21 Movies That Changed How We Felt About Ourselves As Women

There’s something magical about movies. Whether you’re watching one in a dark theater, on a couch with some popcorn, or under the comfort of a blanket in your own bed, movies allow us a very specific form of escape.

And women tend to be the most regular moviegoers out there. According to a 2012 MPAA report, women actually go to the movies more than men, making up 52 percent of in-theater audiences each year. It’s a wonder then that there aren’t more female-led blockbusters. (Hint hint, nudge nudge, Hollywood powers that be.)

Even though the characters are usually fictional, we’ve learned some pretty amazing lessons from the people that come alive in our favorite films.


Here are 21 movies that changed how we felt about ourselves as women:

1. “A League Of Their Own”
“Although I was young when it came out it moved me more than any movie. I was a tomboy. It showed [me] that there have been tomboys throughout the years.” – Deirdre Zabawa, via Facebook

2. “Now And Then”
“The movie covers so many aspects of that ineffable period in a woman’s life: friendship, coming to terms with your changing body, mortality, and love, to name a few. The movie is set in the 70s/90s, but I think most women would agree the themes still resonate. Definitely a movie all young women should watch.” – Jenna Amatulli, Associate Editor HuffPost Crime/Weird News

“There really is no better movie about the importance of female friendship, and how that friendship can grow and change over time. The lives of the four (very different) BFFs are at the center of the story, and though male characters factor in, sometimes in a romantic way, the real love story is between the girls.” – Emma Gray, Senior Editor HuffPost Women

3. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
“Clementine Kruczynski (played by the incomparable Kate Winslet) in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is eccentric, impulsive and a little messed up, yet she’s unapologetic and completely self-aware. She was one of the first female characters who spoke to me as saying, ‘I’m flawed and I know it. Take me or leave me.’” – Taylor Trudon, Senior Editor HuffPost Teen

4. “When Harry Met Sally”
“‘I think what keeps me coming back to this movie is this strong female character that Nora Ephron wrote — Sally is strong, particular, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to be herself. Harry says she’s the worst kind of woman — high maintenance but she thinks she’s low maintenance; Sally says she just ‘likes what I like’ and good for her! She doesn’t apologize for being herself and that’s important for every woman to know — to just be your true self, and don’t be afraid of it.” – Alexandra Rosario, Blog Editor HuffPost Lifestyle

5. “Juno”
“When I saw this movie in theaters in high school, I’d never encountered a young female character like Juno. She had such a clear sense of self — with every bump in the road, every decision she made was her own. It was an amazingly refreshing movie to see.” – Caroline Bologna, Editorial Fellow HuffPost Parents

6. “Working Girl”
“Melanie Griffith’s character may get the guy, but the REAL triumph is the corner office. ‘Working Girl’ taught me that professional success can feel damn good.” – Emma Gray, Senior Editor HuffPost Women

7. “Fried Green Tomatoes”
“I must’ve watched that a thousand times between the ages of 12 and 16. Idgie taught me that it was OK to have a soft side even if you were trying to be strong; Ruth taught me that it was OK to be strong and a lady at the same time. Evelyn showed me that it’s totally OK to ram some chick’s car repeatedly if they piss me off!” – Stephanie Berry, via Facebook

8. “Reality Bites”
“I hacked off my hair, took up smoking, and decided to give a smart ‘notashit’ for most of the 90’s. I loved that movie for both its promise of intelligent and committed slackerness and the ironic and graceful fallibility of the characters. Naturally, many years later, it does seem a little silly to be that committed to mediocrity while insisting on your greatness, but maybe that was the point that went over my teenage head like a rocket.” – Abby French Wheetley, via Facebook

9. “Thelma & Louise”
“[This movie] made me think really hard about how I had let men treat me.” – Madison Walker, via Facebook

10. “Stepmom”
“‘Stepmom’ taught me to be sympathetic to both sides of the divorce equation — and I was able to see the struggles both my mom and my stepmother have dealt with through years. It also taught me to cherish my time with family members (especially moms) because you never know when someone’s time is up. It reminds you of the impact someone can have on your life — even when they’re gone. And it also taught me how great a good cry during a movie can be.” – Hayley Miller, Editor HuffPost Blog

