I’ll be the first to admit that my taste in movies can be pretty bleak: I’ve been known to cuddle up with popcorn and a Coke ICEE with a tear-jerking period piece in the background, on more than one occasion. But, something about this final stretch of summer has me thinking now’s the time to step away from a repeat screening of Blue Valentine followed by Atonement and tune into the feel-good feminist movies that better align with the season.
There’s a lot on offer, if you’re interested in something new—although I’m mixing in a few old classics as well. My criteria here wasn’t too strict—so long as each movie elevates female voices and imbues a sense of possibility in the viewer, it’s a candidate. Passing the Bechdel test helps, too.
Crystal Moselle’s new film, which opens in theaters this month, follows an introverted suburban teen as she links up with an all-girl skateboarding crew in New York City. It’s a story of friendship and self-discovery punctuated by powerhouse women landing kickflips and ollies—the perfect coming-of-age tale for Gen Z.
In case you missed last summer’s blockbuster comedy, or just need a good laugh, add Girls Trip to your watch list ASAP. This R-rated film lands in New Orleans during the Essence Festival, as four lifelong friends (played by Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinkett Smith) reunite for an epic, unforgettable weekend. Hilarity, of course, ensues, but what gets me every time is the way these women rely on their deep-rooted sisterhood to overcome it all.
A League Of Their Own
See. This is why I had to throw in a few nostalgic gems. This ’90s classic chronicles the all-female baseball league that sprung up in the wake of World War II. Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Geena Davis are some of the power players who make it to the World Series in this charming, fictionalized take on the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that existed in the ’40s and ’50s.
Bo Burnham’s new project is a rare on-screen attempt to show the awkwardness of adolescence in the digital age. Thirteen-year-old Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher, not only grapples with how isolating social media can be, but learns that her own self-confidence—not approval from boys—is her ticket to making friends. Make way for this fresh-faced youngster who’s poised to become a role model for a generation (we hope).
Sofia Coppola’s Civil War-era drama follows what happens when a wounded enemy soldier shows up at an all-girls boarding school in the south. While tensions and rivalries come up during the course of the film, a wicked plot twist unites the women for a triumphant ending that we will not give away here.
In a refreshing departure from previous Disney princess films, this one gives us a heroine without a love interest. It shouldn’t be as groundbreaking as it is, but alas. Moana tracks our 16-year-old hero as she sets out on a dangerous mission to save her people, finding herself in the most inspiring ways in the process.
RBG gives us an intimate look at the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently hit her 25-year mark serving on the bench. By our estimation, this female produced and directed film is a strong contender for documentary of the year. It’s as much a history lesson on gender equality as it is an eye-opening look at how an underestimated woman rose to the top. In case you miss this awe-inspiring story on the big screen, CNN will premiere the doc Labor Day weekend for TV viewers.
Greta Gerwig’s critical darling offers us the story of a fiercely opinionated mother-daughter duo simply trying to maintain their relationship through the daughter’s tumultuous senior year of high school. Equal parts sentimental and amusing, the movie delivers strong-willed women you can’t help but root for.
Dee Rees’ (Mudbound, Empire) debut feature film from 2011 zooms in on an urban, black family living in Brooklyn. Seventeen-year-old Alike is the central character, who we see slowly embracing her sexual identity as a lesbian and grappling with the decision to come out to her parents. This film will likely bring up some tough emotions for many, but it’s worth it: Alike’s unwavering strength makes Pariah one of the top feminist movies of the past decade.
The Love Witch
This horror comedy found an immediate cult following upon its 2016 release. The story follows a young, beautiful witch who uses potions to seduce men, but the plot takes a deadly turn when her magic works a bit too well. Thanks to gloriously retro visuals that evoke the romance of the ’60s and ’70s, and a prescient deep dive into all things mystical, this exploration of fantasy and desire is unmissable.