I thought since March is Women's History Month, I would do a few posts to celebrate the amazing women in film, both real and fictional who have inspired me. This post will focus on featuring some of the great women found in movies. Especially considering all that came to light this past year about how women in the industry have been treated, hopefully, these posts will get you thinking and talking more about how women are considered both on and off screen. And make sure to check out my previous post about the Bechdel Test, to learn more about women's representation in film!
Movies have come quite a long way in the past few years in their representation of women, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. In most movies, women are still cast as just a love interest, the best friend, or a mother figure, and don't often get large backstories or parts to play in the narrative. But of course, there are quite a few who stand out as well. Women who take over the screen with their wit, intelligence, thoughtfulness, kindness, and confidence. So to celebrate these awesome fictional ladies, I have rounded up my top ten favorites for you, so you can check them out too! They are not in any particular order because let's be honest, there are enough lists ranking women out there, I don't need to do it here!
1. Hermione Granger - Harry Potter Series
Hermione is probably my all-time favorite fictional character, she is the definition of a strong female lead. When the series begins, Hermione comes across as a goody-two-shoes, know-it-all, which some people find annoying, but I found it made her extremely relatable. When you think about it, she is a teenage girl that is coming into a completely unknown world and school, where she will be seen as somewhat of an outsider. It would be natural for her to want to learn all that she can so that she doesn't seem behind all of the kids who grew up in the magical world. Instead of this trait making her annoying, I think it is refreshing that a young girl with insecurities uses her intelligence to overcome them instead of her looks. Over the series, Hermione develops and grows so much as a character. She becomes even more resourceful and learns how to use her skills to her advantage while coming off as a confident young woman instead of a know-it-all. As Ron even admits in the seventh film "We wouldn't last two days without her." And it is true, Harry may be the chosen one, but he definitely would not have succeeded without Hermione by his side.
Hermione also connects with me on a personal level. When I was younger I was a total bookworm and loved school and reading. Hermione made me proud to have these qualities, instead of wanting to hide them, as she proved that knowledge is one of the greatest tools we have. In fact, Emma Watson has often talked about how much playing Hermione has meant to her, as she viewed her to be an amazing role model for young women. She was once quoted saying "Hermione made it OK for girls to be the smartest in the room. To be a leader, the one with the plan," says Watson. "She's not just a role for me, she's a symbol. I am deeply proud to have played her."
2. Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games Series
The Hunger Games was one of the first movie series I remember watching and thinking wow, Katniss is such a badass woman lead. It is also one of the first extremely successful blockbuster series to star a woman and break box office records. And I'm sure that a lot of that can be contributed to Katniss, and how inspiring she is to all young people, not just girls. I think that everyone can relate to her love for her sister, and how she would risk everything for her. And the movie does an amazing job of showing that people of all ages can have a voice and fight for what they believe in. Katniss is literally the face of the rebellion because of her ability to make people feel for her. But she is also relatable in that it frightens her to have that much power, and she spends a lot of the series overcoming her fears of fighting for what she believes in. She is also extremely smart, clever, and amazing with a bow and arrow, and it is so great to be able to watch a woman in a movie that can fend for herself.
3. Diana Prince - Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is the first superhero film to have both a female lead and a female director. I believe that this fact definitely helped in the development of such a well written female lead, something that we still don't see often enough. Diana is a great character because even though she has superhuman abilities, she is still relatable in that she second guesses herself, falls in love, and suffers hard choices and loss. She spends a majority of the film saving everyone around her, and listening to her heart instead of letting people tell her what to do. It is so refreshing to be able to watch a movie where you wait for the girl to come in and save the day instead of a guy. She is an amazing example of a strong female lead for young girls to look up to.
4. Elle Woods - Legally Blonde
Just like Buffy came about to prove that the pretty blonde cheerleader could, in fact, kick butt, Elle Woods had to prove that a hott sorority girl could go to Harvard Law. What I love most about Elle is that no matter how many people tell her she can't do something or that she should give up, she has so much faith in herself that she never lets them stop her. I greatly admire her confidence and will to better herself. The fact that she begins the movie by only wanting to go to law school to get her boyfriend back, but ends the movie graduating valedictorian of her class is amazing. And despite those around her not always being nice to her, or putting her down, Elle handles most situations with grace and kindness. She is always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt or a second chance. She proves that women really can be the total package, without having to sacrifice what makes them unique.
