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  • Abdur Rehman Khan

9 Movies That Succeed at Representing Women

The lack of strong female roles in movies has been a problem for a long time. Usually used as love interests or poorly written characters, women haven’t been able to shine as much as men. To measure women representation, a test called the Bechdel Test was created. A movie has to meet three requirements to pass:

  1. It has to have two named female characters.

  2. The characters must talk to each other.

  3. They must discuss something other than a man.

The test isn’t perfect, but it is an important step in female diversity in film. Here is a list of movies which pass the test and are just great watches in general.


1. Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel is just a great movie in general. It’s cyberpunk, has lots of awesome stunts, the visuals on the characters are superb, and it pays homage to the original manga. Of course, the main character, Alita (Rosa Salazar), is the biggest part of the story and while there are some supporting female characters as well, she is the main focus. Sure, she might seem like a female character who has unexplained powers just for the sake of being an ‘independent’ female. But actually, this movie shows her as someone who makes mistakes and is flawed, despite her talent. A lot of the plot is centered around her struggle to find out her past and her character develops in a way that doesn’t feel forced. She’s portrayed as if she was a curious, confused teenager, which is the most relatable and down to earth part about this film. I highly recommend you put Alita: Battle Angel on your watchlist.

2. Frozen & Frozen 2

Frozen & Frozen 2 are both iconic movies, almost everybody’s heard of Anna and Elsa. As a “Disney princess” movie, you’d expect that Frozen would have the typical love-at-first-sight tropes and that the prince comes in to save the day. That’s not the case at all. Although the fantasy musical makes you believe that at first, it cleverly misleads the audience in order to display a stronger bond: one between two sisters. Frozen 2 also develops this by sidelining the romantic subplot in favour of the sister dynamic. Both Anna and Elsa are in the spotlight, and the actresses’ vocal performances help display their closeness in the movies. Especially with songs like “Let it Go” and “Into the Unknown”, the Frozen movies feel like they care about expressing the women in them and making them memorable.

3. Godzilla: King of Monsters

This is probably not a movie you’d expect to be on this list, which means it did something right. Sure, it’s a monster movie, and an entertaining one too. You might think that Godzilla would be the main character, but a significant portion of the film is seen through the eyes of a human named Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). As the plot moves along, there are several moments between her and her mother that showcase their tough relationship. We actually see how conflicted Madison feels about doing the right thing, but not knowing when and if she should trust her mother’s judgement. Godzilla: King of Monsters is an overall eye-popping, action-packed movie, and it passes the test in a way that just feels natural.

4. Maleficent

Maleficent is definitely one of Disney’s darker movies. It’s a twist on ‘Sleeping Beauty’ where the story focuses on the ‘villain’ instead (she’s more of an anti-hero). Right from the beginning, we see how Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is largely independent. As she suffers heartbreak and betrayal, we see her evolve into a 3-dimensional character who, under her gritty appearance, has a heart of gold. The interactions between Maleficent and Aurora’s (Elle Fanning) conflicting relationship proves how the movie sidelines its romantic subplot for familial love. I admire how it did so by showing how family can be tough, but at the end of the day they do care. There’s also the added bonus of its alluring aesthetic, which I feel was very symbolic of Maleficent as a character. By focusing on how Maleficent channels her trauma and feelings while questioning her morals, the movie succeeds at giving a creative update on the original story.

5. Moana

Moana has it all: catchy songs, beautiful animation and most of all, admirable characters. Moana, portrayed by newcomer Auliʻi Cravalho, is introduced as a curious girl who is chosen to save her people. A large part of her motivation starts with her grandmother (Rachel House) urging her to follow her passion of voyaging across the ocean even though her parents want her to become the next village chief. Moana’s grandmother helps her as a mentor and inspires her to find her true self, and this relationship is definitely the story’s main driving force. Yes, Dwayne Johnson as Maui is a scene-stealer, but Moana’s spunk and well-rounded personality are the movie’s biggest accomplishments. I urge you to watch this very lovable movie.

6. Queen of Katwe

Depicting the life of Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi, this biographical drama shows how she overcomes obstacles to become a chess prodigy. As many of the characters are women, the movie focuses on a matriarchal family, and it shows how both Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), her mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong'o) persevere to help their family. They face setbacks, discouragement, and loss, but they don’t back down at all. The movie shows the mother-daughter relationship between Phiona and her mother as well as her sister in a very moving way. Queen of Katwe is an overall inspirational film, showing how you can do anything regardless of your background.

7. Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures tackles a lot of subjects, and I think it’s amazing how it does so. Some people may think of it as a period movie since it takes place in the past, but it couldn’t be more relevant today. It focuses on three African-American women who played key roles in getting the first Americans in space. This movie shows how they face racial and gender discrimination while achieving their true potential. The trio of Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe and Taraji P. Henson gave stellar performances in the movie that really resonated emotionally. I praise the fact that the movie brings attention to these grossly underappreciated mathematicians who helped NASA during the Space Race. The story really dives into the essence of their struggles and made me care about them. Their pivotal roles in this era of American history were expertly shown in this intelligent and riveting movie, making it a really worthwhile watch.

8. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games movies, based on the hit book series by Suzanne Collins, are some of the more prominent dystopian films out there. If I could, I’d talk about all of them, but the first one in particular is probably my favourite one since it shows how the entire story is based on sisterly love. I’ve watched it several times, and I love its personal feel. The protagonist, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), is immediately established as a resilient person who would do anything for her sister Prim (Willow Shields). She takes her place in the Hunger Games, where teenagers are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. Katniss’ struggle to survive for her family creates a powerful movie that’s violent, exciting, but also heartfelt.

9. A Quiet Place

Technically, according to the test, A Quiet Place doesn’t pass because there is little spoken dialogue. But I disagree, because the characters do use sign language, which I feel conveys the same level of emotion. We see the story unfold through both Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and how they live with their kids in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters have invaded and kill anything that makes a noise. I like how Krasinski (also the director) created this horror movie where the suspense is intense, since this raises the stakes and makes the characters closer. I also like how it gives more representation to the deaf community. A lot of the movie focuses on the relationship between Evelyn and her daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf, and does so more than the father and son relationship. As well, the lack of speech just gives more attention to the characters’ expressions, which makes it more intimate. Both scary and touching, A Quiet Place is a remarkable experience.

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