I am woman, hear me roar. But when it comes to depictions of women in Hollywood movies, the ladies on screen seem more inclined to trade a roar for a sensual purr. If you're sick of watching women be reduced to the status of picturesque sidekick or personality-free girlfriend, you're in the right place. I've compiled a list of movies with a strong female lead, so the next time you want to be awed, cowed, or inspired by a character who doesn't possess a Y chromosome, you know exactly what to line up to watch next.
Obviously, strength comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. While I've covered the most stereotypical vision of the strong female lead as a photogenic woman who can kick some ass, there are also more nuanced entries here. I've listed films focused on women struggling alone against impossible circumstances, women who have to care for more vulnerable family members, women pushing back against an abusive home environment, and even women with a more privileged type of strength — simply having the nerve to strike back in a mean high school.
So, watch and get inspired, viewers. Each of these female leads has a quality you can learn from.
The titular character is a single mother of three, who, on beginning work at a law office, takes it upon herself to unite the residents of a community in California whose water supply has been contaminated with chromium in a battle against the company behind it. She's loud, she's opinionated, and she's exactly what the Hinkley residents need to battle a huge corporation.
The odds are stacked against Claireece Precious Jones, a 16-year-old who is pregnant for the second time after being sexually abused by her father and whose first child has Down Syndrome. But with help and support from a new teacher, Precious begins to fight back against her violent, abusive mother.
3'All About My Mother'
Arguably one of legendary filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's best movies, it centers on Manuela, a nurse and single mother who reunites with her son Esteban's father, now living as a woman, after Esteban passes away.
4'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'
You don't get much tougher than 6-year-old Hushpuppy, who is forced to fend for herself when her single father collapses on coming out of hospital.
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is a consummate overachiever, and now she's set her sights on winning the coveted role of student body president. She's just got one problem: popular teacher Jim McAllister is determined she shouldn't get the role. Hillary Clinton has often been compared to Flick, probably because, much like the high school student, they're both a little intense, and that tends to make people nervous.
This horror-drama focuses on Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a former slave who takes in a mentally-handicapped woman, Beloved (Thandie Newton). She has to deal with both the horrors of her past and the supernatural horrors of the present before the movie's close.
7'Kill Bill: Volume 1'
She may be known by her marital status rather than her name, but the film's protagonist, the Bride, doesn't get to live out a traditional happily ever after. After her former assassin colleagues attempt to murder her and her unborn baby during her wedding rehearsal, she decides to wreak her revenge — taking out one colleague at a time.
Marji is the ultimate rebel; she doesn't just wear jackets extolling the joys of punk, she is a punk. After Islamic fundamentalists win the elections, her life in Tehran becomes increasingly constricted by rules and expectations. But that doesn't stop her from talking back when her teacher lies about the abuses of government or listening to her beloved Iron Maiden.
When a high school student in a South Korean town is brutally murdered in this 2009 film, a mentally-disabled man is the prime suspect. His widowed mother must take the law into her own hands to clear her son of the charges.
Jackie Morrison is a CCTV operator in Glasgow, who, on monitoring the cameras, sees a man from her past — someone who was recently released from prison for good behavior. She's forced to confront him with his actions.
11'Set It Off'
This 1996 crime action film doesn't have one strong female lead, but four. When four friends working as janitors are treated disrespectfully, and it feels like the odds are increasingly stacked against them, they decide to start robbing banks. Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith star.
Because Veronica Sawyer might have been in high school, but she knew popularity was bullsh*t. Because she had enough wisdom to say things like "If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn't be a human being. You'd be a game-show host." And because she was the only girl tough enough to start pushing back against the ruthless reign of the Heathers.
We follow Honduran teenager Sayra in an epic journey to make it across the U.S. border to reunite with relatives. When Sayra allies herself with a gang member on their trip from Mexico to the United States, matters get increasingly complicated and tense, and she'll need every bit of her sense and smarts to stay safe.
Whether you're in the mood for comedy, horror, or action, the above has you covered. So what are you waiting for? Hunker down on your sofa and get set for inspiration.