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The 20 Best Movies of The 2010s That Feature Female Leads

30 May 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Polina Zelmanova

The Neon Demon

Last year ended with a huge sigh of relief as people experienced the joy of entering a new year and forgetting, or at least moving on from all the tragic events 2016 brought to the world. But even that cloud, as dark and grey as it was, had its silver lining – more specifically, one that illuminated and confirmed a brighter future for women’s roles in movies.

It is incredible to see how much women and their parts in films have grown and changed since the beginning of cinema, going from secondary roles and a male dependants to independent and powerful individuals with their own issues and problems not all of them being about the opposite gender.

Saying that, there is still a long way to go in order to achieve a fair male/female balance on screen, but particularly the past 6 years have seen a fantastic improvement of women’s roles and even women being the central topic of the film.

Last year alone saw a minimum of 5 percent rise of female protagonists compared to the figures of 2015, with films about women having a dominant position at the box office as well as the the Academy Awards. This shows that not only is there a market for women centred films, but there is also a positive and eager audience waiting for an even more diverse selection of films – so hopefully it can only go up from there.

So if you are looking for strong female characters and a talented female cast or simply want to add a diverse female spark into your watch-list, here is a list of 20 best movies of the 2010s that are about women.

 

20. Atomic Blonde (David Leitch, 2017)

One of the strong on-screen women brought to us this year is special agent Lorraine Boughton (played by Charlize Theron who after Mad Max:Fury Road is no stranger to ‘badass’ female characters) in Atomic Blonde – James Bond and John Wick blended into a perfect and deadly mixture, ready to take on any bad-guy that gets in her way. Set during the Cold War, Lorraine is sent undercover to Berlin on a secret and most dangerous mission.

The film is filled with intense and fantastically choreographed fights that are bound to leave you pumped . Despite the slight lack of character and relationship development, Atomic Blonde doesn’t fail to impress due to Leitch’s dedication to the action and Theron’s smooth moves, establishing a solid grounding for serious female-spy movies.

 

19. Suffragette (Sarah Gavron, 2015)

If any movie is about women, it has to be Suffragette. Based on the true historical events of the early 1900s, the film discusses the suffragette movement and the women’s fight for equality in a man-ruled society. The protagonist of the story is Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) who like many women sacrifices her family and previous life for the bigger cause, as she faces police violence, discrimination and bullying.

Lead by activist Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), the women put their personal lives aside and sacrifice themselves in history-changing events, creating strong and brave on-screen female characters, some of whom really existed and changed the lives of modern women.

 

18. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)

Certain Women

Based on a set of short stories, the film is made up of three different yet intersecting stories about very different women all living in Montana.

Beginning with a lawyer (Laura Dern) struggling with her distressed client who isn’t trusting her skills due to being a woman, following to another busy and hard-working woman, Gina (Michelle Williams) who is experiencing marital problems as she and her husband try to buy off sandstone for their new home, and ending with a subtly intense romance between ranch girl Jamie (Lily Gladstone) and a young lawyer (Kristen Stewart) with whom they begin to bond with after meeting during a night class teaching.

Apart from living in the same small town, what unites these women is their strength as they face off men, the sexist environment around them and the odds that life puts on their path.

 

17. The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)

the-love-witch

In the quirky feminist indie The Love Witch, Anna Biller pulls focus on female sexuality and power as she criticises the patriarchal society. Her protagonist is the breathtakingly beautiful Elaine (Samantha Robinson) who after being disappointed with the men in her life, as they fail to understand her, takes her love-life into her own hands by practising witchcraft and making potions and spells to get the romance from the men she wants.

But the potions are as overwhelming and as intense as the character herself, and when her men turn extremely obsessed and needy over-night Elaine finds a way to get rid of them. Biller uses the beautiful paste-coloured masterpiece to discuss our society’s views on women – particularly women who hold power.

 

16. The Help (Tate Taylor, 2011)

Jessica Chastain - The Help

The Help depicts the struggle as well as the solidarity of women of different races in the 1960’s, as they lay aside their prejudice and differences to stand up against a common social enemy. Upon returning home from college, Skeeter (Emma Stone) is an ambitious young writer trying to make a career in a man’s world.

As she searches for a topic to write about, she is placed right in the centre of the civil rights movement as she discovers an untold story – that of the African-American maids. As more and more stories emerge Skeeter struggles with the hardship of not just being a female writer, but with the danger of bringing her story into the light.

 

15. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Woody Allen is no stranger to female protagonists, despite the mostly regressive representations of his female types. Despite this, Blue Jasmine is a fantastic and convincing image of a woman’s fall after dealing with a nervous break-down that triggers a 180 degree change. The image is set with the appearance of Jasmine (brilliantly played by Cate Blanchett), as she rolls her Louis Vuitton suitcase up to a dodgy looking apartment in San Francisco – definitely not something she is used to.

After dealing with the imprisonment of her husband and a great loss of funds, Jasmine is pushed out into the wild but real world, being forced to crash at her sister’s and for the first time find a job. Blue Jasmine is a sad tale of madness that shows a woman’s suffering as she is pushed to her limits.

 

 

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  • Zwei

    lesbian actresses dress like lesbians and pretend to date men

  • Ricardo Correia

    Room? Zero Dark Thirty? Winter’s Bone? 45
    Years? Melancholia? We Need To Talk About Kevin? Poetry?

    • And yet, they put The Help? BOO!!!!

      • Ricardo Correia

        And even Hidden Figures

  • Vincenzo Politi

    Girlhood (Bande de files), a true masterpiece by Céline Sciamma.

  • Mortimer

    This is very solid list Polina; and thanks for having Carol so high on the list. But I agree that some of Ricardo Correia’s choices should have been included on the list.

  • Hal Jordan

    Gravity? Arrival?

  • Certain Women > 20th Century Women
    I’d bounce Elle, but keep Things To Come, a movie in which Huppert was actually better in.
    I’d include Tangerine if we’re including trans women (which I don’t see why not).
    Have an issue with some of the selections, but overall a good list

  • Afrikoka

    Love love love the love witch… The first three… meh.. Bored by two of them and I was entertained by Elle but not in a good way..