Many people place happiness as the highest priority, but happiness without confidence is just a fleeting pleasure. Confidence is key not only to take charge of a moment or follow through on an idea, but to allow ourselves to truly take time and enjoy something, including those fleeting moments of happiness. And sometimes, it's pop culture that helps get us to that place. Here, 25
women share the movies that made them feel more confident, the films that boosted their self-esteem or showed possibilities for their lives that they didn't before realize they could follow.
There are two clear patterns that emerge from the selections — movies where women shake off (or never cared about) worrying what others think, like
Party Girl or Legally Blonde, and others all about vengeance and getting even, like Thelma and Louise or Lady Terminator. The films in the first category tend to offer visions of women joyfully free of the emotional burdens often placed on ladies at a young age. These burdens too frequently shape into blame and self-doubt, forming a litany of constant internal questioning — am I being nice enough? Too nice? Did I dress acceptably? Did I say the wrong thing?
The pressure's external as well, of course; we live in a society where the #metoo movement is attempting to rectify years of quietly accepted sexism, and even the most confident women still have to worry about being punished for speaking out about harassment or unequal treatment. This leads right into the second pattern: vengeance, whether through violence or more acceptable means. It's usually directed against representatives of society criticizing women confident enough to question norms. For those unsure that anyone could derive a sense of esteem from violent acts, consider it a psychic reaction to cinematic
decades of women getting stuffed in the fridge just to give guys motivation.
Still, the one thing
all the films on this list have in common is infusing the women who watch them with a sense of strength and morale, something everyone can use a little more of in their lives. 1 Gabi, 30: 'Tank Girl'
"I've seen myself in a lot of female movie characters but the movies that give me the most confidence are ones that inspire me to envision different potentialities and ways of being in the world. That's why
Tank Girl gives me confidence. The punk post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with its oddball characters creates a new world that I can see myself in, that reminds me how cool and hot weirdness can be. Tank Girl being a scrawny punk but still hot and badass and fighting against an evil empire makes me feel confident. She's silly and tough and hot. So does Jet Girl's nerdy cuteness. I can see myself in both of them.
I also read Jet Girl and her friendship with Tank Girl as queer when I first watched it as a teen, and that inspired confidence in me too. The overall weirdness and queerness of the inter-species romance inspired me as well."
2 Nancy, 74: 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner'
"Seeing Katherine Hepburn movies made me feel that women could play strong roles. Of all her movies,
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner stands out the most." 3 Caroline, 30: 'Ms. 45'
"The oppressive heat of New York City's streets haven't got s**t on the yoke of being a woman in public, when men of every stripe feel free to comment on your body as though it were a double-header. When Abel Ferrara's rape-revenge thriller
Ms. 45 got a glossy rerelease here in town, I beelined for the theater and left feeling unstoppable, even without a trusty firearm (the possession and use of which I am opposed to, by the way). Watching co-writer and star Zoë Lund use her titular .45 to blast rapists and strike terror into the hearts of men was a balm to me that summer – a feeling I'm expecting to recall as the mercury rises after a long winter." 4 Katelan: 'Bring It On'
Bring It On shows that hard work pays off, and you can find a group of girlfriends that have your back." 5 Stephanie, 29: 'Party Girl'
"I'd be a fool not to select 1995's
Party Girl. When I first saw the film I was in my early 20s and tumbling ass-first through the New York underground club scene, DJing at a level far higher than I could have ever imagined, all while working full time for little pay and living in a flood-prone basement apartment. Life was A LOT. Very quicky.
The movie's narrative about a listless party promoter who reluctantly begins working at the NYPL only to discover her true calling is the dancefloor
and the stacks gave me the hope that one day I might figure my s**t out too. It was also the first realistic media depiction I'd ever seen of a DJ. No 'whicka whicka' on turntables that aren't even plugged in. It highlighted the labor and anxieties that happen both inside the booth and out. Also Party Girl successfully visualizes the exultant joy that courses through my body at the sound of a '90s diva house banger!" 6 Megan, 44: 'Kill Bill 1 & 2'
"Uma Thurman is the epitome of power."
