17 Movies Every Woman Should See At Least Once

There are a lot of good movies. You enjoy them, and then you forget them. But some movies are special. They open up the door in your heart for characters to move in, and stay forever. Which of us, after seeing Little Miss Sunshine, doesn't often think of Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) performing her pageant routine with confidence, completely disregarding the collective open-mouthed gape of the adults in the room?

For International Women's Day, we gathered a broad range of movies that highlight women's stories — the special kind of movies that will stay with you long past the first viewing. In these movies, you'll encounter all manner of women. Lonely vampires that stalk the streets looking to enact justice through their victim choices. A trio of astrophysicists that face sexism and racism, but don't give up. Lots of mothers and daughters. And all will speak to you.

Come to this list whenever you need to feel understood, and to feel united with other women from all ages, eras, and walks of life.

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Alien (1979)

Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her six fellow crew members are unexpectedly woken up from stasis. Unfortunately, a giant bloodthirsty alien has invaded the ship and will pick off anyone too slow or too scared (or just simply in the wrong place). Ripley's the bravest of the bunch.

Why You Should Watch It: Watch Alien for Ellen Ripley, one of the most badass women protagonists in movie history. Ellen becomes a hero by rising to meet circumstances. Alien is the first in a line of stellar sci-fi movies helmed by women (Ex Machina and Annihilation being some of the most recent).
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9 to 5 (1980)

After enduring the treatment of their male chauvinist pig of a boss, secretaries and assistants Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton) develop the same dream: Kick him out, and run the business themselves. Their fantasy of doing away with the boss turns into a reality when the women accidentally poison his coffee.

Why You Should Watch It: Though it's a comedy, Nine to Five identifies the toxic power imbalances in workplaces that have been the focus of discussions as of late. 9 to 5 is prescient – and it's also a delight to watch Tomlin, Fonda, and Parton act alongside one another.
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Terms of Endearment (1983)

Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) could have predicted that her daughter Emma's (Debra Winger) marriage to Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels) was not going to work out, but Emma chose with her heart. Emma and Aurora have a deep bond, one that buoys them through Emma's unhappy marriage and Aurora's reluctant relationship with the astronaut who lives next door.

Why You Should Watch It: The Oscar-winning movie is considered one of the best (and most heart-breaking) movies about mother-daughter relationships.
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The Color Purple (1985)

Alice Walker's 1962 novel The Color Purple will break your heart and build it back up again, and so will the 1985 movie adaptation. The story follows 40 years in Celie's life, from when she's a young girl abused by her father, to her unhappy marriage, to the libration she finds through the companionship of Sug Avery (Margaret Avery). The lives of Celie's friends and peers in the rural Mississippi town — like Sophia (Oprah) – are also explored.

Why You Should Watch It: The Color Purple is a remarkable story of endurance, survival, and the relationships that women build with each other that keep them afloat through the unthinkable.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

Each Wednesday, Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) accompanies her grump of a husband to visit his mean old aunt at the nursing home. While there, Evelyn meets a kind woman, Ninny (Jessica Tandy), with whom she can have an actual conversation (something she can't have with her husband). Ninny tells her the story of a now-abandoned town called Whistle Stop, Alabama and the women who ran the cafe near the train station — Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary Stuart Masterson).

Why You Should Watch It: Are they friends? Are they more than friends? The bond between Ruth and Idgie heads into unclassifiable territory. They are there for each other. Fried Green Tomatoes is a lovely, if totally romanticized, portrait of friendship, both between Ruth and Idgie and between Evelyn and Ninny.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Each week, four friends gather for their mahjong game and gossip. They call themselves the Joy Luck Club. The members all have something in common: They emigrated from China, and their Chinese-American daughters are a mystery to them. In The Joy Luck Club, we see eight individual journeys played out, and four relationships developed.

Why You Should Watch It: You can go a long time without learning who your mother was before you came into the picture. The Joy Luck Club is a bittersweet look at the sacrifices and joys of motherhood; the realities of immigration and displacement; and proof that the gulfs that often exist between mothers and daughters can be bridged.
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Muriel's Wedding (1994)

Muriel (Toni Collette) has the misfortune of being born into a family of mean people in the dead-end town of Porpoise Spit, Australia. To give you an idea: Muriel's father likes to call her "stupid, fat, and useless." Muriel's life goal is to move to Sydney and have a glamorous wedding. Her new friend, Rhonda Epinstock (Rachel Griffiths), can help with the former – and maybe help Muriel reconsider the latter.

Why You Should Watch It: Muriel's Wedding is about finding people who love and accept you wholly — something which Muriel's family certainly doesn't do. After spending the movie searching for romantic bliss, Muriel realizes that her person has been by her side, all along.
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Now and Then (1995)

Remember summer vacation? Well, the four 12-year-olds in Now and Then still get to enjoy those sprawling months. In the summer of 1970, they all experience the same pivotal event. As grown women, the clique reunites into their hometown and recalls that summer, as well as reflecting on the way their childhoods have shaped their lives.

