Up until recently, there weren’t too many cinematic creations with fearless, strong women at the helm. Instead, we get the damsel in distress stereotypes, or movies that obsess over whether a man approves of them or not. Here are our top picks for movies with powerful female leads that make us proud to be women, and eternally inspire us as role models.
1. The Incredible Jessica James
This hilarious blend of comedy and romance is about a playwright struggling in her career and breakup. In the process, she falls for an app designer who happens to be divorced. It’s quirky but still relatable, and featuring the ever-charming ex Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams.
Nothing warms our heart like seeing young, empowered feminists. Back when some of us were in high school, this strong female sensibility wasn’t exactly advertised or encouraged. Moxie follows the journey of a teenage girl who is sick of the toxic, outdated mentality at her school and starts a feminist ‘zine to fight it.
3. Ocean’s 8
A much-needed all-girl remake of the famous Oceans 11 franchise, this diamond heist film is absolutely studded with your favorite actresses, from Mindy Kaling and Cate Blanchett to Sandra Bullock and Anne Hathaway. There’s even an appearance from Rihanna.
4. Step Sisters
Step Sisters is a Netflix comedy circling a powerful female dance captain and sorority president with her eyes on Harvard. She ends up helping her arch nemesis, members from a rival sorority, in a step dancing competition that ends up uniting women rather than dividing them over competition.
5. Enola Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is great and all, but haven’t you ever wondered about his badass sister? Enola Holmes is played by the talented Millie Bobby Brown, aka Eleven from Stranger Things. On Enola’s 16th birthday, her mysterious mother goes missing. Although her brothers attempt to send her to finishing school, she escapes to London in her first detective mission: to find mom.
6. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Some people dismiss this series as a boy-crazy coming of age story, but it’s so much more than that. This show, based on a best-selling novel, explores the idea of losing a family member, complicated sibling relationships, and your bestie being there through all the highs and lows. Also, the love interest is a total hunk, which helps.
7. Someone Great
Honestly, we’ll watch anything with Gina Rodriguez from Jane the Virgin. This is a bittersweet comedy about Jenny, who wants to be a music journalist. When she gets the opportunity of a lifetime in San Francisco, her BF of almost a decade dumps her. Her homegirls are left to pick up the pieces in her final weekend in NYC, and they do more than deliver.
These BFFs warm our hearts and make us seriously nostalgic for our high school besties. They play seniors navigating the last couple of weeks of school while they all deal with various kinds of stress, love, and loss right before the big dive into college.
Being a mom can be a thankless job at times, and no one knows that better than these four women. All titans in the acting industry, these three suburban moms, played by Felicity Huffman, Angela Bassett, and Patricia Arquette, who all arrive in the homes of their adult sons living in NYC — without warning.
10. Sierra Burgess is a Loser
Looks aren’t everything in high school, and beauty comes in all forms. These are only a couple of the lessons served up in Sierra Burgess, which is about a young girl trying to win over her crush. The only twist? Her partner in crime is the hottest popular girl in school who used to bully her. Still, the focus of this movie isn’t the romance — it’s the love story between two unexpected best friends.
11. Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich is one of the few films from back in the day that actually prioritized having a strong woman as the protagonist. Based on a true story, Erin Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts, is a fearless mother who has been divorced twice, and doesn’t know the word no. She gets a job as a lawyer and on an environmental case no one can crack, she refuses to give up.
12. Nappily Ever After
Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan) is a woman who’s been imprisoned by straight hair and trying to behave the way society wants her to. After her love life hits a bump, she gives herself a total makeover, reinventing herself as a bald queen on a true search for her authentic identity, and what really matters in life.
Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald are an unlikely duo in this coming of age comedy about an unforgettable pageant mother and daughter duo. When young lady Willowdean decides to enlist in a local beauty pageant run by her former beauty queen mom, drama (and laughs) follow, with an empowering result.
14. What Men Want
Taraji P Henson has never failed us, and What Men Want is no exception. In a remix on the Mel Gibson classic What Women Want, where he develops telepathic skills — for women only. Here, Taraji is a sports agent who gains the ability to hear what men are thinking, and she uses it to level up in the workforce.