Eight Great Movies about Extraordinary Women

The thought of warmer weather opens new doors of possibility and for many gives a welcome boost of energy we’ve been missing during the colder months. What better time to be inspired by women who broke down barriers and stepped out of their comfort zones to make extraordinary things happen?  Here is a list that celebrates smart, passionate, resilient, independent women who often took great risks for what they believed in. 

Iron Jawed Angels (2004)

Iron Jawed Angels is a powerful and moving tribute to the suffragettes who were instrumental in getting women the right to vote. Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor) are young suffragettes operating under the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. After their exhaustive peaceful methods do not prove effective, they leave the organization to found the National Women’s Party. The women face many challenges and naysayers but refuse to give up.

Hidden Figures (2017)

The movie tells the true story of three black women— Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer), and Mary (Janelle Monáe) – who work 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 become the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is an unemployed, single mother of three who has recently lost a personal injury lawsuit. With no other options, she goes to work as a legal assistant for the lawyer who represented her, Ed Masry (Albert Finney). She stumbles upon medical records placed in the wrong files and convinces Ed to let her investigate them.  She discovers a cover-up involving contaminated water in a local community which is causing devastating illnesses among its residents. Because of her diligence, she plays a vital role in a fight for justice as the firm becomes involved in an anti-pollution lawsuit. 

Elizabeth (1998)

Elizabeth Tudor (Cate Blanchett) becomes queen of a divided and dangerous England in 1558. She is perceived as weak within her own country and abroad.  There is every reason for her to marry, which might offer her security, but Elizabeth will be married only to her country. Although keenly intelligent and cautious, she must always carefully choose where to place her trust. This film chronicles the early years of Henry VIII’s heir and shows the young and inexperienced leader finding her footing and rebuilding the chaotic country. 

Silkwood (1983)

This mostly forgotten biopic is an entirely hidden gem of female-led movies. Meryl Streep (Karen Silkwood) carries the lead as a nuclear plant worker who begins raising awareness of violations that could put workers at risk, and ultimately has a hand in revolutionizing the safety protocols for employees handling dangerous materials. Cher (Dolly Pelliker) also plays a supporting role in the film, and the movie really stands out in that it doesn’t try to glamorize or sanitize its unappealing subjects. 

On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) is a struggling attorney and new mother who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights. Based on a true story, this film explores the early stages of RBG’s career when she had to come up with inventive ways to sway a court into realizing that certain laws discriminate by gender. Her legislative success set the stage for laws to be enacted that changed our culture forever and ultimately led her to become an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1993 until her passing in 2020. 

Wild (2014)

Distraught by the loss of her mother, the ending of her marriage, and a plunge into self-destructive behavior, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to end her downward spiral and put the pieces of her life back together. With virtually no outdoor experience, a too heavy backpack and not much to go on but sheer will, Cheryl sets out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail — one of the country’s longest and toughest through-trails.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) is the cousin of Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). After realizing that she is rightfully the next heir to the throne, Mary intends to secure it, but there are obstacles in the way of her being Queen of Scotland. Firstly, Mary refuses to marry an Englishman, and instead marries a Frenchman. This decision costs her much respect and loyalty she could have gained from the people of Scotland. Although Scotland does not think Mary a suitable ruler, she asks Elizabeth for support and hopes for them to equally rule alongside each other in their respective countries.


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