Why You Should Watch It: Growing up happens while you're paying attention to other things. Suddenly, you're old, and your friends are old, too. Now and Then explores the way childhood carries into adulthood, and the incredible endurance of friendships.
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Love & Basketball (2000)

Monica (Sanaa Lathan) has dreams that she hopes will take her all the way to the top. Like her neighbor (and future boyfriend), Quincy McCall (Omar Epps), Monica has wanted to become a professional basketball player for as long as she can remember. Quincy and Monica love each other, but they also are loyal to their ambitions — which might pull them in different directions.

Why You Should Watch It: Monica and Quincy's relationship is one of the best in movie history. Eventually, one of their careers will have to be prioritized. The movie's last scene will make you smile.
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Eighteen-year-old Jess Bhamra's (Parminder Nagra) parents have planned out her whole life. She's going to get married to a man they have chosen, and she's going to adhere to their strict values. But Jess wants to play soccer — and there's no room for soccer in their plan. Without her family's knowledge, Jess joins the local women's soccer league, and discovers she has a natural knack for the game. She becomes friends with Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley), falls for the coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and challenges her family to accept her.

Why You Should Watch It: Bend It Like Beckham is a joyous little indie, bursting at the seams with warmth and humor.
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Real Women Have Curves (2002)

At 18, Ana Garcia (America Ferrera) has dreams of going to college and living a full, rich life that aligns with her principles. But her family needs her to work in her sister's textile factory and put pause on her dreams. That summer working in the overheated factory, Ana and her mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros), clash on their differing ideas of how a woman should act and appear.

Why You Should Watch It: There's a scene in Real Women Have Curves that encapsulates what makes the movie so special. Much to Carmen's horror, Ana and the other workers take off their shirts and show off their real bodies without shame. The movie's about self-acceptance and self-love, but also love for family.
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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The Hoover family is very dysfunctional, but they can agree on one thing: They have to get Olive (Abigail Breslin) to her pageant. So begins a wild road trip in which each Hoover family member faces his or her own demons, so that they can better rally around the total gem of the family.

Why You Should Watch It: You should watch it as a reminder to keep the inner Olive alive. Olive is goofy, sweet, loves ice cream, and dances like no one is watching.
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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

The Girl (Shila Vandi) only comes out at night. She roams the streets of her Iranian town on a skateboard, wearing a chador — and keeping her eye out for men who are cruel to women. The Girl is a vampire, and she chooses her victims wisely.

Why You Should Watch It: This is the first Middle Eastern feminist vampire spaghetti Western. It's a delight to watch such a refreshing look at the vampire movie genre, helmed by a vampire who keeps concert posters on her wall and really just wants to find an equal.
Iris (2014)

Iris Apfel is a fashion icon — and after watching this documentary, you'll want her to be your best friend, too. Over the course of her long life, Apfel pursued her passion for interesting items. She became a collector and interior designer. She and her very devoted husband used to roam the world, running their business and pursuing adventure. The documentary was filmed when Apfel was 93 and her husband was 99, and both were still working, though on a less-hectic schedule.

Why You Should Watch It: Apfel Iris is a larger-than-life figure. She devoted her life to pursuing her passions and happened to become very successful doing so. Aside from highlighting Apfel's ambition, the movie also celebrates the relationship that bolstered Apfel her whole life.
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Hidden Figures (2016)

In 1961, mathematicians and engineers Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) help put a man on the moon. But getting to NASA (and then being taken seriously at NASA) was far from simple. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughan encounter sexism, racism, and doubters at almost every turn.

Why You Should Watch It: This is an incredible true story, and it's a travesty that it took until 2016 for most of us to learn about it. While you're at it, you might as well read the book, too.
Lady Bird (2017)

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) would like, very much, for you to call her Lady Bird. It's an upgraded name for a person who will have an upgraded life — once she gets out of Sacramento. Lady Bird's a senior in high school, applying to college without quite facing the realities of her family's difficult financial situation. Over the course of her last year in high school, she'll fall in love (more than once), bicker with her mother (more than once), and learn about herself over and over again.

Why You Should Watch It: There's a reason why Greta Gerwig's directorial debut was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. The movie is a revelation. Gerwig's script captures the way people actually speak, and the way adolescence really feels. It's your girlhood, played out on screen.
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Girls Trip (2017)

Back in their heyday, the four members of the Flossy Posse were each other's worlds. Now that they're older, though, Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), Dina (Tiffany Haddish), and Ryan (Regina Pierce) have drifted apart. Ryan is asked to speak at the Essence Festival, and invites her old friends to come along for the weekend. A lot has changed — though the friends are happy to be with each other again, tensions are right around the corner. Can they work through them?

Why You Should Watch It: Because it's hilarious! Because it gets the complexities of friendship! And because of Tiffany Haddish!
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