at the movies: feminist films!

It’s no secret that one of the amazing perks of my job (and a major reason why I hesitate to expand my business) is that I work mostly by myself. The miracle of laptops and Netflix and iTunes means that my head is constantly filled with dozens of fascinating podcasts and movies. Unfortunately, it also means that I sometimes have almost no memory of movies I’ve watched, as you can’t exactly chop onions and watch snooty French New Wave cinema unless you’re prepared to suffer in one way or another.

So I often compromise by saving the subtitled films and sumptuous period pieces for that mythical “time off” that ends up happening only once a year (now!!), and I get through the long cooking days with documentaries, sitcoms, and rewatching movies again and again and again until I’ve figure I’ve looked up here and there enough to have caught the drift.

Because of this compulsive re-watching, and because it’s rainy outside, I thought I’d compile this list of favorite feminist movies (my definition of “feminist” here is very wide, encompassing all sorts of interestingnesses that touch on issues of gender/class/race/etc).

I’m sure you know of lots more that I’ve missed, so please fill me in and help to make my cooking days fly by on wings of righteousness!

The idea that baby feminists (either actual babies, or young people, or those just getting into le féminisme) might see this list and work their way down it is giving me all kinds of good tingly feelings. What fun you have in store, my friends. Do you ever get jealous of people who haven’t yet delved into that favorite book or band or TV show of yours? A farmer friend of mine is just starting to read All Over Creation, and I literally can’t wait to hear how she likes it. I think about it maybe five times a day.

(A note about me and movies, just so you know where I’m coming from: I’m a super lightweight. With a few exceptions, if a movie has any violence in it whatsoever [unless it’s very fleeting and easy to look away from], even if the violence is a commentary on the dreadful nature of violence itself, I just can’t watch it. It brings me to a terrible place, which is not what I want out of a movie. It’s not that I watch only fluffy chick flicks, I do like to be challenged and provoked and to have my assumptions stretched by my film choices, but I don’t want to turn off the computer feeling so depressed or rageful that the day is ruined. No Dancer in the Dark for me, alas.)


