Every March, the United States of America celebrates Women’s History Month as a way to highlight and celebrate the often overlooked contributions women have made throughout history. In case you are wondering why March, the celebration can be traced back to March 8th, 1911, when the first International Woman’s Day was celebrated worldwide as a focal point in the women’s rights movement. The practice of highlighting women’s contributions during March has been widespread with television specials, political speeches, and social media posts. We suggest that writers take note during this Women’s History Month and watch some Academy-approved Women’s History Month movies by women writers, directors, and filmmakers.
Let’s unveil our handpicked list of Women’s History Month movies below.
Written and directed by Chloe Zhao
Based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, this Academy Award winner took home the award for best film, director (Chloe Zhao), and actress (Frances McDormand). After losing everything in the Great Recession, the film tells the story of a woman in her sixties who embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
This movie features a combination of professional actors and non-professional individuals, giving off the impression of being both a documentary and a fictional portrayal. It depicts a distinct community of people living an alternative lifestyle in a very authentic way. The sense of community these modern-day nomads share is unlike anything else seen on screen.
Nomadland was nominated for Academy Awards in the best-adapted screenplay, best film editing, and best cinematography categories.
Promising Young Woman (2020)
Written and directed by Emerald Fennell
This Academy Award winner for the best screenplay is about a young woman who is traumatized by a past tragic event and seeks vengeance against those who crossed her path.
In this iconic feminist film, there are situations involving consent and sexual activity with intoxicated women that we’ve mostly seen playing for laughs. The film is visually stunning and will make any audience member squirm with fear for the leading lady in the hands of predatory men. Promising Young Woman was nominated for several other Academy Awards, including best picture, best actress (Carey Mulligan), best directing, and best film editing.
Read More: 5 Things Oscar Winner Emerald Fennell Can Teach You About Screenwriting
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Written by Callie Khouri and directed by Ridley Scott
Thelma & Louise is one of the greatest road movies ever written. It tells the story of two best friends who set out on an adventure. To make the plot thicken, it leads to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed.
This film portrays a powerful tale of female friendship and a world filled with danger and oppression at every turn for women. Even though this film was written more than 30 years ago, it feels just as relevant and current.
The Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Written for the screen by Chris Clark, Suzanne De Passe, and Terence McCloy
Based on the book by Billie Holiday and William Duftym, this film tells the story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer Billie Holiday. Diana Ross is stellar as the legendary singer, and Billy Dee Williams also gives a powerful performance.
Sidney J. Furie directed the film, which was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best actress (Diana Ross), best writing, best art direction, best costume design, and best music.
Little Women (2019)
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
This latest adaptation of this beloved classic has managed to take the original text and make it current. The well-known story of Jo March, as she tells the stories of the March sisters, captures Alcott’s love for writing represented in the lead character. A stellar cast of women beautifully embodies these characters.
Little Women was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best music, best-adapted screenplay, best supporting actress (Florence Pugh), best actress (Saoirse Ronan), and won best costume design.
Read More: 7 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Screenwriting History
Written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman and directed by Olivia Wilde
This comedy is about two high school best friends who were overachievers their entire lives, only to realize they missed out on the fun. These girls are awkward, funny, and smart.
The performances by the lead actresses are exceptional, capturing the nuances of their characters with ease. With its critical acclaim and popularity among audiences, Booksmart has become a modern classic in the genre of teen comedies. Booksmart was nominated for a BAFTA award and many other prestigious awards.
A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Written by Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza and directed by Sebastián Lelio
A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer fantástica) won the Best Foreign Language Film award. The film is about a transgender woman who works as a waitress and moonlights as a nightclub singer and is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend. At the 90th Academy Awards in 2018, the film’s lead actress, Daniela Vega, became the first transgender person in history to be a presenter at the Academy Awards ceremony.
Written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams, based on the novel by Hillary Jordan
This film is about the tale of two men who return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjust to life after the war. Mudbound was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best actress Mary J. Blige, best-adapted screenplay, best cinematography, and best original song.
Mary J. Blige became the first African American woman to receive multiple Oscar nominations in the same year. She was the first person to be nominated in both a music category and an acting category in the same year.
Read More: 28 Movies You Should Watch During Black History Month
Lady Bird (2017)
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig
This coming-of-age story set in 2002 explores mother-daughter relationships and all the teenage girl angst one could ever desire. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture, best actress (Saoirse Ronan), best supporting actress (Laurie Metcalf), best directing, and best screenplay.
La Ciénaga (2001)
Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel
La Ciénaga (The Swamp) tells the story of a group of families spending their summer vacation in a country house. It explores the complexities of family relationships and the toll spending too much time with them in confined quarters can take on one’s mental health. The film received many accolades, including the Sundance Film Festival NHK International Filmmakers Award.
Takeaway: Women’s History Month Movies
May this curated selection of Women’s History Month movies serve as a source of inspiration for creating female characters that are rich with flaws and complexities, similar to those portrayed in the stories listed above. The characters in these films are not one-dimensional caricatures but rather fully realized individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
From the fierce and unapologetic protagonist in Thelma & Louise to the complex and relatable character in Lady Bird, each of these films is a testament to the power of women in storytelling. These stories challenge societal norms and provide a platform for female voices to be heard in the male-dominated film industry. By creating more authentic and nuanced portrayals of women, we can continue to break down gender stereotypes and empower women both on and off-screen.