11. “Steel Magnolias”
“[It showed me that] mothers are the strongest people in the world.” – Allegra Perkins, via Facebook
“Steel Magnolias taught me that that traditionally ‘feminine’ things like beauty parlors and motherhood are anything but frivolous. Julia Roberts and Sally Field highlight the incredible strength and bravery of motherhood, and their bonds with the other women at Truvy’s Beauty Parlor run deeper than giggles and gossip. And I think that Sally Field’s monologue at the end of the movie is one of the most powerful moments in cinema.” – Caroline Bologna, Editorial Fellow HuffPost Parents

12. “Iron Jawed Angels”
“[This movie] made me appreciate the sacrifices those before me made in the name of being a woman.” – Sophie Elizabeth, via Facebook

“I show [this movie] every year in my Perspectives in Lit class. It resonates with boys and girls, but my hope is that every one of the girls will understand the importance of voting, and what it took for women to have that right.” – Jody Weger Andriano, via Facebook

“The scene where she is being force fed during her hunger strike in jail was so moving and heartbreaking and made me think about how far women have come, all the things they’ve fought for, and how important it is that we still continue the fight for women to be seen as equals in every way, everywhere. Women in media aren’t usually shown as being heroes at all but in that movie women were heroes to other women and it was amazing.” – Nicole Laverdlere, via Facebook

13. “Obvious Child”
“The movie is a hilarious love story (or maybe a ‘like’ story) set around an abortion. It’s the perfect antidote to all the movies afraid to show abortion for what it is: a normal part of life for a huge number of women. ‘Obvious Child’ was the proof I needed that any part of being a woman, no matter how sad or serious other people say it is, can be funny if I decide it’s funny.” – Amanda Gutterman, Associate Editor HuffPost Special Projects

14. “Ever After: A Cinderella Story”
“That movie sent my self confidence through the roof. It took me out of the world of Disney princess fairytales and threw me head first into real world feminism. When she rescues herself at the end? I will always love Drew Barrymore for that. Grace and power are a dynamite duo, and absolutely unbeatable.” – Jess Dickerson, Associate Editor HuffPost Black Voices

15. “Legally Blonde”
“When my ex broke up with me I was devastated, I laid on the couch, crying and watching TV. I saw ‘Legally Blonde’ and enrolled in college a couple months later.” – Della Hernandez, via Facebook

“What I took away from ‘Legally Blonde’ was that even if you’re a chihuahua-loving, pink-wearing, bubbly woman that nobody takes seriously, you can still seriously make things happen for you. You don’t have to sacrifice your pink power suits or your love of fashion to be a total boss, so long as you believe in yourself.” – Lauren Zupkus, Associate Editor HuffPost Entertainment

16. “Mulan”
“[This movie] made me realize I could be just as powerful as any man was. And I could conquer anything. I remember how I felt the first time I saw it when I was 8!” – Deanna Simpkiss, via Facebook

17. “Girl, Interrupted”
“This film showed me that getting a little lost in life isn’t always such a bad thing. The ‘crazy girl’ trope was finally fleshed out in a full narrative and it showed me that a woman can be sad and happy and have emotions and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s something to be proud of.” – Alanna Vagianos, Associate Editor HuffPost Women

18. “The Breakfast Club”
“Besides the fact that a young Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez are swoon-worthy, it taught me that the lines between cool kid and not-cool kid are very blurry. Loner girls and popular girls both have their own shit to deal with, and they just might bond if you lock them in a library together for a day.” -Emma Gray, Senior Editor HuffPost Women

19. “The Heat”
“This movie is simply amazing. Melissa McCarthy is basically my idol. Her character reminded me that you can be funny and don’t need to look pretty all the time. And that funny women are always the best.” – Alanna Vagianos, Associate Editor HuffPost Women

20. “Little Darlings”
“This film was the first time I was really exposed to female sexuality and its consequences for different women. Each character approaches her sex-pedition differently and largely based on how society expects certain types of women from certain types of backgrounds to exert their sexuality, but the ending throws these stereotypes into sharp relief. Equal parts sobering and exciting, ‘Little Darlings’ showed me that sexuality is fraught with social, political and economic factors, which all women experience and navigate differently.” – Amanda Duberman, News Editor HuffPost Women

21. “Zero Dark Thirty”
“‘Zero Dark Thirty’ was an empowering movie to watch as a woman. We so rarely get to watch movies with female heroes in general, but to see one that’s based on a true woman leading the CIA against terror was pretty badass. I thought it did a wonderful job of depicting the benefits and complications of a woman in charge and I left feeling stronger than when I entered the theater.” – Jessica Kane, Director of Millennial Outreach HuffPost Teen

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