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13 Best Female-Centric Movies of the Decade

December 5, 2019
10 min read

Telling stories is important. It is the medium through which people remember things. In fact, without our stories, we would be nothing. Films are the most popular and effective medium when it comes to that. They are not just a matter of entertainment, but also a manner of telling the truth. You want people to know about something, you put it in a film and serve it to them.

For a long time, women had acted as secondary characters, at best, in cinema. Their roles were limited to romantic partnerships, or mothers and daughters. Dress them up provocatively and that’s the work done for them. But we have come a long way from that time now. At least, we hope we have. Now, filmmakers are bringing out the stories of women, of their courage and cunning and strength and vulnerability. They are the heroes of their own stories and they are inspirational and relatable rather than an arm-candy for the male protagonist. Here’s the list of top women-centric movies of 2010s.

13. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Lee Israel was a celebrity biographer who slipped back in the shadows after her third book. It’s not that she wasn’t trying to get in the limelight. She wanted to write more and she had no shortage of topics, but her third book had performed too miserably for her agent to secure a deal for her next work. On top of that, her alcoholism wasn’t working in her favour either. Short of money, she comes up with an incredible idea to make some cash. She starts forging letters by deceased celebrities, adding her personal touch to their personal lives. It works brilliantly, but not for long.

12. The Tale (2018)

Whenever something bad happens to us, our body and mind try to recuperate from those experiences. In physical injuries, the body usually heals and we might be left with a scar that will eventually disappear over time. But things are more complicated when it comes to the healing of the mind. Our brain plays a lot of tricks, and most of them are to protect us from remembering bad things. It either suppresses that memory or changes our perspective about the situation, so that we can find it easier to accept. This is what happened with Jennifer Fox. As a 13-year-old, she went through something that repulsed her mind and body. But now, in her 40s, the truth found a way to come out, and she must remember what actually happened back then.

11. Black Swan (2010)

While ballet is a beautiful thing to watch, the pressure on the ballerinas is immense. Not only do they have to be perfect about their performance, but they also have to struggle with the age factor. In ‘Black Swan’, Darren Aronofsky explores the world of ballerinas through a dark and psychologically twisted journey of Nina, played by Natalie Portman. All Nina ever wanted was to play the role of Odette in Swan Lake. She finally gets it when the previous star of the show retires unwillingly. Even though her moves are perfect, the choreographer asks her to be more expressive when it comes to emotions. The quest of perfection leads her down a strange path and threatens to take everything from her, including her sanity.

10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

There are so many times when we feel helpless and hence, frustrated. With all the bad things that happen around us, we are subconsciously scared all the time and wish that we had some kind of superpower to protect ourselves as well as the people around us. The fans of the vampire genre have surely given a thought to all the things they would do if they were turned into a bloodsucking immortal. ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ gives one answer to what women would do to the bad people.

9. Hidden Figures (2016)

Wonder why women are mostly non-existent throughout history? How they appear as just the wives or mistresses of emperors the farther back you go in the past? Where were they when all those discoveries and inventions were happening and battles were being fought? Well, no matter where they were and what they did, truth is, credit was often denied them. And even if there were stories of women fiercer and more intelligent than their male counterparts, the men writing those history books would slip them far in the background, if not removing them entirely.

And you don’t even have to look far back in the past to think about the times women were robbed of their due credit. ‘Hidden Figures’ tells the story of three mathematicians who were crucial in the mission that sent John Glenn to space. But they had to face racial and gender discrimination, and a lot of time had to pass before people started acknowledging their contributions.

8. A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Sexuality is a spectrum and you should be who you want to be. But hey, don’t expect to be treated the same if you move beyond the conventions of “normal”! Woman, a person of colour, LGBTQ+- you fall in any of those categories and you should be ready to be treated inferiorly at some point in your life, if not through all of it. Take, for example, Marina. She is not just a woman, but on top of that, she is also trans. How can she possibly expect to be treated well after this, right?! ‘A Fantastic Woman’ follows her story of patience and ends with the time when she finally decides enough is enough.

