In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we are finally seeing more female-led films and TV shows. And more female directors than ever before are now receiving accolades for their work.
But, we still have a long way to go before we see true equality in Hollywood. San Diego State University’s annual Celluloid Ceiling report found that women accounted for just 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020. Although this is a significant increase from the 12% reported in 2019 and the 4% in 2018, female directors are still woefully underrepresented.
And of course, there is still a staggering number of mainstream movies that fail the Bechdel Test. In order to pass, a movie simply needs to include at least two named female characters that have a conversation with one another about something other than a man.
But, while Hollywood still has a lot of work to do, there are some fantastic feminist films and TV shows that feature top female talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. And loads of them are available to stream right now.
So, read on for our recommendations for what to watch to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021:
Felicity Jones plays a young Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a true story about her early struggles for equal rights. The film follows her journey from an overworked law student, to trying her first legal case. It brilliantly depicts the beginning of RBG’s historic career that saw her become one one of the most important feminists of all time, as well as being named a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
On the Basis of Sex is avaialble to stream on Amazon Prime.
Although Frozen has a lot of the main tropes you would expect from a Disney princess movie, including pretty dresses, adorable sidekicks and a powerfully catchy soundtrack, Frozen is anything but a typical girly film. For one thing, it has not one, but two strong heroines driving the plot. And, rather than focusing on romance, the main theme of the movie is sisterly love. It was directed by Jennifer Lee, making her the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film. And the success of the film has made her the first woman to direct a movie that earned more than $1 billion in the box office.
Frozen and Frozen II are both available to watch on Disney Plus.
This four-part drama is loosely based on the life of trailblazing African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker. It shows how she overcame racism and sexism of early 20th Century America to build a haircare empire that saw her become America's first Black, self-made female millionaire.
Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker is available to stream on Netflix.
A female-led spinoff of the original Ocean’s trilogy, Ocean’s 8 is a comedy heist movie that’s well and truly worthy of the Ocean’s franchise. Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, a recently released con artist, who pulls together a team of women to pull off the ultimate jewellery heist. Bullock stars alongside a stellar cast, including Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Sarah Poulson, Mindy Kaling and Helena Bonham Carter.
Ocean’s 8 is available to stream on Netflix.
Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel adds a fresh, feminist take on the classic tale. While the main protagonist, Jo March, has long been one of literature’s most beloved heroines, Gerwig’s interpretation also gives the youngest March sister, Amy, some serious feminist credentials. This film is a celebration of female characters who are loud, talented and truly multi-faceted.
This fantastic BBC drama follows the lives of three of the most celebrated British authors of all time: Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. The two-hour film portrays the sisters’ struggles to overcome obstacles to get their novels published, all while caring for their alcoholic brother, Branwell.
To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters is available to watch on BritBox.
Based on DC’s comics by the same name, this film is a colourful, action-packed celebration of female camaraderie. The Suicide Squad spinoff/sequel sees Harley Quinn in the aftermath of her breakup with the Joker, as she joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord. Written by Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan, there are as many strong women behind the camera as there are in front of it, and it shows.
Apple brings us one of the most nuanced depictions of the #MeToo movement we have yet seen on screen. Jennifer Anniston plays news anchor Alex Levy, as she struggles to deal with the aftermath of sexual misconduct allegations against her long-time colleague and friend, played by Steve Carell. Reese Witherspoon plays opposite Anniston in this brilliant exploration of a toxic workplace culture.
The Morning Show is available to stream on Apple TV+.
This feature-length documentary explores the life of everyone’s favourite First Lady, Michelle Obama. Filmed during her 2019 book tour of the same name, the documentary features interviews with Michelle’s friends and family, as well as an in-depth look at her life before, during and after the White House.
Becoming is available to watch on Netflix.
A pioneer in British comedy, Victoria Wood inspired a generation of female comics with her wonderfully witty, yet completely relatable brand of humour. Her sketch show satirises everything, from daytime television to female friendships, romance and the North/South divide. Starring the brilliant Julie Walters, as well as Celia Imrie, Duncan Preston and Patricia Routledge, alongside Wood herself, the show includes such classics as Acorn Antiques and the Two Soups sketch.
Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV is available on BritBox.
Charlize Theron transforms into Megyn Kelly for this exploration of the sexual misconduct committed by former Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes. Based on accounts from the women at Fox News who set out to expose Ailes, the female-led film sheds light on the abuse of power, as well as the culture of silence that let his behaviour go unchecked for so long.
Bombshell is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
This award-winning short film focuses on a group of entrepreneurs in Hapur, India as they work to make low-cost sanitary products in order to empower a community of women. In the short 25-minute runtime, director Rayka Zehtabchi exposes the global stigma around menstruation and shines a light on period poverty, while capturing the spirit of the women working to create safe and affordable sanitary products.
Period: End of a Sentence is available to watch on Netflix.
Written by and starring Mindy Kaling, Late Night tells the story of talk-show intern Molly, who is hired to add some much-needed diversity to an all-male writing staff. Dame Emma Thompson dazzles as the formidable boss, who is accused of being “a woman who hates women”. Kaling’s script cleverly unpacks what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated field in this funny, yet heart-warming film.
Late Night is available to watch on Netflix.
Loosely based on the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Mrs America focuses on the perspectives of several prominent women involved on both sides of the argument. Cate Blanchett plays conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who campaigned against many second-wave feminists, including Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus.
Mrs America is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
This four-part documentary examines the life and work of Hillary Rodham Clinton. It includes interviews with her family, friends, colleagues and campaigners, as well as detailed discussions with Hillary herself. Covering everything from her early years, to her time as First Lady (including the Monica Lewinski scandal), to her 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and beyond, it gives some real insight into the woman who once famously said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”.
Disney’s newest animated classic is already being hailed as the best Disney Princess movie since Mulan. And, from the trailer alone, it’s not hard to see why. Raya is a lone warrior, on a mission to find the last dragon left alive, in order to save the world from sinister monsters. There is no handsome prince, no damsel in distress, and Raya does not end up getting married and living happily ever after. She does, however, have an adorable animal sidekick. So, it’s the best of both worlds, really.
Raya and the Last Dragon will be available on Disney Plus Premier Access from Friday 5 March.