The Girl-Power Guide To Netflix

Every now and then, you need a little pick-me-up. Perhaps a massage, a shopping splurge, or even, say, a quick refresher on inspiring and kick-ass silver-screen ladies. And, while we love a good mindless comedy as much as the next gal, it's important to always have a couple of good flicks that can easily pass the Bechdel Test, or at least offer us a leading lady who rules. With that in mind, we put together a monster watch list for you to stream, stat. Our one requirement: The films all had to be on Netflix Instant Watch, which (sadly) disqualified Alien, Working Girl, and Doomsday. But, we think this list of hackers, warriors, and vampire slayers will give you plenty of that gooey girl-power goodness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures.
Fargo ought to be required viewing because it basically perfected the dark comedy. Frances McDormand serves up Midwestern realness as a pregnant cop who discovers some frozen shenanigans in the line of duty. The Coen brothers know how to make great movies, but the real standout in this one is the fantastic lady lead. Marge is the real reason for Fargo's cult following. This is one of those movies that will be quoted until the end of time.
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Photo: Courtesy of Image Entertainment.
Winnie Mandela
Yes, it was unfortunate that real-life Winnie Mandela wasn't consulted for this movie, and it also was a shame South African actors weren't cast in it. But, Jennifer Hudson does a terrific job bringing the woman who stuck with Nelson Mandela through his imprisonment to the screen, in all of her complicated, history-making glory. The story demonstrates that her struggle wasn't just for herself or her husband, but for South African women as a whole — a good, if flawed, lesson from one of the most important political marriages of our time.
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Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This film won’t apologize for making you uncomfortable and anxious. It will, however, force you to the edge of your seat (or couch) and not let you go. The fact that a major action franchise features a female computer hacker, two things that you don't normally see associated with the genre, is something to be majorly celebrated. The fact that she is a righteous badass who is smarter, faster, and more prescient than any man is crucial, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
The Hunger Games
Um, duh. Forget Peeta and his oddly symmetrical mug, we want to hang out with Katniss and shoot a bow. We wish that The Hunger Games had been around when we were growing up, because it is amazingly inspirational. It's how Jennifer Lawrence earned her place in the spotlight. And, while Katniss does get herself involved in a romance, she spends exactly .02 seconds worrying about anything other than survival.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Sorry, but no amount of space on a screen will tell you why Joss Whedon's seminal series was a coup for both storytelling and small-screen heroines — there are plenty of books for that. Just watch the show. Watch the show and relish.
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Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Strange Days
If Angela Bassett were a deity, we would pray to her. If she were a town, we would move to her. She is just the best, and her character in Kathryn Bigelow's cult classic Strange Days isn't just the heart of the movie, she's also the toughest of a pretty rowdy bunch. She stands in stark contrast in to Juliette Lewis, who, in the film, can't subsist without a man. In fact, in an amazing twist on a classic, Bassett's Mace saves the male hero with her competence, intelligence, and fighting skills over and over again.
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Photo: Courtesy of Orion Pictures.
The Silence of the Lambs
Has there ever been a more complicated and compelling relationship dynamic than the one between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling? The film positively oozes intrigue and maintains its status as one of the best psychological thrillers ever made. Jodie Foster never backs down and proves that she is tough enough to hack it in the FBI.
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Photo: Courtesy of Clowenery Pictures.
Margaret Cho: Beautiful
Margaret Cho has become the kind of comedian who might give your best friend a run for her money. Beautiful forces you to confront your biggest insecurities, while laughing your ass off, with a side of real talk. Known for her frank discussion of the Hollywood machine, her history with eating disorders, and her complicated relationship with her heritage/family, Margaret Cho is our girl-power queen.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girls Club Entertainment.
Miss Representation
This doc should come free with your first box of tampons because it unpacks some serious girlhood issues and illuminates things that make growing up so hard and lonely. A compelling account of the modern media’s portrayal of women, Miss Representation is a documentary that begins as an examination of what’s wrong, and then offers up positive solutions for change. The film takes issues ripped from the headlines, like overzealous Photoshopping, damaging thin-spo, and the over-sexualization of girls, and motivates action. Total girl power. Get angry. Start the revolution.
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Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Mona Lisa Smile
Look up "ensemble cast" in the dictionary, and you may just see a poster for this movie. Julia Roberts portrays a convincing Wellesley art professor who, in the great male-dominated tradition of academia, shakes up the status quo and inspires her students to do the same. Much like that famous portrait's telling grin, the film is a reminder that much brews beneath the surface when women are repressed. 
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Photo: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures.
Steel Magnolias
Julia Roberts strikes again in one of her best roles to date. This film is relentless, like a sticky Southern summer night. It positively oozes glamour and features an all-star roster with Dolly Parton, Sally Field, and Shirley MacLaine. Practically obligatory viewing when considering female friendships and the bond between mother and daughter, Magnolias is lauded for its incredibly human moments. You may feel the overwhelming urge to call your mom after viewing this enduring classic.
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Photo: Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.
The Whistleblower
Based on a true story, Whistleblower centers on a police officer (Rachel Weisz) recruited to help the war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina region rebuild, only to find herself in the middle of a massive sex-trafficking ring. Her efforts cost her her job, but being resilient, resourceful, and determined, Weisz's Kathryn stands up for herself — and the women who suffered such abuses.
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Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Though feminist critics have pointed out that it is only when Mulan becomes a boy that she is able to succeed, let's be honest: This is the Han Dynasty. Not only is she a wonderful fighter, but the budding warrior is decent, loyal, and ingenious. Disney films don't always give us the female role models we deserve, and Mulan provides a nice alternative to the princess norm.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.
The Iron Lady
Our Lady Meryl breathes life into a character whose entire career was framed by her icy reputation. She proves that she can tackle any character and turn any script into an Oscar nod. Her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, the longest serving British Prime Minister and the only female to ever hold the position, reminds us how important it is to be the boss, no matter how many people accuse you of just being bossy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Forget the steamy sex and the stunning Gaultier body suit; The Cook puts Helen Mirren on a rampage that would make her Red character blush. Yes, she enacts her rebellion using sexuality (and what sexuality it is) but in the end, she proves that revenge is a dish best served, well, cold — and made of human. (Note: This does not pass the Bechdel Test, but, like...Helen Mirren?)
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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
The Hours
The Hours is a true icon because it explores the depth of female emotion and shows how beautiful works of art can come from leaning into pain. (The trifecta of Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep, with her second appearance on this list, is a heavy-hitter.) The film frankly addresses depression in women without employing tropes of hysteria, and refuses to demonize the characterse for not fitting into a "maternal" role.
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Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise is part road-trip flick and part thesis on female friendships. The film shows just how far two women will go for their soul mates, who happen to be friends instead of lovers. The film was groundbreaking when it came out in 1991, due to the racy plot and the two female leads, and it still stands out today. Gorgeous, unapologetic, and one of the only examples of a great buddy movie for women.
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Photo: Courtesy of The American Broadcasting Company.
When Billie Beat Bobbie
This film is a stunning reminder that sports aren't just games, but they can be a bellwether for changing cultural attitudes. Remembering the classic Battle Of The Sexes match (which, yes, was done for publicity) between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the story isn't about a 29-year-old beating a 55-year-old, but about advancing the profile of women in sports. It goes beyond the story of a trailblazing tennis star and turns into a feminism primer, and a reminder that Holly Hunter deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest actresses of our time.

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