If you’re anything like us, you’re probably going through some severe withdrawal since watching Wonder Woman. But never fear, we’ve found the perfect movies like Wonder Woman.
A female led superhero movie like Wonder Woman really has been a long time coming. And, if the various reports of women bursting into tears at their screenings are anything to go by, we could stand to see many, many more — beyond the already slated Captain Marvel and the almost-certain Wonder Woman sequel.
We’ve already run down some of the female led and directed movies that are upcoming for the rest of 2017. But while you’re waiting for those, we’ve got 10 more movies to tide you over and give you that same sense of empowerment you gained from Wonder Woman.
‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’
If you’re craving an action movie like Wonder Woman, then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a must see. Based on the fourth novel in the wuxia series, the Crane Iron Pentalogy, Crouching Tiger focuses heavily on the central female relationships between Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) and Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei) — with the latter also serving as the main antagonist.
And that is where Crouching Tiger truly shines — in its kickass female characters. Shu Lien and Mu Bai’s unrealized and restrained romance is both heart-wrenching yet tragically beautiful, as they put their duty and honor to their family and country above all else, and Jen Yu’s resistance to her prescribed place as a Governor’s daughter is a stunning defiance of a woman’s expected role in society. Jade Fox’s ultimate motivation and opposition to the central heroes is understandable and complex — as is her relationship with Jen Yu.
Crouching Tiger is more than just its stunning martial arts sequences and breathtaking scenery. It had powerful women at its heart, and will continue to stand the test of time.
‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
Though it may have a man’s name in its title, Mad Max is arguably the story of Imperator Furiosa and the wives of Immortan Joe, as they travel across the desert to escape him and his army. Furiosa was a revelation, when the film was released in 2015, and there has been consistent talk of a spinoff focusing solely on her and her story ever since.
It’s undeniable that Furiosa has a physical strength to her — which will undoubtedly appeal to those looking for action movies like Wonder Woman — that is both and inspiration and seriously kickass. However, the defiance of Immortan Joe’s wives, Capable, Cheedo, Toast, the Dag and The Splendid Angharad, as they reclaimed their bodies and lives from his rule was where the movie’s true power lay. Most especially now, in a political climate that continues to move in a direction where men control and regulate the health and well-being of women’s bodies.
Mad Max was an incredibly meaningful movie for women when it first hit the big screen, but has since taken on a whole other level of importance in the years since.
‘Mulan: Rise of a Warrior’
We’ve written extensively about Mulan: Rise of a Warrior on Hypable before, most especially with the live-action Disney reboot on the horizon, but leaving it off this list was unthinkable.
Mulan: Rise of a Warrior more closely follows the Chinese legend than the Disney animated adaptation, further fleshing out her meteoric rise within the army, in direct opposition to the expectations of women during that time. And whilst there is still something of a love story throughout, it is by no means the central driving force. Instead, Mulan’s duty to her family and China itself is where she draws her true strength.
Also, though Mulan is a formidable physical force, which once again will appeal to those looking for action movies like Wonder Woman, it is her cleverness that ensures the ultimate victory at the culmination of the film. It reminds us that physicality is not the sole prerequisite of a ‘strong female character.’
One of the triumphs of the 2016/17 movie season, and the highest-grossing Best Picture nominated film of the 2017 Academy Awards, Hidden Figures told the true story of the incredible women that were instrumental to NASA’s Project Mercury success during the Space Race.
Not only do the women of Hidden Figures have to overcome the barriers of their being women in a predominantly male field, but also the segregation of their race — scenes of their needing to use a separate coffee pot, and running to a different bathroom through torrential weather are particularly gut-wrenching. The constant moving of the goal posts for their successes, something that is a persistent issue to today, and their refusal to back down in the face of that adversity is an inspiration.
Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are no-nonsense, incredibly smart, and their story as told in Hidden Figures is an essential piece of American history — one that is far too often overlooked.