  • Hard Candy: with Teeth, the best movie I’ve seen all year. Have you seen it, do you love it???
  • Teeth: with Hard Candy, the best movie I’ve seen all year. Have you seen it, do you love it??? (yes, both of these break my “no violence” rule. But they are both eminently worth it.)
  • Daughters of the Dust: Sort of hard to find, but so beautiful.
  • I’d never listened to the Dixie Chicks before, but Shut Up And Sing, all about that mess you probably heard involving their comments about Bush, made me put down the truffles I was rolling and cry and cry—not in a bad way, exactly, though the way they were treated (and the stereotypes their treatment reinforced) were sickening, but also in a super cheeseball “hooray for girl power!!!” way. One caveat: If you’re a non-makeup wearing feminist like me, their intensely caked-on makeup (not just stage makeup, also every day makeup!) and girly girl outfits (what I call “girl drag”) is simultaneously fascinating and offputting—a combination that kept me constantly stopping the movie so I could more closely scrutinize their hair styles.
  • Dogville: one of those stomachache-causing movies that I’m never sure are worth it or not.
  • I know it’s sooo played out, but I totally cried at Juno! How embarrassing!
  • Harold and Maude, of course.
  • Saving Face
  • Breasts: A Documentary
  • Foxfire, totally awesome ’90s flick with a Jenny Lewis character that will melt your heart.
  • I’m not sure anyone would ever put “Bob Dylan” and “feminist” in the same category (“she breaks just like a little girl,” anyone?) but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more feminist filmmaker than Todd Haines, who conjured up the girlcrush of my dreams in the person of Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There (apparently every December I have to go on about my love for I’m Not There), as well as gave us much to muse on in Safe and Far From Heaven.
  • Transamerica
  • This Film is Not Yet Rated, a documentary about the ratings industry that is just plain brilliant and fascinating, and, in a weird way, is a great primer on why our entire culture is pretty much in the toilet right now.
  • Orlando is not only a beautiful, spellbinding book by my girl Virginia Woolf, it’s a movie directed by the always-wonderful Sally Potter starring my other #1 girlcrush (along with Cate Blanchett), Tilda Swinton. Oh my, so much feminist energy concentrated in one movie, I almost can’t stand it.
  • Sally Potter also directed Yes–Oh man, I loved this movie. It’s all in iambic pentameter!!! And it’s not at all as annoying as that sounds.
  • Boys Don’t Cry (oh, sadness, sadness, sadness)
  • 9-5!!!!
  • Muriel’s Wedding
  • Akeelah and the Bee!
  • The Magdalene Sisters
  • The Corporation (not feminist per se, but just about the best documentary ever made)
  • Persepolis (I liked the books better, though)
  • SAVED!!!!!  A MUST SEE! OH GOD! One year I watched that movie like 50 times, and it never got old! Still hilarious!!
  • Yentl! I was obsessed with Yentl in high school for some reason. It still holds up!
  • Vera Drake
  • Anything by John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and, especially Shortbus, is worthy of the feminist film title.
  • Monster
  • Capote (feminism isn’t just about women, you know! Plus, I love Harper Lee!)
  • Before Stonewall
  • After Stonewall
  • The Celluloid Closet
  • Born Into Brothels, so sad.
  • My Vie en Rose, so rad!
  • Babette’s Feast: the least vegan, and yet, most beautiful and touching, film of alllll tiiiiime
  • Go Fish
  • The Laramie Project (can you tell yet that Netflix pretty much exclusively recommends “Gay and Lesbian-themed” movies for me?)
  • Carrington
  • Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
  • The Cockettes: FUN!!
  • Divine Trash
  • Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic
  • Silent Waters
  • Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst
  • Antonia’s Line: beautiful, so beautiful.
  • Frida
  • Priscilla Queen of the Desert: Yum! Pure pleasure.
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Bear Cub
  • My Flesh and Blood
  • Welcome to the Dollhouse
  • Maria Full of Grace: oh my, what a sad one.
  • Thirteen
  • Bend It Like Beckham
  • Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema
  • L’Iceberg: so weird. So so weird. See it!
  • Small Town Gay Bar
  • ************************************Angels in America*******************************My favorite, as you know.
  • Magnolia
  • Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired
  • Margaret Cho: I’m the One That I Want
  • Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning
  • Margaret Cho: Assassin
  • Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied
  • Puccini for Beginners: I believe I referred to it as a “delightful romp” when I first saw it.
  • Sacco & Vanzetti: not really about feminism, but so interesting, I had to throw it in.
  • Quinceañera
  • Whale Rider
  • Rabbit Proof Fence: another saddie. But worth it.
  • The Piano
  • Anything Lili Taylor is in, particularly, of course, I Shot Andy Warhol (I wasn’t all that into Casa de los Babys, but OK, I guess that too).
  • The Weather Underground
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service, all about my job! I hear that everything by Hayao Miyazaki is lovely, but that’s all I’ve seen.
  • All those Elizabeth movies, ahhhhhhhhhh CATE!
  • Anything and E*V*E*R*Y*T*H*I*N*G John Waters has ever touched. Including random rolling papers, pieces of dog shit, Manic Panic bottles–anything. If JW has so much as let his shadow fall upon it, it’s infused with the best kind of revolutionary energy—case closed.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show–but if there is some horrid anti-feminist message in there, let me know. For some reason it played at my house all the time (along with This is Spinal Tap!) and I haven’t seen it since I was about 12.
  • The Hours, though yeah, hardcore Woolfians I know have major problems with it, but whatevs.
  • The Queen
  • Ghost World
  • Triplets of Belleville: which I just couldn’t get that into, but I think that was a flaw of mine related to inattention.
  • Pretty in Pink (hi! I’m old!)
  • Daughter from Danang: American Experience
  • Southern Comfort
  • Fur
  • Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl
  • The Heart of the Game
  • Anne of Green Gables yo!!!!!
  • Monsoon Wedding
  • Caramel: Meh, I dunno. I saw this last week and expected to like it a lot more. I also thought it would be more about food, less about depilation. It was still cute though.
  • The Business of Being Born
  • Lipstick & Dynamite, about women wrestlers!
  • Fat Girls: again, I wanted to like it more than I did. It happens sometimes.
  • The Closet: cute, and en français!
  • Valley of the Dolls: not so much “feminist,” as, well, explaining the need for feminism.
  • Grey Gardens: the original, I haven’t seen the Drew Barrymore one.
  • Tout va Bien
  • Masculin Féminin
  • Boy Culture
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Blue Crush: ooh, girl surfers!
  • Marie Antoinette: the pink! The sweets! The outfits! It crushes me!
  • Iris
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s? If not feminist—and I could honestly argue either way—you can’t say it’s not fun.
  • Jane Eyre
  • Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
  • Thelma and Louise
  • Volver, and all Almodovar films!
  • Real Women have Curves: I actually think this movie is pretty cheeseball and bad…yet I still liked it. So weird when that happens!

Movies I haven’t (yet) seen, but have a feeling they are good:

  • Precious
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Ladies and Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains
  • Milk (though I did see a great documentary about Harvey Milk, The Times of Harvey Milk)
  • Whip It, sure why not, a good fluffy empowery story is always nice to cook to.
  • Itty Bitty Titty Committee
  • Mean Girls
  • Harlan County, USA

17 Responses to “at the movies: feminist films!”

  1. Ilene

    I don’t *think* any of these are on your list. (Hello? Alphabetization?)

