11 feminist films you need to watch

Celebrate women with one – or three – of these brilliant films featuring strong female leads, including a couple of family favourites to enjoy with the kids

1. Winter's Bone

A teenager (Jennifer Lawrence) caring for her mentally ill mother and vulnerable young siblings sets out to find her father and protect their family home. It's not uplifting, but Winter's Bone is a brilliant film about family, and the devastating impact of drug use. Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone film

“Ree's gender is practically incidental, but she remains a strong, realistic figure.”

2. Working Girl

Downtrodden Tess (Melanie Griffith) faces all manner of adversity in the workplace, but she refuses to let it stop her achieving her dreams of making it in the male-dominated business world. There's romance – but her career comes first, and Tess's imperfections are all part of her charm. Bonuses: big hair, a lot of shoulder pads, and a young Harrison Ford.

Melanie Griffith in Working Girl film

“Tess refuses to stay within the boundaries of her gender/class background. She educates herself, objects to sexual harassment, challenges misogyny in the workplace, escapes from a dead-end relationship, and tries to better herself as far as possible.”

3. The Hours

The lives of three women living decades apart but all affected by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway intersect in this drama. Themes including sexuality, parenthood, marriage and mental illness are all examined in detail – it's not an easy watch, but it's an important one.

Meryl Streep in The Hours film

“Beautiful film – definitely the type that you can watch again and again.”

4. Monsters Vs Aliens

There are monsters, there are aliens – and there's a woman kicking serious arse (Reese Witherspoon) at the helm. She also opts to LTB when he doesn't support her (hear hear).

Monsters vs Aliens family film

“Ginormica has loads of adventures fighting aliens and saving the day, but her fiancé doesn't want her any more because she threatens his status and career. She gets the chance to be turned back to normal, but decides to become a monster again and kick ass. No happy ever after with a man at all – she flies off into the sunset with her friends.”

5. The Heat

A female buddy cop movie, where the straight-laced FBI agent and tough-talking beat cop team up to take down the bad guys. Sounds formulaic, but it's hysterical – Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make a brilliant team. AND they don't need any men to help them out.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in feminist film The Heat

“I have never laughed so hard in my life.”

6. The Colour Purple

Based on Alice Walker's seminal novel and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery, this powerhouse of a film explores race, abuse and misogyny at the turn of the century in the American South.

The Colour Purple film - Whoopi Goldberg

“It shows that women can overcome anything with support – it's truly inspirational.”

7. Kiki's Delivery Service

Teenage witch Kiki moves to a new city and starts her own business – making friends, overcoming anxiety and rescuing hapless boys in the process. Just the right level of cuteness for kids, but Kiki's an aspirational figure too.

Film Kiki's Delivery Service

“It looks like a cute cartoon about a young witch, but mainly consists of women talking to each other about getting ahead with integrity in business.”

8. Made in Dagenham

This story of a group of female machinists who opted to strike for equal pay is based in reality – it led to the creation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. You might get riled up at the injustice of it all, but that's a plus in our book.

Feminist film Made in Dagenham

“It's excellent, and shows how even trade unions were about preserving male power at the expense of women.”

9. Run Lola Run

In this time-bending German cult classic, Lola (Franke Potente) attempts to help save her boyfriend from the gangsters to whom he owes money. In order to do so, she takes control of her own destiny – the timeline in which she's most assertive yields the best outcome.

Film Run Lola Run

“Possibly my favourite film of all time. Incidentally it's often used to show the limitations of the Bechdel test as Lola never has a proper conversation with another woman – despite being generally considered one of the strongest and most three-dimensional female leads.”

10. Matilda

Danny DeVito's never been shy about being a feminist, so it makes sense he directed (and starred in!) Matilda. Shy bookworms will feel some kinship with Roald Dahl's magical heroine, who overcomes her terrible family and even more terrible headteacher to help others and find happiness.

Children's film Matilda

“Love Matilda! I watched it lots of times with my daughter when she was small. The bit where she does the extended arithmetic in seconds is fab.”

11. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Billed as the first Persian vampire film, this is the story of a lone skateboarding vampire exacting revenge on men who mistreat women. It's a much-needed genre update, directed, written by and starring the amazing Ana Lily Amirpour. If that doesn't sell you, nothing will.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night vampire film

“Utterly excellent film – required viewing. Very beautiful, wonderfully feminist, funny.”