It is not a secret that women in the movie industry are ridiculously underrepresented and that they get paid way less than men for the same job. Besides that, it's been reported that only 74 of the 271 people (27%) invited to join the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences last year were women. Did you also know that for every 15 male directors, there is only one female director in Hollywood? I know, those are some discouraging facts.
And I can say that it's really difficult to enjoy a night off while watching a movie, because so many of them are misrepresenting women, showing them to be weak and inferior to men. Fortunately for us, feminists (and movie buffs), there are plenty of movies that show how amazing women really are, and how they (should) fight for their rights and equality in this patriarchal society.
So, here are 15 amazing must-see movies, for everybody who considers themselves a feminist. about celebrating women who break stereotypical gender norms and pave their own ways.
Pocahontas is a 1995 Disney movie and the company's first animation that's based on a real historic person (Pocahontas, a Native American woman), and the history, folklore and legends that surround her.
Pocahontas wasn't just some typical princess who lived in a castle, or a damsel in distress. No, she didn't need to be rescued by anyone. She was strong, smart, courageous and rebellious. Even her father said:“My daughter speaks with the wisdom beyond her years. We’ve all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding.” And the fact that she stopped a war, and then chose her people over a guy is what makes her character iconic. I mean, that's how she earned her "princess" title and how she became one of the most recognizable Disney princess feminists.
14 Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality, released in 2000, stars Sandra Bullock, who plays an FBI agent Gracie Hart, a smart and independent woman who is more interested in her job than looking good. But once a letter containing threats to attack the Miss United States Pageant is discovered by the FBI, Gracie has to go undercover as a contestant of the Pageant, in order to prevent the possible attack and save the contestants.
Of course, when you see the word "pageant" you'd probably think how this movie is completely anti-feminist, but that's not true — Miss Congeniality shows how beauty pageants can be more than just woman vs. woman. The movie also tries to show the audience how often women come across gender stereotypes — they have to look pretty, be feminine, eat with their mouth closed, not snort when they're laughing and of course - own a brush. Well, that's where Gracie comes; she shows us how none of that matters and that you can still be successful even when you're not wearing heels and with your hair un-brushed for days.
13 Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise is a 1991 road movie that follows two friends on their short weekend getaway. It was supposed to be just a normal, relaxing road trip, but an unfortunate accident changed that, and well, that's how their adventure started. On this dangerous journey, these two amazing women strengthen their friendship and re-discover some repressed characteristics of their personalities.
This movie isn't just some chick flick, road trip, popcorn movie that you will forget about a few days after seeing it. No, this movie is a feminist classic for a reason. It shows how strong women can and should be, that they should be vocal to their oppressors and how it's not a bad thing to (try to) escape society's everyday gender-related expectations of them as women.
12 The Hunting Ground
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted every year during their time in college. Those might be only numbers for you, but it's much more for those who have actually experienced sexual assault. The Hunting Ground, a 2015 documentary film, focuses exactly on that – on sexual assault and rape on university campuses in the United States, a problem that is often treated like it's not there.
A songwriter Diane Warren, together with Lady Gaga (who also sang the lyrics), wrote a touching song called "Til It Happens To You" for this movie, and its music video served as a PSA about this issue (trust me, you need to watch it). Also, while performing it at the Oscars, the singer was accompanied by dozens of sexual assault victims and it was extremely emotional and powerful. It really is amazing to see all these women working together to fight these terrible issue.
Matilda was released in 1996 and it is based on the book of the same name. It centers on a very bright and intelligent young girl, named Matilda, who possesses telekinetic powers. However, this girl is not very appreciated by her family and is often simply ignored. Fortunately for her, once her father enrolls her at a school with the worst principle ever, Matilda befriends her teacher, Mrs. Jennifer, who gives her all the support and appreciation she never had, who allows her to be herself, and to flourish and grow into an independent girl.
Matilda is a strong character that a lot of us can relate to. I mean, you've probably at least once encountered some sexist, anti-feminist individuals who were of the opinion that girls should not be heard, but only seen (like Matilda's father). Well this movie is here to prove them wrong and to show how women too can be smart, literate and in control. That's why Matilda is a feminist icon.
Mulan is a 1998 Disney animated movie set in China that tells a story of a young girl who does something unimaginable in order to save her crippled and elderly father from what she though would be his death — she disguises herself as a man, takes his place in the army and goes to the war against the Huns. By doing so she defies and challenges traditional gender roles: she physically fights for her family's honor, she saves lives of other men (even though some of them wanted to kill her for disguising herself as a man) and she eventually saves all of China. And this, for me, is the best part of the movie because she actually saved China as a woman, not disguised as a man.
This classic Disney movie is based on a legendary Chinese warrior Hua Mulan and it gives a beautiful message about the empowerment of women, and even points out problems such as gender inequality and discrimination. Once you see Mulan you'll understand why she is probably the most iconic Disney feminist icon. And don't worry, just because it's a Disney movie doesn't mean it's only for kids, adults can also learn a lot from it as well.
9 The Color Purple
The Color Purple is a 1985 drama film, directed by Steven Spielberg, which follows a young African American girl named Celie Harris who is trying to find her identity, her voice, freedom, and self-worth in a society ruled by men. The movie also points out all the problems African American women had to (and continue to) deal with, such as racism, sexism, poverty, and how they had to fight not only against men, but against society.
The Color Purple shows a unity, a sisterhood of women, all fighting together against racism and sexism, wanting equal rights between men and women. This movie is definitely a must-see, you should put in on your movie bucket list and watch it ASAP, because most women (and men) can definitely learn something from this classic.
