TV & Movies

7 Powerful Documentaries About Women’s Rights And Empowerment

By Jessica Best
1st Mar 2023

From periods and all things around women’s health rights, to the start of the modern-day women’s movement and representation of females in mainstream media, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to women’s issues.

Maybe you’re keen to enlighten yourself, learn a little deeper or challenge the way you think about the world in your day-to-day. Regardless, there’s a whole heap of super-powerful documentaries absolutely worth making the time for this year. Prepare to have your mind blown, be inspired and hey, even laugh a little (trust us, it’s not all protests and riots).

Here are the best documentaries every woman should see this year.

Miss Representation

Miss Representation explores women's under-representation in positions of power and influence and challenges the limited and often disparaging portrayals of women in media. This is an absolute must-watch and though it’s based in the US, its relevance absolutely extends across the globe to give us an inside look at the media's messaging when it comes to women. This doco takes a look at how mainstream media, as one of the most persuasive and pervasive forces of communication in our culture, is educating yet another generation that a woman's primary value lies in her youth, beauty and sexuality—not in her capacity as a leader.


Spoken by Maya Angelou (American poet, singer and civil rights activist), this documentary casts a watchful eye over Beyonce in the lead up to her historic 2018 Coachella performance. The iconic set included five costume changes, one hundred dancers, fireworks, a bunch of major cameos and went for a mesmerising two hours. Throughout the doco, you can expect an intimate glimpse into the show that paid homage to America’s historically black colleges and universities. It’ll be split between candid footage and interviews detailing the powerful intent behind her vision, tracing the road from creative concept to a cultural movement.

Period. End Of Sentence

Look no further than one of the most iconic films of 2019. We mean, it won a dang Oscar so it’s obviously on this list. It was one of the biggest steals at the 91st Academy Awards where Rayka Zehtabchi became the first Iranian-American woman to win an Oscar for her short film documentary Period. End Of Sentence. 

The 26-minute doco focuses on a village outside Delhi, India, where a group of women aim to revolutionise the stigma around menstruation. For generations, these women didn’t have access to pads (with 23 per cent of girls dropping out of school when they get their periods) but when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the area, they learn to manufacture their own pads and fight for menstruation equality.

He Named Me Malala

Anyone and everyone should see He Named Me Malala at least once in their lifetime. This one is an intimate documentary on Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then 15-year-old was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund.

Reversing Roe

As probably one of the most mind-blowing docos out there on women’s health rights, Reversing Roe unfolds the state of abortion and women’s rights in America. Roe v. Wade was a landmark case that kickstarted a new era for women and unleashed laws which sought to protect a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. However, it’s one of the most controversial cases in US history that is constantly at a crossroad with many trying to (and successfully) reverse women’s health freedoms.

Feminists What Were They Thinking

For an absolute showdown on the history of the global feminist movement which took-off during the 1970s, try your hand at Feminists What Were They Thinking. It’s Netflix Original and it takes a deep dive into how the movement came about (and what events triggered its collective trajectory) and into a collection of feminist portraits captured by photographer Cynthia MacAdams. It’s now 40 years later, and Feminists What Were They Thinking compares the culture of then and now.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

Remember when we were all made to read To Kill A Mockingbird back at school? Well, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is your adult-life equivalent. This documentary is a focused take on the outrageous and brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971. It’ll take you through the founding of NOW, with ladies in hats and gloves, to the emergence of more radical factions of women’s liberation;  from intellectuals like Kate Millett to the street theatrics of WITCH (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). Expect controversies over race, sexual preference and leadership that arose in the women’s movement and perfect capture of the spirit of the time which was very much thrilling, scandalous, and sometimes just downright hilarious.

And here's some pretty epic life-advice that'll inspire you from a bunch of the world's coolest women.

Image credit: Mubi

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