Womanhood is something to be celebrated not just one day but each day. However, UNESCO has recognised 8 March as International Women’s Day and there’s no better way to mark the occasion than by watching some films that personify womanhood brilliantly.
The history of women’s rights is long and an arduous one. On this day we remember those who have championed the cause of women’s rights, spread the spirit of equality, thwarted all societal limitations and set an example for generations to come. To this cause, March is regarded as women’s history month to celebrate female empowerment.
From voicing opinions and getting the right to vote to even the basic human rights of equal pay for equal work, today, in the 21st century, the scenario has changed quite a lot. Yet, there are several instances and cultures which continue to forbid women from following their heart.
Over time female actors have held an instrumental position in the global film industry. Their contribution and talent are irreplaceable. From legendary actors like Meryl Streep, Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews to Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone and others, women have portrayed roles that have become immortal on the big screen.
Women-centric films to watch on International Women’s Day
The Iron Lady (2011)
Meryl Streep is one of the most incredible and legendary actors in Hollywood. She stuns the audience with every character she plays on screen.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, The Iron Lady portrays Streep as the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Doing absolute justice to the role she outshines as the ageing politician who has recently lost her husband and is still unable to accept this fact. His visuals and dreams keep haunting Thatcher while she executes her political duties.
A true story on the great woman’s life, the film charts Margaret Thatcher’s journey from a girl to womanhood including her taking charge of the powerful office.
Also starring Richard E Grant and Jim Broadbent in key roles, The Iron Lady is an inspiring film to watch on International Women’s Day.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Based on the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada is an iconic American drama with a stellar star cast directed by David Frenkel. Meryl Streep dons the hat of bossy and strict Miranda Priestly, editor of luxury fashion publication Runway Magazine. Anne Hathaway essays the role of her second assistant Andrea Sachs, aka Andy and Emily Blunt appears as Miranda’s chief assistant with the same name.
Andy doesn’t have any idea about haute couture and luxury fashion. Hence, she immediately finds herself as a fish-out-of-water in Miranda’s posh office. In an attempt to please her boss, she ends up working late in the night, yet Miranda is not satisfied. To make matters worse Emily, who is in love with her job, condescends with Andy. The only form of support Andy gets is from the art director Nigel (Stanley Tucci).
Meryl Streep shines as the highly accomplished and demanding boss who uses her power and position to get her way and teach a tough lesson to those who undermine her position. Anne Hathaway too puts up a brilliant performance as the new recruit.
The Devil Wears Prada is one of the highest grossing films with an accurate portrayal of the fashion industry and makes up for an incredible movie to watch.
Watch The Devil Wears Prada here.
Little Women (2019)
Based on the highly acclaimed novel by Louisa May Alcott by the same name, Little Women falls in the range of children’s novels revolving around family. The novel was released in two volumes in 1868 and 1869 and continues to be relevant and inspire filmmakers even today.
The 2019 adaptation, directed by Greta Gerwig, has taken the book in a more enthusiastic way to ring in the emotions clear and draw the characters as they have been originally painted.
Four March sisters—Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Amy (Florence Pugh) live in genteel poverty in a town in Massachusetts. They stay with their mother (Laura Dern) as their father serves as a military chaplain during the American Civil War.
Jo becomes the family’s emotional backbone and the movie shows her as a strong headed tomboy. In a complete contrast to her character is her sister Meg who is a beautiful young woman and only thinks of herself. The girls befriend their next-door-neighbour Theodore Lawrence, aka Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). He is the grandson of a wealthy old man.
Over time, one gets a peek into the lives of these four sisters and how the situations around them change including Beth’s illness. It is interesting to watch these sisters and their mother deal with sensitive issues bravely.
The movie makes glimpses of the then Massachusetts come alive with Gerwig’s own modern touch. The strong persona of Jo makes the character very vivid. Her dialogues with Laurie brilliantly portray the respect she commands, which makes it a beautiful watch.
Watch Little Women here.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Universal Studios movie is based on the true story of legal and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, a single mother, who took up the cause of safe and clean drinking water for the people of Hinkley, a southern Californian community. Julia Roberts bagged the Oscar for Best Actress for portraying the titular role.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) set up a power plant in the area to prevent the machinery from rusting and they used a chemical substance which eventually trickled into Hinkley’s water supply. Erin takes it upon herself and files a lawsuit against PG&E and a long hard battle follows.
The power packed performance by Roberts and the adept direction of Steven Soderbergh brings out the gravity of the situation. Celebrating the bold spirit of a mother, Erin Brockovich is one movie you must watch on International Women’s Day.
Watch Erin Brockovich here.
Hidden Figures (2016)
A story of passion, determination and perseverance, Hidden Figures is about three African-American women who have pivotal roles at NASA.
