Women empowerment has had a long history of struggle and Hollywood has managed to make some fantastic films that deal with this issue expertly. So, here is the list of top movies about women empowerment. You can watch some of these best women empowerment movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. It is about time that we start seeing more number of great female empowerment movies being made out of Hollywood.
10. The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
A series about the boy who lived, based on the series of books by J.K. Rowling. Yet in a series where the protagonist is clearly a male, there is no lack of strong female characters – be it McGonagall, Luna Lovegood , Molly Weasely or Bellatrix Lestrange. However the woman who comes most to mind is Hermione Granger – a plucky girl who always showed exceptional talent in magic and those who have followed the series will have no hesitation in saying that if not for Miss Granger Ronald and Harry would probably not have survived for as long as they did. A woman who is sure of what she wants and clear in expressing herself, Hermione never ceased to amaze us – from the time she brewed Polyjuice Potion to perfection, to the time she punched Malfoy in the face to when she kept Harry and Ron alive all through their search for horcruxes.
Hermione was probably the one person Voldemort underestimated which led to his downfall – the fact that this smart woman would access the same book on horcruxes in the library that he had accessed so many years ago. While destiny pits Voldemort against Harry, the books and the films have deftly shown Hermione pitched against the Dark Lord intellectually and Hermione emerging the clear victor. Played to perfection by Emma Watson who herself has very clear notions about women empowerment as evident in her speeches delivered at the UN, this franchise is a must watch for all its emotions, all the story and the brilliance of Harry, Ron and Hermione.
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9. G.I. Jane (1997)
Ridley Scott directed this film which stars Demi Moore. While not a lot of people consider this as one of Scott’s best works, it serves to convey a very powerful message – inclusiveness in the army. We all know that armies are hypermasculine environments, breeding grounds of toxic masculinity and misogyny sometimes even. Particularly in current light of conservative restrictions being placed on the US army, this movie gains much more relevance in today’s scenario. The film follows Jordan O’Neill played by Moore as a candidate for the SEALS academy. The Navy SEALS being one of the elite branches of US military had until that point been closed to women. O’ Neill a woman enters a male dominated environment, trains on equal terms as her male comrades and ultimately succeeds in rescuing her male superior in a combat situation at the end of the film. The trajectory of O’Neill’s career in the army is a textbook example of equal opportunity women empowerment.
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8. The Color Purple (1985)
Based on Alice Walker’s novel, this Steven Spielberg directed film deals with oppression on two levels – Celie is a woman of African origin in rural Georgia. Thus Celie’s ordeal is not only the patriarchal oppression but also a racial oppression. A heart wrenching story that includes rape, loss of a child at birth, domestic abuse and sexism – the character of Celie shines through and her devotion for God gives her the strength to endure all that is heaped on her and emerge a stronger woman.
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7. Suffragette (2015)
This film directed by Sarah Gavron goes to the very root of first wave feminism – the suffragette movement. Whereas the other films have feminist icons and narratives that advocate women empowerment, it remains in the subtext or slightly obscured. However this film throws it out into the light. It shows exactly how brutal the fight for women’s rights was and how much sacrifice had to be made for women to live as equals in a human society.
The protagonist Maud Watts accidentally gets caught up in the movement but as the film progresses Maud suffers the consequences of partaking in the movement which includes multiple prison stints, being thrown out of her house and being refused visitation rights to her son. These do not deter her but only further radicalize her and she aggressively moves forward. The film deftly does not show the conclusion itself instead ending with Maud attending her fellow suffragettes’ funeral. The message is clear – the battle for equal rights is a long drawn one and while the suffragette movement might have ended the feminist discourse has not and though the sacrifices are many, women of strength, women of perseverance like Maud shall carry the banners forward.
6. Death Proof (2007)
Admittedly critics and Tarantino himself would not consider this as one of his finest works and even his fans are hard pressed to defend Death Proof, yet as a narrative on women empowerment it is a shining example. The antagonist in the film can simply be labeled as a misogynist. Of course his character is dealt with deftly and his misogyny almost descends to a level of repetition compulsion where this stuntman, Mike, tracks down women and kills them in car accidents – he kills one by deliberately crashing his own car and the rest by ramming his car into theirs.
