Reel Girl’s working list of movies with female protagonists for ages 10 and up

Along with wanting to walk to the store all by herself and going to bed later, my 10 year old has parted ways with her two younger sisters at movie time. She wants to see stuff “for older kids.” To her, right now, that means no animation. Ever since we saw “Soul Surfer,” which the whole family enjoyed, she’s been asking for more of the same. So now, on Saturday and Sunday, she and I have been watching together. Last week, we saw “Whale Rider,” which was amazing, and “The Craft,” also good. Last night we saw “A Little Princess,” which I liked too, but I could’ve done without the repetition of “every girl is a princess!” even though, clearly, the term meant special and worthy.

So, on Facebook, I asked Reel Girl fans for suggestions. Here are my requirements for what I want my 10 yr old to see, which has little to do with what the MPAA deems age appropriate. The movie must have a heroic female protagonist. Swearing is OK, so  are sexual references, and some drug use. Not okay: gore, nudity, glorification/ focus on drugs/ alcohol.

Ideally, what I am really looking for, as with animation, is narratives where girls and women are strong, cool, and smart. I prefer not to see a sole girl continually struggling against the patriarchy, where she is told she can’t do this or that because of her gender. I understand, obviously, the importance of that story, but I, for one, am sick of it. Why do my kids need to learn about sexism before they can see girls being strong? Can’t they just see girls being strong? But, that is just my hope, not a disqualification. “Whale Rider” is all this conflict, where the female protagonist is continually shunned for her gender. Again, a great movie, but I hate having my daughters hear and see, repeatedly, at this age, that girls they can’t do something because they’re female.

Also, ideally, girls/ women work together to save the world. I realize this is super hard to find.

Again, the four movies I’ve just seen that make Reel Girl’s list:

Soul Surfer

Whale Rider

The Craft

A Little Princess

We have also seen “Hunger Games” together. This movie makes the list. I know some feel the violence is too much for a 10 year old, but I disagree. The violence is not graphic. I’ve written quite a bit about violence on this blog and how in narratives, its metaphorical, to illustrate intense feelings of “being attacked” or solitude or the world caving in. Humans, and certainly kids, have big emotions and violence depicts that in a way we can see.

Also, in the past we have seen “Avalon High” which is GREAT.

Below are your suggestions complied from Reel Girl’s Facebook page. Please keep the ideas coming. I hope to put together an official list of Reel Girl recommendations, as I have for younger kids. Please do not suggest animated movies, or movies for younger kids, as I have a list for those already. Thank you! So here they are:

Moonrise Kingdom

Run Lola Run

Man in the Moon

Pitch Perfect

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Angela Landsbury)

The Worst Witch

Fried Green Tomatoes

Anne of Green Gables

When Billie Beat Bobby

How to Make an American Quilt

 A Far Off Place

Cold Comfort Farm

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Winn Dixie

Big Business

Now and Then

Ghost

My Girl

Roman Holiday

Elektra

Supergirl

Beaches

Foxfire

Now and Then

Saved

True Grit

Secret Life of Bees

V for Vendetta

Central Station

Reaching for the Moon

Paper Moon

Miss Potter

Belle

Violette

Wadjda

Polar Bear King

Journey of Natty Gan

Sapphires

Little Women

Emma

Pride and Prejudice

Serenity

Rigged

Wanted

Missing

Centurion

Million Dollar Baby

Æon Flux

Pacific Rim

Tank Girl

Space Camp

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

Freedom Writers

The Parent Trap

The Miracle Worker

Little Women

Uptown Girls

Erin Brockovich

National Velvet

Miss Firecracker

Broadcast News

Just Wright

Bride and Prejudice

Becoming Jane

Because this is a list in progress, I will transfer movies I’ve taken off the suggestions list from above to make up Reel Girl’s official list below.

The movies listed below feature a heroic female protagonist, and, except where noted, get a Triple H rating. Movie with links, I’ve reviewed on Reel Girl.

These movies may include swearing; sexual references, brief sexual encounters like making out but no nudity; violence but not gore; brief drug use but no focus or glorification of drugs/ alcohol

Soul Surfer

Whale Rider

The Craft

A Little Princess

Hunger Games

Avalon High

Ever After

Snow White and the Huntsman

Wrinkle in Time

Charlie’s Angels **HH**

Catching Fire

Hanna

Clueless ***HH***

Freaky Friday (2003) ***HH***

Bend It Like Beckham

Akeelah and the Bee

Rabbit Proof Fence

Gravity

86 thoughts on “Reel Girl’s working list of movies with female protagonists for ages 10 and up

  1. Pingback: The Scattered Life Collective | Just Cynthia

  2. I forgot this one The Fall (2006) is about a stunt man in 1916 who has a accident on the job and is left in hospital paralysed where he meets a young girl with a broken arm called Alexandria. Over the course of the movie the stuntman tells Alexandria a story however we see the story through her eyes. As the stuntman suffers depression the story tuns dark and horrible and Alexandria is the only one that can save the stuntman. (there is some morphine use however it is not the focus, there is no gore) It is a fantastic and much overlooked movie with Alexandria being the most important character. I would suggest watching it 🙂

  3. St Trinians, St Trinians 2 The Legend of Frittons Gold (a pirate movie for GIRLS, seriously is so great, i was so surprised the critics panned it but it is so good.) and The City of Ember has a very good female protagonist with a little sister who both help to save the day. You could look at Moonrise Kingdom too I suppose 🙂
    But Seriously St Trinians (the reboot from 2011) is so great but the sequel has pirates and a conspiracy about shakespeare so its infinitely better.

  4. “Bride and Prejudice” Multicultural twist on a classic story

    Swirling colors, swoony music and 4 beautiful sisters, in a Bollywood update of Jane Austen’s _Pride and Prejudice_. Some terrific humor with goofy suitor Mr Kohli in the Mr Collins role. Concerns: teen sister Laki sings “maybe he’s good in bed”, then runs off (and apparently spends the night with) the rakish Wickham, who then gets beat up by Darcy as they are watching a somewhat disturbing Charles Bronson movie. No nudity or sex though, not even kissing! (Bollywood star Aishwarya Ray is very particular about that.) Pros: great multicultural twist on a classic western story, reminding us how much we have in common, despite cultural differences. As with all Jane Austen adaptations, the women and their issues completely dominate the narrative.

  5. Chicken Run and Choices

    Chicken Run is a sadly under-appreciated movie. A coopful of chickens, led by the fearless Ginger, conspire to escape the farm before they are all converted to pies. At one point, Ginger, exhorting her followers to risk it all issues the rallying cry, “We either die free chickens, or we die trying!” (Wild cheers!!)

    To which one chicken, the sweetly spacey Babs meekly replies, “Are those the only choices?”

