Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Ethel community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? Subscribe here

Your Ultimate Guide to Binge-worthy Chick Flicks Starring Super-Women

You're going to definitely want to watch these over the holidays.

Comment Icon
gif of chick flick shows and movies to watch this season, tv
Alvaro Dominguez
Comment Icon

Time to get energized for winter. Come chart a powerful course by curling up on the couch and watching strong, mature female characters crush their evil opponents. And because nothing about being a woman is simple, our opponents come in all shapes, sizes and curses, some purely cultural and some purely mental. Female empowerment is based on grit. So naturally, stories of women’s triumphs involve a degree of blood, sweat, tears and even death. Remember, though, that while men have bankrolled and directed most of the movies we see — which means they’ve had their thumbs on the happy-endings scale — in real life, we control the endings to our own stories. All are available via Netflix or Amazon Prime!

Respect (2021, 2 hours 25 minutes)

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, overcame enough sexism, personal trauma and racism to make most of our lives look like cakewalks. Franklin’s mother, a talented singer in her own right, died when Aretha was 10, and her domineering minister father managed her early career. She had two children by the time she was 14, though she never revealed their father’s identity. Franklin had released nine albums by the time she was 22. In 1967, she recorded “Respect,” which Rolling Stone called the greatest song of all time. Franklin was close to Martin Luther King Jr. and a civil rights activist herself. The winner of 18 Grammys and countless other awards, she was the youngest person to receive Kennedy Center Honors and the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She performed into her 70s, before dying in 2018, at age 76.

Hidden Figures (2017, 2 hours 7 minutes)

Three brilliant, determined African American women at NASA — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — fight racism and sexism to be the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This stunning achievement restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.

The Post (2017, 1 hour 57 minutes)

With Meryl Streep as legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Carrie Coon as reporter Meg Greenfield, this is the true story of the first female publisher of a major American newspaper. Graham was raised to be a Washington socialite and mother. But despite having no training in journalism or business, and with four young children, she became one of the world’s most influential publishers in her 40s after her father died and her husband committed suicide. She led a team of journalists and lawyers in a race with The New York Times to expose Richard Nixon’s massive cover-up of government secrets.

The Hunting Ground (2015, 1 hour 43 minutes)

Knowledge is power, and advocacy can happen at any age. This formidable documentary by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, featuring an original song by Lady Gaga, follows the path of three female college students as they advocate for federal legislation to prevent, track and punish sexual assault on campuses — an epidemic that educational institutions are often desperate to cover up. The film’s revelations about sexual assault disinformation empowers all of us to be better mothers, grandmothers and advocates for women’s equal rights and safety at home, work and school.

Rita (2012, 40 episodes)

In this Danish Netflix series, Rita (Mille Dinesen) is an outspoken, rebellious older single mother of three adult children. She’s also a schoolteacher who really, really likes sex. The series follows her midlife career, love life, ex-husbands, parenting failures and triumphs. There are 40 episodes, so you can lose yourself in this entertaining series and learn some Danish as you go. Season 1’s episodes are aptly titled: 1. The Idealist; 2. The Teacher; 3. The Anarchist; 4. The Whore; 5. The Protector; 6. The Hypocrite; 7. The Princess; 8. The Mother. This sardonic series takes aim at every traditional female stereotype with humor and gritty optimism.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

This 2021 Netflix comedy-drama series stars 63-year-old Andie McDowell as Paula. Her real-life daughter Margaret Qualley plays Alex, a single mother who turns to housekeeping to stay out of poverty and homelessness. Straight-shooting, funny and inspirational, the series is based on Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir.

Two profiles of Supreme Court legend Ruth Bader Ginsburg were released in 2018, both directed by and starring women. The documentary RBG (1 hour 39 minutes) and the biographical drama On the Basis of Sex (2 hours), featuring Felicity Jones, offer intimate portraits of an unlikely rock star who used her mind and chutzpah, the law, her Harvard and Columbia credentials, and a supportive husband to create a more equal world for women at home and at work.

Who doesn’t love Dr. Ruth Westheimer? But what do you really know about her except that she likes to talk about sex in a thick German accent? The 4-foot-7-inch Holocaust survivor was orphaned at 11 in the Weimar Republic, raised in a Swiss orphanage, relocated to New York City, married three times, and never lost her relentless positive attitude toward life and womanhood, even today, at 93. The documentary Ask Dr. Ruth (2019, 1 hour 40 minutes) features countless personal interviews with the legendary sex expert, wife and great-grandmother. It’s like having coffee with your own grandmother except she loves to talk about masturbation.

Wonder Woman: Rise of the Warrior (2017, 2 hours 29 minutes)

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), grew up on a sheltered all-female island as princess of the Amazons, trained by older female warriors like Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Lucy Davis to be an unconquerable warrior. As an adult, fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she discovers her full powers and true destiny. An aside: Doesn’t this sound EXACTLY like motherhood?

Last but not least: I love any movie starring Cicely Tyson, the Harlem-born model, actress and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, who died in January 2021 at 96. Tyson refused to take roles unless she played a strong woman. A short list culled from her dozens of award-winning movies: The Help (2011), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Roots (1977), and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). Watch any of these, and you will be inspired.

You get extra credit for watching these oldies but goodies featuring strong, complex female leads.

Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo in The Secret Life of Bees (2008); Elliot Page in Juno (2007); Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give (2003); Julie Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000); Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise (1991); Jodie Foster in The Accused (1988); Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979); Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude (1971); Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life (1959); and Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve (1950).

Editor's Picks
To say I was shocked would be putting it mildly.
, May 23, 2024
These are must-haves for the perfect day out.
, May 23, 2024
The truth is: We're not too old for anything!
, May 23, 2024