By Keeva Stratton
Ladies, to celebrate International Women’s Day we wanted to explore how independent women, and the characters they’ve inspired, have been celebrated on the silver screen. Below are our top picks for some great flicks to get you in the mood for IWD.
The Accused (1988)
When Sarah (Jodie Foster) fights back against the men who brutally gang-raped her, she must not only face the men she accuses, she must defend herself against society’s deeply embedded view that ‘she was asking for it.’
This performance didn’t just win an Oscar. It won the hearts of every woman who has ever had to endure the horror of assault and the continued injustice of having to fight against prejudice and a legal system steeped in patriarchy, to be heard.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since Thelma and Louise encountered a shaggy-haired Brad Pitt? It may not have ended well for Thelma and Louise, but it ended on their terms, after they’d decided they were worth more than the substandard lives they’d built with their abusive partners. The spirit of Thelma and Louise was one of freedom, which still resonates today.
In a time when women were only able to acquire status through marriage, Queen Elizabeth (in a brilliant performance by Cate Blanchett) led an empire. With her power constantly challenged by the state and the church, and with powerful men conspiring against her at every turn, it’s little wonder that the strength of the first Elizabeth to rule England is legendary.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The true story of how an unemployed single mum took on the big power companies to win a near impossible legal battle is one of the great examples of persistence and integrity. Julia Roberts is masterful in the titular role, as her sense of right stands tall against every legal hurdle and tonne of pressure the establishment applies. It’s truly a win for people over profits—and for women.
The Lady (2011)
The story of Aung San Suu Kyi (as depicted by Michelle Yeoh) is incredibly powerful, and as she rises to power in Myanmar today, especially relevant. A woman of incredible self-sacrifice and equally impressive will, she was able to stand her ground (literally) for many years in order to highlight the injustices done to her people.
The Sapphires (2012)
The Sapphires weren’t just an incredibly talented all-girl singing group—they were revolutionary as an against-the-odds true story, which saw four indigenous Australian women overcome incredible gender and racial prejudice to make it on an international stage. It’s a wonderful film that showcases a great Aussie story, celebrating some of our finest female actors.
And, if these films are a little too far back in the archives, we’ve also got a few recent picks that show just how far representations of women today have come.
Humour can be a powerful tool, both for highlighting the flawed norms a society might hold, and also in inciting change. In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer’s character, a twenty-something, hard drinking, pot smoking, sexually adventurous writer, embodies a challenge to deeply entrenched gender stereotypes. Her unapologetic confidence in her identity—both sexual and professional—is refreshing, messy and totally empowering.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a film that carries a strong view of female empowerment through juvenile sexual exploration. It brutally and brilliantly captures the transition from girlhood to womanhood in all its flawed, messy glory, offering a positive and relatable lens through which other young women can see their own journeys.
Based on the 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt (considered so controversial for its time it was published under the pseudonym ‘Claire Morgan’), Carol is the story of two women’s love for each other—unconventional and scandalous for its era—that has heartbreaking consequences. Again, Cate Blanchett delivers an incredible performance as a strong and self-assured woman, whose power is undermined by patriarchal structures and homophobia.
If first wave feminism is more your thing, Suffragette takes us back to one of the pivotal moments in its history. These working class women were relentless in their pursuit of equal recognition for their toil as they risked their homes, children, freedom and their lives in their fight for female equality.
Whatever you’re watching, we hope your International Women’s Day is shared with some incredible women.