20th Century Studios summarises the plot as, “The incredible untold story of Katherine Jonson (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind the launch into orbit of astronaut John Glenn, a stunning achievement that turned around the space race. The visionary trio crossed all gender and racial lines and inspired generations.” The ultimate story of woman-power expressed through these three women makes it a brilliant watch.
Directed by Theodore Melfi, the journey of the trio to achieve the impossible, shattering glass ceilings and breaking away from societal pressures, makes the film a beautiful watch.
Watch Hidden Figures here.
Wonder Woman (2017)
The 2017 Gal Gadot starrer ushers in the league of women superheroes in a realm dominated by men.
When an American pilot crashes in the land of Diana, the unconquerable warrior Queen of the Amazons, the pilot tells about a huge conflict that is raging havoc in the outside world. Diana is convinced that she can put an end to the war and embarks on a journey away from home. Fighting alongside men, she soon realises her true superpowers and destiny.
The very idea of a female superhero and girl power sets Wonder Woman apart from other superhero movies and makes this Patty Jenkins directorial a great movie to watch.
Watch Wonder Woman here.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Reese Witherspoon plays the role of a typical Californian blonde girl, named Elle Woods, who has nothing but couture dresses and fine manicured hands. With a band of fabulous friends and the hottest boyfriend on campus named Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), she feels she is the most adorable and sorted person that could be.
However, an unexpected turn of events flips her life when Warner leaves her for getting enrolled at Harvard to pursue Law. Elle decides to take matters into her own hands and decide her path. She gets admitted into Harvard as well. It looks like a smooth ride but fate has something else waiting for her.
In 2003 Legally Blonde got a sequel and news of a third part is doing the rounds. Media reports suggest that Mindy Kailing will be co-writing the project.
Watch Legally Blonde here.
Set against the backdrop of an arid Northwestern India, Parched depicts intertwined stories of four women— Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte), Bijli (Surveen Chawla) and Janaki (Lehar Khan).
The women struggle through societal oppressions of marital and familial rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, poverty and so on. Rani struggles to get her son Gulab (Riddhi Sen) married to a beautiful young girl but he has his own lecherous motives. Lajjo, on the contrary, is childless and wants to conceive but fails. Bijli is an erotic dancer who is desired by all the men in their village but comes to the verge of being replaced by a young attractive new girl while Janaki becomes Gulab’s wife but is disowned by him. The four friends share their hopes, wants and even have fun in their own way away from the prying eyes of the society.
The themes of patriarchy, love, female friendship and a yearning for freedom ties the four powerful characters in this Leena Yadav film.
The power house combination of the incredibly talented leading ladies makes Parched a truly iconic film to watch on International Women’s Day.
Watch Parched here.
20 30 40 (2004)
Taipei-born director and actor Sylvia Chang portrays the many struggles of womanhood and crises in the lighthearted comedy 20 30 40.
The film stars Chang as Lily Zhao, Rene Liu as Xiang Xiang and Angelica Lee as Xiao Jie in various ages of their life. Each has their own set of struggles and issues. The youngest Xiao Jie is a 20-year-old young woman who has left her home in Malaysia for a pop career in Taipei. Xiang Xiang comes next, who’s in her thirties, as a flight attendant torn between her affair with a married man and a young lover. The oldest is middle aged Lily Zhao who has divorced her husband after finding his infidelity and wants to be back in the dating scene.
Watch 20 30 40 here.
The Call (2020)
The Call treads on the lines of time travel and horror. It features two women from different periods, who get connected in the most haunting way.
Seo-Yeon (Park Shin-Hye) lives in the present while Young-sook (Jeon Jong-seo) lives in the past in 1999. Both are eerily connected by a phone call. What follows next is quite mind boggling and it is enigmatic to watch a horror film that has two strong women in the lead.
Seo-Yeon has just moved into her childhood home as her mother is diagnosed with cancer. At such a juncture she receives calls from Young-sook who is begging her to save her from her stepmother.
The Korean horror film is the ideal recipe for a heart pumping experience and Chung-Hyun Lee doesn’t disappoint, making it a different kind of film to watch on International Women’s Day.
Watch The Call here.
Kangana Ranaut delivers one of the most iconic characters in Indian cinema when she steps into the role of Rani in Queen.
A young girl from Delhi, Rani studies Home Science and has her head full of fairytale ideas. In her own imagination and fantasy she wishes to get married to her prince charming Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Reality hits her hard when Vijay rejects her and cancels the wedding just a day before.
Rani decides to give herself some time and goes for her honeymoon in Paris alone. On the trip she meets a cool and fiery woman, Vijayalakshmi (Lisa Haydon), who becomes her best friend and confidante.
A crazy journey of self love, self discovery and freedom makes the Vikas Bahl directorial one of the highest grossing and critically acclaimed movies.
(Main and feature image credit: The Devil Wears Prada/ IMDb)