Revelle Blog


12 Movies Starring Strong Female Leads

June 28, 2021

Jacqueline Parisi
Jacqueline Parisi
woman wearing black jeans holding a CD behind her back_movies with strong female leads_revelle

Movie night is about to get a whoooooole lot better.

The more strong women we see at the helm of books, podcasts, and big screen, box office Hollywood hits, the better. Below, a by-no-means-exclusive list of movies with female (fiction and real life) role models.

01 Erin Brockovich

Based on a true story, Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts, who won an Oscar for her performance) tells the story of a woman who, after a car accident, convinces her attorney to hire her at his law firm. After discovering suspicious medical records, Erin proceeds to investigate and, with ruthless, badass determination, discovers a far-reaching cover-up of contaminated water in the local community of Hinkley, California. 

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Peacock

02The Hunger Games

This young adult dystopian trilogy by Suzanne Collins follows the plight of Katniss Everdeen — the definition of a strong female protagonist. What’s more impressive than volunteering as tribute to take the place of your younger sister in a televised, survival-of-the-fittest death match?! This epic adventure brilliantly explores the themes of identity, class, community, and the lengths we’d go for love.  

How to watch: IMDb TV, Tubi

03The Help

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s eponymous 2009 novel, The Help tells the story of Aibileen Clark and Minnie Jackson, both of whom work as maids in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. Aibileen works for a socialite by the name of Elizabeth Leefolt and Minny for Mrs. Walters. When their mutual best friend, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan returns from Ole Miss and learns that her mother has fired Constantine, the maid who raised her, she embarks on an ambitious — and dangerous — journey to write a book of interviews with African American maids working for white families. The goal? Chronicle the town’s oppressively racist attitudes towards the African American women they’re entrusting to raise their own children. 

How to watch: Disney+

04Legally Blonde

There was no way we could write about strong female leads without mentioning one of Reese Witherspoon’s earliest and most iconic films…Legally Blonde. For all of her life, Elle Woods was told that she didn’t have to work too hard — she was pretty! She came from money! But after the man she thought she was going to marry ends up dumping her because she’s “too blonde,” Elle decides that to show him how serious she is, she, like him, will go to Harvard Law School. Defying everyone’s expectations, she not only gets in, but thrives and, along the way, realizes her worth was never contingent on becoming Mrs. Warner Huntington III.  

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video

05 Wild

When Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, picks a book to transform into a movie or TV show, you KNOW it’s gotta be good. That was exactly the case with Wild, an autobiography published by Cheryl Strayed in 2012 and subsequently adapted into a movie. It’s a gripping tale of adventure and self-discovery that unfolds as Strayed traverses (by foot, by *herself*) the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu

06 Hidden Figures

This 2016 biographical film tells the story of three African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race: Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan. Against seemingly insurmountable odds (like having to walk a half-mile to use the nearest “colored bathroom” and contributing invaluable work only to have their names redacted from published work), the women manage to rise. Mary eventually obtains her engineering degree, becoming NASA’s first female African-American engineer. Dorothy works as NASA’s first African-American supervisor, and Katherine successfully calculates the trajectories for the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

How to watch: Disney+

07Moana

This animated Disney film heroes Moana, the independent, strong-willed daughter of the village chief Tui. She’s chosen to reunite a mystical relic with Tel Fiti, a goddess on the Polynesian island. However, when a blight strikes the island, killing vegetable farms and shrinking the fish catch, Moana is determined to set sail in search of Maui, a demigod who can help her return the relic to Te Fiti and save her community. 

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

08Star Wars

Star Wars probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, but humor us for a sec…this legendary sci-fi tale kicks off with the Imperial Forces controlled by Darth Vader holding Princess Leia — played by Carrie Fisher — hostage in order to halt the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. In response, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo (and the droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO) work together to rescue the princess and, in turn, help the Rebel Alliance in order to restore freedom to the Galaxy.

Although, at first glance, it doesn’t sound like a plotline with the MOST strong female characters, there are some stellar standouts along the way, notably Ahsoka Tano, Padmé Amidala, Sabine Wren, Asajj Ventress, and Hera Syndulla. 

How to watch: Disney+

09Mulan

If you’ve never seen Mulan — or if it’s been a minute — now’s the time. The film is set in China during the Han dynasty and follows the story of a main character named Mulan, the daughter of a warrior by the name of Fa Zhou. As he ages, Mulan decides that in order to take her father’s place and contribute to the fight against a Hun invasion, she’s going to impersonate a man. If you’re a fan of good movie soundtracks, this one is GOLD. 

How to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Disney+

10Alien

Part sci-fi, part horror, part action, Alien is a full-blown franchise based on a film series starring Sigourney Weaver as warrant officer Ellen Ripley battling…you guessed it…an alien. There are four films in the series: Alien (directed by Ridley Scott, who also worked on Gladiator and Thelma & Louise), Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection

How to watch: HBO

11Wonder Woman (2017)

Based on the eponymous comic book, this 2017 superhero film centers on the character of Diana, a princess on a remote Amazonian island who embarks on a mission to stop “the war to end all wars,” which she learns about when an American pilot and spy (played by Chris Pine) crash-lands on her island. 

How to watch: HBO Max, Apple, Google Play, Amazon, YouTube, AMC on Demand

12Mad Max: Fury Road

Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with scarce access to things like water and petrol, this thriller chronicles the plight of a young woman by the name of Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) rebelling against the tyrannical leader alongside Max Rockatansky (played by Tom Hardy) 

How to watch: HBO Max

Other movies that get an honorable mention? Kill Bill starring the one and only Uma Thurman, Harry Potter (of course), and Captain Marvel from Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

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