At a her Wellesley commencement speech in 1996 the much-loved writer and director, Nora Ephron, said “In my business, the movie business, there are many more women directors, but it’s just as hard to make a movie about women as it ever was, and look at the parts the Oscar-nominated actresses played this year: hooker, hooker, hooker, hooker, and nun.” It is now twenty years after that speech, and it is apparent that the roles of female characters have taken a change for the better.
In 2016 the Oscars nominated female lead roles that had much more complex characters, from a breathtaking lesbian affair in Carol to Eddie Redmayne playing the first ever transgender woman to complete sex reassignment surgery, there has been a definite change in the way women are portrayed in the film and television industry. However, whilst searching through Netflix on your movie night you may find it hard to find a film with a female lead role that portrays women as the strong defiant gender we are. That is why, for your convenience, we have put together a list of our ultimate feminist films. Carry on reading to find out what they are.
Sylvia came out in 2003 and is a film that details the life of the poet, Sylvia Plath. Portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow, the film tells of her marriage to Ted Hughes and the mental and emotional strain that the poet suffered. Though Sylvia Plath never really claimed herself to be a feminist, she is often an idol for feminism, and her struggles with her marriage and mental illness make for a gruelling and heartbreaking film that portrays the fantastic poet’s strength.
What could be more of a feminist movie than a film detailing the hardships of the suffragettes during the 1900s as they attempt to win the right to vote? Suffragette is told from the perspective of the fictional but very much real working class heroine, Maud, played by Carey Mulligan. The film pinpoints very harsh realities for women during the time, such as rape, working conditions and the little rights women had towards their children.
Arguably not a feminist film, however, it is lighter hearted than the films previously mentioned on this list and it does have a strong element of female empowerment. Elle Woods is desperate to become engaged to her ex, so she enrolls to study Law at Harvard where he is attending. Previously thought to just be a dumb blonde, Elle not only finds that she is smart enough to get into Harvard but also finds that she is more than capable to become an excellent lawyer as the subject becomes her passion throughout the movie.
The Hours is a beautifully complicated movie that is set around three women in different eras. The first is Virginia Woolf writing Mrs Dalloway in the 1920’s, the second, Laura Brown reading Mrs Dalloway in the 1950’s, and the third, Clarissa Vaughan in 2003 being essentially a modern Mrs Dalloway. The film features the lives of these three women and how they are affected by the situations around them. The film is beautifully shot and makes some excellent points in regards to women and their daily struggles.
Last but not least, how could we forget about the brilliant portrayal of marriage and female empowerment displayed through the semi-fictional telling of Nora Ephron’s marriage. When finding out that her husband has been having an affair, Nora Ephron made the best out of a bad situation and wrote the novel ‘Heartburn’, that details her marriage and its end. Nora got the ultimate revenge, as the novel became a movie with Meryl Streep and her husband’s adulterous nature became common knowledge.
Now that we have come to the end of our Top Five Feminist Films, why don’t you drop us a line and tell us what your favourite feminist films are, or what you think about any or all of the films above?
Words: Elena Hatfield.