Women’s History Month is only a couple of days away, so why not get a head start by pressing play on some great films made by, or about women?
While some may perceive feminist movies as being preachy or cheesy – not everyone seeks to represent women as being the more ‘superior’ gender, but rather highlight their own unique struggles and emotions that many may not realise, or ever be able to understand firsthand. From highly inspiring yet brutal biopics, to heartfelt dramas – here are our top 10 feminist movies to watch.
Wadjda isn’t just important because it’s the first feature film to be made by a female Saudi director, but’s also the first film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia – a piece of the globe where movies and cinemas are extremely rare. This transgressive piece follows 10-year-old Wadjda, who enters a Qur’an recital competition to win cash money to buy a bicycle – even though it’s frowned upon for girls to ride bicycles in her society.
Pieces of a Woman
Pieces of a Woman doesn’t just stand out as an incredibly raw and gritty movie visualising the indescribable challenges and grief a woman goes through with child loss, but also sheds a light on relationships women may have in her life – such as one with an abusive partner or a domineering parent. While it’s no real life documentary, the movie masterfully paints the excruciating picture of depression, despair, and anguish that no woman should experience. Out of all the feminist movies, this is probably one of the most excruciating and intimate.
Whether you favour the 2019 or 1994 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, it’s an indisputable fact that Little Women is one of the greatest feminist classics of all time. It chronicles the lives of the March sisters – from the ambitious and headstrong Jo to the gentle Beth – and their individual journeys into womanhood. The only thing about the 2019 version is that you’ll want to take note of its non-linear storytelling, as it can get rather confusing at first.
Queen of Katwe
If you loved The Queen’s Gambit, then you need to put Queen of Katwe on your watchlist. This underrated movie depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player who rose from the slums of Katwe to become a Woman Candidate Master and represent her country at four Women’s Chess Olympiads. Mutesi is also one of the first titled female chess players in Ugandan chess history. While it’s not as dramatic and intense as The Queen’s Gambit, Queen of Katwe does highlight the harsh limitations and necessary choices placed on Ugandan women.
Millie Bobby Brown takes on the most famous detective in the world as the charming Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes. After being unconventionally raised by her mother, Enola wakes up on her 16th birthday to find her gone – and left under the care of her two brothers. Instead of conforming to societal norms and attending finishing school, she discover clues hidden by her mother and escapes to London to become a detective herself.
No one does pain more artistically than Frida Kahlo. This biopic starring Salma Hayek beautifully captures the difficult life of the Mexican artist and how she went from being bedridden for months to becoming one of the most famous artists in history. The movie also serves as an exploration on her turbulent relationship with her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera, her sexuality, and class in Mexican society.
Long before Moana, there was Whale Rider. Based on a 1987 novel of the same name by Witi Ihimaera, the movie tells the story of a twelve-year-old Māori girl named Kahu Paikea “Pai” Apirana who strives to become the first female chief of her tribe. In her efforts, she clashes with her traditionalist grandfather, learns how to use a taiaha (fighting stick) and finds the rei puta (whale tooth pendant), the latter being a highly significant and rare adornment worn only by the chief.
While Hidden Figures may not be completely historically accurate, it’s still an incredibly heartwarming movie that celebrates the important yet unspoken contributions of mathematicians Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, and engineer Mary Jackson, in one of the most significant moments in American history. It brilliantly showcases the strength of rising above racial and gender segregations in the ‘60s, while highlighting the power of lifting each other up – rather than fighting for individual glory.
If you have yet to watch Roma, you’re not just missing out on great feminist movies – but great movies in general. This beautifully shot Mexican drama follows the life of indigenous live-in housekeeper, Cleo, of a middle class family. Throughout the film, you follow the emotional and intimate experiences of Cleo as she navigates her working and personal lives, as well as the relationships with herself, her lover, and the family she works for.
On the Basis of Sex
This movie honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a monumental advocate for gender equality and women’s rights- having acted as a passionate voice for both women and men across various sectors, from education to healthcare. Portrayed by Felicity Jones in this biographical drama, On the Basis of Sex follows the Moritz v.Commissioner case, where Ginsburg represented Charles Moritz who was unfairly discriminated based on his gender.