Men have long been Hollywood heroes with roles like James Bond, Batman and Indiana Jones. Women were seen in those films too, but often as a sidekick that, well, rarely took the reins. The lack of powerful female roles is no secret. Women only accounted for 24 percent of protagonists in 2017’s top-grossing films, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Nevertheless, in the midst of inequality, there have been certain women whose stories—whether fiction or nonfiction—prove why we need to see more females front and center.
It’s Time for a Woman to Direct Star Wars
He Named Me Malala
Malala Yousafzai was only a child when she became an international symbol of change. The 2015 documentary, He Named Me Malala, tells the story of the young Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for fighting for girls’ education. “There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up,” said Yousafzai, who at 17 became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Uma Thurman is unstoppable as the Bride in the popular Kill Bill series. The three films laugh at male dominance and make it clear that heroes come in all forms. Kill Bill also impressed in the box office with the first film bringing in $22.7 million in its opening weekend in 2003. The second brought in $25.6 million during its opening weekend the following year.
Get inspired to make your dreams come true. Based on Long Island’s inventor/entrepreneur Joy Mangano, this film tells the story of a woman from humble beginnings who went on to build a business empire. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, and she received an Oscar nomination for the powerful role in 2016.
Martial arts aren’t only for men, and The Assassin proves just that. Qi Shu plays Nie Yinniang, a fierce woman who goes on a mission to kill a political leader in eighth-century China.
Based on a bizarre true crime from the 1920s, Changeling tells the story of a mother on the hunt for her missing 9-year-old son. She goes against the Los Angeles Police Department which insists a boy from Illinois is her lost son. Angelina Jolie was nominated for an Oscar for her role as desperate mother Christine Collins.
A film that plays on double standards, The Contender follows the attempt to take down a woman who may become U.S. Vice President. Joan Allen stars as Laine Hanson, the politician whose past is coming back to haunt her. The film has a few famous quotes including this one from Laine: “My church is this very chapel of democracy that we sit in together and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain and this church.”
Million Dollar Baby
A film about determination and breaking boundaries, Million Dollar Baby follows a woman who will stop at nothing to become a professional boxer. Hilary Swank won an Oscar in 2005 for her role as the inspiring Maggie Fitzgerald.
The film about the inimitable Mexican painter came to the screen in 2002. Starring Salma Hayek as the title character, the film goes behind all the glamour to showcase one of the most intriguing figures of all time.
A film every aspiring journalist should see, Veronica Guerin follows the true story of an Irish journalist who refused to let threats stop her from doing her job. Cate Blanchett stars as the title character who reported on crime including drug dealers. She was fatally shot in 1996.