Who doesn’t love to snuggle up and watch a good film? But what’s better is when once the film is finished, you’re not sad, you want to live the film in your own life.
Women are not fairly represented in many aspects (let’s face it, the majority) of society, so these films, to quote Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous are ‘a Prozac raindrop from a thundercloud of depression’. According to WISE, in 2019, women made up 24% of the core-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce. Believe it or not, this is actually an improvement on previous years. So approximately 1 person out of 4 in STEM careers is a woman. Long way to go yet isn’t there? And those stats are just for STEM. What about the other aspects we’re not equally represented in – not to mention equally paid?
Sadly, with few women getting the credit they deserve, from women as well as men, feminist films are like manna from heaven. You get a sense of pride and determination from the struggles many of these women had to overcome, lessons they learnt and a pride in yourself for following in their footsteps (or along a similar path). Proper fire in the belly, shouting from the rooftop vibes, especially for me who has previously been told, at the time, that I make out my degree is harder than it actually is, and on a separate occasion, that I should talk about housework. I’m sure those who know me well can imagine the internal rage that I was covering with a ‘smile’.
If you need to feel inspired or to see that strong, inspirational women have been around the whole time, they are only being publicised now, make sure you watch these. I always feel better for watching them.
So, in no particular order; add these to your ‘To Watch’ list NOW. You won’t regret it!
Erin Brockovich (2000)
If I could meet anyone, I would love to meet Erin. She is someone who personifies sheer determination, strong sense of self and sass. She is a force of nature. Erin brought down, almost single-handed Pacific Gas & Electric Company in one of the largest settlements ever paid in a direct action lawsuit in US history, whilst raising 3 children as a single mother and overcoming judgement for how she dresses and her background. Julia Roberts plays Erin (and rightfully won an Osar for Best Actress) and Albert Finney plays her lawyer and colleague Ed Masry. Both give amazing performances with brilliant quips, and you are soon sucked into this emotional rollercoaster.
‘Well as long as I have one ass instead of two, I’ll wear what I like – if that’s all right with you?’Erin Brockovich, 2000
Legally Blonde (2001)
Sticking with the legal theme, I am sure that many of you will have seen this much-loved film. Elle Woods, a Gemini vegetarian, played by Reese Witherspoon is, to be blunt, considered a blonde ‘bimbo’. Her boyfriend Warner managed to get into Harvard Law School and dumps her for a more ‘serious’ partner. To win his affections back, she is determined to secure a place at the prestigious University, with all her friends behind her. She finds out that people do not all have the same outlook as her and is soon isolated and made fun of. Making friends with those you would not expect, she quickly finds out who she is and what she is capable of, other people’s true colours, and how she does not have to sacrifice her love of pink to be respected.
Warner – ‘YOU got into Harvard Law?’
Elle – ‘What? Like it’s hard?’Legally Blonde, 2001
Disney films are synonymous with growing up. Nappies, high chairs, education and Disney. Of course, some of the early animations are a bit saccharine. I love Snow White, but something of the stereotypical sweet female role is a bit grating. But give it it’s dues, it was made in the 1920s.
Some might say that any romantic story is unrealistic, but there’s nothing wrong with being a romantic at heart, everyone wants to find their happy ever after. One happy ever after is just different to another. Brave, after Mulan (1998), breaks the mould of the regular fairy tale/Disney Animations.
Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a wild, free-spirited princess of the Clan of Dunbroch set in Scotland, enjoys her freedom and rebels against her future, which her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is strictly training her for.
After her mother plans a Highland Games, without Merida’s knowledge, to find her a husband, Merida devises a plan to ‘check mate’ her mother. But what Merida does not understand is that her mother is doing this out of love and concern for her daughter’s future safety. As a result of hurt and misunderstanding, Merida makes a disastrous decision. This film takes us along as we see Merida and her mother forge a new relationship and discovering pride and respect for each other, and ultimately listening to one another. The animation and music are just stunning.
I would say this is a must watch for all children (girls AND boys) and Disney loving adults (that’s everyone right?). The only love interest in this film is for family and those we hold dear, not solely a spouse, and that listening, and not letting pride interfere, are key to harmony.
‘I don’t want my life to be over. I want my freedom.’Brave, 2012
Hidden Figures (2016)
This is a film that tackles numerous themes from international politics, racism, sexism and the space race. It follows the stories of three women; Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), known as human computers. They work at NASA, but being African American women, they face so many obstacles, it makes your blood boil. Highly intelligent women, they must overcome so much to simply do their jobs, or progess with their careers. They must all work to help get John Glenn into orbit, to propel America in the space race.
Katherine’s heart wrenching speech, when questioned about her attendance really hits home and you can’t help but feel empathy for her and dismay at her situation.
These three mathematicians/engineers have finally received the recognition they deserve for the part they played helping progress NASA on the international stage. Thank goodness they are not hidden anymore.
‘Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line. Every time.’Hidden Figures, 2016
Suprisingly, you still hear of the Suffragette movement being flippantly talked about. Comments like ‘you would say that’ or ‘you only got that because you’re a woman’ are too common. Some people still don’t understand that feminism is about equal opportunity, not superiority.
This film is raw and brutal, the complete opposite to the female stereotype. And it is based on true events and punishments. Actually, scrap the ‘based’ – these atrocities did happen, and I don’t use that word lightly. The bias, abuse, injustice and game of cat and mouse that were present in the early 20th century depicted in this film are haunting.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham-Carter and Brendan Gleeson, we follow the story of Maud (Mulligan), a working-class woman with a young family and the series of events that lead her to become a ‘foot soldier’ of the movement. With nothing left to lose, she puts all she can into trying to get women’s voices heard, no matter the cost. We are even taken to the infamous 1913 Epsom Derby, in which Emily Davidson lost her life.
This film shows how this movement was both interclass and both men and women supported and opposed it. Nevertheless, I think it is an important beacon for the women who fought so hard to pave the way for all of us and a beacon of hope for those fighting injustice today.
‘We do not want to be law breakers. We want to be law makers.’Suffragette, 2015
Whilst there are numerous other films beside those mentioned, it certainly does not mean that they are not as good. I could have written reems and reems about all the films I find inspiring. It was very hard to pick just 5.
Other films I encourage you to watch, both feminist and generally inspiring, include; 9 to 5, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Made in Dagenham, The Help and Little Women.
What are your favourite inspirational films to watch?