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5 Empowering Movies for Women

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

It’s not easy to find strong female role models on the silver screen.  For time immemorial, women have been portrayed as one stereotype or another (the damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the bookish librarian, and so on).  It’s rare to find a movie that features a woman who is not only complex, but can hold her own in a world dominated by men.  But if you’re looking for a flick that empowers you to do more, and better, here are a few that will have you feeling fierce and proud to be a woman before the credits roll.

1. The Color Purple (1985).  Life wasn’t easy for black women after slavery ended, and this movie (based on a book of the same name) demonstrates the reality of their shocking history.  Through losing (and finding) children, arranged marriages, the expectation of subservience, and the quest for love, the humanity and suffering of these women speaks of strength, courage, and the ability to survive the worst that the world has to throw at us and come out ahead in the end.

2. Steel Magnolias (1989).  Yes, it’s a weepy chick-flick.  But it’s also a portrait of a group of women who are stronger than they imagine (each in their own way).  Through life’s tragedies and disappointments, this group of southern ladies manages to find ways to laugh, hang on to love, stand up for what they believe, and most of all, stick together.  Although you’ll almost certainly need a hanky to get through this notorious tear-jerker, you can learn a valuable lesson about the ways in which women help each other.

3. Gorillas in the Mist (1988).  Real-life zoologist and primatologist Dian Fossey marched to the beat of her own drummer, choosing a hermetic life in the Rwandan jungle to be close to the gorillas she spent eighteen years studying.  This movie, based on her exploits, chronicles her amazing journey to go where few men (or women) had gone before.  Although her life ended in tragedy (her murder remains unsolved), she spent the time she had in study of this vastly misunderstood species of primates and produced incredible evidence of their social structure, their ability to interact peacefully with humans, and their imminent plight at the hands of poachers.

4. Aliens (1986).  Okay, so Sigourney Weaver figures twice in this list (she’s the picture of a strong female lead!), but that doesn’t make her turn in Aliens any less noteworthy.  As gun-toting baddie Ellen Ripley, she gives her otherworldly opponents pause.  And as a role model for women everywhere, she shows conviction in the face of fear, loyalty for companions (no man, child, or android left behind), and a knack for handling weaponry and forklifts that makes modern actresses with a few kung-fu moves under their belt look like wussies.

5.    9 to 5 (1980).  An oldie but a goody.  Jane Fonda plays a thirty-something hitting the work-force after her husband dumped her for another woman.  Lily Tomlin portrays a no-nonsense office manager who has been passed up for promotion by the boys club.  And Dolly Parton is a pretty secretary who is constantly being chased by her chauvinistic boss.  When these three get together and decide to empower themselves, they end up with the boss held hostage and an office that realizes a 30% boost in efficiency.  Although tongue-in-cheek, this take on the power of female friendship and the force of determined women supplies lots of laughs and a happy ending.


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