Feminist Movie Night: 10 Grrrl Power Movies

By Callie Wixon

While you’re kicking back over holiday break and relaxing, these picks are perfect for a Girls Night In (or playing in the background before a Girls Night Out). Get your fix of smart women doing things their own way (and having a lot of fun doing it):

Clueless (1995)

There’s more than meets the eye to this 1995 movie: Clueless follows Cher Horowitz as she confidently walks the halls of her high school, attempting to do good deeds in her own way–like helping to boost the popularity of a new girl at her school. While Cher comes off initially as vapid and plastic–much like a “mean girl” trope–ultimately, Clueless is a film about the bonds of close female friendships. Not to mention sex positivity! Cher and her friends talk about their varying levels of sexual experience in an open, non-judgmental conversation, and when Cher’s boyfriend comes out as gay, most would expect her character to be upset and self-pitying–but she warmly embraces him instead.

For A Good Time Call (2012)

In this off-beat film, Katie and Lauren meet after moving in together in crowded and costly New York City. Neither can find another rent-affordable option and are strapped for cash. Katie eventually reveals her side hustle to Lauren: to earn extra money, she works as a phone sex operator. Proving herself as a good roommate, Lauren doesn’t disapprove–in fact, the two shortly start their own phone sex business, confidently making $12,000 in just a few weeks. Because of her business acumen, Lauren is even offered a position at a prestigious publishing company after revealing their secret side hustle. This movie is cute, quirky, and all about women entrepreneurs and sex positivity. 

Princess and the Frog (2009)

Tiana is definitely the most hard-working person in 1920s New Orleans. In this animated Disney film, our protagonist works multiple jobs, day and night, in aspiration of her dream to one day open her own restaurant. Tiana’s mother asks her about grandchildren, saying that she wants Tiana to find her Prince Charming and dance off together, but Tiana has different dreams for herself: her eyes are focused on a future as a restaurateur and business-owner. She tells her mother that dancing is going to have to wait a while. While the movie does have its romantic arc (it is a Disney movie after all), Princess and the Frog is about Tiana reaching for the stars–and taking them. Through hard work, perspiration, and an undeniable amount of passion, Tiana’s dreams are realized–without much help from her Prince Charming–in this girl power take on a classic fairy tale.

Easy A (2010)

When a rumor about Olive losing her virginity spreads like wildfire around her high school, she leans into this new persona to counteract the harassment. Inspired by the book The Scarlet Letter, Olive–played by Emma Stone–stitches a red letter “A” to all of her clothing. Little do her peers know that this persona is all a farce–Olive has never had sex and the rumor about her is just that, a rumor. When she eventually exposes this secret, she does so to make the point that her sex life is her own, and that whenever she “loses her virginity”, it will be no one’s business but her own. Easy A is a cheeky movie about a rebel with a feminist cause: to end the stigma around the concept of virginity and reclaim autonomy of our bodies and lives.

Thelma and Louise (1991)

Who doesn’t love a road trip movie? Starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, Thelma and Louise encapsulates the importance and complexities of female friendship. When best friends Thelma and Louise go on a fun weekend getaway for a reprieve from Thelma’s domineering husband, they wind up in a sticky situation that forces them to run from the police. The pair race from Oklahoma to reach the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to live out the rest of their lives as fugitives. The epic ending to this film shows how the duo give each other the strength to have complete autonomy over themselves, refusing to accept any more patriarchal crap.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Ocean’s 8, the latest installment in the Ocean’s saga, is about a group of women led by ex-convict Debbie Ocean on a mission to steal one of the most expensive necklaces in the world. Using their own unique skills, they team up and pull off an elaborate heist while being tracked by a male detective who cannot pin them down. In a commentary on internalized misogyny, Anne Hathaway’s character is expected to be an airhead actress that doesn’t notice when she is being manipulated. Over the course of the film, she proves that she is not to be underestimated and that she is smarter than any of the other women anticipated. The women of Ocean’s 8 are smart, driven, and badass–what’s not to love?

9 to 5 (1980)

Starring the iconic feminist trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 is a comedy that tackles hot-button issues of wage inequality and sexist work practices all while bringing out the laughter. Coworkers Judy, Violet, and Doralee commiserate together by fantasizing about the revenge they could exact on their boss, Mr. Hart, if given the chance. With elaborate twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat (not to mention Dolly Parton’s life-changing title track for the movie), 9 to 5 is a classic that endures the test of time and encourages us all to keep fighting for equal pay and an end to workplace harassment.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002) 

Jesminder “Jess” Bharma loves playing soccer (or football, considering the film’s London setting) more than anything but is pressured by her conservative mother to partake in traditionally feminine activities to prepare her for marriage and motherhood. Then she meets fellow soccer fan Jules Paxton who convinces her to join a local women’s team and quickly becomes impressed with her skills. However, Jess is still in a battle with her parents who have forbidden her from playing soccer. This heartwarming movie wraps up the complexities of many aspects of identity–gender, culture, and family–into two hours of screen time that’s sure to elicit smiles even from non-soccer fans.

The Hustle (2019) 

“They’re giving dirty rotten men a run for their money.” The tagline on The Hustle’s promotional poster says it all. Starring Anne Hathaway in yet another swindle, she teams up with co-star Rebel Wilson to con the men who have wronged them. The two women go after rich men referring to themselves as the “Lord of the Rings,” turning the men’s misogynist notions that a woman (or two women, in this case) could never be smarter than them against them.

Poms (2019) 

When Martha moves into a retirement home she is skeptical at first of the other residents and keeps to herself, hoping to live a quiet life. But when she expresses the passion she once had for cheerleading, a squad comes together, bringing her closer to her neighbors. Despite everyone in their lives insisting that they are too old to cheer, Martha’s squad is confident in their abilities: they perform at a cheerleading competition and prove everyone wrong, shattering ageist stereotypes in the process. 

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