(Credit: Haldey Robinson / Netflix)

10 feminist films you need to watch on Netflix

No matter how much we claim the world has changed, inequality and injustice are still meted out to the people across the gender and sexuality spectrum within an inherently patriarchal, misogynistic, and heteronormative society.

History talks about the immense struggle of women against oppression and subjugation and their unhinged rebellion against the roles imposed on them. No matter how you look at it, women have always been considered reductive, which led to the birth of the feminist movement in various waves that slowly quashed the gender stereotypes birthed by patriarchy.

People might not have access to academic discourses of feminism and might remain oblivious to the various changes in the world. Films, documentaries, and series can always serve as a proper medium to deeply impact the masses. Various modes of entertainment have been considered to be the proper way of conveying a particular message to the rest of the world.

Netflix has a wide variety of films. Some of these films have an inherently strong feminist voice and raise issues pertinent to the various struggles of the movement. While some films (especially when written by women) help us look at women’s daily lives globally, others focus on heavyweight issues such as harassment, assault, abuse, and mental health stigma.

Here is a list of some of the best feminist films you must watch on Netflix:

10 best feminist films you must watch on Netflix 

10. Moxie (Amy Poehler, 2021)

A shy and introverted teen is inspired by her mother’s badass streak as well as the arrival of the new students in the school and decides to raise her voice against the balance sexism in the school meted out by the male classmates that the authorities are seemingly oblivious to. She publishes an anonymous zine, drawing awareness to expose the misogyny and injustice in the school premises that sparks a rebellion.

With a strong feminist voice, the film explores sensitive subjects, including harassment and assault. The women find themselves engaging in an indefatigable rebellion to quash the pillars of misogyny and patriarchy. Although it is flawed in certain ways, the film deals with weighty issues unhesitatingly and instils a ray of hope in the end.

9. Enola Holmes (Harry Bradbeer, 2020)

Based on Nancy Springer’s series, the film revolves around the smart and spirited Enola Holmes, the sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Enola’s mother raises her to be a well-rounded woman, under whose tutelage Enola develops an innate talent in chess and jujutsu. She is quick-witted and independent. As Millie Bobby Brown, who always wanted to pay the role of Enola, said, she, along with the director, wanted the energy, enthusiasm and eccentricity of Enola to be the main highlight of the film. She was allowed to break the fourth wall and address the audience directly, thereafter creating a connection on her insistence.

In the film, Enola’s mother suddenly disappears and leaves behind a trail of clues. While trying to find her, Enola must evade her protective brothers, the sharp Sherlock and the haughty Mycroft- Sherlock loves Enola’s insightful mind while Mycroft finds her troublesome. While Enola is on the run, trying to make sense of her mother’s whereabouts, she encounters handsome boy Viscount Tewkesburt who is also on the run like Enola.

8. Nine To Five (Colin Higgins, 1980)

What is better than seeing three working women on the warpath to avenge themselves and getting even with the company’s domineering, “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a boss? Add to the mix an extremely talented ensemble comprising a talented trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton and an extremely evil Dabney Coleman playing their boss. Answer? Nothing! 

Although a ” labour film ” 9 to 5 is energetic and exuberant and abounds in humour and comedy. Jane Fonda, who spent a lot of time researching about working women who were at a disadvantageous position, often being overlooked or ignored in the workplace, had apparently said to Higgins, “what you have to do is write a screenplay which shows you can run an office without a boss, but you can’t run an office without the secretaries”. 

7. A League Of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992) 

Despite the growing tension, disdain and unbridled hatred and doubt, two sisters join a female professional baseball league where they struggle to succeed and survive amidst their personal rivalry and other forms of oppression. 

Starring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Tom Hanks among others, the film is emotional and boasts of wonderful performances from the cast. Strong and inspiring, the film is downright enjoyable as well with a hint of romance and drama. 

6. Queen (Vikas Bahl, 2013) 

A girl named Rani grows up in a traditional Punjabi family and gets dumped the night before her engagement by her fiancee who is allegedly ashamed of her backwardness. Determined to live her dream of going on a honeymoon in Europe, she goes on a solo adventure and discovers her inherent passion for cooking, while befriending people from all across the globe. 

Rani, sheltered and shy, manages to metamorphose into a confident, social butterfly who rejects her fiancee and his toxic masculinity. She rediscovers her purpose in life and her entire journey is cathartic. Her wild and adventurous nature buoyed by her compassion and innocence form the crux of the film which shows her transition in a beautiful, heartwarming manner. 

5. A Secret Love (Chris Bolan, 2020)

The powerful story of love, sacrifice and timeless devotion, the film is based on the true story of Bolan’s aunts Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel who star in the film. The duo manages to conceal their lesbian relationship from their families and their world for nearly seven decades. 

The story is incredibly touching as it reeks of the raw and sincere emotions the duo have for each other. The poems that Pat writes to Terry are indeed tear-inducing as it reeks of the utmost love and adoration they have for one another. 

4. Audrie & Daisy (Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk, 2016)

This scathing documentary film involves the stories of two American high school students Audrie and Daisy, who are victims of sexual assault, abuse and cyberbullying. The documentary focuses on the trauma and suffering these young girls face before taking their own lives due to the sheer humiliation they face in the courts of law, who dismiss and invalidate their assaults and do not let them get justice.

The reality of the situation is enraging, horrifying and downright disgusting. From the sheriff calling them names to the school making them pariahs, the entire documentary reeks of the injustices women face daily. They are viewed as nothing but objects of sexual gratification for men. A gut-wrenching look at the inefficiency and failure of an albeit conservative justice system, the film is an eye-opening watch.

3. What Will People Say (Iram Haq, 2017) 

Pakistani teen Nisha tries to uphold the traditions of her household at home while leading a fun-filled life with her friends in Norway. When her father catches her with her boyfriend, her entire world comes crumbling down. Nisha is forced to move to Pakistan to live with her relatives and understand the value of morality and integrity.

Based on Haq’s real life, the film is a scathing look at how patriarchy and misogyny and institutional sexism creep in upon everyone, even in their own home. It is a moving and difficult watch as one sees Nisha slowly lose agency of herself. In an interview, Haq said, “Of course, many of the emotions, what she goes through… some of them are from my own life but it’s also fictionalised.”

2. The War Against Women (Hernan Zin, 2013)

This devastating documentary film provides an insight into the global phenomenon of using rape as the weapon of war in various conflict areas. The survivors are hushed, and the criminals gloat in their unpunishable glory. The film gives voices to the victims of abuse and helps them open up about the atrocities of being a woman in a conflict zone.

It is a shocking, eye-opening and heartbreaking look at the horror of warfare and the cruelty that lies in the heart of the warmongers. The pain and trauma of the women who are abused and mutilated equate to a muted holocaust of contemporary times.

1. RBG (Betsy West, Julie Cohen, 2018)

This 97-minute long film focuses on the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female United States Associate Justice at the Supreme Court. It is an inspiring tale about a spectacular and fearless woman who changed the course of history by being the ultimate “voice of dissent”.

This heartfelt and poignant tribute to the strong and opinionated RBG, who has gone to become a pop-cultural icon, shows her battle in the inherently patriarchal justice system laden with racism, gender inequality and blatant sexism. These struggles helped shape her powerful views, besides showcasing the supportive and respectful relationship she shared with her husband.

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