So Sian and I have compiled a long list of fifteen films featuring great female characters. The first seven have been written by Sian and after that are my ones. We’ve each picked our own films that we’ve seen (probably dozens of times each) and like/love/admire etc. So obviously we recommend you watch all of these films immediately and revel in the beautiful sights and sounds of women taking charge. Ice-cream and quilt are optional.
All About Eve (1950)
Nearly every woman on screen in this film shines in her own special way. It’s one of my all time favourites because of the brilliance of its script (written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) as well as the characters of Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and Eve Harrington (Annie Baxter). The film also features Marilyn Monroe in one of her early film roles and remains to this day the only film to receive four female acting Oscar nominations. The film is about Margo Channing, a star of stage and screen, as she meets her biggest fan Eve Harrington. Harrington becomes her assistant and slowly takes over every aspect of Margo’s life. It not only has female characters which are strong but female characters which have faults, showing them to be real – these women are certainly not two dimensional.
The Contender (2000)
The Contender is a story about a fictional US president (Jeff Bridges) appointing a new Vice President. He chooses Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) but this plan is soon disrupted by an investigation into her background which brings up a photo and witness accounts of a dubious sexual encounter Hanson was supposedly involved in. The rest of the film sees her defend her right to not say whether it’s her in the photos or not and whether it matters at all for her position. The film examines double standards and looks at the idea of a woman in such a high role in politics – is she there just because she’s a woman? She also gives an amazing speech about what she as a politician stands for.
The most kick-ass character in Kick-Ass isn’t actually Kick-Ass. Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz, triumphs against gangs and killers time and time again. There’s also a great scene where she describes the girly presents she wants for her birthday just to see the look of horror on her superhero dads face. Girls don’t have to like hair make up and dolls as hit girl proves. They can like guns too.
Plus, her “right you cunts” line may have caused a lot of controversy but would it have done so had she been a little boy? Of course not. You go Chloe moretz.
The Help (2011)
Sophia Mcdougall wrote a really interesting piece here about how much she hates the term strong women, and I have to agree, with the exception of this film. The Help is about black housemaids in the 1960s coming together to share their experiences and make their world a better place. It’s a woman centric film with incredible performances from Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain These are women fighting back with the little they have against the status quo. And boy do they fight.
Annie Hall (1977)
A love story I don’t find sickly, Annie hall demonstrates just how good Woody Allen is at writing female characters. Annie is well rounded and in the short 93 minutes run time we learn everything about her personality, that she hates spiders, and likes taking photos, and dreams of a more social life somewhere like LA. That’s good character writing.
A Few Good Men (1992)
A film with men and women in the lead roles who don’t end the film in a passionate embrace. It’s practically unheard of and yet there it is in A Few Good Men. Joanne Galloway makes sure that just because she’s a woman she isn’t taken any less seriously. She’s a well rounded character who does what any of the other characters can do, and even puts Tom Cruise’s character in his place when no one else is willing to.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Erin Brockovich is a woman who doesn’t let the fact that she’s a single mother with no money and a minimum wage job stop her from doing what’s right. She doesn’t apologise for herself, her manners or the way she dresses, even if the people she is dealing with don’t like it. Erin Brockovich not only manages to save the day but she does it whilst staying true to herself.
First Wives Club (1996)
This film is here for a fairly simple reason. Three women (Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton) get screwed over by, now ex-husbands, and don’t want to just sit quietly. They’re smart enough to know that they’re not alone and so they stand up for women everywhere. By losing a friend to heartbreak they choose to represent women and make it so such an event could never happen again. They do the right thing whilst also making a right horses arse out of a few, well-deserving men on the way.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Natalie Portman’s character Evey is just, well award winning (nominated for three Best Actress awards, winning two of them). Everyone is very aware that although her British accent is a bit off at times, her crying in the rain scene is as perfect and realistic as Roy Batty’s in Blade Runner. Evey is a character who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and not only that, but she never gives in, she has strength, loyalty and immense trust. This is the definition of a strong character. She won’t change for anyone and doesn’t care what you think, either.
