5 Movies that Empower Women

By Evan Fischer

When you think about movies geared at women (or featuring strong female leads), your mind may automatically go to “chick flick” or “feminist film”.  But the truth is that we’re all surrounded by strong women that work hard and stand tall, despite a society that tries to hold them back.  So it should come as no surprise that these ideals are represented on the silver screen.  And here are just a few movies that do it best.

  1. The Color Purple (1985).  This tear-jerker is so much more than a weepy chick flick.  Based on the equally engaging novel of the same name, this movie follows the life of Celie, a poor black woman in the south who is controlled and abused by men for most of her life, until she finds the courage to fight back and become a strong and independent woman.  It’s about finding your worth and realizing that each of us, regardless of gender, race, or lifestyle, deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and love.
  2. Aliens (1986).  Does it get any better than the second go-round with this butt-kicking female baddie fighting creepy, crawly, acid-spitting aliens?  Ripley was iconic not because she had any particular desire to be heroic, but because she did what had to be done when no one else would (male or female).  And you can thanks Sigourney Weaver for the costume.  Her original outfit was supposed to be some revealing “super hero” getup.  She’s the one who insisted on the much more practical (and modest) flight suit.
  3. Thelma and Louise (1991).  Okay, so the titular women in this film do end up going on the lam before they commit hari kari by driving their Thunderbird over a cliff, but really they’re just standing up to all of the men in their lives who have held them down and turned them into the desperate criminals they end up becoming.  All they wanted to do was go fishing and have some fun, for crying out loud!  In any case, this movie put a new spin on the buddy drama by creating two strong female leads and giving them a lot more heart than most.  When they can no longer persevere in the face of the many men holding sway over their destiny, they do what they have to in order to escape the man.
  4. Not Without My Daughter (1991).  Nobody does an empowered female quite like Sally Field (Norma Rae, Steel Magnolias, the list goes on and on).  But in this movie about antiquated notions of male superiority in a patriarchal society, Field is at her best as a mother who won’t give up her basic right to raise her daughter, even if that means risking her freedom and her life to steal the child from a domineering father and spirit her out of a country where women have no rights.
  5. Bend it Like Beckham (2002).  This one from across the pond may have provided the big break for young stars Keira Knightly and Parminder Nagra, but it also imparted a message about girl power.  Jules and Jess are two footballing friends facing down stereotypes, expectations, and parents that just don’t understand.  But their friendship, determination, and desire to pursue their goals, no matter who approves, make them just the sort of female role models that any woman can get behind.  Plus, the soundtrack is awesome, so check your favorite CD replication service to pick up a copy.

About the Author:
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.


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  1. JennieIW says

    I really liked Bend it Like Beckham when I saw it – I remember being pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was. I think the only other film on the list I’ve seen all the way through is Color Purple.
    Another film that might qualify for the list is Fried Green Tomatoes – great movie.

  2. Pam@IW says

    Erin Brokovich certainly was a movie that showed a strong woman and might encourage other women to branch out a little. I will have to think of some others.

  3. Teresa E. says

    Oh, I love Thelma and Louise. “If no one loses their head, then no one will lose their head.”
    If I remember correctly, the movie Frida with Salma Hayek was very empowering.
    Ooh, I also love A League of Their Own. “There’s no crying in baseball!”

  4. Paige says

    Of course, I agree with many already mentioned. But will add a few.
    Some of these are old but I would add:

    1)”The African Queen” with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart; 2) “Gorillas in the Mist” with Sigourney Weaver; and 3) “Australia” with Nicole Kidman.

  5. Lily@IW says

    Def add my vote in for Fried Green Tomatoes. “If I wanted to kill you, I’d use my hands.” (I love that line)
    An older one and not one that I think applies to all, is Private Benjamin. It’s probably dated now, but as a teenager, I thought it was quite inspiring.

  6. Ann@IW says

    Not a movie…but the Broadway show “Wicked” was VERY girl-power friendly during a period when my daughter was the victim of a bully.

  7. Kimberly says

    I agree with the movies chosen!
    Here are a few that I feel also fit the category…

    Norma Rae (1979) Starring Sally Field

    Erin Brockovich (2000) Starring Julia Roberts

    Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) Starring Diane Lane

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