100 Best Films That Center Womens’ Experiences

100 Best Films That Center Womens’ Experiences

May 22, 2024

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It’s time to shine a spotlight on the stories that resonate with women from all walks of life. These ten extraordinary films not only put women front and center but also delve deep into their struggles, triumphs, and journeys of self-discovery. Get ready to be moved, inspired, and captivated as we explore the best films that beautifully capture the essence of women’s experiences. These powerful stories will leave an indelible mark on your heart and remind you of the incredible strength and resilience of women everywhere.

41. Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013)

best

8.3

Country

Belgium, Denmark, France

Director

Lars von Trier

Actors

Ananya Berg, Anders Hove, Andreas Grötzinger, Charlie Hawkins

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

Danish writer-director Lars von Trier concludes his so-called Depression trilogy with the two parts of Nymphomaniac, an elaborate retelling of the life of a young woman (played by Stacy Martin and then, by Charlotte Gainsbourg) lived from one libidinous pleasure to another. The film’s elaborate subplots have a life of their own and flashbacks often take center stage in Joe’s auto-narration. Nymphomaniac I introduces the audience to adolescence and early adulthood, through disappointments, adultery, death drive, and extreme ambivalence. Joe’s process of self-actualization seems contested and inspiring at the same time, and Gainsbourg is really given the screen time to shine; even more so than in Trier’s previous psycho-social drama, Antichrist. Typically for the rich treasury of cultural references, Bach, Edgar Allan Poe, and Fibonacci play crucial parts in reconstructing the symbolic planes in Joe’s story. Oh, and Part One opens with Rammstein’s “Führe mich”, which in itself is an perfectly valid reason to give it a go.

42. To Kill a Tiger (2022)

best

8.3

Country

Canada, India, United States of America

Director

Female director, Nisha Pahuja

Moods

Dark, Inspiring, Touching

To Kill a Tiger should not be an easy watch. It’s about the gang rape of 13-year-old Kiran, a girl whose small village has shunned and blamed her for “not knowing better,” and who is being forced by community leaders to marry her abuser to “erase the stain” on herself. But instead of leaning on sensationalism, Director Nisha Pahuja tells Kiran’s story with so much care and sensitivity that it feels refreshing and ultimately inspiring to watch. Pahuja hones in on Kiran’s relationship with her father, Ranjit, who stands by her daughter despite the pressure imposed by his community to do otherwise. The filmmakers note that he’s the rare man to pursue justice for his wronged daughter, and we can see through intimate conversations among the villagers, lawmakers, and social workers how brave and novel Kiran and Ranjit’s journey is. To Kill a Tiger is not an easy watch, but under Pahuja’s deft direction, the discomfort feels necessary, and the relationships heart-aching but uplifting.

43. Your Sister’s Sister (2012)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Lynn Shelton

Actors

Emily Blunt, Jeanette Maus, John Lavin, Kate Bayley

Moods

Dramatic, Easy, Feel-Good

The acting… oh the acting! Your Sister’s Sister is a fantastic comedy which makes great use of the amazing talents and suitability of its cast, including the criminally underused Emily Blunt. Far smarter, quicker and grown-up than most other Rom-Coms, it’s a film built on secrets, lies and, yes, love, sex and family.

44. Woman at War

best

8.2

Country

France, Iceland, Ukraine

Director

Benedikt Erlingsson

Actors

Björn Thors, Charlotte Bøving, Gunnar Bersi Björnsson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir

Moods

Feel-Good, Inspiring, Sunday

A calm choir leader lives a secret life as eco-warrior in this visually stunning and intelligent story about our complex times. If you’re familiar with Icelandic movies, this one has just the right amount of that Icelandic quirkiness – making it a proper feel-good movie with a message. This is added to the superb acting and an off-beat musical score. Not to be missed.

45. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

best

8.2

Country

France

Director

Céline Sciamma, Céline Sciamma

Actors

Adèle Haenel, Adèle Haenel, Armande Boulanger, Christel Baras

Moods

Heart-warming, Romantic, Well-acted

This unique romance is set during a time when a man would be sent the painting of the woman he was to marry before the wedding could take place. Héloïse, secluded with her mother and a maid on a remote island, doesn’t approve of her upcoming wedding and refuses to be painted. Her mother sends for a new painter, Marianne, to try to paint her without her noticing. Marianne has to take on this near-impossible task when she starts having feelings for Héloïse. This makes for a riveting romance where Marianne has to choose between her heart and her art while keeping a huge secret from her love interest.

46. The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Radha Blank

Actors

Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Uplifting

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

47. Scheme Birds (2019)

best

8.2

Country

Sweden, United Kingdom

Director

Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Slice-of-Life, Thought-provoking

In Motherwell, you either “get locked up or knocked up,” or so says Gemma, a teenager on the cusp of adulthood growing up in an old Scottish steel town. Gemma runs among a tight-knit group of friends, at the center of which is ordinary mischief, routine, and roughhousing. And beneath that lies a certain kind of everyday violence. 

As Gemma enters young motherhood, she reckons with how to reconcile her own aggressions with the protective tenderness she feels toward her newborn. Beautifully and thoughtfully directed by Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin, Scheme Birds never feels invasive. Rather, their documentary lets Gemma speak for herself—and in doing so, illuminates not just her life, but the complicated lives that intersect hers, too. 

48. Margarita with a Straw (2014)

best

8.2

Country

India

Director

Female director, Nilesh Maniyar

Actors

Andrew Hsu, Doug Plaut, Hussain Dalal, Jacob Berger

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Heart-warming

Margarita with a Straw is a bold and unflinching film that offers a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of disability, sexuality, and identity. The film follows the journey of a young woman with cerebral palsy as she navigates her way through life, love, and self-discovery. The film’s honest portrayal of exploring sexuality, its rich and diverse cast of characters, and its raw and emotional story make it a deeply affecting watch. It’s a triumph of representation and inclusivity, and a testament to the power of storytelling to challenge and change the way we see the world.

49. Aimée & Jaguar (1999)

best

8.2

Country

Germany

Director

Max Färberböck

Actors

Barbara Focke, Dani Levy, Désirée Nick, Detlev Buck

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Emotional

Set in war-torn Berlin during World War II, this film explores the forbidden romance between a married mother of four and a Jewish woman working undercover for the resistance based on the real lives of Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim, as detailed in Erica Fischer’s book of the same name. As expected, all of the frightening challenges of Jewish people, women, and queer folks are presented bluntly. But there are enough touching and humane moments of empathy that contrast the harsh realities of war. The performances by Maria Schrader and Juliane Köhler are simply remarkable, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters’ intense connection and creating a poignant viewing experience. 

50. Chicago (2002)

best

8.2

Country

Canada, Germany, United States of America

Director

Rob Marshall

Actors

Bill Corsair, Blake McGrath, Brendan Wall, Brittany Gray

Moods

A-list actors, Dramatic, Easy

From a 1926 play to the iconic 1975 stage musical to Rob Marshall’s 2002 extravaganza, Chicag0 has had a strong hold on popular culture. In a way, it’s existed almost as long as cinema itself and its transformation across mediums and modes of expression has been well documented. The film carries all the marks of its theatrical predecessors, the expansive sets, the luscious costumes, the sleek characters whose banter and songs alike testify to their great chemistry — there’s a lot to admire in such a self-referential spectacle. A black-comedy-fuelled musical about corruption and deceit set during the Jazz Age, Chicago fulfils all its promises. With a stellar ensemble cast featuring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and John C. Reily, in tandem with dazzling camerawork and most exquisite chiaroscuro lighting, this one brings the stage to the movies. I mean it in the best possible way!

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