Ah, Hollywood. It’s like a different world, filled to the brim with glamorous superstars and larger than life plotlines. Who doesn’t like turning on a movie and escaping into another universe for a night with friends? If you’re like me, though, sometimes it’s hard to watch movies in good social consciousness. Most films are male dominated both in set and in plot, and it’s difficult to rationalize enjoying them when they’re bubbling with misogyny below the surface. Luckily, I’ve spend an awful lot of time looking for girls’ night movies that are feminist friendly so you don’t have to! Below are some movies that I’ve found both pass Bechdel test (where two named female characters must talk about something other than a man) and feature complicated, three dimensional roles for women. Plus, they’re just really fun!
The first time I saw this movie, I was absolutely floored at how incredible of a job Disney did on it. Starring the radiant Angelia Jolie, this live action fairytale tells the real story of what happened to Maleficent from the 1959 Sleeping Beauty. This movies paints Maleficent as a misunderstood victim as opposed to a cardboard cutout villain, and it does so with poise and grace . Containing a powerful metaphor for rape as well as the message that true love does not always have to come from a man, Maleficent is as progressive as it is gorgeous. From the lush landscape of the magical moors to the barren castle of the monstrous King Stefan, I felt like I was actually in the world of the story. Honestly, I can’t say enough about how wonderful and subversive this movie is. You’ll never feel the same about Sleeping Beauty ever again, but this is an absolute must see.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Iconic does not even being to cover how amazingly influential this film is. When I was twelve years old it popped up on my old 18 inch television and I’ve never been the same since. Following the law school journey of Elle Woods, a kind, savvy, fashion forward girl determined to win back her boyfriend Warner, Legally Blonde is one of the feminist staples of the century. Never is Elle criticized for being too feminine or flighty–she’s allowed to be girly and a go-getter and intelligent all at the same time. Her “rival” for her boyfriend’s affections actually turns out to be her friend when they realize what a loser he is, and when Elle almost drops out because of a male professor, it is her female advisor that comes to her rescue. Coupe that with Elle exacting the perfect revenge in the courtroom and you’ve got a total home run.
Practical Magic (1998)
Has Sandra Bullock even been in a bad movie? I think not. In Practical Magic, she plays Sally Owens, a heartbroken widower trying to ensure her two children a normal life outside of their mischievously magical aunts. Enter Nicole Kidman as Jillian, her trouble making sister who’s got a huge problem trying to shake an ex-boyfriend as well as a curse on the whole family. Practical Magic is all about the unique bond women share, one that can span time, distance, and even death. With a killer soundtrack by Joni Mitchell, Faith Hill, and Stevie Nicks, this movie’s charming atmosphere and gentle encouragement make watching it feel like being wrapped in a warm blanket.
The Heat (2013)
This movie was made fifteen years after Practical Magic and Sandra Bullock literally looks the same. This time, she’s special agent Sarah Ashburn, ready to move in on a major Boston drug bust. She’s paired up with Shannon Mullins, a wise cracking, profanity slinging, street smart cop played by the delightful Melissa McCarthy. I think every girl will see a little of Mullins and Ashburn in her and her best friend–the movie is chock full of hilarious jokes and misadventures. The best part? Not one of those jokes is related to the fact that they’re both women or about Melissa’s weight. One of the best scenes occurs when a male officer sneers at Ashburn for not shaving and Mullins is absolutely merciless in tearing him apart. It’s bursting at the seams with girl power and good old fashioned comedy–think 21 Jump Street, but way better.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Chronicling the incredible summers four lifelong friends who stay in touch by mailing a magical pair of pants that fit them all, Sisterhood is such a cinematic bright spot. Dealing with very real issues like rejection, the death of a parent, and terminal diseases while still being able to coax a smile from its audience, this film is remarkable mature and sensitive. Everyone will want to assign characters to themselves (I am Tibby in the flesh in case anyone was wondering), and it’s nice to see accurate portrayals of female friendships on the big screen. It’s intensely comforting, because no matter how their lives change, the f our always remain friends. In the long run, isn’t that what it’s all about?