Whether you’re looking for some inspiration in your professional or personal life, these movies have got what you need. Featuring characters that set their mind to a goal or mission and don’t stop–no matter what gets in their way–these movies make for a perfect feminist movie night when you’re in need of some motivation (say, maybe … midterms week?)
Legally Blonde (2001)
Legally Blonde is the story of Elle Woods, a UCLA grad who (against all odds) enrolls at Harvard Law in order to win back her ex-boyfriend, but instead ends up finding her life’s calling. Along the way, Elle upends the tropes of the self-obsessed sorority girl, future trophy wife on the way to a “MRS degree”, and vapid fashionista blonde. She’s proof that women can be—and are—many contradictory things all at once, and every attempt others make to pigeonhole her only fuels her to prove them wrong. While Legally Blonde has typical heterosexual romance strewn throughout, at the heart of the film is a love story between a woman and her own best self.
Moana tells the story of one of the few Disney princesses whose life doesn’t revolve around romance. The film follows Moana, the daughter of a chief who’s always been told that one day she will lead her people. Forbidden from exploring the ocean, where she feels most herself, Moana struggles with this role. But when ecological disaster starts devastating her people’s food sources, threatening the future of the island, she defies her father’s wishes and leaves home to save it from ruin. Following her heart, she leads her people all while staying true to herself and not compromising when people doubt her capabilities.
Brave follows Merida, who like many other princesses, is expected to marry a young prince, but is also a skilled archer who would rather create her own path in life. She decides to fight for herself and announces that, as the first born of her family, she will compete for her own hand in marriage. Defying misogynistic traditions, Merida defeats the men competing for her hand in marriage in an archery contest, symbolically proving that she–and any woman–doesn’t need a man. Brave illustrates the relationship between Merida and her mother as they grapple with patriarchal traditions, showing how gender stereotypes forced on a child can negatively affect an entire family.
On The Basis Of Sex (2018)
On The Basis of Sex is the story of how iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice. Rather than tracing her entire career path, the film focuses on Ginsburg’s experiences as a law student and the first sex discrimination case she argued in federal court in the 1970s, articulating her accomplishments and why they matter so much today. Throughout the film, RBG develops the legal strategy that got her to where she is now: on the bench of the Supreme Court, fearlessly protecting the rights of Americans.
Hidden Figures (2016)
In Hidden Figures, NASA mathematicians Katherine Coleman, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson are finally recognized for their incredible accomplishments as the three Black women behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn during the 1960s Space Race. This film is a long overdue recognition of the thankless contributions these women made to space exploration and American history, and the actors that portray them show that they truly exemplify perseverance in the face of adversity.
In MILK, Harvey Milk—the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States—is a young trailblazer who moves to a growing LGBTQ+ neighborhood in San Francisco. After two failed electoral campaigns, he makes his way onto the Board of Supervisors where, despite resistance from boyfriends, staff members, and other elected officials, he tirelessly defends gay rights. MILK is an inspiring true story about a man who changed the landscape for LGBTQ+ rights in America. 🌈