These Are Natalie Portman's Most Feminist Movies

by Orli Matlow

She's an actor, director, screenwriter, and psychology scholar — Natalie Portman is an inspiration to women everywhere. As a highly in demand actress, she has given life to many important women's stories that span from the lives of a young, struggling orphan in New York City to a woman struggling to fight an authoritarian, post-apocalyptic Britain. Portman is an undoubtedly intelligent, activist fixture in Hollywood, and some of her films are extensions of this mission. She has her own particular vision about what feminism looks like in Hollywood:

The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a 'feminist' story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.

In addition to "YAAAAS"-ing at that quote, Portman made me scream "YAAAAAAS" when I read that she stalled production on her upcoming film On the Basis of Sex, which follows Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on her momentous career fighting for equal rights — including co-founding the Women's Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union. Portman took the project on pause until they signed on a female director. She is also set to play another iconic woman, Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Portman plays icons, and is an icon herself. Here are her most feminist movies... so far.

1. Leon: The Professional

Portman plays Matilda, a dynamic female protagonist, who, at the age of 9, meets an assassin employed by the mob and learns the tools of the trade. In lesser hands, the film could have been disturbing and Lolita-y, but Portman imbues her character with such depth.

2. Thor and Thor: The Dark World

She's an astrophysicist, not a Damsel in Distress. She's interested in Thor as a subject first, and as the beautiful hunk that he is second. These films are among the first recent superhero movies to pass the Bechdel test, and Portman is perfect in the lead.

3. V for Vendetta

This film has become synonymous with female action heroines. Portman plays Evey, who, like the later Katniss Everdeen, takes on an oppressive regime. The film also features a prominent LGBT female character. Portman's Evey uses her body for action, which does not come with the all-too-frequent sexualization.

4. Anywhere But Here

It's a movie about women breaking conventions, and trying to bond in the process. Susan Sarandon and Portman are a mother and daughter who have left their family and move to California, struggling to free the constraints of small-town life, which stands for society itself.

5. Cold Mountain

This movie explores queer themes, set in the crumbling Confederate south. It shows female empowerment as realized through female bonding. It's the biggest tearjerker on this list, so you have been warned.

6. The Other Boleyn Girl

Portman plays the ill-fated Anne Boleyn in this period drama. The monarchy embodies the patriarchy, being an oppressive form of rule with its attempts to dehumanize women and the "lesser classes." It is, however, the built-in weakness of the monarchy that it requires the reproductive capabilities of women — and that fuels the drama and highlights the insanity of the patriarchy.

7. Black Swan

Though the sexy Portman-Mila Kunis scenes suggest that the film falls victim to the male gaze, its focus on women's experiences and deep psychological portrait is laudable. It heightens destructive forces that plague women like expectations of perfection and "purity," to great effect.

Rewatching these movies again and again should hold us over until the bound-to-be-brilliant Ruth Bader Ginsberg movie comes out.