To celebrate Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 and commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women voting rights, we’ve put together a list of movies about inspirational women and some real-life heroes.
If your daughter is grown, you’ll want to watch these films with her because they will no doubt start many conversations about the female experience, not only in America but around the world.
Some fictional characters, like Mary Poppins, take us back to our childhoods with beautiful musical numbers. Some documentaries, like He Named Me Malala, will make you appreciate everything you’ve perhaps taken for granted, like going to school.
Other movies, like Joan of Arc and Whale Rider are about women who must bravely defy gender stereotypes to protect their people or follow their dreams. Each film listed here tells the story of a woman’s journey, from adversity to individual triumph.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed a Supreme Court justice by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and has ruled on many high-profile and controversial cases. But what made her famous weren’t the cases in which the other justices agreed with her; they were the dissenting opinions she wrote when the court didn’t rule her way. These dissenting opinions gave a voice to people in the minority who didn’t think they had one. This documentary shows all the sexism Bader Ginsburg went through to get where she is today. Also look for a biopic called On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as RGB, this Christmas.
2. Whale Rider
Set in New Zealand, this film tells the unique story of a young Maori girl who wants to be a leader in her tribal community but is rejected because she’s a girl. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you already know the lead actor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, who played Obara Sand on the on the show.
3. A League of Their Own
Though male-dominated, baseball has always been America’s most beloved sport. But during World WarII, as all the men were off fighting, women’s baseball teams thrived. This movie shows what can happen when women persist. It stars Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna.
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4. The Help
When Skeeter (Emma Stone), a Southern debutante in the 1960s, returns home from college, she’s determined to become a writer. She decides to interview the local Black women who are the hired help in prominent local homes. Turns out these women have a lot to say, some of it controversial and some of it hilarious.
5. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Though her real name was Jeanne d’Arc, this is the true story of the 14-year-old peasant girl who led an army in France in the 15th century. Heroines like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games or Ripley from Alien couldn’t exist without this amazing young woman who defied expectations at every turn.
6. Mary Poppins
This adorable musical about an irrepressible nanny (Julie Andrews) is full of life lessons. From learning that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down to learning to share even when you don’t have much. The songs are fantastic. After you watch this childhood favorite, check out Saving Mr. Banks to find out what happened to the writer of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers.
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7. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
“Any girl can be glamorous,” actor Hedy Lamarr once said. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr was certainly glamorous but definitely not stupid. Bewitchingly beautiful, few people know she also had a brilliant, inventive mind. Her work as an inventor has largely been overlooked — until now. This documentary has a surprise at every turn, including the fact that she even invented new plastic surgery techniques for her doctors to perform on her.
8. He Named Me Malala
This documentary tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out in favor of educating girls and women. But she survived and continues to advocate for women to this day.
9. Advanced Style
Many of us worry about aging and becoming irrelevant, but the seven women in this documentary sure don’t. Well into their 70s and 80s, they live their lives with style and pizzazz, proving age is just a number.
10. The Eagle Huntress
This documentary is about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl who won’t take no for an answer. Though her family disapproves, Aisholpan Nurgaiv is determined to be the very first eagle hunter in her family.
11. Thelma and Louise
Two best friends decide to head out to a club one night. What could go wrong? Turns out quite a bit. This movie may be the best examination of female friendship ever put on film.
Based on the New York Times best-selling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild, stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, a woman mourning her mother and dealing with a terrible breakup. She’s in so much emotional pain she even turns to heroin and risky sexual escapades with strangers to dull the hurt. When none of it works, she decides to go on one long walk — 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to be exact.
Inspired by the life of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, the biopic shows how she channeled the pain from a devastating accident into her artwork. Salma Hayek was nominated for an Oscar for this role.
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14. The Dressmaker
Set in a small town in rural Australia in the 1950s, The Dressmaker is a delicious tale of revenge with a large dose of heart and high fashion. After becoming a famous clothing designer in England, Tilly (Kate Winslet) returns to her hometown to care for her ailing and mentally unstable mother, Molly (Judy Davis). This movie is basically the revenge Western The Unforgiven but with a sewing machine.
15. Queen of Katwe
In the slums of Uganda, a hungry little girl joins a chess club for the simple reason that each player receives a free cup of porridge. Turns out she’s incredibly brilliant and becomes a world chess champion. Based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi (portrayed by Madina Nalwanga in the film).