The Year of the Fighter: The Top 10 Feminist Films of 2014

Hollywood has long been a boy’s club, but this year, women made a dent in the door.

From bow-wielding revolutionaries to outspoken intellectuals to ordinary women with the will to change the world, women warriors, both onscreen and off, challenged audiences to reimagine women as masters of their own destinies. Though the battle is far from won, in Hollywood and throughout the world, the Ms. Blog’s list of our top 10 fiercely feminist films of 2014 may offer some inspiration to fight another day.

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I (Fantasy/Drama, Dir. Francis Lawrence)

It’s a woman’s world in the the third installment of this wildly popular film franchise. As Katniss Everdeen’s star continues to rise as the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, District 13 President Alma Coin, a power-hungry wolf in sheep’s clothing, reveals herself a formidable adversary. A strong female protagonist and an unapologetically deceptive female antagonist in an action-packed war fantasy? Sign us up!                

9. Difret (Drama, Dir. Zeresenay Berhane Mehari)
After 14-year-old Hirut is abducted and raped by a man who intends to marry her by force, she steals her would-be husband’s rifle and kills him in fear for her life. Facing execution for her crime, Meaza Ashenafi, a lawyer and advocate for women’s rights in Ethiopia, volunteers to represent Hirut, but risks her own legal-aid practice in the process. Based on true events, Difret serves as a reminder of the hard-won battles for equal rights of women and girls globally.

8. Regarding Susan Sontag (Documentary, Dir. Nancy D. Kates)
Moody, brooding and fiercely independent, writer Susan Sontag emerged as one of America’s most revered public intellectuals in the early 1960s. Sontag’s refusal to adhere to society’s rigid rules of womanhood without apology—abandoning her marriage and motherly duties to move to Paris, write books and engage in passionate lesbian love affairs—is both what draws readers to her and what turns some off. But if you’re a feminist, Regarding Susan Sontag may just cause you to jump into bed with one of her books.

7. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Thriller/Romance, Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)
In crumbling Iranian underworld Bad City, a predator prowls the dark streets. She glides through the night on a skateboard, outfitted in a traditional black hajib, feasting on the flesh of men taken by surprise by a non-submissive woman. HELL. YES. This genre-bending pulpy masterpiece—the first ever Iranian vampire western—takes back the night with equal parts horror, romance and badassery.

6. Obvious Child (Comedy, Dir. Gillian Robespierre)
Refreshingly honest and hilarious, Obvious Child is not your average rom-com. After discovering she is pregnant after a drunken one-stand, struggling stand-up comedian Donna decides to have an abortion. What’s unique about this “abortion movie,” however, is the humor filmmaker Gillian Robespierre employs to handle this sensitive subject matter. It is this lightness of touch that grounds the film in the reality of the situation and keeps it from veering into the-pit-of-death-and-despair trap that abortion narratives often fall into.

5. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Documentary, Dir. Mary Dore)
With director Mary Dore leading the march, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry sheds light on the 1960s Women’s Liberation Movement’s lesser-known history, detailing the extraordinary efforts of everyday women who sparked a revolution and blazed the trail for women’s rights in the United States. Featuring commentary from National Organization for Women (NOW) co-founder Muriel Fox to early lesbian movement organizer Rita Mae Brown to Redstockings co-founder Ellen Willis, this documentary puts you on the frontlines of the world-changing revolution of women.

4. Belle (Historical Drama, Dir. Amma Asante)
Inspired by true events, Dido Elizabeth Belle is the illegitimate biracial daughter of a British admiral and an enslaved African woman. Rather than doom his child to a life of poverty, the admiral entrusts her care in the hands of his extended aristocratic relatives. Though they raise her as one of their own, Belle must still negotiate issues of class and gender in 18th century England.

3. Anita (Documentary, Dir. Freida Lee Mock)
Victims of sexual harassment and assault are often met with scorn and intense scrutiny, but few women have endured as much derision as Anita Hill. In 1991, Hill provided testimony against Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the Supreme Court, alleging that under his employment, he sexually harassed her. What resulted was a media firestorm complete with swirling winds of racism, sexism, power and politics. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock revisits the scandal, compiling archival footage with fresh commentary.

2. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Documentary, Dir. Chiemi Karasawa)
Broadway diva Elaine Stritch breaks the fourth wall and shares the script of her life. Brash and bawdy, Stritch brought her special brand of humor to every situation on and offscreen, a technique often applied to mask deep insecurities about her own talent. As Stritch prepares for her swan song performance at the Cafe Carlyle, Shoot Me audiences have a front-row seat to observe master thespian—and one helluva woman—at work.

1. Wild (Drama/Biography, Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée)
Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild tracks the emotional journey of Cheryl, a 26-year-old heroin addict grieving the loss of her mother, as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone from California’s Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon. Beautiful, poetic and deeply moving, Wild winds the road to Cheryl’s self-discovery with wit, grace and the will to confront one’s self, no matter how rough the emotional terrain may be.

Didn’t see your favorite feminist film of 2014 on the list? Add it in our comments!

Photo courtesy of rpb1001 via Flickr


Kitty Lindsay is a Ms. blogger and works at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She is also creator and host of Feminist Crush, a weekly podcast featuring conversations with feminist artists and activists. Follow her on Twitter!