I am writing this list because every one of these actresses is young, cis white and able-bodied. Blue Jasmine is a Woody Allen film. ScarJo is a robot in Her. And Spring Breakers is about white people behaving badly. We can do better.
My list is meant to be more subversive and not restricted to those released in 2013. Each film has influenced my feminist lens in some distinct, lingering way. I encourage you to use more stringent Bechdel Test standards for these films as well. Self-reflection never ends.
*this list is heavily-laden with white movies. this list is ever-expanding.
**also i may not have remembered each and every trigger warning. please, tread with caution.
Lemon Tree– visually and poetically discusses Israeli apartheid.
The East– dip your big toe into the conspiracies of capitalism, through the lens of eco’terrorism.’ i don’t use the word ‘terrorism’ because it’s not race-neutral.
The Secrets– secret lesbian feminists in orthodox Judaism.
Thin– documentary about women in treatment for eating disorders.
North Country– sexism in the workplace. the landmark case that changed sexual harassment law.
Beautiful Creatures– women are powerful and dangerous. watch if you appreciate twilight spin offs.
Sin Nombre– you thought your life was hard? illegal immigration is hard. resisting gangs and cartels is hard.
The Burning Plain– cheating isn’t always cheating. there is always a gray area. find comfort in ambiguity.
Winter’s Bone– see jlaw carry an entire movie on her shoulders alone. then standing ovation.
Haywire– watch a real mma fighter be the baddest badass assassin, never get threatened with rape, be fully clothed, and do all her own fight scenes. her acting could use some work, but the precedence of it all is undeniable.
Drinking Buddies– find comfort in the space between definitions and labels. boys and girls can be friends.
Walk the Line– johnny cash’s music is really great. watch the scene in folsom prison and remind yourself what goosebumps feel like. fun fact: joaquin and reese sang all their own covers.
Kinsey– how can anyone claim to study sex and never see this movie? i wonder if we’ll all end up as sexually liberal as these sexologists.
Corinna, Corinna– ever had a movie make you feel so warm inside and then you learned about the magical negro trope? *somewhere, a bubble pops*
Steel Magnolias– do you have a beating heart? then you should probably have seen this. note: there is a white and black version.
The Central Park Five– oh the police closed the case because there was a confession? that literally means nothing anymore.
Any Day Now– homophobia is a form of structural violence. the legal system fails families and children every day.
The Hairdresser– one can be fat while being fabulous, clever, resilient, creative, or beautiful inside and out. this trailer was in german and i could not find one with subtitles. but you can find the movie on netflix instant with english subtitles.
About Cherry– the friendzone is not real. the myth of female agency. the complexities of sex work. tw: lesbian rape scene.
Chicken with Plums– pure poetry set in tehran. same writers and director of persepolis.
Liberal Arts– patriarchy makes it super easy for young women to find older men attractive. older dudes are slimey/lazy when they use their status and power to sleep with subordinate or younger women. men are capable of self-evaluation and can selectively choose when not to self-evaluate/privilege-check. these sentences are not ageist and if you want to know why then google it yourself. see also: why reverse racism is not real.
The Inconvenient Truth Behind ‘Waiting for Superman’– don’t even watch the deliberately non-comprehensive ‘waiting for superman’ on netflix instant. it’s anti-union and anti-teacher and anti-student, really. this direct reply is enough to understand why the american education system does not function properly. the link will take you to the full movie because it has been purposefully made freely available online.
Sound of My Voice– cult psychology.
Seven Psychopaths– doesn’t pass the bechdel test, but it’s meta.
Bully– don’t ever tell me that bullying is something that kids need to go through in order to toughen up. “If we actually started calling bullying what it is and address it as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat phobia, and classism, it would actually give children a better way to deal with the very same power dynamics they will face as adults, while also giving adults more responsibility to challenge the intolerance that is rooted within our society overall. –Amanda Levitt of Fat Body Politics“
Hot Coffee– documentary on why torte reform is a sham. corporate lawyering is a sham. capitalism and money in politics are not separate things.
For a Good Time, Call…– it’s my personal mission to make this a cult classic. spreading girl love one movie at a time. do i even have to tell you nia vardalos is in it (my big fat greek wedding, i hate valentine’s day)?
Bad Education– catholic child rapists do not cause children to be gay. abuse can cause issues with sexuality, but this is often conflated.
Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene– cult psychology. what happens to your mind after leaving an abusive relationship.
The Women– have you ever seen a movie without a single man in it? no, i mean not even the extras.
Butter– a discussion on american exceptionalism, nationalism, and race (with a dollop of humor)
The Birdcage– blurring the lines between gender, sexual orientation, and family
Monster– the ‘serial killer’ Aileen Wuornos, a former sex worker, was executed in florida in 2002 for killing six men. you can be sure she would be alive if she had better legal representation. women criminals receive harsher sentences than men. this will instantly make you an andrea dworkin anti-sex industry convert. all/most sex work is rape.
The Magdalene Sisters– the sad history of the women who were sent to work in the Magdalene Laundries. the irish are pretty good at misogyny too.
Vera Drake– there will always be a value in underground abortion networks.
The Cider House Rules– abortion is a necessary medical procedure, race and white male privilege.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days– never forget that women die from botched abortions every day in places where it is illegal and unregulated. romanian is a beautiful language.
Where the Heart Is– poor single women are a vulnerable population and often re-victimized when people take advantage of them.
The Runaways– joan jett was a badass.
A Separation– muslim women come in a rainbow of agency. hijab (or any religious veil) does not equate oppression.
Mystic Pizza– privilege is relative.
Southern Comfort– trans*poverty is a symptom of structural violence, not a choice. transphobia is systemic and evident in the expensive, yet plausibly-deniable and sloppy top and bottom surgery scars shown in the film. being trans* does not reinforce the gender binary, just like being a poc does not reinforce racism.
Where Do We Go Now?– if you can’t respect ‘sluts’, you can’t respect women. there are many ways to end conflict. lebanese muslim and christian communities coexist without outside intervention. do some side research on liberia’s sex strike in 2003.
Working Girl– brilliance comes in many packages. plus joan cusack and sigourney weaver.
Blue Like Jazz– you’ll never know what you stand for if you don’t test it.
The Lives of Others– change is usually happening in a conversation that hovers below the mainstream and those in non-conforming professions are often the ones having those conversations. resistance is everything and it is infectious. #MUSTWATCH
Higher Ground– the friction between liberation and religiosity.
Tootsie– that time dustin hoffman had to dress up like a woman to understand sexism. as much as i love him, can we stop patting him on the back now?
Cracks– i still think about this movie. trigger warning: woman on woman rape
A League of Their Own– intro level feminism introduction. also you’ll wish they had a less paternalizing, more female coach. plus geena davis, madonna, and rosie o’donnell.
Pariah– qtpoc need a seat at the table every time.
Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor– tyler perry punishes lose women by giving them STIs. underappreciated men have hearts of gold. and vanessa williams’ french accent is so bad it’s criminal. kim kardashian is mesmerizing, as usual.
The Whistleblower– even UN peacekeepers aren’t immune. if there is an advantage to be taken, someone is probably taking it. because capitalism. “The film was inspired by the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer who was recruited as a peacekeeper for DynCorp International in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999. While there, she discovered a sex trafficking ring serving (and facilitated by) DynCorp employees. Bolkovac was fired and forced out of the country after attempting to report (and shut down) the ring. She took the story to BBC News in England, and won a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit against DynCorp.” -from Wikipedia
Thelma & Louise– do you really need more reasons to love geena davis? go check out her institute on gender and media now.
The Skin I Live In– don’t try to understand the trailer. just appreciate almodovar for almodovar.
Burma VJ– ever wanted to understand why everyone was so shocked at how suddenly Burma lifted international aid restrictions in may 2013? watch this to understand what life was like through the lenses of undercover video journalists. also get some background on why Aung San Suu Kyi is amazing despite her near constant house arrest from 1990-2010 under military junta.
Grindhouse: Death Proof– you will hate tarantino as much as i do after this one. women in his movies are good for only one thing: torture porn mannequins. i also learned about the rape revenge plot. why is this even a plot device, you ask? because patriarchy is lazy. trigger warning: graphic depictions of male violence against women. music from it was good, though.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell– how liberian women ended a war. a movement devoid of white savoir complexes.
Jungle Fever– discussions on interracial dating. as a poc, does dating a white person require a modicum of blindness to race and privilege in order to preserve the relationship?
Circumstance– did you know there were lesbians in tehran? they’re everywhere.
