’Tis finally the weekend, and time for your coveted weekend TV viewing. In honour of International Women’s Day, we are making the first Weekend Watchlist of March all about women. We’ve put together a list of some of the best films with feminist narratives, from recent films to some older ones. The message stays the same throughout time – women are powerful, and their stories need to be heard. We pay homage today not just to the women whose stories are told through these films, but the actresses, directors, producers and writers who brought their stories to life.
Here are, in no particular order, the top ten girl power films for you to curl up with this weekend.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts plays Erin Brockovich in the true story of the single mother who became a legal assistant and fought against an energy corporation accused of polluting a city’s water supply. Despite having no formal law education, she almost single-handedly built the case against Californian Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) in 1993. Expect to be mightily impressed by Julia Roberts’ portrayal of the scantily-clad powerhouse who proved that women can wear whatever they please, and change the world at the same time.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)
Based on the book of the same title, written by Terry Ryan about her mother Evelyn Ryan – an intelligent, courageous and loving housewife living in Ohio in the 1950s. With a violent alcoholic husband, and an increasing brood of children, poverty seemed to always be knocking at the Ryan’s door. Starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is the bittersweet tale of how Evelyn Ryan used her literary wit, poetry and prose to ensure her family’s survival through difficult times.
Watch The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio on Netflix here.
Salma Hayek produced and starred as the artist Frida Kahlo in this American biopic drama film. Faced with the pain of a crippling injury and a tumultuous marriage, the film follows the artist over 30 years of her life as she channels her pain and emotions into her work. Salma Hayek recently shared her story of what she experienced when working with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on Frida, and what she endured to achieve her dream of bringing Frida Kahlo’s story to life – making this film all the more impactful.
Depicting the true events of the women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom, the film focuses on the years 1912 and 1913, when the women’s suffrage movement grew increasingly violent as more suffragettes moved away from peaceful protest and began adopting more militant tactics. Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter star in this film about the women who risked everything they had for women’s right to vote.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Yes, we know – Julia Roberts is in this list twice. She’s just that good, okay? She even won an Academy Award for her role in this film. This time she plays an unconventionally free-thinking art professor who takes a teaching position at the prestigious all-female Wellesley College in 1953 – where she quickly finds she does not fit in. With the students encouraged to marry well rather than graduate, professor Katherine Watson attempts to show her students an alternative path than society offers. You can expect to feel thoroughly empowered, and even a little teary-eyed at the end of this film.
Watch Mona Lisa Smile on Netflix here.
North Country (2005)
Charlize Theron takes the lead in this true story about Lori Jenson, who worked at a Minnesota iron mine in 1975. After she and other female miners endured continued harassment from their male colleagues, she filed a suit in 1984 and won – a landmark legal decision marking the first major sexual harassment case in the United States. Charlize Theron is her usual badass self in this film, and the scenes of her absolutely destroying a bunch of vulgar men are guaranteed to give you girl-power goosebumps.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Based on the thoroughly enjoyable eponymous book by Amy Tan, the 1993 American film The Joy Luck Club centres around the relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese mothers. A poignant navigation of the tender mother-daughter relationship, being a migrant, and cultural identities, the film still is as resonating today as it was when it was first released 25 years ago. The film still remains as the only Hollywood film with a majority Asian-American cast, making it even more of a must-watch.
Miss Representation (2011)
If you’re not such a big fan of the movies, maybe a documentary will be more your thing. This American documentary written, directed and produced by Jennifer Newsom explores how the mainstream American media contributes to the under-representation of women. The films shows the media’s complicity in selling the idea that girl’s and women’s value can only be found in their youth, beauty and sexuality – while simultaneously undermining women in influential positions by portraying them in a limited or disparaging way.
Watch Miss Representation on Netflix here.
The Help (2011)
Based on the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, the film follows an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s as she attempts to write a book on the African American maids’ experiences of working for white families. Emma Stone stars as Skeeter, the author, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny – two African American maids who agree to have their stories included in Skeeter’s book. They build an unlikely friendship and alliance, which puts them all at risk – but changes their lives forever.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
If you’re thinking of ways to empower some of the younger children in your life (think 11 or 12 year olds) — this is the film for you. Disney present the true story of 9-year-old Ugandan girl Phiona Mutesi, whose life of selling corn on the streets is changed forever when she is introduced to the game of chess. With her devoted mentor, as well as support from her family and community, Phiona begins to advance through the ranks in tournaments as she starts to realise her full potential. The film also features Black Panther star Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s mother.
Looking for more suggestions on what to watch? We’ve got you covered. Check out all of our previous Weekend Watchlists here.
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