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…!
Dramatic Comedy Written and Directed by James L Brooks
This is a very sweet film about a poor emigrant Mexican mother named Flor Moreno (portrayed by Paz Vega) who has to work in the household of a wealthy chef named John (played by Adam Sandler). This film is part-narrated from the perspective of the daughter Cristina (played by Shelbie Bruce). During the time she comes to stay with her mom as she works as a housekeeper. John’s wife (played by Tea Leoni) the woman she works for begins to favor Christina (because she finds her more classically beautiful) and ignores her own daughter Bernice. Flor takes a stand against the mistreatment that John’s wife shows Bernice, while also fighting for her daughter to have pride in her Mexican culture. It’s a fascinating film about cross-cultural differences and mother-daughter relationships. Its also an highly underrated film and non-existent on most feminist film lists.
Drama. Written and Directed by John Cassavetes
The best Mums Day treat – this film is a wonderful addition to any top feminist film list. Gena Rowlands plays a gangster name Gloria who witnesses a mob hit on a family on her apartment floor. The only surviving member (and witness to the hit) is a young Jewish-Puerto Rican kid named Phil (played by John Adames). This young kid wins Gloria’s heart (and ours too), while she fights for the death to protect a child that’s not hers. A great film that shows strong mothers come with all kinds of backgrounds (and guns).
49.Norma Rae, 1979
Norma Rae is a classic labour centred feminist film which is an essential centerpiece to any top feminist film list. Though unionizing is the overwhelming theme of the film – the identities of working class women and their everyday lives is skillfully and delicately presented throughout the film. This film won Sally Fields a Best Actress Academy Award and in 2011 was selected to be included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
A comedy, but a mainstay on any top feminist film list. Under a tyrannical misogynist boss, three women take their company back, implementing mother friendly and women friendly working environments. It doesn’t do justice to simply describe it – but know its number 74 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest Movies of all time (and rightly so).
47. I, The Worst of All orYo, la peor de todas, 1990
Drama. Directed by Maria Luisa Bemberg. Written by Maria Luisa Bemberg and Antonio Larreta (adapted from the novel by Octavio Paz.
Based on the life of Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648-1695) who has been heralded by many as the first great Latin American poet. The film, a very poignant and tragic tale about the Sister’s life (portrayed by Assumpta Serna) at the mercy of a misogynistic Archbishop who some believe is using his hatred of women to hide his powerful lust for them. Sister Juana’s poetry comes under attack and her friendship with a wealthy politician’s wife enables her to further her work. Some of Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz’ poetry:
I am not who you think I am.
But you have given me
Another being with your pens
Another breath through your lips
And unlike my own self
I wander among your poems
Not as I really am
But as you want me to be.
A must see.
46.Born in Flames, 1983
Documentary Style Sci-Fi: Directed by Lizzie Borden and Written by Ed Bowes.
A fascinating Black Feminist film set in the future of Socialist America, it tackles race, class, sexuality and misogyny. One to watch, as it highlights issues of Women’s Equality and Empowerment. In 1983, the film won the Reader Jury prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival.
45.Within Our Gates,1920
Silent Drama. Written and Directed by Oscar Micheaux
(clip with music)
An early independent film. This is a fascinating take on race relations and the Black women who fought for equality not just for themselves, but for their communities. A film importantly cited as the response to Birth of a Nation, we follow Sylvia Landry (portrayed by Evelyn Preer), a young African-American woman raising money for a schoolhouse in the deep South (where lynchings are rife). A must see – rent it from your local library, well worth it. Also, Oscar Micheaux is considered the first African American director of our time.
44. American Violet,
Drama. Directed by Tim Disney and Written and Produced by Bill Haney.
An example of how low-budget films can make a huge impact, American Violet tells the story of Regina Kelly, a woman unfairly targeted by Texas anti-drugs laws who spent 21 days in prison based on the false testimony of an informant. Kelly was ostensibly to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. This ‘sweep’ did not truly have as it’s objective the ridding of drugs in the community. To the contrary, it was a way to have poor Black people plead guilty to felonies, thereby losing their citizenship rights (such as the right to vote or the right to public housing) and so States could gain funding for increasing their number of prosecutions (a practice still in place in 2012). Regina fought back – and we see the toll not only it took on her, but her entire family. A powerful film that must be seen by all feminists interested in women’s civil and human rights. . Nicole Beharie as Regina does an outstanding job – Oscar worthy if the Academy looked at films like this. In the wake of Marissa Alexander’s unfair sentencing, it wouldn’t be at all appropriate for a top feminist film list to miss out on American Violet.
Domestic Drama. Directed by Richard Benjamin. Adapted to screenplay by June Roberts from Patty Dann’s book.
Mermaids is a wholesome film about mother-daughter dynamics. Set in the 1950s, this film shows the ups and downs of mother daughter relationships, and the ability to transcend differences. Narrated by a 15-year-old Charlotte Flax (Winona Ryder) whose mother (portrayed by Cher) is eccentric in a variety of ways. Her mother, whom Charlotte calls Mrs Flax and her sister Kate recently move to a new city, and Charlotte finds it difficult to fit in. It’s not long before she discovers she has more in common with her mother than she thinks. Charlotte feels she’s not as important to her mother as men – only to find that the life her mother lives is for her daughters and no one else. A great film.
Pam Grier is undoubtedly the best action-heroine of all time. In this film, an homage to the Blaxploitation film genre, Jackie Brown is in over her head with gun smuggler Ordell Robbie. She has to figure out how to out-wit the cops and out-wit her nemesis and partner in crime, Ordell – which is not an easy feat. Jackie Brown is cool, sophisticated and completely independent. Though an over-the-top plot line, it’s a rambunctious film and a great example of a working-class woman who isn’t being led by anyone – but herself.