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

7. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)

20th Century Women is a charmingly funny and nostalgic story about a teenage boy and the female influences around him. Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is no ordinary teenage boy; what makes him so special is the fact that he is raised not by one, but by three women. Living with his single mother as well as other house boarders, Jamie can’t helped but be influenced by the strong women around him.

Apart from his mother there is Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a struggling photographer, and Jamie’s best friend Julie (Elle Fanning), who are both given the serious responsibility of educating the young boy. All three, having quite messed up lives, are definitely not the perfect choices as the boy’s educators – but the one thing they do not lack is experience, as we realise when they teach Jamie about the essentials of women, sex and life itself.


6. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures doesn’t just deal with the topic of women, but it focuses on the injustice African-American women faced, particularly in the white and male dominated NASA.

Based on real people, Hidden Figures follows the intelligent Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) as with their brains they battle through the white patriarchal power, to become three memorable figures, particularly during the Space Race and the vital launch of John Glenn (Glen Powell) into the space orbit – an event that changed history both on a global level, but also on the personal level of African-American women’s rights.


5. Black Swan (Darren Aranofsky, 2010)

Black Swan (2010)

A film doesn’t have to be a drama or romance to ensure a female lead. This dark psychological-thriller produces two great female characters as well as brilliant female performances by Natalie Portman as Nina, who won the Oscar for best actress for this part, as well as Mila Kunis as her competitor Lily.

The movie is about ambition and determination, which causes the two protagonists to clash and develop a twisted friendship as they battle not over a man, but over the lead role in the ballet production “Swan Lake”. As the struggle continues, the women’s roles begin to change as Nina begins to discover a darker side to herself.


4. Blue is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

This French LGBT romantic drama is a delicate take on self exploration and social acceptance. After meeting the rebellious blue haired art student Emma (Lea Seydoux), Adele’s (Adele Exarchopoulos) life is turned around as she begins the journey to her self discovery through a romance encompassing young and passionate love.

The young student experiences the harshness of stumbling through the doors of adulthood as she goes through the process of discovering and establishing herself as a woman, both through gender and sexuality which causes her a lot of hardships and rejections. As the women themselves grow and mature, their relationship enters muddy waters as it suffers the immediate effect of their own change.


3. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)

Elle stirred a pool of controversy when it came out in 2016 in regards to the representation of the female protagonist Michele. But one thing is undeniable – the talent of Isabelle Huppert has no limits. Here she stars as an unstoppable and highly ambitious and successful leader of a company specialising in video games. After being raped by an unknown intruder in her own house, Michele takes matters into her own hands to find the identity of the villain.

As the truth is uncovered she begins a dangerous and twisted game of cat-and-mouse, without backing down even when her life is in danger. The movie brings to us a most complex and interesting female character whose unconventional actions, despite being questionable, can’t help but trigger a sense of admiration.


2. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)

Carol (2015)

Carol is an important tale of love and forbidden romance between two women. Set in the 1950’s Carol digs beneath the surface of the affair between young Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) and Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) as after their meeting the spark between them ignites a passionate journey as well as a series of complications for both women.

In Carol, not one but two women are the central figures, with both Mara and Blanchett giving outstanding performances in this emotional drama earning them both an Oscar nomination. Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy takes time to make sure the women are both complex and layered, helping us understand the difficulty of their position not just on a personal but also a social level, as we witness their suffering as well as the changes and impact the romance has on young Therese.


1. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)

The Clouds of Sils Maria

Clouds of Sils Maria unites an incredible female duo of Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, who despite the difference of being lead and supporting characters, create such an astounding on-screen chemistry by supporting each other and helping to build each other’s characters, making both Maria and Valentine equal of each other. Maria (Benoche) is a well established actress who travels together with her hard-working and dedicated personal assistant Valentine (Stewart).

Things take a turn when she is asked to play in a remake of the play that brought her to fame; but this time she would be playing the older woman rather than the young seductress. As the actress, along with Valentine take up a quiet house in the Alps to begin rehearsals and preparations for the part, Maria is brought to face herself in a way she had never done before.

Author Bio: Polina is an aesthete and cinephile, devoted to using the arts to revive “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” in hopes of loosening up the world by defying the unnecessary social restrictions. When taking time off her edgy crusade she can be found soaking in a bubble bath with a Dostoevsky novel.