Today marks International Women’s Day and this year, there are two areas of focus— balance for better and more powerful together. And to celebrate this day—where we campaign for a gender-balanced world—we’ve put together a list of films that highlight women’s stories.
From highlighting period poverty to the fight of the suffragettes, these are inspiring films that every woman should see at least once.
Period. End of a Sentence
If there was one big surprise at the Oscar’s this year, it’s that a film about menstruation won the award for Best Short Documentary. Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, Period. End of a Sentence highlights the stigma attached to menstruation in a rural village in India. With girls and young women prevented from staying in education and worshipping in temples, the result of this stigma is real, with far-reaching consequences.
Starring Keira Knightly, Colette is based on the life of novelist and actor Sidonie Gabrielle Colette. Married at the age of 20, her husband enlists her as a ghost-writer under the name of Willy. The first novel was successful and she continued to write for another ten years under this name and it became an increasing point of contention between the pair. But more than this, they have an open relationship, with both openly dating women. Watching a woman living life on her terms, even a hundred years ago is an inspiration.
On The Basis Of Sex
A first-year student at Harvard Law School, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's (Felicity Jones) second-year husband falls ill to cancer and she starts attending his classes as well as her own. Taking notes, she is instrumental in helping him pass. Graduating top of her class, she is still unable to find a job on the basis of her sex. Seeing an opportunity to challenge US law, Ginsburg takes on a case that will set a precedent for discriminating against women. A stellar courtroom drama, On the Basis of Sex, tells the early life Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would later be appointed an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court.
The landmark 1973 US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortion in the United States. Now, some 45 years later, it is once again a hot topic. In this documentary, filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg offer an insight into the state of abortion and women’s rights through a series of interviews with people from both sides of the divide. It charts the time leading to the Roe decision and the opposition that has followed ever since.
Proving that one woman can make a huge difference, Erin Brockovich is a must-watch this International Women’s Day. Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts, brought a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993, involving the contamination of drinking water in the town of Hinkley. It led to a settlement of more than US $30 million—the largest ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit.
Hidden Figures shares the previously untold story of three African-American female mathematicians who played a vital role during the early years of the US space program. Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) are brilliant women who were the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history—the launch of John Glenn into orbit. It’s a heart-warming and inspiring movie about the crossing of both gender and racial lines.
Chances are, you follow Iris Apfel on Instagram and know her signature glasses and larger-than-life look. In this documentary, she reveals her relentless passion and creativity in art, fashion and people. Iris showcases her extremely high work ethic (a result of growing up in the Depression) and how, at 93, age really is just a number.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is a documentary about the phenomenal poet, singer and civil rights activist. It tells her story through rare and intimate photographs and videos as well as interviews with close family and friends, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Cicely Tyson. She was a woman who pushed boundaries and expectations and is an inspiration to us all.
What better time to watch women fighting for equality in the early 20th century than International Women’s Day? SUFFRAGETTE is a powerful drama that tells the story of women who were willing to lose everything in their fight for gender equality. Facing increasingly aggressive police action, the suffragettes who, while forced underground continue civil disobedience, spark debate across Britain. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Cart and the iconic Meryl Streep, it’s a must-see film.
With her marriage in tatters and the trauma of losing her mother, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to don a heavy backpack and hike the Pacific Crest Trail. One of America’s longest and toughest trails, she must dig deep to find her inner strength and push past doubts and utter exhaustion. Wild is based on the autobiography of the same name and showcases that sometimes the hardest struggles are internal.
Image Credit: Hidden Figures