The Feminist Films You Need to Watch

Are you tired of watching the same boring Hollywood films that portray women as empty, one dimensional sets of boobs whose only intention is to sell more movie tickets? Me too. Here are my top three feminist films, all of which feature a female protagonist and underlying feminist themes.

The Piano

The Piano is a 1993 drama that follows the journey of a mute Scottish woman, Ada (played by Holly Hunter) as she is shipped to a colonial town in New Zealand for an arranged marriage with Alisdair Stewart (played by Sam Neill). Set in the mid-1800s, the film explores the themes of personal voice, female empowerment and white, colonial and male domination. I’ve seen this film several times now, and each time I pick up on new nuances and subtleties – all specific choices of the filmmakers – that cement this movie in my mind as the feminist film of the century. From breathtaking visuals to genius symbolism, this film forever be one of my favorites.

Jane Eyre (2011 version)

This film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s brilliant novel is one of several that have been made, and is unequivocally the best rendition. The movie (and book) follows the story of an orphaned and abused girl, Jane, who is raised in a Catholic boarding school and grows up to become a governess. She finds work with the mysterious, brooding and handsome Mr. Rochester (ugh, he is such an exquisite human). As the plot thickens, the mystery deepens, and Jane displays the strength and resilience of suppressed women everywhere, who, despite their circumstances, rise in the face of diversity and find pride in their identity. All the while, Cary Fukunaga creates a dreamlike atmosphere of enchanting and hauntingly beautiful scenes.

The To Do List

                If 19th century romance-dramas aren’t really your style, you might opt instead for this 2013 film set in the 1990s. Upon graduating high school, Brandy Clark (played by Parks and Rec’s Aubrey Plaza), realizes she’s not sexually experienced enough to enter the hotbed of sexual tension that surely awaits at college. Thus, she creates a sexual “to-do” list, and does whatever it takes to check off everything on the list by the end of the summer. The movie succeeds in exploring the vast realm of female sexuality without falling into the trap of slut-shaming or, on the other end of the spectrum, perpetuating the idea that sex is meaningless. Brandy learns that sex can just be fun but that it can also be a deep and meaningful connection with another person. As she becomes more sexually experienced, we watch her view of sex mature from a list of sex acts like “dry-humping” and “tea-bagging,” to a rich exploration and eventual understanding of what she wants sexually.

Bonus TV Show: Broad City

This hilarious and sometimes disturbing show follows two female 20-something friends as they brave the city together, going on strange adventures and enduring many awkward mishaps. While the show is a comedy, it spares no detail in its depiction of female sexuality and often puts women in the position of power in this area. This show is sure to give you some laughs.


2 thoughts on “The Feminist Films You Need to Watch

  1. Gotta check these films out! Been meaning to watch The Piano since I use its music to study all the time and plus I think Holly Hunter is one of the most underrated thespians out there, but I’m hoping for a comeback come The Incredibles 2. Jane Eyre, what can you say? The greatest bildungsroman of all time, gotta check this film version out as Cary Fukunaga is bae with him being the only dude keeping True Detective from imploding in on itself. Aubrey Plaza’s great and I hear The To Do List is her peak movie. Question; because filmmaking is such a male dominated industry, do you think the presence of women on production teams are strong indicators that the film will be feminist or will the idea of a movie being feminist depend more strongly on the subject matter, or a combo of both factors?

    I’ll leave you with two recommendations I think you’ll love based on this list:

    1. Fish Tank directed by Andrea Arnold
    2. Paprika directed by Satoshi Kon

    check em out!


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