The film ends with Mike trying to repeat the same thing to another group of women and these women gang up on Mike and the last few sequences of the film literally comprises of these women beating Mike to death. While Kill Bill explores the narrative of a lone woman who takes on patriarchy violently, Death Proof celebrates united women’s power and women united against misogyny and patriarchy literally beats it. Tarantino’s movie might not have been all that great but his message is something we should all pay attention to and besides if one is into the exploitation genre of films, Death Proof is a fun watch.
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5. Gone With The Wind (1939)
Adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name, this Hollywood blockbuster directed by Victor Fleming starred Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara. The film is set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and Scarlett is a strong-willed woman from a privileged southern family who loses everything in the war and must survive on wits and strength of character alone. While some viewers have taken the stance that Scarlett was a spoiled woman who could not appreciate the true value of love because she rebuffed Rhett Butler’s (played by Clark Gable) approaches , I feel the character of Scarlett requires deeper understanding.
Firstly Scarlett is a strong-willed woman born in a completely patriarchal society, and Scarlett breaks all those conventions. She is no lady , because the definition of a lady is dictated by a patriarchal desire to subjugate women. Scarlett is a free willed lady and she loves freely and she realizes her mistakes on her own. Therefore, for the fans who idolize Butler’s ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ I would urge them to watch the movie in a new light – where they recognize Scarlett’s autonomy and her right to choose who she wanted to love. For those who have never watched this film, a classic is a classic for a reason and Scarlett is one of the strongest women to have ever graced literature or the big screen.
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4. Bend it like Beckham (2002)
Directed by Gurrinder Chaddha this movie is on a much lighter vein, titled after Beckham’s ability to hit curling shots around his opponents. However, the movie explores the masculinity in sports and a conservative Indian mindset where women are barred from sports . Jessminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra belongs to a Sikh family situated in London. Although she is infatuated with football, her parents forbid her from playing because she is a girl. However, Jess follows her passion and it helps that she is actually good at the sport. What starts off as a rebellion on the sports font ultimately has Jess rise above the shackles of patriarchy and a conservative family to realize her academic and romantic ambitions as well. This movie is an enjoyable watch while successfully managing to deliver a powerful message at the same time.
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3. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Based on the true story, this Steven Soderbergh film stars Julia Roberts as the titular protagonist. This film is a Hollywood classic and a true testament to the strength of a woman’s character. Erin who is involved in an accident with her doctor loses the lawsuit and later becomes an employee of her lawyer. While in employ there she takes on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for willful knowledge and negligence of the fact that carcinogenic chromium was present in the water of a town. The movie is a legal drama where a lone woman takes on big corporation and by sheer will and determination wins a class action against the company. The film sends out a clear message to everyone that no matter the cards one is dealt, one can always turn things around by sheer strength of character and I have seldom seen a character as strong as Erin Brockovich.
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2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by George Miller, this action film is one of the finest to come out of the Mad Max franchise. While a movie based on a post apocalyptic dystopian society does not immediately ring bells of women empowerment in our mind – Furiosa is a character that’ll remain with the viewers for a long time. Courageous, resourceful, and never one to back down from a fight, this is probably one of the movies where Max himself is almost outdone. Furiosa who works for a tyrant named Immortal Joe helps his five wives, mistreated wives, escape. The movie unfolds as this party is chased across a desert wasteland and they team up with Max to eventually take down Joe. Furiosa becomes the icon of the liberated woman, a woman who delivers her fellow sisters from domestic abuse. The handling of the film is subtly nuanced as they try to run away from their problems and realizing that escape is not a solution they go back and face the tyrant. Furiosa’s bravery and willingness to face up to a patriarchal tyrant makes her one of the strongest icons of women empowerment in modern times.
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1. Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2 (2003-04)
Quentin Tarantino is an unconventional director, and a brilliant one. Kill Bill follows the story of a woman who is left for dead and how she exacts her revenge on those that have wronged her. In a masterful style Tarantino makes the main antagonist a man – Bill. The action packed, fast film pulls no punches but the underlying message remains clear. The man manipulates the rest of the women, her former team mates, into carrying out an assassination attempt, much like patriarchy works in insidious way in turning women against each other. The Bride, played by Uma Thurman, represents the woman who will not bow to patriarchy. She sets on a path of vengeance and what might almost be categorized as radical feminism, manages to identify and decapitate the fountainhead of patriarchy in the film – that is Bill.
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