6 Empowering Films That Will Help You Channel Your Inner #GirlBoss

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Star Wars Force Awakens film
Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Since the age of cinema began, female film characters have followed predictable tropes that ensured that every woman on screen was either a manic pixie dream girl, a frigid wife, or a bossy business woman. Barring that, women were represented as awkward, psychotic, controlling, and klutzy, or simply existed on screen to satisfy the male gaze. For decades, it was incredibly rare to see a courageous female action star in a film. After all, female characters are not supposed to be more powerful or smarter than the male characters, and they’re certainly not supposed to upstage the male lead. However, as the 21st century has progressed, there has been a tremendous rise in strong, inspiring female representation in film. Nowadays, it isn’t surprising to find women who think, talk, and act just like you in a major blockbuster movie.

Six incredible films from the past few years – while very, very different from one another – share a common theme of female empowerment. Whether they investigate romantic relationships in surprising ways, offer healing moments to the discouraged, or inspire with tales of bravery in the face of tremendous odds, these six films will bolster feelings of self-confidence and help foster a sense of self-worth.

Wadjda Film
Photo: Courtesy of Koch Media
1

Wadjda

Saudi director Haifa Al Mansour didn’t land on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Arab Women list for no reason. Her films are provocative and thoughtful, and her storytelling narrative has helped raise the profile of women in the Middle Eastern film industry. Wadjda, her 2012 film that was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language Movie, is the empowering tale of a young girl in Riyadh who dreams of owning her own bike – specifically the green bike that is for sale at a store she passes every day. She enters a Quran recital competition, which is a central part of the surface plot, but events are happening in the background at home that also reflect the stifling environment she is dealing with. This compelling film is a must-see, especially for anyone who has ever felt discouraged from pursuing a dream.

Click here to download the movie.

In a World film
Photo: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
2

In a World...

The beautiful Lake Bell is a well-known comedic and dramatic actor, but she flexes writing, directing, and co-producing skills in her film In a World... She is also the film’s star and plays Carol Solomon, a tomboyish, makeup-free, couch-dwelling voice coach whose father is one of Hollywood’s most famous voice actors. In a World… is a sensational, intelligent comedy that avoids the pitfalls of typical “chick flicks” by being uniquely written and well acted. The truly beautiful aspect of this film is its triumphant feminist message, which emerges slowly as Solomon rises from lowly voice coach to one of the industry’s most sought-after voice actors – much to the chagrin of her male counterparts, including her own father. The characters in this story are so human, and the relationships they have are so real, that it’s easy to root for Solomon like she’s your own sister. If you’ve had a bad day at work or have had it up to here with mansplaining, this is the kind of feel-good film that empowers on a deep emotional level.

Click here to download the movie.

Wild Film Reese Witherspoon
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
3

Wild

Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, is a faithful retelling of Cheryl Strayed’s heart-breaking memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon plays Strayed with open-faced vulnerability, a trait necessary for carrying the difficult task of conveying the main character’s journey for redemption along the Pacific Crest Trail. After dealing with the devastating loss of her mother, Strayed turns to substance abuse in order to avoid facing her pain, and her reckless behavior ends her marriage. Her quest for peace and forgiveness begins on a long, difficult trek through the Mojave Desert – a trek that she is not prepared for, practically or emotionally. As she begins to confront her demons, her self-determination pushes her forward every step of the way. For anyone who has been through or who is currently facing a difficult journey, this story is as encouraging and cathartic as a session with a bonafide therapist.

Click here to download the movie.

Brave Film
Photo: Courtesy of Disney/Pixar
4

Brave

There is a struggle many young women face between doing what is proper and expected of them, as dictated by mom or dad, and what they really want to do, which is dictated by their innermost desires. In the gorgeously rendered Pixar film Brave, we are taken to medieval Scotland, where a young princess named Merida is caught between her mother’s wishes that she become a proper young lady and the rough-and-tumble atmosphere created by her loud, boisterous father, King Fergus. King Fergus gives Merida a bow-and-arrow set for her birthday, which compels her to learn the craft of archery in her spare time. However, as an eligible maiden, Merida must soon accept a marriage proposal at the Highland games, which gathers together all of the Scottish clans to compete in feats of strength for her hand in marriage. Instead of succumbing to tradition, Merida demands that she be allowed to compete for her own hand in marriage, which throws the event into upheaval. Although Merida is an awesome on-screen heroine, the heart of this story is really the relationship between her and her mother, Queen Elinor. There are many heart-breaking moments and emotional breakthroughs to be found in this jewel of a film, and it is surprisingly mature given its status as a “children’s movie”.

Click here to download the movie.

Charlize Theron Furiosa Mad Max
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
5

Mad Max: Fury Road

When it was announced that Hollywood was rebooting the Mad Max franchise, longtime fans of the violent action series (formerly starring Mel Gibson) rejoiced. They expected talented actor and consummate dreamboat Tom Hardy to carry the series forward, but what they weren’t expecting was that his role in the film would be completely overshadowed by one of the coolest female heroines ever: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Hardy’s character takes a side seat (literally) to Furiosa as she takes it upon herself to free five women who were being enslaved by the grotesque tyrant Immortan Joe, who holds the desert wasteland in his powerful grip. Furiosa is at once a hard-bitten action hero and a feminist torch bearer. One of the most surprising aspects of the film is how visually compelling it is, making it one of the best date-night movies for you and your guy.

Click here to download the movie.

Star Wars Force Awakens film
Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
6

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The hotly anticipated return of Star Wars with director J. J. Abrams at the helm did not disappoint diehard loyalists, but it also went one step further to win over a new generation of young female fans who loved the fact that the central character was a woman. Although there was backlash against Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the importance placed on her role, Abrams gave her some of the most exciting on-screen moments in the entire movie. Rey is the kind of female action star we can get behind – she’s brainy, beautiful, and gifted. Furthermore, when presented with the opportunity for romance [SPOILER ALERT], she chooses a different, more compelling path instead. Although this sci-fi/fantasy franchise has been a long-standing favorite of men everywhere, Rey single-handedly turned it into one of the best box-office options for women around the world to enjoy as well.

Click here to download the movie.

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