What are the best films that empower women? Add these films to your list
I'm never not talking about women. So clearly, 2023 was a great year for me. Dubbed "the year of the girl," last year was about celebrating women — not in a sanitized girlboss feminism way, but in a way that spotlighted stories by women, for women. The male gaze was finally decentered and, from TikToks to feature films, the biggest stories of the year were about women. So if you're looking for the best movies for Women's History Month, you've come to the right place.
Women's History Month 2024 Theme
The Women's History Month 2024 theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” And, celebrated on March 8th, the International Women's Day 2024 campaign theme is 'Inspire Inclusion.' Together, they're a rallying cry to advocate for the representation and protection of women across the world. With increasing global conservativism, the overturning of Roe vs Wade in the US, and the global human rights crises disproportionately affecting women, advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion is more important than ever.
Movies to watch for Women's History Month
There's a lot to say about the commodification of girlhood. In fact, so much of it has been repeated ad nauseum in think pieces and TikToks, so I won't say it here. While it's true that marketers are finally catering to women (or just Taylor Swift fans, like the 2024 Super Bowl ads) to make a buck, the power of perspective is transformative. Seeing women like Beyonce and Taylor Swift at the top of their game is inspiring. So is seeing women try and fail — sorry, J.Lo. Understanding the full spectrum of the female experience comes from telling stories. Lots of them.
Telling stories through film is one way we can advocate for the world we want to live in. Plus, by supporting female films and films that empower women, more of them will be made. I like putting on a Guy Richie film as much as the next person, but this month, I'm taking the time to catch up on movies by women and rewatch titles that have made me think about girlhood, or womanhood, differently. From sugary titles like Barbie to movies about women in history, movies help inspire a new worldview and propel us towards activism and activism. Plus, there's no better feeling than dedicating a night to a movie marathon that's both exciting and empowering.
Looking for inspiration? Here are the Best Movies for Women's History Month:
New to Streaming: Movies By Women of the Moment
Anything by Greta Gerwig automatically gets a yes from me. The actor-turned-director did the impossible: rebranded Barbie dolls into the epitome of empowerment. While she didn't get all the Oscar nominations she deserved, Gerwig and Margot Robbie were the faces of the year of girlhood.
Ava DuVernay has spent her entire career evaluating the interconnected systems of marginalization in America. She exemplifies this year's theme completely. In her latest film, Origin, she dramatizes the award-winning book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Black journalist Isabel Wilkerson. Through DuVernay's eyes, we see the story of another powerful woman and her journey to understand the complexity of race and oppression across the world.
Written and directed by Celine Song, this movie is the epitome of the female gaze. As it explores the relationships of two childhood friends, it becomes clear that the film is so compelling because of the complexity of its protagonist, Nora, and the dexterous performance by Greta Lee. Women wiring about women just can't be beat!
I love rooting for women — especially when they're bad. Bottoms makes us root for the most loserish, toxic friend group and I love every minute of it. It's a hilariously liberating take on female friendships and queer adolescence. It redefines what it means to be a woman — especially a queer woman.
Contemporary Classics: Films That Empower Women
Another Greta Gerwig film, this story of the intricacies of the mother-daughter relationship is a love letter to weird girls everywhere. If you had colored hair in high school, you loved Lady Bird. Those are the rules.
Starring Tessa Thompson and a career-defining performance by Ruth Negga, Passing is an adaptation of the book by the same name about two lighter skinned Black women — one who passes and lives as white to change her lot in American society. It's an often-overlooked subject that examines the realities of many women in the 1920s navigating race and womanhood.
Set It Off
Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise star in this 90s heist movie about four women who plan a bank robbery in Los Angeles. It explores the lives and struggles of these women while also emphasizing their friendships and distinct stories.
Speaking of female heist movies, they said a female Oceans film couldn't be done and Sandra Bullock proved them wrong, alongside the incredible ensemble Oceans 8 cast of: Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.
20th Century Women
Greta Gerwig was an actress before she became the bard of girlhood as a director. In this expansive feature by Mike Mills, she stars aside Annette Bening and Elle Fanning about three generations of women in 1979 Santa Barbara, California.
The 40-Year-Old Version
Radha Blank is the star, producer, and writer of this black-and-white arthouse film about starting over at 40. It follows a playwright who pivots into rap music to begin a new phase of her career.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
In post a Roe vs Wade landscape, this Eliza Hittman story about a young girl traveling to New York City for an abortion is more relevant than ever.
Thelma and Louise
The ultimate story about ride or die female friendships. I want what they have — young Brad Pitt and the blue car, too.
Movies About Women in History
Hidden Figures tells the true story of three Black women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were pivotal in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit, changing the game for the space race. Finally, their story is no longer lost to the history books thanks to this film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (Glen Powell as John Glenn was pretty much their Ken).
Frida Kahlo is one of the most influential artists of all time. Played by Selma Hayek in this biopic, it details the life of an extraordinary artist and how she channeled the obstacles she faced into her art.
Confirmation tells the story of Clarence Thomas's confirmation from Anita Hill's perspective. Kerry Washington plays Anita Hill in this inspiring and heartbreaking true story about a woman determined to tell the truth at all costs.
Queen of Katwe
Liked The Queen's Gambit? Watch this inspiring true story, which was first an ESPN article, about Phiona Mutesi, a young girl from Uganda who became a chess champion.
Like Greta Gerwig, Sofia Coppola understands girlhood. Marie Antoinette treats a villainized historical figure with empathy and imagination. Also add Priscilla to your watchlist.
Forget Pretty Woman,Erin Brockovich is my favorite Julia Roberts movie. Based on a true story, it is a tale of resilience, conviction, and not underestimating a woman. Talk about advocacy, Erin Brockovich is an inspiring figure for people who care about people and sticking it to the man.
I, Tonya Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers
Another figure from recent history, Margot Robbie's turn as Tonya Harding unravels the complexity of this misunderstood figure-skating star with empathy. She's more than just the star of Barbie!
Women's History Month Documentary
He Named Me Malala
Malala Yousafzai is synonymous with empowerment. Her story is a reminder of the power of telling your story. This documentary explores her life after the Taliban tried to kill her for speaking out on behalf of girls' education. No wonder she is the leading advocate for children's rights and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
I Am Greta
Greta Thunberg is one of the most inspiring women on the planet — and she has been since she was 15. Her advocacy for the climate is a reminder that the children really are our future.
Nothing more inspiring than Beyonce. Girls really do run the world.
Show Her the Money
This recent doc is about the gap of women in the investment space. It follows female founders and investors as they navigate the sexist world of VC.