Compiled By Kamaria Muntu, Editor and
Malkia Charlee NoCry, Feminist Philosophy Editor
Femficātiō is counting down the Top 101 Feminist films all women (and men) must see. In our view, these films best reflect the landscape of women’s identity, experience and place in the world today.
We will be giving you 10 a day every day until we reach number one!
Here we go…!
91. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, 1975
Drama (French Language) Written and Directed by Chantal Akerman
This is not for the faint of heart. A fascinating film surrounding a woman dictated by routine – practically without name, (we only know her to be Jeanne) from a letter she writes to her son. The woman unravels, unexpectedly and violently. A film demonstrating how women take on burdens greater than they can bare – prostitution and dutiful service to others, only to find they are erasing themselves.
This film often finds its way to top feminist film lists. Klute follows the tale of a call-girl who finds she is the object of a stalker.
A suspense thriller, this film is not only engaging but portrays an intelligent woman who has devised her own strategy for survival, independent of societal mores. Jane Fonda won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the film was nominated for best script-writing and screenplay.
Another mainstay to top feminist film lists, this film based on Noël Coward’s one-act play Still Life (1936) is yet a compelling watch. Whether or not a woman should risk shedding the conventional in favour of passionate existence is a timeless dilemma. Women to varying degrees live lives in which adherence to convention prevents them from making choices that seem risky or unlikely. In the 1930’s, this very steady and controlled woman has made decisions based on what made sense for the times. Now we root for her to jettison the mundane and embark upon the exciting.
88. Silkwood 1983
Drama Directed by Mike Nichols and Written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen
This film inspired by the true events surrounding the eventual disappearance of Karen Silkwood who mysteriously vanished driving to meet with a reporter to whistle-blow on the safety conditions at Kerr-McGee the plutonium plant where she was employed. The courage of this determined woman was expertly brought into focus by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. A truth revealing film, highlighting the ordeal of a working class woman fighting for her right to work in safety and dignity.
87. Sugar Cane Alley 1983
Drama Written and Directed by Euzhan Palcy
Sugar Cane Alley (La Rue Cases-Nègres) is a Martiniquan film based on the semi- autobiographical novel by Joseph Zobel of the same name. The protagonist Jose and his grandmother leave the tenement where they live when Jose is accepted into an affluent school. The grandmother takes on the role of a laundress in an upper-class white household as Jose navigates the city and his racist surroundings. His grandmother has a heart-attack, and Jose is left to maneuver the world, armed with the teachings of his society. Femficatio loves this film, because although not woman central, the sacrifice of a woman for her grandson plays a pivotal role – as the grandmother’s death was the catalyst for defining this young man and his coming of age. Witnessing her mistreatment by the elite white class of Martinique to ensure his future, changed his outlook on the world. The film swept the César Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Award in France), and won two other awards, including the Silver Lion, at Mostra the Venice Film Festival. The actress who played his Grandmother, the then 76 year old Darling Légitimus, won the Prize of Best Actress (Gold Lion).
86. Breaking and Entering, 2006
Romantic Drama Written and Directed by Anthony Minghella
This simple film was set in Kings Cross, London during gentrification. Jude Law plays Will Faris, a young English architect who is being burgled in his Kings Cross offices nearly nightly. Amira played by Juliette Binoche, portrays a Bosnian refugee who does odd tailoring jobs on the side. These two people will do anything for their troubled teens, and because of their mutual frustration over feeling helpless as parents, they form a happenstance relationship. The only problem, Will is married. Amira’s son turns out to be the one robbing his architecture firm, and because of this they part, choosing the welfare of their children over any sort of romance. This film’s honest portrayal of an immigrant woman’s uncertainty with a younger affluent English man and her dedication to what is most dear to her is an updated take on Brief Encounter with the added dimension of inquiries into class and ethnicity in women’s relationships. A truly underrated film.
85. Nuts, 1983
Drama Directed by Martin Ritt and Written by Tom Topor, Darryl Ponicsan, Alvin Sargent
Based on Tom Topor’s 1979 play also entitled “Nuts”. This psychological drama shows that the factors leading to a life of prostitution are sometimes more sinister than the ill-effects that occur during the “game”. When upper middle-class call girl Claudia Draiper (played by Barbara Streisand) kills a client, her parents in-effect declare her “nuts”, warehousing her in a mental institution. But Claudia knows she’s not crazy, and fights to be declared sane enough to stand trial. Another film that speaks to the conspiracy of silence around why women really go “nuts.”
84. The Long Walk Home, 1990
Drama Directed by Richard Pearce and Written by John Cork
The Long Walk Home is usually absent from feminist film lists. The relationship between Miriam (played by Sissy Spacek) and Odessa (Whoopi Goldberg) is that of mistress and servant, and some may tire of Miriam’s slightly parternalistic dilemma as to whether she should assist Odessa in her Bus Boycott that has further (if that is even possible) polarised the Montgomery, Alabama town. The two are women seeking normalcy and connection, even though the segregated American landscape prevents this. During the course of the film, both women grow in their understanding, not simply of each other, but the larger implications of remaining silent in the wake of racist and sexist oppression.
83. Something New, 2006
Romantic Comedy Directed by Sanaa Hamri and Written by Kriss Turner
This comedy/drama directed by Morroccan born Sanaa Hamri and written by Hawaiian born African American Kriss Turner is a lighthearted and touching look at the dynamics of interracial relationships in African American upper middle class culture. What makes this so refreshing is that protagonist Kenya McQueen, portrayed by Sanaa Lathan, isn’t running from anything when she enters this relationship (set up via a blind date) with Brian Kelly (Simon Baker), landscape artist and architect. It isn’t a reaction to stereotypes of chronic singledom of successful African American women in search of successful African American men, (to the contrary, many would pick Blair Underwood over Simon Baker), but the fact that she wanted to be free from the pressure of living up to the Black upwardly mobile status quo, and her upper class background render her a heroine in search of liberation. Kenya is a whole being, negotiating the outlaw bounds of an interracial affair just facilitates the fun.
82. Iris, 2001
Biopic Directed by Richard Eyre and Written by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood, based on the book “Elegy for Iris” by John Bayley
The Irish born author and philosopher Iris Murdoch is best known for her scathing and insightful looks into sexuality, morality and the unconscious. Yet in this beautifully filmed movie, we see an Iris who influenced the best aspects of her husband John – go from vibrant genius to a debilitating demise from Alzheimer’s disease. The loving and frustrated John becomes her full-time carer. The beautiful, mournful and detailed book, “Elegy to Iris” should be read.
It is the intimate look at an aging artist and academician and what it actually means to have an equally loving relationship that makes this such a great feminist film. We often see women sacrificing to maintain the dignity of great men, but in this gender reversal we don’t think of it quite that way – we think of it as unconditional love. What feminism is all about.