    We humans have a stubborn, but pernicious need to divide the world into 2 opposing camps: you’re either for us or against us. Good vs Evil. Capitalist vs Communist. Yankees vs Mets. Yet this binary view often keeps us from finding true solutions, and achieving meaningful understanding of “the other”. The binary view presents us with false choices that ultimately are no choice at all.

    Chicken Run offers a great opportunity to talk with your kids about times they’re pushed to do something wrong or cruel, or simply unwise. Can they be brave enough to be a chicken, and ask with Babs, “Are those the only choices?”

    Some pretty sophisticated humor and references to old movies, (notably “The Great Escape”). And Ginger the chicken leader is a delightful character: brave, smart and devoted to saving her friends, (nice contrast with the self-satisfied Bunty, who initially refuses to participate in the escape plan because she feels safe herself). Mel Gibson as the preening, self-satisfied rooster, definitely plays second fiddle (or should I say, drumstick?)

  6. Just Wright: A terrific “anti-Cinderella” story, especially for African American women.

    Leslie Wright is a “big girl”, dark skinned, and more comfortable in sweats and scrubs than minidresses and heels. Her godsister Morgan has Black American Princess written all over her: light of skin, delicate of bone, and material of aspiration. While Morgan schemes to meet and marry an NBA star, Leslie happens to charm a player she runs into with her natural humor, intelligence and automotive skills. Of course, fool that he is, he initially goes for Morgan, until he realizes which woman has the actual qualities to be his perfect match. I loved Queen Latifah as Leslie: she is smart, sassy, good at her job, and fiercely devoted to her friends and family. She wins her prince without makeovers or wardrobe changes, but simply by being her awesome self. PARENTAL NOTE – There is some talk of sex, and a “morning after” shot, but very chastely filmed . Pretty clean otherwise.

  7. The Bad News Bears
    An extremely tough movie to rate. Kids are at the center of the narrative, and their issues and emotions are taken seriously, yet there is plenty of bad behavior on display: racially offensive language, profanity, callous sexuality and alcoholism. Yet the overall message, of sticking with the team even in the face of certain defeat and humiliation is excellent, and it’s worth examining the idea that even extremely flawed adults may have wisdom to offer. Tatum O’Neal offers the rare portrait of a very feminine, yet competitive girl who refuses to apologize for her love of sports.

  8. Just watched “Love and Basketball” with my 13 year old and it’s a new favorite, both for taking the viewpoint of a smart, strong, but conflicted young woman, and for presenting a non-stereotyped relationship between two young African Americans, (both from well-off, intact families, with loving parents and siblings; both college educated).

    Monica and Quincy meet as 11 year olds when her family moves next door to his, and she promptly beats him in a basketball game. They grow into highly competitive players with an affectionate brother/sister relationship; one of the most touching scenes is Monica wordlessly letting Quincy climb into her room to sleep when his parents are having an argument.

    Both are recruited to play college ball at UCS and they become lovers (in a very passionate, yet chastely filmed scene).The contrast between how men’s vs women’s sports are treated is made very clear: Quincy is constantly surrounded by adoring fans and weaselly recruiters; Monica feels unjustly punished for an aggressive “attitude” that would be celebrated in a man but makes her seem “unladylike”. The night before Monica’s key game, she refuses to break curfew for Quincy, fearing she might get cut from the team. Quincy, going through a crisis with his father, declares her to be “unsupportive”, and breaks up with her. They eventually reunite years later, and in the final scene it is Monica on the court with the WNBA while her adoring husband and baby daughter cheer her on from the sidelines.

    So, awesome sports movie primarily from the woman’s point of view, and where her ambition is the one realized. Also, a terrific mother/daughter film: Monica feels constantly criticized by her traditionally feminine mother, who seems to prefer her more “girly” sister. Mother and daughter have it out late in the film: the mother (played by the wonderful Alfre Woodard) resents Monica’s condescension towards her as a housewife, and Monica is hurt that her mother never cared about her talent for sports. The film doesn’t take sides, but empathizes with both women.

    A few concerns: there is a lot of raw language, and the teen girls at M and Q’s school dress very seductively and do a lot of dirty dancing, (Monica does not, which is one of the reasons we like her). No violence, no drugs, minimal drinking. Monica and Quincy have sex, but there is no promiscuous, gratuitous sex, and it’s clear the two of them love each other. Great for 13 and up.

    • Hi Lesley,

      Thank you for reminding me about this movie. I loved it when I saw it. Is the sex scene long, is there nudity? I would love to show this to my 10 yr old so will find out more.

      Margot

      • It is VERY carefully filmed to show no nudity: Monica is shot from the neck up so we don’t see her breasts. Quincy is never shot below the chest, although we see him reach for (and presumably don) a condom.

  9. Margot when you fist started this topic i simply posted my English-speaking recommendations hastily (back in 18 November) with no details.I’ll make a follow up here
    so that you can get a better idea about these films.As i said these are movies that include a powerful,dynamic and complex female character.A true fighter.

    The Missing (2003)
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_1-SK5hgUl10/TCo2Syo7QCI/AAAAAAAAAgE/slbWlx_pRTo/s1600/the-missing-2003-i-136705.jpg
    This is not only Cate Blanchet’s most dynamic role but her 2 daughters are also fearless girls (played by Evan Rachel Wood and Jenna Boyd)
    http://outnow.ch/Media/Movies/Bilder/2003/Missing/movie.fs/10.jpg
    The younger is only 9-10 .This must be the only western movie ever made with so many cool girls in it!

    Wanted.(2008)
    I included this b/c it is the only film,where Jolie plays a dynamic role,that i find to be an actually good movie.However ‘Wanted’ is really violent probably not for under 12 yo.The Lara Croft movies are inferior but more appropriate for kids.

    Million Dollar Baby (2004)
    Rigged (2008)
    These are boxing films,a classic genre that a few years ago was 100% male dominated.MDB is the better movie-and a personal tour de force for Hilary Swank.But it’s a rather ‘heavy’ film that deals with some difficult issues.’Rigged’ on the other hand,while not as polished as MDB, is better for young girls.Its directly inspired from the story of the first classic Rocky film from 1976 and Rebecca Neuenswander gives a fantastic performance,full of guts and heart.The fights in ‘Rigged’ are violent and realistic but there are no deaths/killings.’Rigged’ is also known as ‘Fight Night’

    Serenity (2005)
    Pacific Rim (2013)
    These are great science fiction films.Both of them don’t really have a flat out ‘protagonist’ (like a ‘Superman’ film has for example) .They are more about a group of people on a mission.But its the female character River Tam in Serenity http://www.entertainmentwallpaper.com/images/desktops/movie/2471.jpg and Mako Mori in Pacific Rim http://static4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130628105944/pacificrim/images/d/d5/Mako_Mori_2.jpg http://fourthdayuniverse.com/reports/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/PACIFIC-RIM-Rinko-Kikuchi-As-Mako-Mori.jpg

    who is the key-the one that is the most important in the story.
    ‘Serenity’ has a more female heavy cast but is also more violent and darker.I wrote about ‘Pacific Rim’ a lot in Reel Girl and i’m a big fan i recommend it for girls/boys (age 8 and up) over all (and i mean ALL) other superhero/comic based US movies of the last 20 years.
    Mako is a skilled warrior AND very intelligent (she’s a brilliant engineer) a combination extremely rare for a female character in a Hollywood film.My daughter says that Mako is like Sandy Cheeks (the female squirrel from SpongeBob who is a karate expert and a super smart scientist)…and she’s right on the point 🙂 She now collects images of Mako as a comic -here some i love
    http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2013/199/0/8/mako_mori_by_archie_the_redcat-d6e035d.jpg
    http://0-media-cdn.foolz.us/ffuuka/board/m/image/1376/05/1376055819939.jpg
    http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/cb/45/a5/cb45a5f116da1e221d9febc7fae819b7.jpg
    http://25.media.tumblr.com/fead1e4f687ca267feb010f41c03a8be/tumblr_mqsq9e3CR61rr6r01o1_500.png

  10. While the Asian films i’ve mentioned up to now are from 2000 and after if i go back into the 1990s there are more gems to be found.Like Wing Chun (1994)
    http://imageshack.us/a/img849/4666/va65.jpg

    Based on the life of legendary Martial Arts figure and female Grandmaster
    Yim Wing Chun.
    Like Mulan she is one of the prominent female fighters/heroines in Asian history and her story can also be found in Asian TV Shows and books.
    Produced and directed by the great Woo-ping Yuen and starring Michelle Yeoh,
    the lead of ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’,’Wing Chun’ is one of the best wuxia films ever made for young girls.There is no sex/nudity and violence is not graphic.

    Also Pei Cheng, who stars here as Wing Chun’s Sifu (Teacher) was a huge female martial arts action star of the 1960s .Yes,powerful female heroines and warriors in Asian cinema have a long history and go back many decades.Something Hollywood didn’t have (and ,with some exceptions, still doesn’t).

    I’m thinking how great it would be if Disney would make Yim Wing Chun’s story into an animation movie,just like they did with Mulan,instead of making stupid and sexist movies like ‘Planes’

  11. Margot I see you saw Hanna as i recommended!Yes it ROCKS!.

    Well,i don’t find other English speaking films good enough to include anymore but i can tell you that after watching many asian wuxia films from my collection with friends and family during the Holidays that there is nothing comparable in Hollywood (or anywhere else in the world) if someone wants strong complex female characters and warriors.
    I use the term ‘wuxia’ in a modern way-basically means Asian movies that combine strong action/martial arts with romance and drama.They are like the Asian equivalent of US superhero and historical action films. Except that wuxia movies are more advanced-they are generally much more daring in their stories,the female characters are strong,complex and not sexualized.And there is equality between men and women i.e. some warriors are male some are female.Its not the gender or the size that makes the hero in wuxia films-its the skills.Also wuxia movies rarely have nudity/sex scenes and violence generally is less graphic (compared to US films) therefore younger teens can watch them too.
    In short they are MUCH better for young girls-even if they have to see them dubbed or with subtitles it definitely worth it.
    Very few US films are like that (for example ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Pacific Rim’ )

    And when i say daring i mean films like ‘A Frozen Flower’ (2008)
    http://www.acdrifter.com/Asian-Cinema-Film-Movie-Poster/683/A-Frozen-Flower.png
    http://cineplex.media.baselineresearch.com/images/227399/227399_full.jpg
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1mZ2-TGSc1g/UCB34dYh2YI/AAAAAAAADFs/hllv8pPN_UI/s1600/ssanghwajeon.jpg

    ‘A Frozen Flower’ is an excellent South Korean wuxia film-like ‘Crouching Tiger…’ and ‘Flying Daggers’ .Cinematography/direction/acting/action are all on a very high level and the swordfighting scenes are bone-crunching.Like most wuxia movies it has a love story.Here the main characters are 3-two men and a woman.Now you may assume that the 2 men are in love with the female character (as this is typical in Hollywood).Nope.It is not the female but the male character who is the centre of the love story here.Yes you read that correctly,the male hero,the warrior, is bisexual.And the other male character (who has superb sword skills and is also the King) is gay.Can you imagine such heroes in a Hollywood superhero film?Of course not.But this is the beauty of Asian wuxia movies – they don’t have to follow Hollywood’s obsolete stereotypes.I didn’t include this movie in my asian lists b/c the female character-the princess of Yuan- is not a warrior like the two guys.But she is still a very brave young woman and she does save the life of the male protag.Also ‘A Frozen Flower’ does have nudity/sex scenes so i’d say it is not for under 12 yo.

    Another film we saw again during the Holiday’s is the ’14 Blades of Justice’ (2010)
    http://www.filmoynat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/14-blades-trke-dublaj-izle.jpg
    The ‘14 Blades’ is classic wuxia meaning stunning fights+romance
    and is ‘family friendly’ i.e. good for 10 year olds too (the violence is not too graphic).I didn’t include it in my Asian list b/c the protagonist here is male (played by the great Donny Yen).But the main antagonist is a woman.And what a woman-a warrior with almost superhuman martial arts skills and with Arab descent.Can you imagine a US Superhero film where the most powerful character is a woman from an Arab country? I don’t think so! But as i said that’s the beauty of wuxia movies.The character is played by HK actress Kate Tsui (who does have Arab lineage) and she kicks some very serious ass-the final fight between her and Donny Yen is extended and truly ferocious.And her clothing is nothing like one sees is US films.I mean so not-revealing (and rather cool!)

    http://imageshack.us/a/img843/8779/jcal.jpg
    http://imageshack.us/a/img841/3463/dufl.jpg
    http://imageshack.us/a/img35/6766/q3mf.jpg
    http://imageshack.us/a/img843/4443/s4o8.jpg
    http://imageshack.us/a/img401/8043/fvru.jpg

  12. 3 more for today.

    Blue Crush (2002) Follows a very talented surfer (Kate Bosworth) and her struggle to gain back her confidence after a near-drowning incident.The cast is female heavy inc her younger sister and her best friends (also female surfers).
    Surfers love this movie and its easy to see why:Ocean scenes are phenomenal,they are so intense and real it feels you are ‘right there’ watching Kate as she fights with the huge-and deadly-waves of Hawaii’s notorious north shore surf spot ‘Pipeline’
    The girls are on the ocean/beach a lot,wearing bathing suits,but the film never
    sexualizes them.’Blue Crush’ is a pure surf movie (where surfers happen to be female) and it is nothing like Baywatch.Fine for all ages.
    http://i2.listal.com/image/4380/936full-blue-crush-poster.jpg

    Brokedown Palace (1999) A strong story about friendship (and sacrifice) between two girls. Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) are best friends and decide to celebrate high school graduation by taking a trip to Bangkok,Thailand.But they end up in jail accused of smuggling drugs.Despite the subject-its mostly a prison film-there are no disturbing scenes,no sex/nudity and i’d say it is fine for 10 year olds.Actually this movie is deliberately made in a way so that younger girls can watch it too. Claire and Kate did this film at the beginning of their careers and they have great chemistry together.
    http://www.impawards.com/1999/posters/brokedown_palace_xlg.jpg

    Secretariat (2010) Based on the real story of Penny Chenery (a memorable performance here by Diane Lane) a strong,charismatic woman and her amazing race horse the Secretariat.Very well made movie with outstanding race horse scenes and fine for all ages.Despite the title this movie is more about Penny (rather than the horse).
    http://a5.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Video/4b/28/a0/mzi.efdgexxu.jpg

  13. BTW a director who deserves special mention is Joe Wright.He is well known for building his films around strong,complex female characters.His 2005 film Pride and Prejudice is already mentioned.However his next film the 2007 ‘Atonement’ is even better.Has an excellent,female heavy,cast and also shows the courage of the British nurses during WWII.His latest is the 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina with Keira Knightley.But his most unique film is Hanna from 2011 (that i already mentioned).’Hanna’ is the only movie made in the west where the lead is a teenage female super-heroine AND the film is named after her.Unlike the 2 sloppy,halfhearted US films with lead female superheroes (the mediocre Elektra and the terrible Catwoman with Halle Berry) the UK/German made ‘Hanna’ is a serious-and very entertaining-solid piece of European filmmaking.Hanna doesn’t wear a suit but her character is essentially a teenage Black Widow.And Saoirse Ronan is perfect for the role she’s both eerie and ferocious.The main villain is also female (Cate Blanchett) and Hanna’s best friend is female as well (a teen girl).
    http://news.worldsnap.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Hanna_Movie.jpg

  14. Part 3 of movies about real women. The Rosa Parks Story (2002) A pretty good TV film about the life of Rosa Parks.Angela Bassett gives a fine performance but her best role is still in ‘Tina’
    http://media.senscritique.com/media/000005306014/source_big/The_Rosa_Parks_Story.jpg
    Tina (1993) Angela Bassett’s best role ever as Tina Turner.’Tina’ is an intense,powerful biopic.The domestic violence scenes may be tough to watch for some kids.
    http://1.fwcdn.pl/po/23/01/32301/7147447.3.jpg
    Frida (2002) A visually gorgeous bio directed by Julie Taymor about painter Frida Kahlo with a magnificent Salma Hayek in the lead role.Frida was a very strong-and talented-woman.This film is spectacular in HD.There is some nudity but not much more.
    http://animehdfilm.com/_ld/85/10605.jpg
    Dangerous Minds (1995) About Louanne Johnson a discharged and unemployed female USMC officer who became a teacher.Nothing special but deserves a mention for Michelle Pfeiffer.
    http://images.moviepostershop.com/dangerous-minds-movie-poster-1995-1020234972.jpg
    Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) A bio of the great Country & Western singer Loretta Lynn and how she went from poverty to fame. Sissy Spacek is superb in the main
    role.
    http://www.impawards.com/1980/posters/coal_miners_daughter_ver2_xlg.jpg
    Iron Jawed Angels (2004) An HBO movie about the women’s suffrage movement in US during the 1910s .Its not a pure period piece as it uses some modernization in music/language/clothing and post-classical editing. http://img167.imageshack.us/img167/6639/ironjawedangelsmp5.jpg

  15. Part 2 of movies about real women.

    Made in Dagenham (2010) One of my favourite British films of the last 10 years
    thanks to a strong script and a superb female cast.It tells the story of the 1968 strike by 168 female machinists at Ford’s Dagenham factory for equal pay for equal work.It has drama,humor,and above all some amazing girls.

    http://www.ifyouwriteit.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/MADE_IN_DAGENHAM.jpg

    Gorillas in the Mist (1988) I consider Sigourney Weaver one of the great actresses of the 20th century.Ripley is the most iconic female character in the history of science fiction.The Alien films are not for younger kids but between the second and third Alien movie Sigourney did this film about Dian Fossey a fearless woman whose work with gorillas in Africa saved them from extinction.From all the movies made about animals this is really second to none.

    https://gallerytheimage.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/Original_Watermark/gorillas_in_the_mist_a1_us1sh.jpg

    Temple Grandin (2010) The story of an autistic young woman who managed to become a world class scientist.This HBO biography/drama is very well made,tight with a fast pace and fine for all ages.It leaves almost all dramas made by big US studios in recent years miles behind.Claire Danes gives the performance of her life.

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_-xak90kCrPU/TJEZtUIc6aI/AAAAAAAAAJk/iXoAM-A_9ew/s1600/temple-grandin-movie-poster.jpg

  16. Continuing with 3 films about real women

    Agora (2009).The life and work of one of the most extraordinary women of all time the philosophy and mathematics professor Hypatia of Alexandria (well played by Rachel Weisz).Her work on the ellipse and the motion of the planets predated Kepler for 1200 years.Her brutal death-she was skinned alive and mutilated – is commonly considered to mark the end of the Classical antiquity and the beginning of the Dark Ages.Wisely this film doesn’t show us the bloodbath of her final moments,only enough to understand what happened to her,making the movie more suitable for younger kids.

    http://www.ultraimg.com/images/znpi.jpg

    Veronica Guerin (2003) The life and death of the famous journalist who covered the drug crime beat in Ireland about 20 years ago with unmatched intensity.Veronica was a brave woman who had the courage to do what no man had the guts to do. Cate Blanchett as Veronica goes from alluring and witty to fiery and fearless but always is down-to-earth and real (the scene where she talks with Colin Farrell about Eric Cantona is hilarious!).This is an intense film,maybe too much for some kids.

    http://mtv.mtvnimages.com/shared/media/images/acovers/standard/drb100/b124/b12473i97tv.jpg

    Amelia (2009) A biopic about the great aviatrix with Hilary Swank in the lead role.A decent film-not great but not bad either.Its a period film with beautiful cinematography,a love story and rather low on action.Fine for 10 year olds.

    http://www.epicmoviesonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/amelia-poster.jpg

  17. Continuing with more honourable mentions

    Gone (2012) .This is Amanda Seyfried’s most underrated film and the most dynamic role of her career up to now.Forget her romantic comedies-in ‘Gone’ Amanda is firing on all cylinders.She even took judo classes for 2 months to be more believable in this film.This is not an action flick but a classic suspense film,tight,with good pace and beautiful cinematography based on a script by novelist Allison Burnett.Violence is limited and there are no sex/nudity scenes.Should be fine even for a 10yo but that’s up to parents to decide.Next to Amanda stars Jennifer Carpenter (of ‘Dexter’ fame).

    http://horrorhappyhour.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/91gJ5YkVzPL._AA1500_.jpg

    Whip It (2009).Directed by Drew Barrymore this is a highly entertaining sports movie with a strong,female heavy, cast and a wonderful anti-princess message.
    It follows Bliss a teenage girl stuck in a little town in Texas , small life scene who reaches out for something new and exciting-she joins a very physical roller derby team in Austin to get out of her town and its boring beauty pageants.Working hard she becomes the star of the team and leads them to the finals.A brilliant teen movie with an excellent performance by Ellen Page as Bliss.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-sGBPYcjNlEw/Tf5mJIOcI4I/AAAAAAAAAB0/eDPEg0SHE2c/s1600/Whip%2BIt.jpg

    Super 8 (2011) .JJ Abrams ‘homage’ to classic Spielberg films starring kids like Goonies and ET .Follows a company of kids as they make an amazing discovery.It really,REALLY, sucks that in the company there is only one girl (played by Ellen Fanning) .Still this film worth a view for her as Ellen gives a fabulous performance and her character is far more interesting and cool than any of the boys.She out acted every one, even the adult cast.

    http://thefilmstage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/112846-fanning-poses-at-the-premiere-of-the-movie-super-8-at-the-regency-vill.jpg

  18. “10 things I Hate About You”-Good teen film.Julia Stiles’s best possibly.There is a number of decent teen films with female characters in US and that’s b/c these films/roles are considered “feminine” (or “girlie”) by the people (males) in charge of the film industry so they make them .Just like with roles of women playing baseball being writers or doctors and generally being relatively ‘feisty’ While the ‘bigger than life’ roles,where we see heroes saving the day,are considered “a man’s job”
    Die Hard,James Bond, Indiana Jones,Batman,Superman,Iron Man,Spiderman,Star Wars,Star Trek,Thor,Rocky,Bourne Series,Lethal Weapon the list is endless.
    There are no more than maybe 15 films made in US the last 20 years that break this stereotype-you can find them in my posts.And many of them have a male character too in them.Esp in comic based films US studios are still stuck with the (obsolete) idea that the film must have a male central character to be successful.This is why we still get Batman Superman and KickAss films and no Batgirl,Wonder Woman or HitGirl film.HitGirl is 10 times more capable than the male character ‘KickAss’ and the only real teen female superhero in cinema today.I’d love to see a HitGirl film.
    However things are getting better as times go by.In comic based/superhero films there are more strong and complex female characters today in them than ever in the history of US cinema.While many may be sidekicks or minority feisties still things are much better than even 10-15 years ago.
    Take the ‘Amazing Spiderman’ 2012 remake of the 2002 Sam Raimi film for
    example.In the new film the female character is an intelligent minority feisty.Compared to the terrible female character of the 2002 film (her purpose there was to scream so than Spiderman can save her) she’s a substantial improvement.
    Another very pleasant surprise for me was the highly anticipated adaptation of the classic comic ‘Judge Dredd’ in 2012.From the 3 main characters only Dredd is male!That would have been impossible some years ago.Plus both women kick major ass in the film.
    One is the villain (Lena Heyday).The other is Dredd’s partner Anderson (well played by Olivia Thirlby).She’s a dynamic character,smart,brave,essential to the story and has the same screen time as Dredd.And she’s not sexualized .Anderson wears the same uniform as Dredd and it covers her entire body.

    Olivia Thirlby as Anderson next to Dredd.
    http://www.kickseat.com/storage/Dredd_01.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1348308047369
    There is also a scene where the 2 women are together-and they aren’t talking about men.

    In the comics Anderson is the star of her own series (Anderson: Psi-Division)

    (Note:Both KickAss films and the Dredd film are violent and not for younger kids)

  19. Just watched “10 things I Hate About You” with my 12 year old daughter, and I would recommend it with a few reservations. Like most teen movies, it presents adults as uniformly clueless, uncaring, or both. There is a fair amount of alcohol abuse, profanity (both the f and b words), and mockery of the school “losers”. However, the central relationship, between an angry teen feminist and her superficial, princessy younger sister is wonderful, and doesn’t vilify either girl. Unlike the source material, (Shakespeare’s taming of the shrew) Kat is in no way “tamed”; instead she and her “Petruchio” learn to see past the stereotypes each has about the other. Oh and for a teen romance, this is remarkably chaste: no even partial nudity, and no action beyond some enthusiastic kissing.

  20. I agree with Contact – a fantastic film, by the wonderful Jodie Foster, a smart, science-passionate protagonist who finds evidence of alien communication that leads into a fabulous corridor of politics of big discoveries (who gets the credit) and how we may actually get to contact a superior intelligence given our limited capacity for getting along on our own planet. I’d recc seeing it even if it’s just you rather than your daughter !
    She is the only female character, but is definitely the driving force for the film.

    • Agrree.I recommended it even though it doesn’t really qualifies as a film with a heroic powerful female in it I like other films I mentioned.But is a very special film. “Contact” stands out from every other sci-fi movie ever made in that it went to great pains to be accurate. Almost all of the plotline is based on either solid physics, or extrapolated from current theories.And Jodie is simply wonderful.

  21. Contagion has several great women scientists but deals with with a global pandemic and shows several people graphically dying from it, including children. So that’s going to be fine for some 10 year olds but not for others.

  22. Some films that i didn’t include in my ‘english speaking’ list but deserve a mention.
    Get Smart (2009). With Anne Hathaway as the experienced Agent 99.Fun spy movie for all ages.
    KickAss (2010) with Chloë Grace Moretz as HitGirl a badass female teenage superhero. Very exhilarating ,violent but in a “homage to comics” way.Not for under 11 or 12.

    Haywire (2011) A stylish Steven Soderbergh action film with mixed martial arts star Gina Carano in her first lead role.Rather weak script but Gina is a real powerhouse on screen.She would make a great Wonder Woman if and when studios decide to make a WW movie.

    Blood The Last Vampire (2009) This has a rare storyline.Two girls work together to save the world from a woman with supernatural powers.Gianna Jun in the lead role is very good as a female samurai.All main characters are female.Unfortunately the film suffers from some lame and gory effects and this is why i didn’t recommend it before.Not for under 11-12 yo.

    Death Proof (2007) This is actually 2 different short films one after the other.The first is too violent the second is female heavy and awesome.
    Watchmen (2009) with Carla Gugino & Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre I & Silk Spectre II

    Lara Croft 1&2

    Colombiana (2011) A Nikita inspired action movie with Zoe Saldana in the lead role.Not bad but not great either.
    The Replacement Killers (1998) Mira Sorvino in the most dynamic role of her career.
    Sucker Punch (2011) Female heavy cast but the girls are strong in their dreams mostly (rather than reality) .

    • Yeah… what? Sucker Punch? One of the worst depictions of female characters ever? Why? No. Do not let your daughter watch that.

      I haven’t seen these films as I don’t particularly like action but from what I understand Hit Girl is a bit of a minority feisty and Anne Hathaway is a sidekick in Get Smart.

      • You are right and this is why i didn’t include these films in my ‘A’ list .I only mention them and this b/c there are so few films with strong female characters in US.In Sucker Punch the girls are heroes only in their dreams-not good. HitGirl is a co-star but she is much more skilled than the male lead and pretty much everyone agrees that she was the best part in the KickAss film.Anne Hathaway is a co-star but she is more capable than Maxwell Smart.My daughter loves the Get Smart film.English speaking films i DO recommend are those i first wrote about like Serenity,Hanna,Rigged,The Missing,Centurion,Million Dollar Baby,Pacific Rim.They all have a dynamic and heroic female in an adventure.

      • BTW IMO there are far worst depictions of female characters than those in Sucker Punch in other US films.Some women actually liked this film,others hated it.My opinion is that the script is bad but the dream scenes where the girls battle with various creatures are pretty great.

        • Leaving aside the (dubious) merits of the film, Sucker Punch is a movie about women being imprisoned, raped, and lobotomized. I don’t think it qualifies based on Margo’s guidelines.

  23. Some ‘honorable mentions’ movies where the female protagonists may not be as dynamic to make the ‘A’ list (that i already posted) but they are equally strong and cool.

    Thought Crimes (2003). The story of a young woman with telepathic powers.This is a really cool film that works like a prequel for a superhero movie.The main character Freya is smart,brave and saves pretty much everyone in the movie .I recommend it for ages 9 and up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughtcrimes
    Contact (1995) This is the best movie ever made to make a girl get interested into science.Jodie Foster in the main role of the scientist is fantastic.

    Some more are Penelope (2006) Aquamarine (2006) Stardust (2007) Chocolat (2000)(with Juliet Binoche)

  24. Couple more:

    The Miracle Worker (2 female protagonists!)
    Norma Rae, (has violence, some of it racial or misogynistic)
    The Secret of RoanInish
    Anne of the Thousand Days (the most PG appropriate version of the Anne Boleyn story)
    Young Bess, (G rated version of Elizabeth I’s youth and rise to power)
    Mystic PIzza (maybe a bit too much sexuality for 10)

  25. Part 2 of my Asian films.As in the first part these are all subtitled and also available dubbed in english.
    House of Flying Daggers (2004) .Like all Yimou films, this is a work of art, the cinematography is just masterful.Zhang Ziyi combines grace and strength like no-one else can as the female rebel who is an expert at wushu (chinese martial arts)
    Hero (2002).Another wuxia gem by Yimou Zhang.’Hero’ is the first foreign language film to open at #1 at the US box office.Superb action and here Maggie Cheung is ‘Flying Snow ’ a legendary female warrior of ancient China.
    An Empress and the Warriors (2008) About the warrior princess Fei’er of Yan .Strong cast,phenomenal fights/action,romance and one of the super rare films where we see a woman commanding a whole army.
    The Shadowless Sword (2005).A highly-skilled female royal guard in ancient Korea is on a mission to save her country.
    The Rebel (2007) Parts of Asia in the 1920s are under colonial French rule and ‘the rebel’ of the title is a young woman highly skilled in martial arts who is a member of the resistance against the French.Veronica Thanh Van in the lead role oozes charisma and steals every scene she is featured in.
    Japanese films with powerful female leads are usually anime but there are a couple with actors.Next to Azumi there is
    Ichi (2008) Ichi is a blind young woman who roams about in medieval Japan with her shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese guitar) but she has exceptional sword skills.Heavily inspired by anime and with a great cast.

  26. Checking my collection today ,to add a couple more in my ‘english speaking’ list,i suggest…
    A Warriors Way (2010)
    A Ninja leaves Japan taking with him a little girl to protect her from assassins.He travels to US and hides with her in a small town in Wild West.There he opens a store and starts a new life.He becomes friends with a young woman (Kate Bosworth) and decides to teach her the art of sword-fighting.
    The story sounds a bit weird on paper (ninjas in a western?!) but in fact this is an immensely entertaining film that’s full of breath-taking action.It has strong cast,cool visuals,humor,romance and a badass Kate.It is far better than,say,Elektra.Pretty violent so not for younger kids.

    D.O.A. (2006) The lead is a princess.No,NOT the Disney kind-this princess here,played by Devon Aoki (of ‘Sin City’ fame) is an expert at karate and means business.Adaptation of the video game Dead or Alive this film is made for younger ages and kids who watch TV shows like Xena.My daughter saw it when she was 8 and thought it was ‘great fun’.Directed by Hong Kong veteran Cory Yuen and thanks to him DOA has excellent and very stylish fight sequences.Next to her the film has 4 more strong girls but,just like in Sin City,Devon steals the show with her irresistible combination of strength and coolness.

  27. Pingback: The Scattered Life Collective | Spirit Uncaged

  28. Girlfight (2000) The Quick & The Dead (1995) .I can add Bandidas (2006) this is more a “comedy/action” film but is great fun and has Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek as leads

    My list of english speaking films comes to an end with these-as i said there aren’t many movies who break ‘the big rules’ (of sexism) in US films.These ‘rules’ are those things the girls are not ‘supposed to do’ .Like leading uprisings/saving men (Serenity) fight to the bitter end to defend their family (The Missing) or their friend (Kirot) succeed in very tough male dominated sports (Girlfight,Rigged ) or save the world (Pacific Rim).Pacific Rim has a male protag too but the film is clear that both male and female leads are equally important.And i love the dojo scene where Mako (the female lead) shows she is more badass than any of the men-and these are US special forces soldiers not just any men!Also she’s not sexualized and she’s not ‘too perfect’ she has her demons but fights them and beats them,rising to the challenge.As a whole her character is directly inspired by the female warriors in Asian wuxia films like Crouching Tiger (and others) and this is exactly why Mako is so cool.
    Other than her there aren’t many women in the film-that is a negative- but we do see one female soldier give her life in the line of duty to save a city.Also the film has mindblowing effects/action.

    • X-Men films are the only US superhero films that have a good number of female characters.We can’t exactly be very picky here! Imo the X2 is as good as the first.It has Lady Deathstrike! “X-Men: First Class” is my personal fav.Captain America The first Avenger has a strong female co-star (Hayley Atwell) too.

  29. For now i’ll continue with films where women are actually fighters/warriors with separate lists for english speaking and non english movies.
    One of the first i mentioned is Centurion and i’ll talk about it here and another Olga Kurylenko film ‘Kirot’.Olga’s visceral performance shine in both films.
    ‘Kirot’ is a film about 2 young women and their friendship in a cold,harsh,male dominated world.It is like a combination of Nikita and Thelma & Louise.Olga’s character Galia in the first part of the film is not heroic,she is a victim,used and abused by men,but gradually she goes trough a transition,due to her friendship with another woman, and eventually revolts taking her life in her own hands and in the end she is heroic.The film’s strong point other than Olga’s performance is the great,and sad,ending a homage to the finale of Al Pacino’s Carlitos Way.
    In Centurion she’s is Etain a female warrior in ancient Britain fighting against the Romans .Women have been fighting against conquering armies,defending their home,since the dawn of time.But sadly these women are erased from historical movies.We only see them in some Asian films (that i have mentioned) but never in US.This is why Centurion is so special.Director Neil Marshal portrays Etain as a highly skilled warrior,determined to defend her homeland to the end.She is honorable and respects the Roman general even though she knows he would never have respect/honor her.The scene of their duel under the golden eagle of the Ninth Legion is more badass than all scenes of Troy put together IMO.She is also a commander,her squad fights under her orders.Now that’s super rare.
    Centurion is certainly a better movie than Kirot thanks to the expert direction of Neil Marshal but both are films where all women and girls i’ve seen them with loved the characters of Etain and Galia.Centurion is violent so not for under 12 or 13 i think.
    Now i understand that we’d prefer to show a young girl a film where the woman is heroic during the whole film (like in Centurion) and not only towards the end (like in Kirot) but the transition of a woman pushed to the edge is part of life too.

  30. Here’s an oldie: National Velvet. Many of Holly Hunter’s films would fit: Miss firecracker, Broadcast News, (2 guys, but she is really the focus). Queen Latifa in Just Wright, (fabulous anti-princess message). Bride and Prejudice, very funny bollywood adaptation of Jane austen. And how about Becoming Jane, which is about Jane Austen?

  31. The 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead” is, obviously, violent and bleak, but an unfairly overlooked feminist movie. Barbara is the main character. She’s around thirty, not a “girl”, but a woman who rises to the occasion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead_(1990_film)

    Terry Gilliam’s “Tideland” is an amazing movie about a girl and her imaginary friends. The girl’s parents are drug-addicts, both of them die, and there are a few disturbing scenes. Parents should definitely preview it. I thought it was great and will share it with my girl when she’s older. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tideland_(film)

  32. Looking at my collection, The Sapphires, Little Women, most Jane Austen adaptations and Hairspray are probably age-appropriate, have female-heavy casts and are about fairly feisty women for their time, though they are not “adventures” as such.

    Mirrormask (based on Neil Gaiman) and Labyrinth are more adventure stories, but the supporting cast isn’t necessarily female (though I saw an argument somewhere once that Ludo from Labyrinth could be female).

    I loved The Princess Bride at that age but Buttercup pretty much just survives and gets saved by Westley, so probably doesn’t fit the criteria.

    • Princess Bride does not make my list for the reasons you mention. I have shown it to my kids, including the younger ones, and I like the movie, but it doesn’t qualify.

      I’ll add your first 3 to suggested, I am curious to see them with kids in mind. I think Little Women is good, Jane Austen could be a turn off to my daughter– as with movies with subtitles– possibly too sophisticated too soon, but we’ll see…

  33. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna in Hanna, Summer Glau as River Tam in Serenity, Rebecca Neuenswander as Katherine Parker in Rigged, Angelina Jolie as Fox in Wanted,
    Cate Blanchett as Magdalena Gilkeson in Missing, Olga Kurylenko as Etain in Centurion, Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby, Charlize Theron as Æon Flux in Æon Flux, Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Pacific Rim.
    These are movies (in English language) that I’ve seen and where the female protagonist is not just strong but is a fighter/warrior.
    My 13yo daughter has seen all of these.A couple,like Centurion, may be too violent for younger kids.
    As for non English…there are many films with strong women in Asian cinema,my daughter has no problem watching them with subtitles-although many are available as dubbed too.I can post a list later.

      • As far as movies with women who are strong/brave/fighters,save men or even countries don’t expect to go a long way with English speaking movies.There aren’t many such films in the West.But this is one of the strongest points in Asian cinema.No-one makes films with heroic female fighters/warriors like Asians do.The most well known in the west is Ang Lee’s wuxia masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
        Next to this one i’ll add some of my favorites from the last 15 years.
        (Almost all of them are available dubbed in English but i always prefer to watch them in the original language with subtitles)

        Chocolate (2008) .The story of an autistic girl with powerful martial art skills.This is a hardcore wireless martial arts film and it was an instant classic back in 2008 making the protagonist Jeeja Yanin an icon. There are no stuntwomen, wires, or CGI, everything Jeeja Yanin does here is real.The final 30 minutes is one of the greatest climaxes of the decade.

        Reign of Assassins (2010).Another strong wuxia film starring Hong Kong legend Michelle Yeoh (she was also the lead in Tiger/Dragon)

        Azumi (2003) .An orphan girl is trained by an old Samurai.An anime inspired Japanese film that was such a success it had a sequel.

        So Close (2002).Forget Charlie’s Angels.This is the real thing.The final fight scene between the women and the evil villain almost explode with its pure badassness.It is also a story about friendship loyalty and sacrifice between 3 young women.

        Hua Mulan (2009) .A well made historic action film about the story of the Chinese female-warrior Mulan. Zhao Wei,who also stars in So Close, plays Mulan.

        The Kick (2011) .About a Korean family of taekwondo experts.This is lighter in tone-suitable for younger kids-has not one but four strong girls and lots of great action.Jeeja Yanin of ‘Chocolate’ plays one of the girls.

        This is only part one.I’ll continue with more tomorrow.

        • Hi Mecano,

          Are these movies subtitled? i did add Crouching TIger to the list earlier, but I dont think my daughter has the patience for subtitles at 10. Let me know.

          Margot

          • Yes they are all subtitled and also available dubbed in English.For a 10yo dubbed should be fine.At 13 (age of my daughter) a kid should have the patience to watch something with subtitles.Mine started at 12.

          • Hi Mecano,

            IMO subtitles are too much to get ten year olds into something new, but I will think about these suggestions, which seem great, at the age I notice my kid ready for a new challenge.

            Margot

          • Margot its good to have films here that cover a wider range of ages and also languages.Many people who read your great blog are outside US (i’m in Europe) or have daughters who are older-12 or 13.In Europe watching films with subtitles or dubbed is very common.You can then pick n’ choose those you want for your personal list.I have a very large collection of films so my lists are very complete.If there is a film with a powerful female lead released in US or Asia, i already have it.

    • I haven’t seen all of these, but I feel I should point out that Serenity and Pacific rim both have male protagonists, although the female characters mentions both kick serious ass. (Pacific Rim could have been a great film instead of just a neat one if the interesting woman sidekick with an actual character arc had been made the protagonist.)

      Serenity has intense violence that might be a bit much depending on the parents and the kids.

      Million Dollar Baby deals with some very heavy issues that not all kids are going to be able to handle.