5. Olive Pendergast - Easy A
When Easy A first came out, I thought it was just going to be another silly teen Rom-Com. But it was so clever and funny, it soon proved its self to be a classic coming of age story that I think all teenage girls should see. Olive is an amazing protagonist who doesn't care what other people think of her until she realizes she has gone too far in her antics. She is then given the rare ability to own up to her mistakes, but also not apologize for being who she is. I feel like a lot of women in movies that learn a lesson often end up having to change their ways or opinions, but Olive still sticks to her guns and only apologizes for the few things she knows she did wrong. She is a great example of a female lead who is able to make mistakes, and actually learn and grow from them.
6. Rapunzel - Tangled
While many people say that Frozen and Brave were some of the first examples of strong Disney princesses, I think Rapunzel was the one to lead the way to those characters. While Tangled may be a little bit more of a traditional Disney princess story, where a girl goes on an adventure and finds a prince, Rapunzel is not like a lot of the princesses that came before her. She has very distinct talents and character traits, such as being a gifted artist, a dreamer, adventurer, and above all finds the good in every situation. This is not something we see much from the princesses before her, they are usually judged by their beauty instead of abilities. She also experiences so much growth over the course of the film. By the end, she realizes her full potential and stands up to Mother Gothel in one of my favorite scenes in the film. And while yes, she does meet and fall in love with Flynn, in the end, she is the one who not only saves him but changes him. Too often in Disney films, we see the princess having to change or make sacrifices for their prince, but Rapunzel stays true to herself and convinces Flynn to be a better man, worthy of her love.
7. Shuri - Black Panther
I am in love with this character. If you have not seen Black Panther yet, go see it right now, I'll wait. If you have, then you too have experienced the amazing feeling of seeing someone like Shuri represented on screen. Not only is she a princess who is unbelievably intelligent and beautiful, but she is also the head of technology for Wakanda. How often do we see such young, capable women in scientific roles in a movie, where they also get to be in on the action and not just behind a desk? Not to mention that she is such a great representation of a woman of color, something we need more of on the big screen. She better be in all of the Black Panther sequels!
8. Annie Walker - Bridesmaids
I think that Annie might be one of the most relatable female characters I have seen so far in a movie. She has a dream of opening her own bakery which fails, causing her to take a job she doesn't like so she can pay her rent. She also has trouble finding and keeping a good relationship. But the most relatable thing about Annie is her relationship with Lillian. It is natural for people to feel upset when their best friend begins to become close to someone new, especially when you have been friends for so long. I think that the movie perfectly captures the idea of feeling stuck while watching your friends move on with their lives. And Annie is shown to not only go through this phase of her life, but overcome it, and realize what she is capable of.
9. Becca Mitchell - Pitch Perfect
If I am being honest, the first time I watched Pitch Perfect, I didn't really like Becca. She seemed like she was trying too hard to be different, and was just disagreeable about so many things, it made her very unlikable to me. But, as I watched the first movie again (many, many times), and saw her growth in the sequels, I slowly started to really love and admire her. She truly marches to the beat of her own drum and has dreams and goals that she works so hard to achieve. She is also shown to be extremely relatable in how she handles her relationships with the other girls, and her struggles to make her dreams a reality.
10. Dorthy Gale - The Wizard of Oz
Just like Lucy paved the way for women in television, so did Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz. The movie got a lot of attention in its day for being one of the first films to successfully use Technicolor, but I think it could also be said that it was one of the first to show a strong female lead. Dorthy never worries about finding a love interest or starting a family. She is simply a girl on an adventure trying to find her way home. And despite having three male companions, it is through her own desire, wit, and kindness that Dorthy finally makes it there. In fact, due to the main hero and villain both being women, the movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. I truly believe that Dorthy was one of the first great examples we had of a woman on screen.
And now I'd love to hear about your favorite ladies from the big screen! Make sure to let me know below which movie women inspire you, and why you love them.