Though perhaps Brave doesn’t always come to mind immediately when you consider your favorite Pixar movie, the story of Merida and her mother overcoming their respective prejudices towards one another is still one that sits firmly in the female empowerment column.
Representing two very different facets of female strength, Queen Elinor and Merida clash over their expectations over how each should live their lives. Whilst Merida is wild, yearning for freedom and the ability to choose her own path in life, Elinor is gentile, feminine, but no less imposing or strong in the face of that. (Elinor’s ability to bring the Clan leaders to a halt with just her mere presence remains one of my favorite scenes.)
Brave is the tale of a mother and daughter learning to appreciate and compromise with each other, without losing what makes them who they truly are.
There’s a reason why Ellen Ripley has become a pop-culture icon for so many women. She’s smart, she’s capable, and she survives against insurmountable odds. Alien, and its subsequent franchise, has relied heavily on the strength of its central female character — though Ripley doesn’t take charge until 45 minutes into the film, following the tragic loss of the Captain of their ship.
Ripley is immediately outspoken, brash, and undeniably human. That she was the true star of Alien was almost unprecedented, in a year where other sci-fi genre films were all male led. And Alien endures, topping the list of favorite sci-fi fare year after year.
But though she was strong, Ripley still had her moments of vulnerability — a duality rarely afforded to female characters, especially in the ’70s. And so she remains a character that many gravitate towards, years later, in a landscape that is often lacking in women like Ripley.
Belle is something of an outlier on this list, a far gentler film than the other entries, though the titular character herself isn’t lacking in fire.
The movie is based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of the Earl of Mansfield’s nephew. Raised as a gentlewoman alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, is follows Dido as she navigates society as an heiress, during a time where black men and women were still kept at slaves.
Dido fights hard to change the opinion of her guardian, both of her position and those of the slaves, particularly in regard to the Zong massacre — an event that contributed to the abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. She rose up in defiance, in a time where men had significant control over the women in their lives — in respect to who they could marry, eat with, and where they could go. A message that we can still appreciate today.
‘Bend it like Beckham’
Sports based movies are almost exclusively dominated by men, so when Bend it like Beckham was released, it was like a breath of fresh air — particularly for me, as I was still actively pursuing soccer as a sport at the time.
The film follows Jesminder Kaur “Jess” Bhamra and Juliette “Jules” Paxton and their fast friendship via the sport they both love. Jess has to overcome both the cultural expectations of her Punjabi Sikh family, as well as the stereotypes of those around her. And though the girls share a romantic interest in their soccer coach, Joe, it doesn’t affect their friendship beyond an initial blip after Joe reciprocates Jess’ feelings.
Bend it like Beckham is a genuinely uplifting movie, that encourages women to persist in their dreams and passions, no matter what society tells them they should and shouldn’t be doing.
Legally Blonde is practically the epitome of not judging a book by its cover. Elle Woods is, to everyone, a stereotypical sorority girl. She’s underestimated and undermined at every turn. But, rather than allowing herself to be defeated, she consistently rises and surpasses everyone’s expectations.
Elle Woods is smart, determined, and unwilling to pit women against each other — including her love rival, who ultimately becomes one of her closest friends at Harvard. You can’t help but feel empowered after watching Legally Blonde, where kindness, loyalty and female friendship is the undeniably strength of the movie.
(And, really, who doesn’t aspire to be just a little like Elle in their own lives.)
In a culture where the first-born male in the family line is the only one that can become the next leader, Paikea “Pai” Apirana attempts to defy tradition and prove she can rise up to assume the role.
Fighting against the expectations of her tribe, and particularly her grandfather, Pai does everything expected of someone who can lead their people. From learning to use a taiaha, to recovering the rei puta — a whale tooth, and traditional sign of the rightful leader — she consistently defies the odds.
Pai remains determined, in a world dominated by men, to prove herself worthy of becoming a leader — even when it means going against tradition, and her family in order to do so. And, for anyone that might find themselves at odds with their own family — especially when it comes to expectations for their trajectory in life — Whale Rider serves as a powerful message that women are capable of anything.