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…!
If any movie proves why you shouldn’t be desperate for a man, this one does. Bette Midler and Shelly Long play two aspiring actresses – Sandy Brozinsky (Midler) fresh from her role in a porno sounding B-movie and Lauren Ames (Long) who is overly trained and lacks any real acting experience. When the two find out they’re dating the same man – well, to put it this way, by the end of the movie they both swore off men forever!
In 1996 this film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and rightly so. As Marleen Gorris is a radical lesbian feminist, you know you’re going to get a true treat at the cinema. And this unique film is both visually captivating and an emotional tour de force. This film shows how Antonia (Willeke van Ammelrooy) establishes a close-knit familial matriarchy while taking over the family farm and raising a long line of women after WW2.
A tale about religion and ideas of purity in 1960’s Ireland, we follow three young women who for various reasons are considered ‘sinners’, as they are sent to Magdalene Asylum to repent through hard work and modesty. Aside from the ‘sins’ they were accused of (rape, teenage pregnancy and flirtation) being constructs of patriarchy; the women who run the Asylum treats them as prisoners, and further degrades and assaults the girls. A sad but triumphant tale that’s an absolute must see.
Though Imitation of Life is generally considered a film that centers more around friendship, racial passing, identity and one not being comfortable in one’s image; the time period for which it was filmed make it a truly poignant addition to any top feminist film list. To better explain: How remarkable is it, to have a film in 1934 that shows two women, a Black woman and a White woman, both divorcees, go into business together, and thus share the burden of raising their children? We have progressed much since then in terms of stereotyping and ideas about racial identity, but it’s still an essential film.
An unnamed Irish scientist discovers her English husband is having an affair with her best-friend. She then meets a Lebanese Muslim chef who seduces her and they begin a passionate affair. They discover so much about each other; her telling him of her childhood in Belfast, being raised by her Marxist aunt and he telling her of his time as a surgeon in Beirut in war-time. Spoken in iambic pentameter, this is a great film showing a truly equal relationship.
This is one of my personal favourite thrillers. A 14-year-old girl chats up an upper middle class man on the internet, promising to meet him so they can get to know each other better. When she arrives though, she had other things on her mind… and it wasn’t to be seduced by an older man. An example of good indie film-making, a popcorn muncher and edge of your seat feminist film.
35. Shirley Valentine, 1989
Romantic Comedy-Drama. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. Written by Willy Russell based on his 1986 one-character play of the same name.
I love Liverpool and I love this film! When a 42-year-old Liverpudlian housewife discovers that she is about as consequential to her family as a kitchen towel, she ups and moves to Greece. Recounting her life, she realises there’s a lot of adventure she’s missed, and its time to seize the day. She falls in love, finds a job, and discovers who Shirley really is – a person with hopes, dreams and desires that were for far too long bottled away. A fun film, and a classic.
34. Daughters of the Dust, 1991
Domestic Drama. Written and Directed by Julie Dash.
A visually rapturous film, Daughters of the Dust follows the Sea Island Gullah culture of South Carolina. The film is set in 1902 and follows the lives of the Peazant Family who live in Ibo Landing. The family, who are a creolised mixture of West Africans brought as slaves during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are preparing to leave South Carolina for the North. The film, narrated by an unborn baby girl is a fascinating look at an aspect of Black women’s lives that is too often ignored. A seminal film, which was added to the National Film Archive in 2004.
33. For Colored Girls, 2010
Drama. Written and Directed by Tyler Perry (adapted from Ntozake Shange’s 1975 stage play of the same name).
A skeptic before I saw it. The writer of “Madea” plays re-making For Colored Girls? Impossible. We were happily wrong. This film, though largely underrated (perhaps because of the media’s displeasure for the Director) is one of the most beautiful filmed, acted and interpreted presentations of Shange’s choreo-poem. Brilliantly, background stories were nicely weaved and made contemporary in this film that maintained the poetry and language of Shange’s play. The rhythmic pacing was intense and very emotional without being melodramatic, highlighting the depth of the original play. Very much a must see – particularly as some critics wrongly lambasted the film.
32. Passion Fish, 1992
Drama. Written and Directed by John Sayles.
Great independent film making. They screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award and it deserved it. When a New York daytime soap opera actress (Mary McDonnell) is left paralyzed after an accident, she retires and returns to her family home, depressed, despondent and eventually becomes an alcoholic. After running off a string of nurses with her erratic behaviour, Chantelle (Alfre Woddard) sticks around, as she has far more problems than an ingrate patient. They soon develop a close bond, that saves both of their lives. A really interesting and layered film – a must watch!