8 Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes, a 1991 drama movie based upon a novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, is an amazing story of love and female empowerment that focuses on the friendship between two women, the spontaneous and rebellious-spirited Idgie, and straitlaced and obedient Ruth. Idgie, defying society's everyday expectations, empowers Ruth and other female characters in the movie
This movie tackles many gender issues that are still , such as racism, sexism, and how the society expects all women to act the same, to be inferior to men, perfectly proper and feminine.These very well-developed characters and their narratives of self-empowerment and self-confidence will definitely move you, and if you also have self-confidence issues, then this movie might even help you resolve those issues.
7 The Stepford Wives
The Stepford Wives (1975) is a sci-fi/horror/thriller movie, based on a the 1972 novel of the same name. The movie follows a story of a young woman Joanna, who, together with her family, moves from New York City to a small place called Stepford. Once she gets there, she notices something strange — all women in Stepford are prefect. They are all perfectly proper, the all have perfect hairdos and perfect outfits, and they only seem to be interested in cooking and taking care of their houses and husbands.
The main idea of this movie was to show this on-going battle of the sexes that we still witness every day, and how we live in a patriarchal society, where women are supposed to be obedient to men and not have a career beside being a perfect housewife. It also shows us how men were trying to find new ways to oppress the women and to be superior to them, once the previous way of oppression had failed.
There's also a remake of this cult classic, however the powerful message of feminism is almost completely gone in it, so you should definitely stick with this one.
6 Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde (2001) focuses on a sorority girl who, in order to win back her ex, decides to enroll at Harvard Law School to earn a law degree. Of course, her being blonde makes people assume that she's also dumb (ugh, those stereotypes), but she decides to prove them all wrong, and that's where her journey of self-discovery starts.
Now, some people could argue that this movie is definitely not promoting feminism and how it is completely sexist, but I have to say that they are 100% wrong. This movie deserves the word "feminist" next to it for several reasons. First, it promotes female empowerment and self-acceptance. Next, it tells a story how women are often taught to compete with each other, instead of working together. Furthermore, it also shows that, just because you love fashion, makeup and other feminine stuff, it doesn't mean you can't be a feminist. Yes, you can, you can be feminine and a feminist!
5 The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is a franchise that consists of three dystopian adventure books and four action-packed movies, that are based on the book trilogy. If you asked me, I would, of course, recommend the books over the movies anytime, but I have to admit, the movies are good as well. The movie is set in Panem, where 12 poor districts have to serve the wealthy Capitol. Each year, the Capitol organizes the Hunger Games, a competition in which one boy and one girl from each district have to compete against each other until only one of them survives.
The main character of this story is Katniss Everdeen, a strong female, who volunteers to participate in the competition in order to save her younger sister. Well, what else can I say without spoiling anything? She fights against the tyranny, she rejects typical binary gender roles (she was a hunter before she was a fighter) and she empowers women to stand together in order to make a change.
Alien is a 1979 space/sci-fi/horror film that follows a strong, clear-minded and self-reliant Ripley and her fellow crew members on a space mission. While returning to Earth from their mission, the crew receives an SOS call from a planet nearby and decides to check it out. They discover an abandoned spaceship full of weird alien eggs. When one of the crew members takes an egg to examine it, the egg hatches and, well, that's where their troubles begin.
You're probably all confused now, like how the hell is this a feminist movie? Well, it is. Alien gave us one of the best and most feminist characters ever - Ripley. She's a badass woman who defies typical gender stereotypes and clichés, and is not afraid of anything. She's probably competent than any other of her crew members, and she steps in to save the day when all hell breaks loose. Alien is an amazing must-see classic because, well, it's also female-driven, which was rare in that time (and is not as often as it should be nowadays) and it is also action packed
Orlando is a 1992 drama movie, based on Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando: A Biography, centers on a young nobleman who is gifted (or cursed) by a queen with immortality. The next 400 years, he lives with only one goal — to find purpose from both sexes, and in order to do that he changes his sex from man to woman.
This movie tells an amazing story about gender roles and how far gender equality has come over the centuries. It also shows us how an individual can have both, a masculine and a feminine side, just like the main character Orlando, and how it's possible to to understand perks and struggles of the opposite sex. Both, book and the movie are considered feminist classics and are often discussed about by scholars regarding (trans)gender issues and feminism, and trust me, you're missing out a lot if you haven't seen this masterpiece.
2 Mona Lisa Smile
Mona Lisa Smile is an inspirational movie, set in the early '50s, that tells a story of an art history teacher Katherine Ann Watson, who accepts an offer to teach at a conservative girls-only Wellesley College. Soon after she starts teaching, Katherine realizes that the main goal of these girls is to stick to traditional morals and behaviors and to marry into a good family, where they will just be housewives.
Katherine, played by Julia Roberts, tries to change these girls' minds and their ideas of how women are only supposed to be housewives, and how they have to choose between having a career or getting married, in a men-dominated society. If you consider yourself a feminist, then this movie should definitely be on the top of your feminist movies bucket list, because it promotes female liberation and explains that women should be able to do whatever they want.
1 Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich (2000), a movie based on a true story, follows Erin, an unemployed, twice-divorced, single mother, who has no luck in finding a job. Luckily for, after some time she gets a job at a law firm that once represented her. Everybody at her new job underestimates her and none of her colleagues take her seriously due to her "inappropriate" outfits and her not-so-polite manners. However, that changes once she begins working on a suspicious case involving the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, that was illegally dumping carcinogenic chemicals into water, and therefore poisoning the residents of the area.
Through Erin, a strong-willed and determined woman, this movie perfectly shows how females can indeed be great mothers, but at the same time be able to maintain a successful career. She wins one of the biggest civil compensation case in the U.S. history without any legal qualifications, while being an amazing single parent, and that's one of the things that make her a true feminist icon.