    -Watermelon Woman
    -The Education of Shelby Knox (documentary: this girl KICKS ASS)
    -Off the Map
    -Patti Smith: Dream of Life (documentary: speaking of women who kick ass. Will be aired on PBS this coming 12/30, Patti’s 63rd bday.)
    -North Country

    Re your unseen list, Harlan County is fantastic – deservedly stands as a classic of American documentary. Music is crazy good, too. On my unseen list is Pandora’s Box (the 1929 version w/Louise Brooks), which I have, but of course haven’t gotten around to watching yet. Alas, unlike you, I can’t watch movies (even with half an eye) while I work. Though I did watch a documentary the other day when I was doing some very rote work and I don’t think I killed anyone. Not sure it belongs on the feminist film list, but it’s wonderful, and you can watch it for free on PBS website. Film is called “Fat” and it’s here:

    • kevin

      Just watched The Education of Shelby Knox last night (yay Netflix Instant Streaming!) Loved the premise, but thought the product was kinda weak. I really felt like she was kind of playing it up for the camera a bit too much.

  2. Ilene


    One more: Africa Rising, newish documentary re people (mostly women & girls) fighting FGM in Africa.

  3. jenna

    ”rocket science” is a totally unappreciated, really solid movie about a high school (bear with me) debate team (no, seriously) and the kid with a debilitating stutter that joins (it’s GOOD, i SWEAR) because he has a big fat underclassman crush on the top debater. there was a period of time, not long ago, when i watched this film EVERY DAY.

    also, (500) days of summer was so fucking cute i nearly puked in the theater. i would never use the word ”twee” to describe anything, except for this film.

  4. lagusta

    Rad, thanks for the ideas!

    I asked a couple movie-savvy Facebok friends for their thoughts, and here are their ideas:

    “Might not be your style but Chantal Akerman is a pretty interesting woman director you might try out. Only one of her movies is out in the US still cause she is considered too conceptual for popular consumption, title: Jeanne Dielman, should be on netflix.

    Is Born in Flames on your list? Have you seen it? If netflix doesn’t have it, I have it somewhere.”

    “Got a bunch, most directed and/or directed by women. I’ll just give you the titles, you can cross reference.
    Things Behind The Sun
    Ballad Of Little Jo
    Hester Street
    Enemies, A Love Story
    Personal Velocity
    High Tide
    Walking and Talking
    9 Stories
    Manny and Lo
    3 Women
    Ms. 45
    Holy Girl”

    • kevin

      If you decide to see Serenity, please watch Firefly (Season 1, only season) beforehand (Serenity is a continuation of Firefly.) Mostly written by Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse.) I absolutely loved it, though I am not sure how feminist-y it is.

      • lagusta

        OK. Here’s my thing with Joss Whedon. My mom is a giant Buffy fan, and many of my friends are too. But I haven’t ever gotten into anything he’s done, mostly because I’m scared I will get obsessed with it and it will take over my life. Is that a weird reason to avoid something, that you think you might like it too much?

      • kevin

        Firefly was the first Whedon stuff I watched. Easy enough since it was only one season. Then Dollhouse came along, and I’ve watched every episode of that. Definitely want to watch Buffy and Angel some day… but that is indeed a lot of time that it will require.

  5. orlande

    OMG! you have ruined my workday getting me SO EXCITED about film. thank you… seriously! i took a class that had two weeks talking about Daughters of the Dust. i can’t believe you’ve seen it! and loved it! so many exclaimables!!!

    also: Hard Candy was mind-blowingly amazing. i am hardcore anti-violence with films but there was soooo much mind blowing i can’t dis’ on it. oh Rabbit Proof Fence, you are so very underrated. heart wrenching! John Cameron Mitchell would be called my straight crush if he weren’t the pinnacle of queerness. i am madly in love with him. i have comments about at least 15 other films but must, you know, attend to clients like i get paid and impassioned to do!

    all in all, i am putting on my rental queue all the things i haven’t yet seen that appear on your list. you have exquisite taste in feminist film. i’m going to dig up my film list from my African and African American Women in Film class, and i will post it here!

    ps, i am not smart enough to have enjoyed masculin/feminin. not at all.

    • lagusta

      Yay! I should come clean about masculin/feminin though—really I just love the look of it. Particularly of Chantal Goya.

    • lagusta

      yeah, I sort of heard as much, actually…I guess I felt like I just should see it, you know? But maybe I’ll pass.

  6. Ulick

    No mention of the movie ‘Bound’ (1996) Written and Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. Much more than a ‘crime thriller’.

  7. cheap

    It’s still in rare cases possible to find laptops under $499 with Intel’s Core 2 Architecture or AMD Turion branding. Turning off these programs will make your laptop significantly faster.


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