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Cinephile: 25 Feminist Films I Love

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I am exhausted. I am exhausted by the Oscars where by and large year after year, straight white men pat each other on the back. I am exhausted in general, by sophomoric misogynistic barbs that pass as humor.  I am exhausted by 140 character assaults on average to large bodied women and a little Black girl with extraordinary talent. I am exhausted often by my love for a medium that is in fact a profit driven industry that is quick to dismiss my complexity, humanity or even my existence, because it doesn’t think my experience (as a woman and being of color) is ticket worthy.

So instead of squandering my energies ranting, I thought I’d share a list of some of my favorite feminist films. Films that speak to the complex lives, work, struggles, victories, diverse cultures, diverse gender experiences and sexual lives of women. Films inspired by the realities, aspirations and imaginations of women. Films that take up not only women’s issues, but create compelling characters and conflicts and execute them well.  Hopefully as a bonus you won’t feel insulted demeaned or sexualized for watching them. As importantly enjoy. I won’t theorize on 25 films, but tell me, do you think of these films as feminist? What favorite feminist movies are on your list?

Special mention goes to Frida Director, Julie Taymar (2002) which I inadvertently left out when originally posting this list. Which film would I possibly take out!?  I adore the beautiful aesthetic of this biopic that lives up to the artistry of the remarkable Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek’s determination in making the film happen is inspiring.

  • Monsoon Wedding  Writer/Director, Mira Nair (2001)  


    Monsoon Wedding is about a modern upper-middle class Indian arranged marriage. The four-day arrangements and celebrations planned during the monsoon season will bring family parties from all over the globe as well as awaken long buried family secrets and revelations.

  • Kill Bill I & II Director, Quentin Tarantino (2003/2004) (see post on Tura Satana)
  • Tangled  Directors, Nathan Greno, Byron Howard. (2010)
  • Pretty In Pink Director, HowardDeutch Written by John Hughes (1986) 


    Andie is a senior in high school from the wrong side of the tracks. She works, does well in school, and takes care of her unemployed father. He still pines away for the woman who left them behind. Although Andie is mature beyond her years and an outsider at school, she longs for the things teenagers long for, a date to the prom. When she falls in love with Blaine, a rich kid, they both become the targets of scrutiny among their friends. Andie has to decide whether or not to stand up for herself and what she wants.

  • A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy Writer/Director Dennis Dortch (2008)
  • Hairspray Writer/Director, John Waters (1988)
  • Things Behind the Sun  Writer/Director, Allison Anders Co-written by Kurt Voss (2001)  

    A young music journalist’s dark memories are awakened when he travels from Los Angeles to his native Cocoa Beach Florida to interview a rock singer. Both are forced to confront troubling secrets from their pasts. A beautiful film about  rape survival and processing trauma in order to move on.

  • My Brilliant Career Director, Gillian Armstrong (1979)
  • Harold and Maude Director, Hal Ashby (1971) 
  • Imitation of Life  Director, John Stahl (1934) 

    Bea Pullman is a single mother raising her daughter Jessie when she meets Delilah Johnson, who agrees to work as Bea’s housekeeper in exchange for a room for herself and her daughter Peola. Bea comes up with a plan to market Delilah’s pancake recipe. The two soon become wealthy and as the years go on, their friendship deepens, but their relationships with their daughters become strained. Jessie and Bea have fallen in love with the same man, while Peola,  ashamed of her mother, seeks a new life by passing for white. **Peola is played by Black Actress Fredi Washington, which is a wonderful surprise considering 25 years later in the 1959 version, Peola is played by non Black actress, Susan Kohner.

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon  Director, Ang Lee (2000)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale  Director, Volker Schlöndorff Adapted from the Margaret Atwood novel (1999)
  • Persepolis  Writer/Directors, Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (2007) 

    Based on her graphic novel of the same name, Persepolis is a stylized animated feature about Marjane Satrapi’s coming of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. The story closes with Marjane as a 24-year-old expatriate.

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild  Writer/Director, Ben Zeitlin Co-written by Lucy Alibar based on her Play (2012)
  • Precious Director, Lee Daniels Screenplay by Geoffrey S. Fletcher (2009)
  • Silkwood Director, Mike Nichols Screenplay by Nora Ephron & Alice Arlen (1983) 

    A docudrama about whistle blower Karen Silkwood, a metallurgy worker at a plutonium processing plant who was purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations at the plant.

  • All About My Mother  Writer/Director, Pedro Almodovar (1999)  
  • The Kids Are All Right Writer/Director, Lisa Cholodenko (2010)
  • Bagdad Cafe Writer/Director, Percy Adlon, Co-written by Eleonore Adlon (1987)

    Bagdad Cafe is a remote truck-stop café and motel in the Mojave Desert. Two women who have recently separated from their husbands meet and a blossoming friendship ensues.

  • Saved  Writer/Director,  Brian Dannelly (2004) 
  • Whale Rider  Director, Niko Caro Screenplay by Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler based on his novel (2002)
  • Pariah  Writer/Director, Dee Rees (2011) 

    As Pariah opens 17 year old Alike is struggling with coming of age and coming out. She maneuvers between her religious homophobic mother and her best friend, a butch lesbian. She is on a journey of discovering her own identity while navigating the desires of everyone else around her.

  • Strange Days Director, Katheryn Bigelow Screenplay by James Cameron (1995) 
  • Jump’n Jack Flash Director, Penny Marshall (1986)
  • Flirting  Writer/Director, John Duigan (1989)

    It is 1956, in this sequel to “The Year My Voice Broke.” 17 year old Danny Embling is sent to a boys-only boarding school in Australia where he is an intellectual outsider tormented by his hyper masculine classmates. He meets witty, wise beyond her years Thandiwe, from the girls-only school across the lake. Thandiwe’s experience of colonial racism and her stress over her family’s safety at home in war torn Uganda is the context for this story of the memorable details of first love.


Author: sweetvanessaleigh

I am Vanessa Leigh, maker, writer and witchy goddess in training.

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