On the occasion of 8th of March, International Women’s Day, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to all those movie makers that use the cinematic art to bring awareness to gender-based discrimination, fight for women’s rights or celebrate women.
There are many good movies succeeding in the above, including the brand new movie The Glorias (2020), Hidden Figures (2016) or Suffragette (2015). There are also many good movies, centered around women, celebrating their strength or success. We need those movies. We, as society, need to understand women’s problems, and need to acknowledge women’s role and contribution in any aspect of life.
However, I think that the truly good feminist movies don’t have to be about feminism per se. The good feminists movies doesn’t have to be lectures about women’s rights, and their female characters don’t have to be the smartest, the strongest or exceptional in any way.
What really makes a film feminist is a difficult question. I think that the good feminist movies are about female characters who can be flawed but are complex, unpredictable, undefined and authentic. For me, these are movies about women that before all are true to themselves, despite gender roles, societal norms, or someone else’s expectations. It is all about freedom of choice.
So in my list below I have selected the movies that the closest fit these criteria – although maybe not in the most obvious way. These are movies that I like because of the messages they convey, but most of all, the way they make me feel as a woman and a feminist.
The Beauty and the Beast is one of the most-beloved Disney, and my personal favorite. I love how Bell is depicted – she, despite her name, is more about the books than the looks. She is smart, and adventurous, brave and good-hearted. She doesn’t conform, thus everyone in the village thinks she is strange, but she doesn’t care. However, what really makes the story is the fact that this time; it is the damsel that saves the prince, not the other way around.
And, I am very happy to see that today there are an increasing number of animation movies centered around women.
Nine and Half Weeks is kind of a love story, and doesn’t seem like feminist movie at first. At the end of the day, however, it is about a woman deciding what she wants and what she doesn’t want, and having the strength to say so. I cannot say much more without spoiling the story, but I would recommend this movie as an antidote to many degrading Hollywood rom-coms, especially movies of the type of Fifty Shades of Grey.
This is a feminist movie in a very obvious way. It is about a few strong and brave women refusing to play the role determined by men. What I love here is the fact that the movie is titled after one of the male characters in the story, while the said man remains nothing more than background to the action. With or without him, the story would have been the same – about a few brave and strong women.
Erin Brockovich is about sexism, prejudice, work-place discrimination, social conditioning and all in all about stereotyping women. In addition, the main character is judged and dismissed by both men and women, which gives an extra dimension to the story. What I love about the movie is that the female character is complex, flawed, and sometimes not even likable, but she takes what she is and owns it.
This is a movie about a liberal and progressive young woman starting a new job as an Art History teacher in an all-female university where she is challenging the norms and traditions. The movie touches on the topics of women education, marriage and role in society as mothers and housewives. The protagonist, Katherine, is the text-book feminist character that you would expect to see in such movie. What really elevates the story however are all the other female characters, her students, showing us all the different ways of being a woman – and they are all valid, all valuable, all right.
I really believe that Quentin Tarantino is one of the most feminist directors of all-times. He often centers his movies around women, and creates female characters that are empowered and empowering. For me, Death Proof is his most feminist movie, not only because introduces strong female characters, but because it allows them to be whatever they want to be without judgment or expectation.