My Favorite Movies That Celebrate Women

Back in February, Lawren Desai (executive director and curator of a/perture cinema here in downtown Winston-Salem) reached out to a collection of local women and asked them to share a favorite film that celebrates women for Women’s History Month in March. She included me in that outreach (I was honored!), and I found this to be a fun and very challenging task. (The challenging part was narrowing down my list.) There were some wonderful films shared by the group of women Lawren curated, and you can check them out on a/perture’s Instagram feed. (Here’s mine, if you’re curious!)

This exercise got me thinking about some of my favorite movies that meet the criteria of celebrating women, and I thought I’d share four of them here. I’d also love to hear YOUR picks in the comments, so share away! (Obviously this is a list I could have made much longer, but we’ll go with four for now…):

  • The First Wives Club (1996): I was 11 when this film came out, but was probably 12 by the time I saw it for the first time on our VCR at home. This one stands out to me because, as far as I remember, it was really the first “grown up” movie my mom and I shared. That was special in and of itself, but I could also tell it affected us both in meaningful yet different ways. For me, it got some wheels turning when it came to female friendships, marriage, loss, and what those things might look like in my future, and I’m sure for her there were much more front and center themes. It’s a film I still love watching with my mother, and one day look forward to sharing with my daughter.
  • Arrival (2016): I first watched this film while waiting on my daughter, Maggie, to be born in 2017. (She was two weeks late, so Kevin I had lots of time to kill in the interim!) This film contains so many elements that are important to me — language and communication, motherhood, connection despite differences — and explored time in such an interesting way, causing the movie to stick with me and surface to the forefront of my thoughts on many occasions. 
  • Tully (2018): I actually saw this movie with Kevin at a/perture back in 2018, and found it to be so compelling and well done. Though I didn’t struggle with postpartum depression myself after having Maggie (and so far haven’t after Vance), I’m definitely familiar with how motherhood can feel extremely isolating at times, and how it can leave you feeling stripped of the other versions of yourself if you aren’t careful. The rawness of Charlize Theron’s character was refreshing and necessary, and I was so thankful someone dug into this theme in such a thoughtful and creative way. (Talk about a fun twist at the end!)
  • Mulan (1998): This animated film came out when I was 13, and it was the first Disney movie I’d seen where the female lead was such a strong character. Sure, I appreciated Belle for her love of books and Ariel for her determination in carving her own path, but Mulan was a new kind of character. She was tough, she was funny, and the love story element was so very minor compared to other Disney films. Since then, Disney’s released other princess films that focus less on romantic relationships (like Frozen, which centers around sisterhood instead, and Moana), and I’m grateful for that shift.

Okay, okay, I have to list a handful of others that come to mind: Drop Dead Gorgeous (a forever favorite of mine), Legally Blonde, Nine to Five (it holds up surprisingly well, too!), Bombshell (get a peek into sexual harassment at Fox News), Winter’s Bone, and Selena.

What about you? (This is a hard exercise, because there are so many great films that celebrate women to choose from, but I’d love to hear one or two that rise to the top for you…)

5 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies That Celebrate Women

  1. Such a great list here, Anna! I totally agree with you on appreciating the shift away from romance plot lines in newer Disney films. And Arrival is one of my faves! Though I admit watching it in the theater after Alice was born made me a bit weepy. Have you watched Wolfwalkers yet? I think you’d love that one, too! “Running with the Wolves” is the mother-daughter anthem over here these days. 🙂

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