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 12% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2021, down from 16% the year before.
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 2022:
This 2020 black comedy thriller is written by Emerald Fennell in her powerful directorial debut. The film stars Carey Mulligan who brilliantly portrays female rage as she wages war against the rape culture that led to the death of her best friend. Set against a backdrop of candy colours and a catchy soundtrack, this chilling masterpiece will terrify a particular brand of “nice guys” everywhere.
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 at the box office.
Frozen and Frozen II are both available to watch on Disney Plus.
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This four-part drama is loosely based on the life of trailblazing African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker. It shows how she overcame the 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.
Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Suffragette follows the struggles of women to attain the vote in Britain. With acting heavyweights Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep, the film hammers home the realities of police brutality, violent misogyny and the bravery of the women who fought for the rights we enjoy today. An important film to watch.
Suffragette is available to stream on Netflix.
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Created, written, co-directed and executive produced by Michaela Coel, this critically-acclaimed mini-series won a whole host of awards in 2020. The show is set in London with a predominantly Black British cast and stars Coel as Arabella, a young writer in the public eye who has to rebuild her life after being raped. This brutally honest portrayal of female friendship, rage, revenge and sexual abuse makes this one of the most powerful dramas seen on TV in years.
I May Destroy You is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.
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.
Little Women is available to watch on Netflix.
This autobiographical drama follows the lives of three African American female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the Space Race of the 1960s. With Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson leading an all-star cast, this movie is an absolute must-watch.
Hidden Figures is available to watch on Disney Plus.
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.
The long-awaited origin story of Black Widow was released on Disney’s streaming service last year. And it was definitely worth the wait. With powerhouse performances from Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh, this action-packed movie gives you the much-needed back-story for perhaps the most complex Avenger, while also showing, in Johansson’s words, “A woman who has come into her own and is making independent and active choices for herself".
Black Widow is available to watch on Disney Plus.
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 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.
Released in 2020, Ammonite is loosely inspired by the life of the pioneering British palaeontologist Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet. The film focuses on a possible romantic relationship between Anning and Charlotte Murchison, played by Saoirse Ronan. It’s subtle and understated but nevertheless utterly compelling.
Ammonite is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
A trailblazer in British comedy, Victoria Wood inspired a generation of female comics with her wonderfully witty, yet utterly 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.
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.
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Written by and starring Amy Poehler, Moxie tells the story of a group of schoolgirls who are inspired by an anonymous magazine to start a feminist revolution at their old-fashioned school. With a brilliant cast of young actors leading the plot, they take a stand against outdated stereotypes, bullying and sexual assault in this uplifting, funny and powerfully feminist film.
Moxie 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.
Loosely based on Issa Rae’s acclaimed web series Awkward Black Girl, Insecure shines a light on the Black female experience from the perspective of two best friends, Issa (played by Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji). Both in their late 20s, they have to juggle careers and relationships while maintaining their friendship.
Insecure is available to stream on NOW.
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 US 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 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 is available to stream on Disney Plus.
This part-crowdfunded documentary is directed by Johanna Demetrakas, who interviews the original subjects of the 1977 book of feminist portraits called 'Emergence' by photographer Cynthia MacAdams. The documentary examines the photos and the lives of the women in them to tackle topics such as abortion, race, motherhood and identity to examine how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go to achieve true equality.
Feminists: What Were They Thinking? is available to watch on Netflix.
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