8 Must-See Empowering Movies for Girls and Women
March 8th is International Women’s Day: A great time of the year to put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea and marvel at how amazing women are. And maybe put a movie on to prove that point.
Gender equality has come a long way in the last hundred years, and yet there is still progress to be made. It’s not that difficult, really. We only need women to be awesome, and for other people to let women be awesome.
Things are slowly changing. We now have more stories about women, by women. Actually, there were always stories about women but now they are being told. We have picked out some of these stories that feature inspiring role-models for girls and young women and who remind us of the great challenges and obstacles women had to overcome in order to reach maximum awesomeness. So, here are some movies about mothers, daughters, warriors, heroines, and women who have changed the world and continue to do so one day at a time.
Mulan / Mulan II
Even though Disney princesses are not always looked upon kindly when it comes to female empowerment, we think Mulan is an exception. The story is loosely based on a legendary woman warrior from Chinese folklore, Hua Mulan, who fought in the army in her father’s place, The story was first written down in the 6th century.
Mulan has grown up in a very patriarchal and strictly traditional society, yet she manages to do what she believes is right, defying all tradition. She sneaks into the army dressed up as a man, outperforms all the boys in her class, saves her prince’s life, and proves herself to be a leader. We don’t know if there is a girl out there who wouldn’t be inspired by its ending, where the Emperor of China bows in front of Mulan, the unkempt tomboy who saved an empire through cross-dressing.
How to best describe this piece of art by Hayao Miyazaki? It is a story about a 13-year-old witch who is trying to find her place in the world. It is a coming-of-age story, but that plot summary simply wouldn’t do it justice. This unusual little girl with magical powers has a depth that feels very real to anybody who has been through adolescence. She struggles through feelings of isolation, being lost, and a mental block. However, the mood of this anime is uplifting and inspiring.
Kiki’s Delivery Service eloquently shows that you can embrace your quirks, be independent and brave enough to save people, and still struggle sometimes. Coupled with beautiful sceneries typical to Miyazaki’s work, it is simply a must-see for women of all ages.
Zootopia is another Disney movie that shows just how much Disney’s take on “princesses” has changed in recent years. The story is about Judy Hopps, a female bunny, who is the first bunny on the police force. In an anthropomorphic world where prey and predator live alike, Judy faces the biases towards being a tiny, physically weak animal in a predator-dominated line of work. Even though her gender is never explicitly mentioned, her struggle probably feels familiar for any woman who tries her hand in male-dominated work or sports. It is simply a pleasure to watch Judy Hopps show the world that she isn’t just a “dumb bunny” in a highly entertaining and wittily constructed story.
Based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis tells the story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, a time of political turmoil, war, and oppression. While the story is by no means a cheerful one, it is hard not to smile at Marji’s rebellious spirit, her “Punk’s Not Ded” denim jacket, her inner party-animal, and her outspokenness. Satrapi’s moving and insightful story is simply a must-see.
Little Miss Sunshine revolves around 8-year-old Olivia, whose biggest dream is to compete in a beauty pageant. The unspoken problem is: Olivia is not what would be coined as pretty by most and her family is super weird. However, not once does Olivia feel ashamed of her wild, drug-abusing grandfather, her depressed gay uncle, or her somewhat-chubby self. This confidence is what makes Olivia the perfect heroine, and the movie a great joy to watch for adults and children alike.
In 2014, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism for female education at the tender age of 17, thus becoming the youngest Nobel laureate. Having grown up in Pakistan under the Taliban regime, Malala fiercely campaigned for women’s rights all over the world. The documentary film He Named Me Malala tells us not only about her life and activism but also of her as a person. This is a truly inspiring story of how much a woman can influence the world despite her age, status, and all other adversities.
Her memoir called I Am Malala also makes for a great read and is also recommended for middle and high school students.
This is a movie every woman should watch at some point in her life. Based on historical facts, Suffragette tells the story of the women’s liberation movement in early 20th century Britain. We follow the narrative of Maud, a laundry worker and young mother, and her involvement in the suffragette movement. The story not only shows the social, economical, and political realities of its time, but is also deeply personal as we watch how Maud faces stigmatization, police brutality, sexual abuse, and poverty. Crowned by the gripping performances of Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and the wonderful Meryl Streep, Suffragette pays homage to all women who made history.