It’s no secret that women are underappreciated in films, I mean it’s taken until 2017 to get a Wonder Woman movie and this is the age of superhero movies. These 10 female led films highlight the versatility of actresses and gives plenty of reasons why the film industry should stop ignoring an audience that make up ~50% of the population.
I’m a fan of Kill Bill for numerous reasons. Firstly it doesn’t have a negative attitude towards vengeance. The Bride (Uma Thurman) hunts down the people who tried to kill her in order to murder them without it being frowned upon. Secondly it contains female appropriation of what, in Hollywood, has typically been portrayed as a masculine behaviour (hack ‘n’ slashing) and boy does it have female appropriation in abundance. This results in many endlessly watchable fight scenes. Finally it’s a movie world inhabited by fascinating characters which are incredibly distinct without feeling like caricatures.
10 Cloverfield Lane
After a car crash a young woman awakens in a bunker with two men. She is unable to leave as the world outside has been subject to a chemical attack, or at least that’s what Howard (John Goodman) keeps saying. The vast majority of the movie takes place in the bunker and the tension and paranoia are palpable. Add to that a tenacious and resourceful heroine in the form of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and you have a ‘trapped with a psycho’ film which puts Misery to shame.
The best Sci-fi film of recent years. When Aliens visit Earth it’s a race against time to figure out what they are trying to say before one of the nations they visit tries to blow them up. Leading the effort on behalf of America is Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a linguistics professor whose expertise and drive to communicate makes fascinating watching. Honestly I’m not sure why it took so long for someone to ask ‘what if aliens didn’t speak English?’ but I’m very glad they did.
Another film about a linguist however this one is less fantastical than Arrival. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. If you aren’t a fan of sad films then give this a miss because watching someone succumb to Alzheimer’s compressed into 101 minutes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Julianne Moore definitely earned her Oscar for this one bringing warmth and humanity to the role that does justice to people who suffer from the disease.
Thelma and Louise
Two waitresses (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) head out for a vacation at their bosses cabin. An unexpected circumstance forces them on the run from the law. Along the way they find a freedom and joy in being fugitives which they never experienced in their ordinary lives. One of my all-time favourite films, the interaction between Sarandon and Davis is charming and unforgettable. There’s even a little bit of Brad Pitt thrown in there for good measure.
The Silence of the Lambs
Jodie Foster’s best performance, she plays Clarice Starling a young FBI cadet tasked with getting Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to cooperate in stopping a serial killer. From the first meeting of Starling and Lecter to the last every interaction between the two is electrifying. Lecter acts as an adversary and a mentor to Starling while she tries to track down a serial killer before he claims another victim and the process is brilliant to watch.
Sigourney Weaver reprises her legendary role as Ellen Ripley. This time around the movie is more action than horror but there’s still plenty to get your teeth into. Ripley returns to the planet where her crew picked up the alien the first time only this time there are hundreds of the creatures. This movie has quotable lines, gripping action, and some of those iconic scenes that you’ve probably seen referenced a hundred times before.
Two young girls who couldn’t be more different meet at a boardwalk one day and become fast friends. We witness the bond between CC (Bette Midler) and Hillary (Barbara Hershey) go through ups and downs in a story which is a touching example of the enduring power of female friendship. The acting is great, the soundtrack is brilliant, and it’s always nice to find a film where the women aren’t pitted against each other. Also Bette Midler.
Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) personifies perseverance, despite constant underestimation. A single, unemployed, mother of three gets a job in a law office when her lawsuit doesn’t pan out. She digs into the affairs of a utility company and is dogged in her pursuit of justice when she finds some suspicious activity. Erin is played as a blend of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief but the combination is surprisingly palatable.
It’s fairly arbitrary which Meryl Streep film made it into this list but Silkwood edges ahead as it has amazing performances all around and I watched it most recently (sometimes it’s that arbitrary). It’s about Karen Silkwood, a worker at a fuel fabrication site (it makes plutonium rods for nuclear reactors) who becomes active in a workers union. Her lobbying for better safeguards at the plant draws the ire of the higher-ups. A successful message about being a woman making a difference in the workplace despite near insurmountable opposition is something most self-help authors would kill for. Another distinction is that it features a rare appearance from Cher’s original nose.