Inspiration is all around us this International Women’s Day. The holiday, celebrated on March 8, commemorates the cultural, political and socio-economic achievements of women around the world.
Whether overcoming challenges in your own life or using your skills to improve the lives of others, it’s all worthy of celebration. And this year, A.frame is rounding up films showcasing the lives of real-life women who did just that.
From biographical dramas about groundbreaking figures like Harriet Tubman, Margaret Thatcher and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to films spotlighting the more nuclear impacts women have on those around them, there’s a woman – and a movie about her – to motivate us all.
Check out 10 films to watch about inspirational women below.
Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed in the film adaptation of the author’s memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The 2014 film centers on Strayed’s self-discovery, as she tries to put a divorce, the death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern) and self-destructive behavior behind her through a 1,100 mile hike on one of the country’s toughest trails. Both Witherspoon and Dern earned Oscar nominations for their roles in the inspiring film.
Made in Dagenham
The 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant in England serves as the backdrop for Made in Dagenham, which explores how a group of sewing machinists fought back against being classified as unskilled labor, and protested against sexist discrimination in the workplace. Though star Sally Hawkins’ character, Rita O'Grady, was fictionalized, the strike was real – and led to the U.K.’s Equal Pay Act 1970.
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón took inspiration from his own childhood nanny and housekeeper, Liboria “Libo” Rodriguez, when crafting the character of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) in Roma. The semi-autobiographical take on Cuarón's upbringing follows Cleo as she works for a middle-class family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, managing both the family’s internal struggles and her own. Roma was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Aparicio) and Best Supporting Actress (de Tavira). It won Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director, for Cuarón.
In the Time of the Butterflies
Based on the Julia Álvarez book of the same name, In the Time of Butterflies depicts a fictionalized account of the Mirabal sisters, courageous Dominican revolutionary activists who were killed in 1960 for their part in an effort to overthrow the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. In addition to producing the 2001 film, Salma Hayek stars as one of the sisters, Minerva, alongside Lumi Cavazos, Pilar Padilla and Mía Maestro. Edward James Olmos and Marc Anthony also co-star.
The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep transforms into Margaret Thatcher in this 2011 drama chronicling the life and career of the U.K.’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold the office. The film, based on John Campbell's biography of Thatcher, earned Streep her 17th Oscar nomination and third Oscar win. The Iron Lady also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
The story of Harriet Tubman is told in this film, from her own escape from slavery to the heroic abolitionist work she did helping to free others through the Underground Railroad. Cynthia Erivo portrays Tubman in the biographical movie, for which she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. She was also nominated for Best Original Song for "Stand Up," with Joshuah Brian Campbell.
On the Basis of Sex
Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a supreme court justice, she was a law student balancing her studies with caring for a young daughter and a husband battling cancer. That’s where On the Basis of Sex begins, before diving into the cases of Ginsburg’s early career as a lawyer. Felicity Jones stars as Ginsburg in the film, with Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Sam Waterston and Kathy Bates in supporting roles.
The life of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is spotlighted in this 2018 biographical film starring Keira Knightly. After moving to Paris with her new husband, the young author agrees to ghostwrite a semi-autobiographical novel for him. But when her work becomes a bestseller and cultural sensation, she’s inspired to fight for credit and creative ownership. In the process, she fights back against societal constraints and gender roles, revolutionizing what it means to be a woman in the early 20th century.
The 1997 biopic Selena, which depicts the life, career and tragic death of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, stars Jennifer Lopez as the iconic singer. Though the Tejano music star was only 23 at the time she was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club, her mark on culture was undeniable. Selena, considered the “The Queen of Tejano music,” was a Grammy winner a fashion icon. To this day, she remains one of the best-selling female artists in Latin music.
A Private War
The 2012 Vanity Fair article "Marie Colvin’s Private War" by Marie Brenner serves as the inspiration for A Private War, which follows celebrated war correspondent Marie Colvin. Rosamund Pike takes on the role of Colvin in the film, which chronicles her brave and dangerous work in places like Sri Lanka, where she lost an eye during an ambush, and Syria, where she died while covering the siege of Homs.
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