Cover From feel-good comedies to historical dramas, these are the best, most inspiring movies to watch on International Women’s Day 2022 (Photo: 'Hidden Figures', Courtesy of IMDb)

What better way to celebrate International Women's Day with your girlfriends than by watching some inspiring films featuring the best portrayals of powerful women?

With International Women's Day fast approaching, we've compiled a list of inspiring films that celebrate the passion and resilience of independent women. Whether you're after a feel-good piece, a classic tearjerker or an empowering story that can teach some important lessons, there's something to suit everyone's tastes.

See also: International Women’s Day: 5 Netflix Shows That Celebrate Strong Femininity

1. Little Women (2019)

Featuring a star-studded cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Timotée Chalamet, Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel Little Women is proven to be refreshing and innovative. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the story follows the four March sisters—Meg, Beth, Amy and Jo—and their different ambitions. The women teach us to not take no for an answer, and fight for what we believe in. 

Don't miss: 13 Book-to-Movie Adaptations to Watch on Netflix

2. Coco before Chanel (2009)

Calling all fashion fanatics, this one’s for you. The film focuses on one of the most iconic and inspirational women in fashion history—Coco Chanel—who works as a seamstress and cabaret entertainer, living a life that she’s not meant for before she becomes the attractive English businessman Arthur Capel’s lover and fashion consultant. In addition to being an elegant, touching romance movie, the piece also brings out Chanel’s incredible aura and personality. 

3. Joy Luck Club (1993)

Based on the 1989 novel of the same name by Amy Tan, Joy Luck Club is a thought-provoking exploration of mother-daughter relationships centred around two generations of women from polarised cultural backgrounds. Offering a candid portrayal of the conflicts between four Chinese immigrant mothers and their U.S.-born daughters, the movie is full of tender moments that illustrate how important and emotionally rewarding family relationships can be.

4. Iron Lady (2011)

Meryl Streep is considered one of the greatest actors in Hollywood and her role as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady is truly unforgettable. The autobiographical drama film follows Thatcher from her early years striving hard to break gender and class barriers to become the first female prime minister of England. 

 

5. Hidden Figures (2016)

The movie tells the real-life story of three Black women—Katherine, Mary and Dorothy—who worked at NASA in the 1960s. Despite the racism and gender inequality they face, these talented "human computers" continue to pursue their dreams and passions in the white male-dominated industry. In the end, the trio played a key role in the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.  

6. 20 30 40 (2014)

Directed by acclaimed Taiwanese actor and producer Sylvia Chang, 20 30 40 tells the tale of three women, each at a different stage in life dealing with love, loss and the stress of finding a place to belong with societal pressures placed on women. The youngest Xiao Jie (Angelica Lee) is a 20-year-old pursuing her dream of becoming a pop star. Xiang Xiang (Rene Liu) is a flight attendant in her thirties, who is torn between her affair with a married man and a young lover. And 40-year-old Lily Zhao is a flower-shop owner who divorced her husband after finding his infidelity and wants to get back in the dating scene.

Watch on Netflix

7. Becoming Jane (2007)

The film follows the early life of Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway), the beloved English writer best known for her novels Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. Born in an impoverished family, Austen is under pressure as her parents expect her to marry a wealthy young man. She rebels, as she believes that in marriage she would lose her autonomy. 

Read more: Why Modern Women Are Choosing Freedom and Independence Over Marriage

8. Parched (2015)

Parched is the story of four Gujarati women who grapple with the challenges of patriarchal village life. Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is a widow whose son frequently rebels against her, while Janaki (Lehar Khan) is a child bride who doesn’t want to marry Rani’s son, but succumbs to the arranged marriage under cultural pressures. Rani’s close friend, Lajjo (Radhika Apte) comes next, and she is physically and mentally abused by her alcoholic husband. Then there's Bijli (Surveen Chawla), working in an erotic dance troupe. Beyond tackling gender inequalities, the realistic, heartwarming portrayal of female bonding makes the movie a worthwhile watch. 

Read more: “How I Moved on From Domestic Abuse and What You Should Know About This Issue”

9. Carol (2015)

Queer romance is a genre that rarely features women, which is one reason why this Academy-acclaimed movie is so revolutionary. This moving, beautifully acted drama explores the intimate relationship between Carol (Cate Blanchett), a glamorous, dignified woman going through a broken marriage and Therese (Rooney Mara), a young photographer on the verge of sexual awakening.  

10. Mulan (2020)

The 2020 live-action remake of Mulan made strides for representation; it's the first Disney-branded film with an all-Asian cast and director Nikki Caro is one of the few women to direct a film with a budget as high as US$200 million. Loosely based on a historic Chinese ballad, the movie's exhilarating battle scenes feature Mulan, who disguises herself as a male warrior to save her father. While the plot has enduring appeal, the movie drew criticism for filming in Xinjiang province, where some Uighur Muslims have been put in internment camps, and for the lead actress Liu Yifei’s controversial comments supporting the police during Hong Kong's protests.  

11. The Breadwinner (2017)

The Breadwinner, the animated film based on the children’s book of the same name by Deborah Ellis, follows a young Afghan girl named Parvana whose father has been imprisoned. Set in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, where women are not allowed to leave the house without a man, Parvana decides to disguise herself as a boy so she can go to work and feed the family. 

Read more: From Cinderella to Encanto: Have Children's Films Evolved to Empower the Youth?

12. Frida (2002)

Set in Mexico City, Frida is a biographical film of artist Frida Kahlo, who is known for her bold approach to art and ambivalent attitude towards traditional notions of womanhood. The movie follows the confident, independent and sexually liberated Frida as she navigates her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor, Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), along with her illicit affairs with Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) and various women.

13. Wild (2014)

Based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir, which documents her 1,100-mile life-changing solo hike along in 1995, Wild is a woman-led movie that is sure to make you feel empowered and inspire you to do more and be more. Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) is facing turbulent challenges, but instead of heading deeper into her downward spiral, she decides to hike solo along the Pacific Crest Trail, one of America's longest and most difficult trails. Spoiler alert: it becomes a life-changing journey. 

Read more: Solo Female Travel: The Highs and Lows of Travelling Alone as a Woman

14. Erin Brockovich (2000)

A single mother of three, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts), is stuck in a tough situation after losing a personal injury lawsuit. With no choice, the unemployed Brockovich agrees to work as a legal assistant for her lawyer to maintain her livelihood, but she fails to live up to everyone’s expectations at work due to her inappropriate clothing and stiff manners. Nonetheless, she develops a determination to fight for justice and plays a vital role in an anti-pollution lawsuit.

Read more: 16 Women Fighting For Fairness in Asia 

15. The Help (2011)

A young, aspiring journalist Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) is determined to write a book based on African American maids’ point of view on the white families they work for, exposing the hardships and racism the maids face in everyday life. Expect tons of inspirational moments, as well as some tears, as they revisit past challenges and question race relations and friendships. 


This article was originally published on March 2, 2021 and was updated on March 2, 2022.

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