10 Inspiring Films about Strong Women

When I was a child, more than 20 years ago, I was always looking for films that had great leading roles for women, but the offer was not so diverse. I was a little girl with hopes and dreams, a feminist without knowing yet, seeking for role models.

The film industry at that time wasn’t really focused on women, so I had to look back at The Golden Ages or the 60s that created these “Stars”, true film stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, but even these gigantic stars played few really inspiring characters, even though the roles were absolutely remarkable, there were few stories about really strong women…

Now, the picture is very different, which is absolutely great for the little girls of today. More and more stories and films are centered around women and more and more women in Hollywood (and not only) write, produce, direct and play in inspirational films and build strong, complex female characters and I am so honored to live in these revolutionary times where, I hope, we all contribute to building a better and inspiring world.

1. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Set in the 1950s, in a time where young girls were learning how to be good wives, a non-conformist art professor played by the amazing Julia Roberts, challenges these girls to think freely and out-of-the-box, empowering them and making them question these old dusty and traditional roles that society and their own mothers have given. The film unites an amazing cast: Kirsten Dunst makes an exceptional role, also Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

2. The Iron Lady (2011)

The title says it all! Not only it is the biographical film of ‘The Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher, the first prime minister of Britain, but it also has the amazing Meryl Streep who portrays her absolutely brilliant! Amazing as she is in everything that she does, this is definitely one of her best films and her third Oscar winning after her success in the 80s with ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ and ‘Sophie’s choice’

Iron Lady

3. Changeling (2008)

Angelina Jolie has a good number of great leading kick-ass roles! From Gia to Lara Croft, she portrays a lot of powerful and strong women. In this film, she is a different kind of super heroine! Set in the 20s, ‘Changeling’ portrays a mother who takes into her own hands the case of her missing son, that LAPD tried to replace and then, when she clearly didn’t accept her pretending son, tried to make her crazy and intimidate her. The film is based on true events, which makes it even more powerful. The secret ingredient to this amazing story and cast is the director, Clint Eastwood, who makes an even greater director than actor.

Angelina Jolie in Changeling

4. Malena (2000)

Two words: Monica Bellucci! And another two: Giuseppe Tornatore! And you’ve got an amazing powerful film! Giuseppe Tornatore is one of the film directors that I truly admire and as any great European film, the depth of every scene is breathtaking and they both bring such an incredible powerful energy on screen. Malena is seen through the eyes of a little boy and through his eyes we see this incredibly beautiful woman who is lonely and who carries her beauty as a curse…

Monica Bellucci in Malena

5. Thelma & Louise (1991)

This is a classic! And many films made after ‘Thelma & Louise’ are inspired by it or even make reference to it! Two best friends, played by the amazing Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, go on an adventure, trying to escape the mundane, but everything goes wrong and they start to be chased by police, while thinking of fleeing the country. Everything is so well built, that the script of the film is a reference in any screenwriting course of how to build a plot and how to make a killer screenplay! And of course the film with these two ladies is a masterpiece!

Thelma and Louise

6. Coco Before Chanel (2009)

This is not the only film about Coco Chanel, but it is by far the best! First of all it’s French, directed by a French lady director Anne Fontaine and Coco is portrayed by the phenomenal Audrey Tautou (Amelie), so it has all the ingredients for a perfect drama. The life of Chanel is truly impressive as she became a fashion worldwide sensation from an orphan and a poor girl who sang in bars. Her strength, elegance, vulnerability and rebellious side make Coco Chanel a powerful character who influenced many people and continues to inspire.

Coco before Chanel

7. Frida (2002)

Another amazing biographical film about the fascinating Frida Kahlo, a symbol of power and independence and a truly remarkable artist. Crippled by a tram accident when she was young, Frida spent many years in bed before she could start walking again. That was the time when she started to paint and projected all the pain and frustration into her art. Married Diego Riviera and was close to Leon Trotsky, being involved in politics. She is a complex character, leading many artistic, political and sexual revolutions. Portrayed by Salma Hayek, ‘Frida’ is an exciting character, turning this film into a must-see!

Salma Hayek Frida

8. Carol (2015)

Another great actress who had to be featured and it was hard to choose only one film from the incredibly talented Cate Blanchett. I don’t know yet if she only plays incredibly strong characters or if she brings her amazing strength in every single role that she does from ‘Queen Elizabeth’ to ‘Blue Jasmine’, ‘Coffee and cigarettes’ or ‘Babel’. This story is set in the 1950s in New York presenting a love story between two women. Co-starring Rooney Mara, Cate’s character, Carol, faces the social restrictions of that time and although a strong connection is formed between the two, they face many challenges.

 Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

9. Monster’s Ball (2001)

This film challenges many ideas and creates some unbelievable situations. Let me just tell you that it is about a racist prison guard who happens to fall in love with a woman of color, brilliantly played by Halle Berry! To spice things up, she is no ordinary woman, as she is the widow of the last prisoner executed by our lover boy. Quite difficult, eh? Even more interesting when they start having a relationship. I won’t say more, just that Halle Berry won an Oscar for this film, being the first and only (until now) African-American woman to win the Academy Award. The Academy definitely has to work some more in the future and the industry to enrich the film industry, but it is a truly remarkable film and a must-see!

Monster's Ball

10. The Hours (2002)

This film has a remarkable cast and unites my favorite actresses: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Juliane Moore and it shows how one single novel impacts the life of three different women who live in different times. The novel is “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf, brilliantly played by Nicole Kidman! You don’t even recognize her! The plot focuses on one single day in the lives of these women, just as in the novel of Woolf. Virginia lives around London at the end of the 20s, Laura (played by Juliane Moore) is a typical housewife in the 50s and Clarissa (played by Meryl Streep) is a present-day Mrs. Dalloway. The film is based on the novel with the same name by Michael Cunningham, a must-read! Incredibly perfect built, with an amazing direction and a flawless acting, plus a haunting musical score, ‘The Hours’ is one of the rare masterpieces of the modern film age.

The Hours

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