March is Women's History Month, with International Women's Day landing on March 8. This holiday is dedicated to celebrating the lives and works of women across the globe — those influential figures who've changed the world with their actions and beliefs. So what better time to celebrate some of the most inspirational movies about women?
While we turn to these movies primarily for entertainment — whether it's the comfort of a beloved classic or the intrigue of an underdog story — they provide the chance to be motivated and encouraged to make changes in our own lives. Whether they're romantic comedies, superhero actioners, or true-life dramas plucked from the pages of history, these movies prove that women's stories remain as important as ever.
On The Basis Of Sex (2018)
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in this story of the late Supreme Court Justice's fledgling days as a law student. Directed by Mimi Leder, the film follows Ginsburg's time at Harvard Law School before she landed the coveted spot on the Supreme Court. It eschews flashiness in favor of sticking true to the facts of Ginsburg's career, in part because the screenplay was written by Ginsburg's nephew, Daniel Stiepleman.
On The Basis Of Sex captures her drive and the flagrant injustices she sought to abolish with a spotlight on her first gender discrimination case. The film chronicles her professional rise alongside a parallel story of her home life with husband Marty (Armie Hammer), revealing the roots of a life forged in the desire to equalize the legally protected rights of both men and women.
Legally Blonde (2001)
On the surface, this cheerful early 2000s comedy looks like a fluffy rom-com with no real clout. But that's the genius of Legally Blonde. Like its lead character Elle Woods, it may appear ditzy, but this fan favorite is full of surprises. Reese Witherspoon stars as Elle, a sorority sister whose high-society boyfriend Warner dumps her for not being smart enough. Keen to prove him wrong, she strives to show she's just as capable by getting accepted at Harvard Law School. Its biggest strength lies in its feminist angle: Elle is no dumb blonde as marketing materials might imply — she's a smart, confident woman who refuses to be stopped by misogyny. While this comedy lives on in cult infamy thanks to its "bend and snap" principles, Legally Blonde is also well-remembered for its feelgood feminism.
Norma Rae (1979)
Sally Field gives one of her best turns as Norma Rae, a single mother who works at a North Carolina textile factory. Bone tired and worn out from the factory working conditions, Norma Rae's life takes an unexpected swerve when a union organizer arrives in town. Before long Norma Rae joins his efforts to rally her colleagues. How so? By encouraging them to unionize.
Her relentless spirit in the face of management's underhanded tactics makes you root for Norma Rae right up to the movie's most iconic moment. A true testament to its lasting power, the scene climaxes as Norma Rae stands on a table in the middle of the factory, holding a handwritten sign that reads "union". The relenting din of the machines slowly eases as her colleagues shut them off one-by-one in solidarity. Field's performance won her Best Actress Oscar in 1980.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts scored an Oscar for her starring role in this compelling legal drama from director Steven Soderbergh. Based on a true story, the movie follows a single mom of three, Erin Brockovich, who loses a personal injury lawsuit and finds herself in need of employment. Luckily, she lands work as a legal assistant for her lawyer and immediately stumbles across suspicious-looking files linking major corporation Pacific Gas and Electric to the poisoning of a small-town water supply.
Brockovich dives in, researching the case and following her gut, all the while juggling her domestic life and burgeoning romance with her new neighbor (a superb Aaron Eckhart performance). Roberts' performance is arguably her best to date as she strives to bring down the corporation. Some of her most nuanced work is unveiled as she interviews local residents, the fire in her belly mounting with every heartbreaking testimony.
It's impossible to not be awed by the true story of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. Harriet is directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmons, and serves as a tribute to an inspirational figure in American history. Cynthia Erivo leads as the titular character whose life begins in slavery on a Maryland farm. After her escape, the impact of her newly-found freedom inspires her to join the abolition movement and work to free every slave she can.
Through her indomitable spirit and unrelenting courage, Harriet makes the treacherous trek back to her former plantation to free the remaining slaves including her own family. This decision and unwavering commitment led to the freedom of hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad. It's no surprise that Erivo's masterful performance landed her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Another story lifted from history, Hidden Figures is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and revolves around three three brilliant Black women whose efforts launched astronaut John Glenn into space. In the 1960s, NASA's goal to beat their Russian rivals shifted from dream to reality thanks to the brains and smarts of mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).
The movie chronicles the women's experiences during their time at NASA as each frequently fought against racism and sexism. In spite of these conditions, the women's towering achievements helped the United States win the Space Race. While their innovation went unrecognized for half a century each of these extraordinary women are no-longer hidden figures, but rightly-celebrated experts in their field.
Wonder Woman (2017)
The DC Extended Universe ushered in a new comic book-inspired cinematic world to the big screen to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And along with it came a new incarnation of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. This 2017 offering reignited fans' love of the seminal superhero and introduced her to a new generation with an origin tale directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot in the titular role.
Wonder Woman traces Diana's early years on Themyscira, a hidden island populated by a group of female warriors called the Amazons. Raised and trained by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana is eventually introduced to the outside world when American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands off the coast. Diana vows to help him and in turn discovers she must stop the First World War — leading to one of the best sequences in recent cinema as Diana strides across No Man's Land.
Following the loss of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, Cheryl Strayed decides to jumpstart her life by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild is based on Strayed's real-life experiences chronicled in her memoir of the same name and stars Reese Witherspoon, who gives one of her best dramatic performances to date. This is a story about being empowered to make big changes in the face of adversity, even if that means taking a cross-country adventure without any training.
But that's what is most impressive about Wild — Cheryl's lack of experience never stops her from making a major life change. As she sets off on this months-long journey solo she struggles to traverse the landscape of one of America's most beloved trails — yet in the process, she realizes the depth of her own strength. An uplifting movie that will have you lacing up your hiking boots.
Widows reworks an exhausted subgenre with a fresh take on the heist movie. Steve McQueen directs from a script by Gone Girl novelist Gillian Flynn that's loosely based on the 1980s BBC television series. And the result is one heck of a crime thriller that remains sorely underseen. After their husbands are killed by police in a botched attempt to rob mob boss Jamal Manning, three women are forced to come up with $5 million to spare their lives and repay the debt.
Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez star as the titular widows who stage a heist of a local politician to secure the funds to pay off Manning. The trio aren't in this predicament for the hell of it; they have to successfully execute this robbery for survival. Widows is a compelling watch that will have you rooting for its leading women as they claw and strategize their way to victory.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Sandra Bullock stars as FBI agent Gracie Hart who is convinced by her supervisor (Ernie Hudson) to go undercover in a Miss United States pageant after a terrorist threatens to set off a bomb at the ceremony. A spin on the 'fish out of water' comedy, Gracie starts the film less interested in befriending other women and more interested in trading barbs with pageant coach Victor Melling (Michael Caine).
But as she spends more time with her fellow contestants, she begins to value their camaraderie and realizes all of these women deserve respect. Of course, there's hijinks aplenty along the way as she grapples with certain components of pageantry. From quotable one-liners to laugh-out-loud slapstick, Miss Congeniality brings uplifting heart to its brilliant comedic premise.
Celebrate National Women’s Day with $5 tickets to Wonder Woman and Ocean’s 8 on March 8!