23 Movies Every Feminist Should See At Least Once

by Emily Lackey

Even the hardest-working feminists among us sometimes need a break. After all, it can get tough educating people about equal rights, pointing out gender norms whenever they are in play, and representing womankind on the regular. But sitting down to zone out in front of the TV or with a movie marathon can be difficult for a feminist, especially when so many television shows and blockbuster films promote negative representations of women. Luckily for female film fans everywhere, though, there are plenty of great feminist movies out there that not only show women as multidimensional, but also revolve around issues and subjects that actually matter.

In fact, there are some movies that I'd say all feminists should make a point to see at some point. These are films that provide much-needed lessons about what it means to be fiercely independent women while also giving plenty of reasons to laugh, cry, and enjoy every moment. I mean, it's pretty much impossible to watch the women in these movies without a smile on your face and, when the credits started rolling, a newfound determination to be just like them.

So check out these groundbreaking feminist films —they’re movies that every feminist should see at least once in their lives.

1. Thelma And Louise (1991)

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Two women leave their husbands for a grand adventure that leads to violence, murder, and one hell of a road trip.

2. 9 To 5 (1980)

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One of the first movies to point out the bad ways women are treated in the workforce, this movie is like Office Space for the working woman.

3. Erin Brockovich (2000)

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Who didn’t want to start wearing pleather and low-cut shirts after seeing this mom of three take on an entire electrical company while carting her kids around? Aside from the awesome plot, there were some great moments in this movie that show how misogyny can be genderless and how beauty is both a blessing and a curse.

4. The Color Purple (1985)

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Based on the book by the same title, this film follows the life and trials of a young black woman, Celie Johnson, who is trying her best to find herself after years of abuse from the men in her life.

5. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

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Another feminist film starring Julia Roberts, this one revolves around a teacher at a women’s college in the 1950s who encourages her students to use their incredible education for greater good than simply finding a husband.

6. The Hours (2002)

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This film follows three women as their lives weave in and around the narrative of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. The multi-generational movie shows how people are connected through time by similar angst, anxieties, and personal struggles.

7. If These Walls Could Talk (1996)

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Three women in three different social climates (the 1950s, the 1970s, and the 1990s) wrestle with unplanned pregnancies. It’s an incredible movie to watch to see just how much has changed over the last century, and, sadly, just how much has not.

8. The Stepford Wives (1975)

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What happens to women when things are too perfect? The answer might make their husbands happy, but the truth behind what is happening in this ideal-seeming suburb is nothing short of horrifying.

9. Miss Representation (2011)

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A documentary on the way women are treated and portrayed in the media, this film broke open the truth behind the images women and young girls are force fed on a daily basis. Start your watching here, if you can, and then continue on to these other films to see how much has and hasn’t changed.

10. Whale Rider (2002)

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This story about a girl who lives in a male-dominated Maori tribe in New Zealand and who is determined to claim her birthright and win the heart of her ultra-conservative grandfather is absolutely stunning. I, for one, can’t watch this movie without sobbing hysterically, so bring the tissues with you, whether it’s your first time watching the film or your 15th.

11. North Country (2005)

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A fictionalized account of the first majorly successful sexual harassment case in the United States, this film follows the female miners who fought for their right to work without suffering the abuse their male coworkers heaped on them because of their gender.

12. Clueless (1995)

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If you're unfamiliar with Clueless , this movie might seem to be about vapid girls who only care about the boys they date and the clothes that they wear, but there is way more going on in this film than that, including a number of important realizations the heroine comes to about being herself and embracing more than just her fashion sense.

13. Real Women Have Curves (2002)

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A Mexican-American girl comes of age amidst a whirlwind of cultural expectations. Watch as she learns to embrace her body, her self, and her own personal aspirations, in spite of the pressure she receives from the world around her.

14. Alien (1979)

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With a spaceship named “mother” and a tentacle rape scene, this movie might seem a little questionable as a feminist film at first. But Sigourney Weaver leading the entire crew is reason enough to check out this badass feminist flick.

15. The Joy Luck Club (1993)

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This film follows the lives of four Asian women and their daughters. The women reflect back on their pasts, their marriages, and their relationships with each other to understand how these histories have shaped their lives.

16. Legally Blonde (2001)

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The iconic Elle Woods gets into Harvard Law in order to follow the love of her life, but, once there, she proves that social justice and making a difference have always been in her (very trendy) DNA.

17. Mulan (1998)

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Based on the legend of Fa Mulan, this animated feature film follows Mulan as she impersonates a man to take her father’s place during the battle against the Hun invasion — and kick some serious ass.

18. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

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Trapped housewives, colorful women, and free-spirited sisters mark the minutes of this incredible film. The women in this comedy-drama show what it is to be free, even when you’re trapped, and how to change your life for the better.

19. All About My Mother (1999)

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When Manuela loses her son in a car accident, the present and future become mixed into one dark time. She begins desperately looking for her son’s father and encounters many characters along the way.

20. Orlando (1992)

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Based on the Virginia Woolf novel by the same name, this movie starring Tilda Swinton follows a nobleman from the 1600s who one day wakes up a woman.

21. The Circle (2000)

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When two women in Iran are allowed to temporarily leave their prison, they attempt to flee to one of the women’s hometowns. Meanwhile another friend is pregnant and in need of an abortion. The movie tells each of their women’s stories in alternating and poignant narratives to show how deeply their troubles and their lives are connected.

22. Set It Off (1996)

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Need and desperation drive four inner-city women to start robbing banks in order to provide for their families. The movie is a testament to how hard women will fight to save themselves.

23. Women Without Men (2009)

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In the middle of Tehran, protestors object to the overthrow of the prime minister, but in three women’s lives, the political is far from the most difficult thing they face. As they try to win their own personal freedoms within their homes, these characters deal with the oppression their country faces trickling down into their trying and terrible domestic struggles.

So what are you waiting for? Get to watching. This movie marathon is sure to leave you feeling inspired.

Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer