Reel Girl’s list of great movies for kids starring girls

I’m reposting Reel Girl’s list of great movies starring girls because I just updated it. Please let me know if you have movies to add. I’m also posting my initial preamble to my recommendations, explaining why it took me so long to make the list and why Reel Girl’s list is hard to get on.

This is a list of girl centered movies with strong girls. That sentence may seem redundant but sadly, it’s not. Many girl centered movies feature a girl who is a princess in distress or a cheerleader trying to keep a boyfriend or Barbie worrying about how to dress for the prom.


Or, if Hollywood allows a strong girl to appear in a movie that is not about a typical, cookie cutter “feminine” dilemma, her screen time is limited; her role is supporting: she is there to help the boy on his quest.


To clarify: the following is a list of movies with strong female main characters where the narrative is based on her brave quest.


This is not a list of HHH (triple Heroine) movies. Some movies may be included on this list such as a Barbie adventure or Kim Possible that would not get a HHH because of the main character’s plastic looks or typical princessy dilemma, but the movie is listed here because, in spite of that stereotype, it is still centered on a brave female hero who has cool adventures.


A few movies are not included on this list even though they are centered on a girl and her brave quest because the movie is simply too awful, meaning boring. “Judy Moody,” unfortunately, fits that category.


Wow, this is why it has been so hard for Reel Girl to recommend, but here we go.


These movies are for kids, not young adults.


Remember, these are movies to show your sons as well as your daughters.


This is a list in progress. Please send in your suggestions.

Reel Girl’s list of great movies starring strong girls:

Spirited Away HHH

My Neighbor Totoro HHH

Kiki’s Delivery Service HHH

Ponyo HHH

Mulan HH

Alice In Wonderland (2010) HHH

The Golden Compass HHH

Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia HH

The Powerpuff Girls HH

Wonder Woman HH (2009)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind HHH

Coraline HHH

The Wizard of Oz HHH

Mary Poppins HH

Pippi Longstocking HH

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe HHH

The Last Unicorn HH

The Secret World of Arrietty HHH

Avalon High HHH

Wrinkle in Time HHH

Matilda HHH

Nim’s Island HHH

Brave HHH

Epic HH

The Croods HH

Ramona and Beezus HH

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl HHH

Fly Away Home HHH

Movies suggested to me that I have not yet seen:


The Secret Garden

Anne of Green Gables

Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell sequel

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Nancy Drew

National Velvet

Samantha: An American Girl Holiday

The Fox and the Child

Leafie a Hen Into the Wild

The Cat Returns

Whisper of the Heart

The Secret of N.I.M.H.

Castle in the Sky

The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki

Empress Chung

Yobi the Five Tailed Fox

Akeelah and the Bee

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

Nanny McPhee

An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars


Ronia the Robbers’ Daughter

Sailor Moon, the movie 1 & 2

Pippi Longstocking sequels


The Worst Witch

Return to Oz

The Secret of Roan Inish

Laura’s Star

Olive, the Other Reindeer

Home on the Range

Cave of the Golden Rose

Cardcaptor Sakura

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Totally Spies

More Reel Girl lists

Reel Girl’s List of Top 10 Movies Starring Heroic Girls to Show Your Kids

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

51 thoughts on “Reel Girl’s list of great movies for kids starring girls

  1. Not sure if The Fantastic Mr. Fox would qualify. While Clooney’s Mr. Fox is clearly the main character, I do think Streep’s Mrs. Fox is featured prominently and she’s wonderfully fierce!

  2. Watched part of “Brave” with my four-and-a-half-year-old. She was too scared when Merida’s mom turned into a bear so we stopped. She really liked the archery, wants her own bow and arrows. I’m sure we’ll watch the rest sometime. She thought “Lilo And Stitch” was too scary the first time, later loved it.
    I love the blog. I’m a single dad trying to raise a smart, feisty, independent grrrl. Always looking for good books and movies for her.
    Of course, I’m not letting the entertainment industry raise my kid. Good movies and books are only a small part.

  3. Penelope with Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon. My daughter loves this film since she was 10.
    The second Narnia film Prince Caspian.In this Anna Popplewell really shines as a strong young lady

    Aquamarine:lovely film about the friendship between 2 girls and a mermaid

    Not a film but a TV series The Legend of Korra has a powerful female lead.

    There are many Asian films,both animation or with real actors that have strong female characters.Not all are for young kids though.Most of them are available dubbed and my daughter who is now 13 loves watching them.

  4. Here are some recs for movie with strong female main characters.

    1) Chicken Run has Ginger the hen.
    2) The Lion King 2 Simba’s Pride has Kiara the lioness.
    3) Olive The Other Reindeer has Olive te dog.
    4) Home on the Range has Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Calloway the three cows.

    • Chicken Run looks like it has male and female protags; same with Lion King 2, not to mention the title: Simba’s Pride; Olive, the other reindeer looks great, added; Home on the Range addeda s well

  5. Speaking of female protagonists, did you know that the movie Chicken Little was supposed to have one originally. The movie originally stuck to the fable by keeping Chicken Little female. This can even be seen in the the original opening of Chicken Little on the DVD special features. Michael Eisner had her changed to a boy so as to appeal better to boys, because he believed boys would refuse to watch a film with a female lead. This from same the guy that was the driving force behind The Little Mermaid.

    Unfortunately, since the movie ended up having a male protagonist, I can’t recommend it to you for your list.

    • I think it’s hard to say who the protagonist is. Judging by agency, the policewoman mother could arguably be the protagonist. The title in both French and English suggests it’s the cat, but titles are chosen for marketing reasons, which sometimes means removing a female billing, as you know.

      At any rate, I think it’s a pretty good story genderwise, especially since there’s an excellent female villain. There is one anti girl snipe from one of the hapless baddies, which seems obligatory in all films these days, but I suggest this one anyway because there’s also ‘girl’ used as an insult in Croods, by the grandma. So I figured we’re not excluding based on that.

  6. Leafie a hen into the wild

    The cat returns

    Whisper of the heart

    The secret of n.i.m.h.

    Castle in the sky

    The wolf children Ame and Yuki

    Empress Chung

    Yobi the five tailed fox

    Summer wars (ensemble cast)

  7. I suggest The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which is not for the youngest kids, but would suit about 10 and up. For the same age, the French animation A Cat In Paris.

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