. But in this case, Melissa McCarthy once again proves why she is at the top of her game. And I love their sly take on the male spy being incompetent (I have never loved Jason Statham more) and applaud them for letting Susan choose dinner with her goofy BFF who always had her back and knew her worth over her crush.
I went with a bunch of female co-workers to see this movie. We did a whole girls night out with Mexican food (and a margarita or two) and then went to hoot and holler through this movie. Is it necessarily the most plausible movie? No. But really — is any action movie? But it sure was fun watching Ashley Judd get her revenge on her cheating, no-good husband.
This may seem like odd placement for this movie since they are not action stars but maids, but they are totally kickass. What they did was brave, revolutionary and daring. They gave voice to people, “the help”, who had no voice, which takes more strength and power than any superhero or action hero has.
Yes, I like Melissa McCarthy. 😀 I also like Sandra Bullock too. I like that they are smart and capable while also dealing with people (men) underestimating them. That they make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but they don’t quit. That they stood by each other (eventually) and called out those who mocked them. And they made me laugh. A lot.
And maybe it made me smile to see Joey Joe from NKTOB too. He was, unfortunately, a bit of sexist douche. But I’m sure that’s all acting because Please Don’t Go Girl Joey cannot be an asshat. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Big Hero 6
I didn’t include any princess-type animated films, even though I love almost all of them. 😀 They, like rom-coms, can be a mixed bag, although the newer ones are much better. But I chose Hero 6 for one reason: the girls are smart and nobody (i.e. their male friends) are shocked or surprised by this. Because, of course, girls can be smart, even at science, and not need a male to explain everything to them. They don’t exist to be saved or to make the male characters look strong. They are equal members of an ensemble and heroes. Something I want every little girl AND boy to embrace and believe.
Jyn may have not wanted to be a hero or rebel initially but when called upon, she stepped up to the plate and became a leader. She wasn’t perfect (because no one is) but she was capable, passionate and resilient. She led a team of men who didn’t second guess her and trusted her decisions. Nor she stand back in safety while her men took all the risk. She was right there with them. And because some days seem exceptionally dark in real life, I will remind you that the last line of the movie was “hope” because “rebellions are built on hope”. Yes, built on hope with women being part of the solution. #persist.
Who Rules the World? Girls Do
Whom am I to question Rihanna’s wisdom? 😀 She’s right. Women do rule and these movies prove it. We’re funny, strong, vicious, cruel, loving, weird and smart. Go on and celebrate our many sides with a good movie.
What’s your favorite movie featuring women?
kathy @ more coffee, less talky says
YES RIPLEY. Aliens is one of my fav movies! I watch that repeatedly and whenever I come across it on TV, it’ll be on until the very end.
Tonya@Budget and the Beach says
That’s a good list. I think one you might have forgotten is Steel Magnolias! Also Shirley Maclain is amazing in Terms of Endearment. I supposed both would fall under mother/daughter movies. I love Pride and Prejudice!
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
I love Shag!
Rebecca Jo says
You are SOOO making me smile with Girls Just Want to have Fun… that’s like a top teen fav or mine. That & Legend of Billie Jean. I’m totally singing Pat Benatar in my head right now!!!!
I must have seen Dirty Dancing a gazillion times, lol. #80smoviesruled
Movies I love, too: Chocolat, Romy & Michelle’s HS Reunion, Fried Green Tomatoes, Bridesmaids (duhhh)
Movies I’ve never seen and now want to: Dirty Dancing (*gasp*), The First Wives Club, How to Make an American Quilt
Great list, Tanya!!
Jana @ Jana Says says
Do you know what Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5 have in common besides being awesome movies? THEY BOTH HAVE DOLLY PARTON. One of the badassiest badass women ever. Please see them.
The amount of 80s movies on this list makes my heart happy.
SO many wonderful movies here…soooo many…but I couldn’t let this list go by without adding Steel Magnolias. Oh wait. I just looked and saw that others mentioned it too. Forget I said anything. haha
Willow @ Miter Saws and Mary Janes says
Oh wow, so many good ones on this list! I have too many to list, but I do love to watch movies starring a strong female character. It’s motivational to be absorbed in the stories then challenge myself to go out and do bigger/greater things. I tend to have a movie night at least once a month where I spend time unplugging, contemplating, and enjoying the story. I always feel refreshed afterwards!
Chocolat! love it. and yes, P&P. I love all versions, but I agree – Colin <3 I also find it funny about the scene at the end. I obviously did not see the american version until it came out on dvd, our version ended after Darcy going into the room asking for Mr Bennet's hand. Crappy ending.
The First Wives Club is one of my all time favourite movies.
Never heard of Billie Jean but now I am singing the MJ song in my head. Are they related or am I crazy? Lol