7 Rachel, 31: 'Baby Boom'
"When I was little, my mom would watch this a lot. It made me feel confident because I expected to be the only girl in a sea of men (I always wanted to be a leader/CEO/boss b**ch) so when I was playing baseball or competing in school, I never shied away because it was mostly boys. As I grow older, I lean on it for the confidence to realize going your own way rocks, the universe always provides and has your back, and failure only feels final but never is. The end of the movie when she walks into her old company to sell her mega-hit new company gives me the goosebumps-hell-yes-choked-up-pride I need to kick ass in my own biz."
8 Jess, 32: 'The Hunger Games'
"Katniss is a badass who takes care of herself and her sister, doing the right thing throughout while surviving."
9 Renee, 32: 'Legally Blonde'
"Behind the pink sparkly packaging lies a strong story of owning your own femininity, supporting your fellow females, and putting aside silly boys to make a name for yourself. 'You got into Harvard?' 'What, like it's hard?'"
10 Lynell: 'Thelma And Louise'
"The lead characters were female and didn't need men to define them. They were free spirits and did their thing. But what stuck with me was that together they supported each other and went on this crazy adventure. One character was a shy housewife when they started out! I think I need to watch that movie again."
11 Annelise, 27: 'The Last Mistress'
"This movie reminds me that crazy b**ches will always be cool and irresistible."
12 Holley, 29: 'Alien'/'Kung Fu Hustle'
"Ripley is awesome, but normal enough that I can self-insert (mostly, I think it's the cat that does this). And
Kung Fu Hustle... I just really like the fight scenes and they make me want to fight and become the landlady." 13 Danielle, 36: 'Lady Terminator'
"While it may seem crude, nothing in the world gives me more confidence than this Indonesian
Terminator knockoff. Watching a woman with a strong lip and eye look wearing a killer outfit spend an hour and a half shooting guys in the nuts, it's just magical. A vengeful sea-witch possessed her to get revenge on a guy who took her power away, which is just icing on the cake. This movie takes the male gaze and repeatedly slaps you in the face with it; anyone she sleeps with, uh, it ends violently for them. At this point I should probably explain I went to a mostly-male film school." 14 Wendy, 41: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
"Perhaps it's because
Star Wars was the first film I ever saw, and I grew up with my brother getting all the cool toys, but when Daisy Ridley first uses The Force and grabs a lightsaber in The Force Awakens, it makes me feel like a boss, and gives me hope that the future will be better for little girls." 15 Gina: 'Beaches'
"Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey... they are two courageous women. The movie is a testament to friendship; in your darkest days, your best friend has your back."
16 Rachel, 34: 'My Cousin Vinny'
"The Southerners perceive the New Yorkers as dumb mafia Italians, but Marisa Tomei, stylishly and smartly got all their butts out of trouble. She's seen as a bimbo but knows a lot about cars, and testifies to prove that because of the make and model, Vinny couldn't have done what he's accused of. If Marisa Tomei can be stylish, funny, and smart and get her man and his cousin out of the courtroom, then I can do anything."
17 Jo: 'Now & Then'
"When I was younger, my favorite strong women movie was
Now & Then. It was the first coming of age movie I watched about a group of girls. I loved how their childhood stories led to their adult relationships, and how unique each woman was but yet how connected they were to each other." 18 Jana, 32: 'The Craft'
"They cast some spell and take care of sh*t, get things done — badasses!"
19 Janel, 38: 'Miss Congeniality' & 'The Devil Wears Prada'
"Both films show you have to be beautiful on your own terms (no one else's)!"
20 Erin, 32: 'Steel Magnolias'
Steel Magnolias exposes the reality of female bonding and how important it is in life." 21 Carla, 35: 'A League Of Their Own' "A League Of Their Own makes me feel confident because these women are doing awesome things people think only dudes can do!" 22 Molly, 35: 'Ghostbusters' (2016) 23 Margo, 29: 'Terminator 2'
"This movie definitely gave me the confidence that I could one day do a single pull-up."
24 Nicole, 32: 'Daisies'
"The entire plot of the film is two young ladies run amok goofing around and scamming older men for free food; it might just be the most perfect and relatable film there is."
25 Deb: 'Mad Max Fury Road'
"Because it’s a future where the women are badass, and men and women can work together."
That's an ideal goal for the future of filmmaking and Hollywood as well. In the meantime, we'll find our boosts where we can, and step into the world a little more confidently for having seen these movies.