So, this animations lead characters are women. Good start. Merida clearly isn’t a girly-girl and it’s what she does instead that puts her on this list. She fights for her own hand. She changes tradition, changes her fate, even changes her mother (beside the point). This is a girl that won’t conform to her label. She doesn’t want to act like a lady and why should she? Why should she marry and wear dresses she can’t breathe in? Just because she’s a girl? No. Not this frizzy haired, horse-riding, adventure-going, arching, freedom-chaser. Nuh-uh.
This is one of my hidden gems. This Joss Whedon flick’s got a good cast and is a thoroughly fab film but not enough people know about it. It’s another of those films that the people of the internet seem to cherish, and for good reason. The crew aboard Serenity (I should mention that Serenity is the film following a cancelled TV show, Firefly) consists of four men and four spectacular women. Zoë, Inara, River and Kaylee are the core members of the crew; they keep it running, they keep people alive, they make decisions, they remain sensible and River, a telepathic, beats the crap out of an army of bloodthirsty creatures and saves everybody. Super cool.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Acca-scuse me? Acca-believe it! The Bellas. 10 women. All different. I mean it, different shapes and sizes, different races and backgrounds, and extraordinarily different personalities. From a punky Beca, who’s only love is remixing music, to Aubrey and Chloe, perhaps more ‘girly’, to Fat Amy (how could I not mention her) who is just rocking at everything. This is a group of women you don’t want to mess with, especially not in a riff-off. Yes, Beca ends up with a guy at the end but this film isn’t about Beca and Jesse. It’s about ten very different women who merge together to make the best acapella group in the country. Hell yeah.
We all know Tracy Turnblad and her mother. We know that she is judged for her size. We also know that Tracy Turnblad…doesn’t give a crap. Not only does Tracy dance and sing her cares away, but she stands up for herself. If she wants to dance on television then so be it, if she wants to wear a pink sequin dress and eat in a diner, who are we to say different. But on a serious note, I respect the Turnblad women for standing up for what is right, standing up for women with a bit more meat on their bones (finally) and furthermore, Tracy gets herself into a great deal of trouble for something that doesn’t even concern her; she, Penny and Maybelle will take to the streets to protect someone else’s rights.
Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)
Let’s face it. Bridget Jones is the closest cinema ever got to a ‘real woman’. Whatever that is. Although I must admit I’ll never forget the scene where snow is coming down and Jones is running down the road in giant leopard print knickers and a cardigan, chasing after Colin Firth. Certain aspects make sense (running after a suavely dressed Firth in knickers is something I could see myself doing if I got the chance). Of course there are sides to Bridget that are very stereotypical; wailing All By Myself with Ben and Jerry’s and keeping a diary. Not unfairly stereotypical although. I still believe Bridget Jones to be a good character; she’s just normal. That’s the point of both the book and film, is that she’s a normal girl, trying the very best she can to get things right. Here’s to Bridget.
Harry Potter 1-8 (2001-11)
Just a note that all the Harry Potters are yet again being merged into one film as I’m mainly talking about the characters here… So everyone knows that Hermione is one of my favourite characters ever, and quite rightly. Here’s a girl who starts out as a loner because she will not compromise, she will not change who she is, just to be liked. She likes books; she loves school and is the kind of girl to do what she thinks is right. She develops into a sensible woman who saves her friends lives countless times, but she’ll always keep her original values and her morals. They never change because that’s not the kind of person she is. Molly Weasley. She’s stern, yes, but she’s also a mother of 6 boys and a girl. Molly Weasley is the maternal character. She cares for Harry like no one else and treats both Ron’s friends as her own flesh and blood. She will do whatever she has to, to protect her family. Minerva McGonagall is what I imagine Hermione would be like if older. She is not afraid to stand up to anyone who threatens her or even displays something she disagrees with, be it Dumbledore or Lord Voldemort. I could go on and on but I feel like, as much as Harry Potter was a fantastic wizard. I can’t help but feel like we might not have made it to the third book/film without some of these women there to guide and support him. But that’s enough of that. If you want a really “Yeah” moment performed by a woman, try Hermione punching Malfoy in the face (HP3), McGonagall turning her wand on Snape when she thought he might threaten the safety of others (HP8) or Molly Weasley calling Bellatrix a bitch and finishing her off for good. Don’t mess with her family (HP8).