On the heels of Wonder Woman‘s box office success, 2018 ushered in a new wave of feminist films on the big and small screens. Here are 15 of our favorites from the year—spanning genres, but breaking boundaries all the same.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The star-studded Mamma Mia sequel released this summer turned out to be a celebration of feminism in every way—with a plot focused on female friendships and a single mother protagonist content to strike out on her own. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again may not be hard-hitting cinema, but it also pushes back on many of Hollywood’s tired tropes for female characters—and leaves its women viewers singing, dancing and feeling empowered and affirmed.
Capturing the Flag
2018 proved how important the fight for democracy is—and Capturing the Flag, directed by Anne De Mare and produced by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, told the stories of the activists working on the frontlines to protect it. The documentary follows three voter protection workers in North Carolina during the 2016 election—examining the impact of voter suppression laws and the challenges everyday civilians face trying to make their voices heard. Capturing the Flag is a warning sign and a call to arms all its own: If we want to control our futures, we need to fight like hell for the ballot. (Read more about this film on Ms.)
The Darkest Minds
Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s dystopian action thriller about a generation of kids who have to fight being locked up by the government after gaining mysterious abilities broke barriers for media representation in the industry. Based on a bestselling book series, The Darkest Minds features a female protagonist—a girl of color who also happens to have a unique superpower, and a sense of duty that compels her to use it to fight for freedom.
The Hate U Give
Released one day after the death of its legendary feminist screenwriter, Audrey Wells, and based on the acclaimed New York Times bestseller by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give brings the Black Lives Matter movement to the big screen in a female-led story about the urgency of speaking out and rising up. After Starr Carter, a black student from a poor neighborhood, watches police kill her childhood best friend, she is determined to find the courage to fight back—even if it means making her prep school peers uncomfortable and taking on the system.
Michael Myers is back—and determined to right the misogynistic past of his horror franchise. In the Halloween remake released this year, we’re reintroduced to Myers’ victims, who turn out to be fearless and confident women. Jamie Lee Curtis comes back to haunt the killer and avenge women everywhere, taking on not only her own assailant, but the patriarchy in the process. With motivations often compared to survivors who speak up in the #MeToo movement, Curtis tries to make sure Myers can never harm another woman again, drawing her power from the other women he preyed on and using this strength of sisterhood to confront him. This is the Halloween thriller feminists want: One where the patriarchy gets smashed, and women survive.
The titular hero in Black Panther is a man—but the women of Wakanda stole the spotlight of Ryan Coogler’s groundbreaking Marvel film this year. Wakanda’s powerful all-women security force and female political leaders are driving forces in the plot and on the ground; women in Wakanda are warriors, often portrayed as the smartest or bravest members of their community, and they fight alongside men, even though they don’t have superpowers. (Read more about this film on Ms.)
The Bleeding Edge
The Netflix original documentary The Bleeding Edge, from award-winning filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick (of The Hunting Ground and Invisible War), explores the disturbingly unregulated medical device industry—and the disproportionate danger it poses to women’s lives. The film tells critical stories about the tragic implications of medical sexism, and it gives viewers a glimpse into the inside workings of the often women-led groups fighting back. Viewers also gain insight into how to be more critical and informed patients, and the ways in which they can advocate for themselves in the waiting room. (Read more about this film on Ms.)
It’s true that the main character in Proud Mary is a paid killer, but she’s also a feminist icon in her own right. Her story, brought to life by the one and only Taraji P. Henderson, put a refreshingly multi-dimensional black, female character at the center of an enthralling adventure—and reframed classic notions of power in thriller films.
Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians was just another beautiful, funny love story to come from Hollywood in 2018—but Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel made headlines for smashing box office expectations while having an almost entirely Asian cast. The film sparked conversations about the “appeal” of movies and stories centered on non-white characters, and brought new life into Kwan’s engaging trilogy of fictional books about endearing and complex characters.
On the Basis of Sex
On the Basis of Sex was released on Christmas day—which we’re confident was a purposeful attempt by director Mimi Leder to give us the gift we’d been waiting for all year. The fictionalized story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early career makes 2018 the year two films about the notorious Supreme Court Justice came to the fore, and we’re not complaining. On the Basis of Sex is an inspiring, gripping and important film that reminds us how far we’ve come, and how urgent it is that we continue Ginsburg’s powerful legacy. (Read more about this film on Ms.)
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is an action film for the #MeToo moment. Lisbeth Salander, its smart and strong protagonist, is hellbent on vengeance—and making right the wrongs done to women. The feminist hero is complex and hard to love, even while she’s beating up abusers and sexual assailants, but her powerfully fearless and badass show of strength in her attempt at feminist vigilante justice will have viewers rooting for her anyway.
Steve McQueen’s Widows puts an emotional twist on the classic heist film: after four women lose their husbands, they find out that their partners died in the middle of a crime spree; left grieving in debt, they have no choice but to rally together and finish the job. The all-star cast smashes expectations of womanhood in every scene as they organize their child care schedules so that they can play out what are typically male-driven schemes, proving just how smart, capable and brave they are in the process.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
When teenager Cameron is found kissing another girl on prom night (in 1993), she is immediately sent to a Christian camp to unlearn her “sins.” The only problem is that Cameron doesn’t actually know how she identifies, and neither do many of the other young adults fighting back against what we now know is so-called conversion therapy, a dangerous process that endangers the lives of real-life queer teens to this day. Directed by Desiree Akhaven and based on the groundbreaking novel by Emily Danforth, Miseducation follows Cameron and her friends as they pretend to “get better” and rebel against hate and discrimination. (Read more about this film on Ms.)
The high-class crime spree Oceans franchise has been taken over by a band of funny, cunning and sometimes crude women—and Oceans 8 is hilarious proof that the formula still stands. (Also, Rihanna is in it. Rihanna!)
The filmmakers behind RBG had more access to the Supreme Court Justice than any filmmakers before, and got up close and personal with her, even as she was working with a trainer, to capture her history and tell her story. Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary is a beautiful nod to Ginsburg and all she has accomplished, and RBG is evidence that there is no need for fiction or dramatic flair in contextualizing the icon—because Ginsburg’s story, for feminists, is magic enough on its own. (Read more about this film on Ms., and check out our RBG gift guide!)