Over this past Memorial Day weekend, many of us took time to reflect on the servicemen and women who have died serving our country. In doing just this, I thought about the often overlooked women who serve; according to a 2011 Pew Research study, approximately 167,000 women are enlisted in U.S. military forces, and yet the general public's knowledge about them is fairly minimal. We've seen plenty of male-centric war films like Lone Survivor, Hacksaw Ridge, Fury, and American Sniper, but movies about women in the military are few and far between.
The ones that do exist, though, are absolutely worth watching, and they couldn't be more important. The lack of women-centric war movies creates an unequal representation of the military, and with women mostly absent from our war stories, society will find it hard to understand the issues of combat and leadership relating to female soldiers. That's why it's important to see narratives that represent reality. Take some time to explore the below movies, which highlight the crucial work of women in combat:
1. Megan Leavey
The movie Megan Leavey is based on the true story of young Marine Corporal Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara, as she is assigned to the K-9 unit and partnered with an aggressive, intelligent German shepherd named Rex. Together the two serve two deployments, completing over 100 missions, and form a deep bond that saves Leavey's life. The tearjerker hits theaters June 9.
2. The Invisible War
The Invisible War is a documentary about sexual assault in the U.S. military. It premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and has received praise from sexual assault advocates, lawmakers, and journalists for its influence on governmental policies to reduce rape and assault in the armed forces.
3. Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty follows the time after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Osama bin Laden became one of the most wanted men on the planet. The worldwide manhunt for the terrorist leader was a joint effort, but ultimately, the hard work of a (fictional) dedicated female operative (played by Jessica Chastain) proves, in the movie, to be instrumental in finally locating him.
4. The Kingdom
InThe Kingdom, Jennifer Garner plays F.B.I. agent Janet Mayes who travels to Saudi Arabia to investigate a bombing alongside agents Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and Adam Levitt (Jason Bateman). Garner's tough character experiences some of the difficult, painful fights servicewomen face.
5. G.I. Jane
G.I. Jane follows the U.S. Navy after they create a program that allows for the integration of women into its services. The program begins with a single candidate, Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore), who is chosen specifically for her femininity. O'Neil enters the grueling training program under the command of John James Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen), who pushes her until her hard work and discipline proves her male counterparts wrong.
6. Courage Under Fire
Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is assigned to investigate the case of Army Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), killed in action when her Med-evac unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. However, as time progresses, Serling realizes that the members of Walden's crew have falsified their stories, and causes friction in the investigation process.
7. Home Of The Brave
Home of the Brave follows three soldiers who find that readjusting to life at home after tours in Iraq is not as easy as they originally thought. Jessica Biel plays Vanessa Price, a soldier who comes home and tries to adjust back to the normal life she had prior to war.
An army reservist Kelli (Linda Cardellini) returns to her family, friends, and old job when she's back from deployment. She struggles to find her place in her everyday life due to the experiences she had on tour.
9. Private Benjamin
This movie, which contains one of Goldie Hawn's most famous roles, uses the Army as a backdrop for the familiar fish out of water story. It's a silly film, but underneath the comedy is an honest portrayal of female independence in the military.
10. The Reader
Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) is a German SS Guard on trial about Nazi War crimes she may have committed, but her story is much deeper and more complicated than the one the court hears. This movie is a typical war movie, but it intertwines a romantic storyline with a service theme.
11. A Few Good Men
Moore's character in this acclaimed film is a prime example of the sexism women in the military can face, and her determination to win her case is so inspiring.
12. The English Patient
The English Patient gives a different narrative of women in service, taking a look into the role of military medical service. A burned man, Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes), is tended to by a nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), in an Italian monastery near the end of World War II. Hana uses her time there to care for the man and take care of her own personal scars.
13. Testament Of Youth
Testament of Youth follows Oxford University student Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) during World War I as she postpones her studies to serve as a nurse. Her life becomes complicated as she finds out her brother faces death in the trenches of war. Just like the English Patient, this movie gives another perspective of women in service through medical assistance.
It's a short list of movies because there are unfortunately so few films that center around women in service. Hopefully this will change before long, as the way we see women in uniform matters tremendously, and the more exposure these brave soldiers can get, the better.