  34. One of the reasons I keep subscribing is, you and and I share a goal here. One thought for reaching that goal: Maybe a symbol or footnote for movies with truly bi-gender appeal. Litmus test question being, were a family with both a boy and a girl of the same age to attend the film, would it be unlikely that this would be viewed as “your sister’s movie because tonight’s her turn.”

    V for Vendetta, I think, would pass this test. Ditto for True Grit. Beaches and Supergirl — obviously not. My Girl, possibly. Traveling Pants, no. We’ve been learning that “Boys have to just deal with being bored in a more female-friendly world” doesn’t lead to greater harmony between the sexes, if anything it leads to boys being needlessly medicated and flunking out of school anyway. So maybe if we can treat boys and girls as if they’re coexisting, they’ll start doing it. Just a thought.

    • I would argue that because boys have been conditioned to think that their stories are gender neutral while girls’ stories are specialized that it is difficult to find a film where women make up a significant portion of the cast that most people would consider appealing to both boys and girls of the age Margot is referring to. I think small children have less of this problem and as adults we’re more comfortable watching different kinds of narratives.

      I also think that because boys and girls have been taught for years what they are supposed to like, it’s hard to find a film that’s supposed to appeal to both sexes without being kind of neutral. Let me make up an example. (Note: These are not stereotypes I believe in but how I think movies are generally sold to audiences.) A boy and a girl could probably find a movie about a family going on vacation equally appealing (as long as there was nothing problematic about the portrayals of the characters based on gender). But “female-friendly” films tend to be about things that have been defined as feminine. Girls like to talk and share their feelings (and drink wine to facilitate talking and sharing their feelings lest you think more intelligent or subversive films are above this). Girls like makeovers and shopping montages. If there is a romantic plot, girls will often be the ones doing the wanting/chasing. Boys like cars and action. Boys like stories where they are the heroes, often actually being heroic and saving the day. I find that most films that we’re taught are appealing to both sexes might feature a female lead surrounded by male characters or a female lead accompanied by a male lead. You might find out something about what she wants and desires but it isn’t always what is driving the film and more often than not, there is an action sequence to appeal to the male demographic.

      • I agree with Cat, and I’ve blogged about this a lot. Stories about boys are “for everyone.” Stories about girls are “special interest” “just for girls.” I am not looking for females and males to be equally represented in films on this list, though that is a good goal for some films as well. I am looking for female protagonists. We are all the main character in our own lives. I am looking for movies where the female star acts, makes choices, takes risks, and goes trough a transition.

  35. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken: Based on a true story, perfect for your daughter’s age, especially if she likes horses.

    Freedom Writers: also based on a true story

    A League of Their Own: there is some focus on taking on the patriarchy, but it’s so awesome I’m recommending it anyway

    The River Wild: Meryl Streep is a badass in this. She’s the only female character, though.

    Bend It Like Beckham: I haven’t seen this in years so can’t remember if it meets all your parameters.

    The Golden Compass

    The Parent Trap

    The Miracle Worker (Patty Duke)

    Little Women

    Uptown Girls

    Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

    Erin Brockovich: This is rated R, so maybe not, but I really can’t remember why, other than swearing.

    If you’re at all interested in tv shows, I highly recommend Once Upon a Time. Many awesome, heroic female characters and appropriate for older kids.

  36. Pan’s labyrinth, Gravity, The fabulous destiny of amélie poulan, La populaire, Maria Montessori: a life dedicated to children, Miss Potter, Belle (2014), Violette (2013), Wadjda (2013).

  37. Ever After: A Cinderella Story – Drew Barrymore. It is NOT Disney’s Cinderella. Strong role. No being rescued. She saves herself. Slightly different take on her step sisters and step mother.

    Fly Away Home – inspired by a true story. Jeff Daniels, Anna Pacquin, Dana Delany. The final scene, with Anna landing the ultralight, the geese landing around her, while Mary Chapin Carpenter is singing “10,000 Miles” is just the best. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_Away_Home

  38. Roman Holiday, Doubt, and V for Vendetta seem like odd choices for a 10 year old but OK. If your daughter can sit through the subtitles, I do think Haute Cuisine/Les saveurs du Palais might be a good choice for when she’s a little older. It’s one of the better films about a woman who cooks. It’s quite difficult to think of a film that doesn’t feature even a slightly problematic depiction of a female character as most complex characters are somewhat problematic.

    The Polar Bear King: It’s basically an adaptation of East of the Sun West of the Moon or a blend of the Cupid and Psyche myth and Beauty and the Beast if those are better reference points for you. A girl is taken from her home to be the companion of a polar bear who comes to her in the middle of the night as a man. He’s under a curse. Anyway, the part I always loved about the movie was the way she starts out as kind but a bit foolish and ends up going on an adventure to save him. As for nudity, I think he might have his shirt off in one scene but he’s sleeping and it has something to do with the story. It’s very quick.
    The 10th Kingdom: I love this miniseries in spite of all of the silliness. Virginia isn’t the best heroine in the world but off of the top of my head there’s nothing about her being the sole girl confronting the patriarchy. It uses a lot of fairytales and nursery rhymes but it borrows especially heavily from Snow White. The main conflict is between the female characters and there’s a great idea (which I wish they had been able to explore in sequels that never developed) about each part of the kingdom being ruled by a different queen (a female fairy tale character).
    Matilda

    I’d like to recommend shows like Xena, Charmed, Daria, and Dead Like Me but I don’t know if you’d approve of the characters or the content.

    And I don’t know if she’s old enough to appreciate documentaries (and you might have to review Girl Rising first before letting her watch) but I like Somewhere Between and Girl Rising.

    • I havent seen Roman Holiday or V for Vendetta. Doubt, is that the Meryl Streep one about sex abuse? If so, would not recommend for kids, though Meryl is great.

      Haute Cuisine sounds great

      Adding Polar Bear King

      Shirt off is OK, the nudity thing is about sex, not wanting it to go to far

      I will do another list for TV, I like all those shows but dont know Dead Like Me

      I think I shoudl make a doc list as well, my daughters loved Anita Sarkeesians’ Damsel in Distress and my 7 yr old wants to watch the pilot one

      • V for Vendetta is too violent for anyone under 12 IMO.Instead of Doubt I recommend The River Wild from 1994 where Streep is an expert whitewater rafter, who has to save herself and her son.

          • The River Wild makes a really interesting case study for what Hollywood so often does to movies with a female lead. Here are the last lines. It’s significant that these lines are the final ones, because final lines are the most resonant.

            Reporter to son: What about your father? What did he do?
            Son: My dad? He saved our lives.

            So the audience is left in no doubt that the rather hapless father has had a character arc and is now the hero. I’m left wondering if The River Wild is actually a movie about the father who learns to be brave, even though he doesn’t speak much. Meryl Streep’s character on the other hand does not change, as she started out strong and remains that way. Her change is in learning to respect her husband. So the secret to a happy life is learning to respect your husband. Streep’s character has no say at the very end. Is this not a regular joe saves the day story in thin disguise?

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