A Better Life– let’s start with the first time you thought your life was hard. (it’s probably not that hard.) remember this movie whenever you conjure images of the american dream. remember this movie whenever you laugh at jokes about undocumented immigrants, day laborers, and latina housekeepers, aka the laziest stereotypes in the book.
Hanna– badass, fully-clothed lady assassin.
Slums of Beverly Hills– reason number one to love natasha lyonne before OITNB. interesting discussion on masturbation. trigger warning: incestuous contact between uncle and niece
Secretary– do not confuse self-harm with BDSM.
Who Killed the Electric Car?– globalization/capitalism will shut you down if your ideas disrupt the status quo.
GasLand– hydraulic fracturing is bad and the anti-fracking movement defends our right to decent ground water quality. this is the documentary where homeowners lit their well water on fire.
GasLand: Part II– the update after five years and just how bad methane migration is for climate change. also more than half of all of these cement wells fail over time.
You Don’t Know Jack– the true intentions behind Dr. Kevorkian and medically assisted suicide.
Temple Grandin– biopic on one of the most famous american women on the spectrum (autism spectrum) who contributed immensely to the field of animal behavior and consults with the livestock industry. different is never less.
The Virgin Suicides– sexuality is essential to the human condition. trust women.
The Cove– gripping. eye-opening. an easy way to understand the reliance large industries have on structural violence. “because if you’re not an activist, you’re an inactivist.”
Iron Jawed Angels– first wave (and second wave, for that matter) white feminists depended on racism to become suffragettes. the apple has not fallen far from the tree, white feminists. also, alice paul’s home is new jersey’s only National Historic Landmark dedicated to a woman.
Inside Job– securities and economics are linked to academia. wake from your slumber. no one is safe.
For Colored Girls– just like precious, you’ll only need to see this movie once. read the book instead. trigger warning: graphic depictions of male violence against women, and rape.
No Reservations– this is the shot-for-shot american remake of the french film mostly martha. stubborn and unwilling women will always have a place in my heart. there are more than a handful of movies that rely on this plot twist of a woman not ready for children has children foisted on her and (surprise!) she actually loves it. also men just need to ‘tenderize’ stubborn women in order for them to actually accept that all she needs is a man to complete her. see also: raising helen.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel– ever wondered what bell hooks meant by ‘eating the other?’ why does dev patel have a fake indian accent? this whole movie reminds me why i roll my eyes when i see white people in india. they’re usually there for questionable reasons.
Eat Pray Love– watch a white lady ‘eat the other‘ as you rage vomit for 2 hours. why are white people always trying to ‘find themselves’? go watch a movie, read a newspaper, turn on the tv, look at a billboard. there, i found you. watch julia roberts ‘marvel at something’ with (the ever-talented) viola davis as her ‘magical negro’ sidekick.
The Help– the stories from the book were stolen. emma stone plays a terrible-white-ally by profiting off a story she writes about the black domestic workers in 1960’s whitopia. looks like white people patting themselves on the back. only noteworthy scene involves a homemade chocolate pie.
Life of Pi– watch a white man recount a story (originally told by a desi man) in an indian accent as you bristle in discomfort. watch another indian man relinquish this story to the same white man to tell/write/sell.
In Her Shoes– the bonds of sisterhood are strong. sometimes when you’re value lies in superficial qualities you aren’t encouraged to think/exist deeper than surface level. that value can become a prison because it is so precious and valuable/hard to reject.
The Family that Preys– watch tyler perry punish successful ‘uppity‘ black women over and over again.
Desert Flower– from our western imperialist colonized perspective is it our ‘right’ to insert our opinions into other cultures to ‘save’ *helpless* brown girls and children? or is grassroots change most effective by those who share ethnic and cultural backgrounds? do somali nomads need americans to save them? or will those brave somali women already doing great work on the ground figure it out on their own? how much of our worldview is decorated by these images of helpless brown children, white saviors, and a global FGM epidemic? hint: it’s not an epidemic. how much does mainstream western media affect what we know about somalia on topics other than food security (formerly known as the word famine), FGM, and pirates?
The Act of Killing– western imperialist governments have funded dictators (ie. 1965 Indonesia) and genocide for centuries. we as americans are complicit in american imperialism by benefiting from it. at times this film feels like we are supposed to be watching ‘savage’ brown men re-enact their killings. feels like we’re in on a joke. makes me wonder how we’d treat leftover nazis if they weren’t still revered by white supremacists.
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