Educational and empowering movies to watch during Women’s History Month

Arriving every March, Women’s History Month is an opportunity for reflection. But how you go about that reflection is up to you — whether it takes the form of reading about real-life inspirational figures or just movies, the point is to broaden your horizons.

Below, we gathered a collection of the best movies to celebrate Women’s History Month with, for students or for those who have graduated to the “school of life.” Some highlight the strides women have made throughout history, on and off the camera; others are stories about the range of women’s experiences.

These films present strong female leads that defy expectations while keeping audiences entertained, from adults to elementary-schoolers. Some of the movie’s subjects are Nobel Peace Prize winners. Others are fictional mothers and daughters who live on in pop culture history. And they’ll all move you.

Finally, think of this as a primer. The list of movies that can start conversations about themes trying into Women’s History Month are endless — this is just the start.

‘The Joy Luck Club’ (1993)

Based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel, this film is centered around a group of Chinese immigrants and their Chinese-American daughters who trade stories about their histories. The film itself is framed through sixteen vignettes — a section for each mother and daughter — that explore cultural and intergenerational rifts. It’s also considered to the first major Hollywood film ever to feature an all-Asian led cast. 

‘He Named Me Malala’ (2015)

“There’s a moment you have to choose whether to be silent or stand up.” Malala Yousafzai said those words – and she certainly chose to speak up. As a teenager, Yousafzai was outspoken about ensuring girls’ access to education. For that, she was shot in the head by Taliban terrorists on her way to school in Pakistan. Yousafzai recovered and went on to become the youngest person to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. She remains an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.

‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)

Based on a true story, the film focuses on the formation of an all female baseball league during WWII, when many of the male players were enlisted. Featuring the talents of Gena Davis, Madonna, and Lori Petty, the film was selected to go into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

‘Period: End of a Sentence’ (2018)

In this Oscar-winning documentary short, women in a rural Indian village learn to produce sanitary pads. In doing so, they combat stigma surrounding menstruation and spark a revolution in their community. The women are given the tools to manage their periods and the vocabulary to talk about it without shame.

‘RBG’ (2018)

The life of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer on the Supreme Court, is explored in this intimate documentary featuring unseen footage of Ginsburg’s life. Nominated in 1993 to the Supreme Court under the Clinton administration, Ginsburg became the first Jewish woman selected for the high court and the second woman ever. A staunch supporter of women’s rights, the documentary tracks Ginsburg’s career-long fight against gender bias and discrimination.

‘Hidden Figures’ (2016)

Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae, this movie memorializes the three Black women at NASA who were instrumental in launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit, changing the space race in the process. Speaking to TODAY, the daughter of Katherine Johnson, one of the famed NASA mathematicians, recounts her mother’s tenacious spirit: “Mom’s fight was more, shall we say, intellectual in the sense that she wasn’t ready to go, ‘Fight, fight.’ Instead it was like, ‘I’m going to outthink you.”

‘The Hurt Locker’ (2008)

“The Hurt Locker” has a place in Oscars history: Director Kathryn Bigelow became first woman to ever win the Academy Award for best director. It was also the first best picture winner directed by a woman. The war film takes place during the second year of the Iraq War, following a bomb squad.

‘Promising Young Woman’ (2020)

A modern revenge tale that focuses on a traumatized young woman (Carey Mulligan) who seeks to castigate men who perpetuate rape culture. The film, which threads the line between satirical and dramatic, picked up a best original screenplay win at the Academy Awards. It may not always be a pleasant watch — but it gets at an anger that stuck a chord.

‘The Farewell’ (2019)

A young woman (Awkwafina) and her family return to China to bid a final goodbye to their dying matriarch, who’s unaware she has weeks to live. Lulu Wang, director of the film, said that the story is based on her own personal experience, and is a moving exploration about women’s relationships to each other.

‘Bao’ (2018)

Bao” is a Pixar short about intergenerational love and motherhood. An aging Chinese mother, saddened after her child moves out, gets another shot at motherhood when one of her dumplings comes to life. This animated short is the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman — Domee Shi. Shi would go on to direct “Turning Red,” another Pixar project, which was nominated for best animated feature at the Academy Awards, and makes for another great Women’s History Watch for the kid in your life.

‘She Said’ (2022)

This biographical drama follows the work of journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who exposed sexual abuse allegations against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. This in sparked the #MeToo movement, credited with creating a space for people to speak about their own experiences with sexual assault and harassment, and how it impacted their lives.

‘The Woman King’ (2022)

Viola Davis stars as General Nanisca, the leader of an all-female army in the 1800, in this epic movie about women, power and fearlessness. A box office with acclaimed performances, many were shocked that the “The Woman King” wasn’t nominated for any Oscars, including the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood. She the awards show shutout made a “very loud statement” in a story for The Hollywood Reporter.

‘She’s Gotta Have It’ (1986)

In Spike Lee’s 1986 classic, protagonist Nola Darling is unable to choose between three suitors, so she decides to date them all. The movie marked Lee’s first feature-length movie, and is a meditation on sex, race and a woman’s quest to go after what she wants, even if it’s counter to the way society is structured.

‘Booksmart’ (2019)

Let loose, just like the characters in “Booksmart” do. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) spent high school studying. They decide to have fun, high school style, before graduation renders it too late. “Booksmart” shows that girls can be the stars of raunchy comedies, too. Director Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut immediately became a box office success, full of heart and cringe humor.

More Women’s History Month

Throughout the month of March, is celebrating women across generations who have made history and continue to move the conversation forward by breaking stigmas, sparking dialogue and inspiring the next generation.


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Written by Ethiotime1

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