Graphic by Samantha N. Olson. Photo from "Hidden Figures," 20th Century Fox.
Although March was Women’s History Month, we believe that women should be celebrated every day. Today, we’re highlighting some of our favorite movies that spotlight women and uplift their voices.
Women are the backbone of Hollywood. They’ve led us down yellow brick roads, sent man to the moon and taught us that when the going gets tough, you’re tougher. So what better way to commemorate all of the strong independent women from the silver screen than by indulging in some of their best work?
From office comedies to biographical dramas, these feminist films made us laugh, they made us cry and most importantly, they made us believe in ourselves. If you have the time, do yourself a favor and have yourself the movie marathon you deserve.
1. “9 to 5”
Where you can watch: Hulu (with subscription)
“9 to 5” (1980) is an office comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as three secretaries who are tired of their sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot boss. The trio end up kidnapping him and running the business themselves … and good for them!
The film was considered progressive for the eighties and it still holds up today. Written by Patricia Resnick, the script addresses important issues women face in the workplace such as sexual harassment and inequality.
“9 to 5” is the 20th highest-grossing comedy film. Its success inspired a TV show, a Broadway musical and a sequel that never made it to production. The film was so successful in part due to the actresses behind the roles. Dolly Parton’s original song “9 to 5” won two Grammys, and she herself was nominated for two Golden Globes. If you like satirical humor, revenge fantasies and strong female characters, then you’ll love “9 to 5”.
2. “Hidden Figures”
Where you can watch: Disney+ (with subscription)
If you haven’t seen “Hidden Figures” yet, you’re missing out on one of the best female-centered movies of the decade. “Hidden Figures'' (2016) is a biographical drama that acknowledges American history’s best-kept secret: the Black women who won us the Space Race. The plot follows NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, supervisor Dorothy Vaughn and engineer Mary Jackson as they overcome racism and sexism to make history. The film features incredible performances by lead actresses Taraji P. Hensen, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.
“Hidden Figures” is critically acclaimed and praised for its powerful script and faithful depiction of historical events. The film has won twenty-eight awards and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Spencer) at the 89th Academy Awards.
The movie’s message is one that we can get behind: regardless of race or gender, you can be the first to do something that’s never been done before.
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime and Hulu (with subscription)
Directed by Rupert Goold, “Judy” (2019) is a biographical drama based on the life of actress and singer Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger). Thirty years after her role in “The Wizard of Oz,” Judy’s physical and mental health deteriorates along with her career. The film shines a light on the mistreatment of women in the industry, particularly child stars. Judy suffered from alcoholism and substance abuse until her tragic overdose in 1969.
“Judy” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was adapted from the Tony-nominated play “End of the Rainbow” by Peter Quilter. The soundtrack features twelve of Garland's most popular songs including “Over the Rainbow.” Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the titular role. If you don’t mind crying, this movie is a must-watch.
4. “Queen of Katwe”
Where you can watch: Disney+ (with subscription)
Adapted from the book by Tim Crothers and directed by Mira Nair, “Queen of Katwe” (2016) tells the inspiring true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl living in poverty in Uganda. Her mother, Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o), struggles to provide food and shelter as a single parent. Phiona (Madona Nalwanga) learns to play chess under the guidance of missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo). After many victories and losses, Phiona became one of the first titled female chess players in Ugandan history.
“Queen of Katwe'' premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics across the board. Nalwanga, Nyong’o and Oyelowo were each nominated for various awards based on their outstanding performances. “Queen of Katwe” shows us that anyone can achieve their dreams with enough perseverance — and that every girl has what it takes to become a queen.
5. “Raya and the Last Dragon”
Where you can watch: Disney+ (with subscription) and Select Theaters
Disney’s newest animated film “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021) is an action epic set in the fantasy world of Kumandra. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is on the search for the last dragon (Awkwafina) in order to stop the Druun from turning all life to stone. On her journey, she encounters members of each contesting tribe, including Namaari (Gemma Chan) — the girl who betrayed her six years ago. Raya must learn to trust others and forgive her enemy to unite the tribes and save humanity.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” has been well-received by critics and audiences alike, earning a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film really delivers when it comes to Asian representation — the narrative was heavily inspired by Southeast Asian cultures and the production team visited Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia for design inspiration. With stunning visuals and a positive message, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a must-watch for anyone who loves a story of hope.
6. “Whale Rider”
Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video
“Whale Rider” (2002) is a family drama based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Witi Ihimaera. The film centers on Kahu Paikea Apirana (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a 12-year-old Māori girl who dreams of becoming her tribe's first female chief. Pai’s grandfather, Koro Apirana, is a traditionalist who would rather train the first-born boys of the village to become the new leader. After a series of trials, Pai eventually proves herself to be worthy of the title ‘whale rider.’
“Whale Rider” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was shot on location in Whangara, New Zealand. Keisha Castle-Hughes and the film’s director, Niki Caro, garnered critical acclaim for the project. At 13, Castle-Hughes became the youngest nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress. “Whale Rider” is an emotional and uplifting tale of female empowerment that anyone will enjoy.
Every movie on this list is unique but they all share one common thread and it’s that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make history.