7. The Favourite (2018)

There are a number of things that the deep-rooted patriarchy in our minds associates with. For example, talk about power and politics and you automatically attach it to something that is masculine. But there is nothing patriarchal about powerplays and cunning in Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘The Favourite’. Set in the 18th century, in the reign of an emotionally unstable Queen Anne, it follows the journey of three women as they get stuck in a toxic love triangle. Olivia Colman, who won the Academy Award for her performance, plays the role of the Queen who is in love with Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz. Everything goes well between them, until the arrival of Sarah’s cousin, Abigail.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Justice isn’t easy to come by, and despite being the ones against whom some of the most heinous crimes are committed, women often have to make peace with the fact that justice might not be served to them. When a teenager is raped and murdered, the cops take their time to solve the case. But when months go by and there is nothing for them to show, they become slack about it. It looks like they, as well as the town, might soon forget about the horrific thing that happened to the victim, but Mildred Hayes won’t let that happen. She begins a protest that pits her against the cops. She will not stop until the police are spurred into action to find the one who did this to her daughter.

5. Little Women (2019)

Written by Louisa May Alcott, ‘Little Women’ is a classic novel that tells the story of the March sisters. The young girls, each different in her own expression, live with their mother while their father is off fighting in the Civil War. The girls- Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy- befriend Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. The story focuses on the process of growing up for the girls as each of them tries to stay true to their character and not give up to what the society expects from them. In the film adaptation, Greta Gerwig brings her own flavour to the story, and brings together an ensemble cast of Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh to play the sister, while Laura Dern plays the role of their mother and Timotheé Chalamet appears as Laurie.

4. Gravity (2013)

In real life, the space agencies might take their time in sending women to space and beyond, but films haven’t waited around for that to happen. In fact, they have always stayed a step ahead and even served as an inspiration for real-life scientists. In ‘Gravity’, we meet a female astronaut who goes through an impossible situation, one that not everyone would survive. Sandra Bullock plays the role of Dr Ryan Stone, who is out on a spacewalk, performing a hardware upgrade on the Hubble when the debris of a defunct satellite starts a chain reaction which leads to the destruction of both the Hubble and Stone’s shuttle. This is the story of her finding her way back home.

3. Lady Bird (2017)

In Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Saoirse Ronan stars as Christine McPherson. A rebellious teenager, she names herself Lady Bird and dreams about getting out of her mundane surroundings to a more cultural place. But before that, she goes through a lot of ups and downs in her final year in school where she rediscovers the meaning of friendship and family. Her relationship with her mother is another thing that she comes to terms with.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Despite having the name of a man in the title, ‘Max Mad: Fury Road’ is more about the women and the world that they live in rather than about Max Rockatansky. With a post-apocalyptic setting, it portrays a world that has turned into a wasteland and the water is controlled by a tyrant, Immortan Joe. He has five wives, the women that he keeps with him for “breeding”, one of whom is pregnant. Imperator Furiosa helps them escape, which leads all of Joe’s army to pursue them. When Max is captured by War Boys, he too tries to escape and inadvertently becomes Furiosa’s ally. The film received multiple Academy Award nominations and stars Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in the lead roles.

1. Roma (2018)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, ‘Roma’ follows the life of a domestic worker. Set in the 70s in Mexico City, it is the semi-autobiographical memoir of the director. The protagonist of the story is Cleo. She works as a live-in housekeeper for Sofia’s family. She falls in love with a man, but when she gets pregnant, he abandons her. Cleo finds support in Sofia, who is going through a difficult time herself. Her marriage is falling apart and she doesn’t know what to do about it. This Academy Award-winning film is an incredibly personal and intimately raw experience that the director shares with the audience through the lives of Cleo and Sofia. What makes it more impactful is how rooted in reality it is, and how much women can connect with the lead characters.

Read More: Best Romance Movies of 2010s

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