Top 10 Empowering Films Embracing Femininity through a Feminist Lens


Feminism seeks gender equality, amplifying women’s stories to counter male-dominated narratives. Internalized misogyny distorts femininity’s strength. Julia Serano, in Ms. Magazine, notes the inconsistency in respecting feminine qualities. Media’s influence is potent; films linking gender equality and femme traits provide insightful commentary. Discover the top 10 feminist movies celebrating femininity. .

10 Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

The cast of Mona Lisa Smile around a couch.

Columbia Pictures

Mona Lisa Smile tells the tale of Katherine Watson, an art professor whose feminist teaching style and personal convictions don’t mesh with the students of the all-women’s Wellesley College. The film famously addresses the pressure of 1950s gender roles, as well as the ease and comfort that some women experience simply by adhering to expectations. The cast’s conversations about women’s roles throughout the script illuminate that each woman has her own unique opinion, and feminism ensures their right to pick which path is best for them individually.

9 9 to 5 (1980)

Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5
20th Century Fox

The enduring influence of 9 to 5 lives on through Dolly Parton’s iconic song of the same name, but its movie had even more feminist messaging than a generally empowering song. In the film, three female friends and coworkers gather their wits to get back against their male higher-up, who has been discriminating against them and others. The women aim to squash the cruelty normalized by men in power, and they look traditionally beautiful and feminine doing it.

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8 Erin Brockovich (2000)

Julia Roberts as Erin in Erin Brockovich.
Universal Pictures

The inspiring Erin Brockovich follows the tale of a real environmental activist and fiercely devoted mother, who advocates for accountability from a power company regarding the toxic effects of their work. Her passion for the project deepens throughout the story, amplified by the support she gains from her raising awareness. Women who balance their work along with having children are true superheroes, and this film emphasizes Erin’s fortitude as a working single parent and how her inner strength fuels her to success.

7 Hustlers (2019)

Lili Reinhart as Annabelle, Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, Keke Palmer as Mercedes, and Constance Wu as Destiny in Hustlers.

Hustlers took the skeleton of a true story to the big screen, illuminating the experiences of sex workers and the dark deeds on both sides of the table. The girl group at the center of the movie is made up of beautiful and talented women, whose winning smiles and aesthetic perfection hide dark plans for their well-off clients. While considered by many to be a good-for-her movie due to the retaliation against shady-seeming men, the film affirms that women can be shady, too.

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6 The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

Anne Hathaway as Queen Mia in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.
Buena Vista Pictures

The Princess Diaries movies are all about girl power at heart, but The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement adds an asterisk when Princess Mia overhears a dreadful parliament meeting. She’s given only 30 days to secure a husband if she wants to one day become Queen of Genovia, allowing her only to take the throne with a male counterpart. Though she finds various suitors, the moral of the story lies against arranged marriage and forced marriage in general. Instead, it encourages love above all, and it emphasizes a woman’s inherent wholeness with and without a scepter in her hand.

5 Miss Congeniality (2002)

Sandra Bullock as Gracie surrounded by her fellow contestants in Miss Congeniality.
Warner Bros.

In Miss Congeniality, FBI agent Gracie Hart gets a makeover to go undercover as Miss United States contestant Gracie Lou Freebush, sent to investigate a deadly plot against the competition. Gracie has to confront her own perceptions of gender roles by melding into a group of glamorous pageant girls who seem to be very different from her, and by pretending to be one of them. Being a woman is never a one-size-fits-all experience, and Gracie learns just how similar she is to those she thought were so far removed from her own identity.

4 Booksmart (2019)

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly in Booksmart.
United Artists Releasing

Booksmart absolutely embraces feminism and social justice concepts beyond it, but the story’s connection to femininity has a slightly different flavor than the bubblegum-pink universe of Barbie, for example. Stellar students Amy and Molly are ferocious in their fights for other women, but their one-track-mindedness sometimes isolates them from the other girls right in front of them. By the film’s end, they’ve genuinely celebrated women of all kinds, including the invincible, girly Gigi and the misunderstood Annabelle.

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3 Little Women (2019)

Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, Saoirse Ronan as Jo, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth in Little Women (2019)
Sony Pictures Releasing

The basis of Little Women is young 1800s women exploring the diverging futures that stretch out from their girlhood, which they experience together in their warm-toned past. Louisa May Alcott’s source material introduced the four March sisters, each of whom yearned to reach their own unique dreams within a period piece. As one of Greta Gerwig’s directorial works, this adaptation’s emotional tone is artfully crafted and adequately captures what it’s like for a woman to want whatever future she wants under outdated societal expectations.

2 Legally Blonde (2001)

Reese Witherspoon in pink as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.

Legally Blonde is a classic comfort movie for so many viewers. The exuberant Elle Woods shifts from her devastating breakup with Warner to academic overachievement with a smile. Of course, she arrives at Harvard oozing with pink, maintaining her habit of showing up to events (including court) as the brightest-dressed person in the room. Elle’s continued typical outer expression of femininity doesn’t dim down her confidence in her intelligence – it further enhances her multifaceted self. Who else could show us how to close a case thanks to knowledge about the hair perm process?

1 Barbie (2023)

Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) in Barbie (2023).
Warner Bros.

Barbie is (quite obviously) an essential feminist flick already, as well as a blessing for box offices after making $1 million – which Margot Robbie knew would happen before filming began. Given the worldwide shortage of the color pink “[contributed] to” by the extent of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie Land set, it’s not a surprise that Barbie heavily draws upon the fun and not-so-fun sides of typical femininity and womanhood. As Robbie’s Barbie comes to understand our world, she hangs on to the idyllic girly-girl roots distinct to her historic branding while going through the motions of human experiences in a modern setting.

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