Celebrate Yourself With These Body-Positive Movies

When you see as many movies as I do, it’s easy to conclude that since your body hasn't been sculpted from Hollywood marble, you should permanently relocate to a cave. The vast majority of women depicted onscreen are effortlessly beautiful. Their frizzy hair doesn’t threaten to expand. Their shirts don't snag on curves or fat. And that's a problem, because we go to the movies to laugh, to cry, and above all, to relate with characters.
It's hard to relate to characters when the women onscreen don't look like you, or anyone you know. When I was a kid, I thought I found my heroine in Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) in The Princess Diaries because she had curly hair, glasses, and a long last name, like I did. Then, she had to up and “fix” herself. She straightened her hair, got contacts, and became "beautiful."
I’ve been tired of the way women's bodies are depicted onscreen ever since that initial Princess Diaries betrayal. Luckily, there are movies like these, which tell the stories of all different women.
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Cry-Baby (1990)

Right after making Hairspray, John Waters directed this cult-classic love story between the delinquent Cry-Baby Walker (Johnny Depp) and his uptight, square crush, Allison (Amy Locane). When you're not distracted by Johnny Depp at his most swoon-worthy, pay attention to his group of delinquent friends and their diverse body types.
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Muriel's Wedding (1994)

Muriel (Toni Collette) thinks the only way out of her depressing, seaside tourist town of Porpoise Spit, Australia, and away from her psychologically abusive father (Bill Hunter), is through marriage. But Muriel's never had a romantic experience — in fact, she hasn't had many experiences at all. Her life changes with the first whirlwind "romance" of her life: A friendship with Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), another outcast from her old high school. With Rhonda's help, Muriel moves to Sydney, has a grand ol' adventure, and realizes she's more than "stupid, fat, and useless," as her father often called her.
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The Full Monty (1996)

After the men in this Northern England mining town lose their jobs, they’re trapped in a cycle of unemployment and dependence to the state. Remember, there was no scraping by on sheer resourcefulness in a sharing economy in Thatcherite England.

In a last-ditch effort to meet his child support payments, Gaz (Robert Carlyle) enlists his similarly weary friends to start a dance act based on Chippendales’ performances. The men all come to rehearsal with their own body hangups, and are completely terrified to perform in front of their wives and girlfriends. But by the end of the movie, their newfound self-acceptance is palpable and infectious.
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It's Complicated (2002)

Many years after her painful divorce, Jane (Meryl Streep) makes an astonishing discovery: She's still a sexual being. On the weekend of her son's graduation, Jane finds herself in a love triangle between a gentle and nervous architect (Steve Martin) and Jake (Alec Baldwin), her smooth-talking ex-husband who's just as charming as when they first met. Too bad he's married to the much younger woman (Lake Bell) he'd left Jane for. It's a thrill to watch an older woman acknowledge her beauty and allure.
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Real Women Have Curves (2002)

The summer before she goes to Columbia University, Ana (America Ferrara) works with her relatives in her sister's dress factory. There, the differences between her way of thinking and her mother's are exposed. Carmen, her mother, laments Ana's weight: "You would look beautiful without all that fat!"

But Ana loves her body, and her boyfriend loves it too (another thing Carmen's upset about). "How dare anybody tell me what I should look like…or what I should be…when there’s so much more to me than just my weight! I want to be taken seriously. Respected for what I think, not for how I look," Ana says.

After that fight, Ana and her relatives all end up working in the hot factory in their underwear, cellulite exposed and all. How's that for body positivity?
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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

In the kind (and, okay, impossible) universe of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a leggy soccer star fits into the same pair of jeans as her curvy friend. These magical jeans bind the group of four friends together in a shared acceptance of their bodies. Of all of Sisterhood’s triumphant moments, seeing Carmen (America Ferrera) tell off her soon-to-be-stepmother in a dressing room might be the best. Her stepmother condescendingly picks out a dress for her, and when it doesn’t fit, Carmen responds, “We can just tell everybody that Carmen’s Puerto Rican and it never occurred to you that she might be built differently. Or that unlike you and your daughter, she has an ass.” Cue the applause.
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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

She may just be a kid, but Olive (Abigail Breslin) has the right priorities. She loves dancing, and goofy costumes, and above all, ice cream. When she arrives to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant after a long road trip with her family, Olive stands out from her competitors, each a miniature Barbie doll. Her family decides to “Let Olive be Olive,” and she rocks it. Olive’s final triumph comes when Miss California confirms that she, too, eats ice cream.
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Hairspray (1988, 2007)

Hairspray approaches all of its issues, from body image to the Civil Rights movement, with a dollop of infectious enthusiasm. “Tracy, I’m in love with you, no matter what you weigh," Link (Zac Efron) sings to Tracey (Nikki Blonsky), in the remake of Hairspray.
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Precious (2009)

Sixteen-year-old Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) dreams of a life that isn't her own, because right now, she's trapped. She's trapped living with an abusive mother. Trapped with two children, both the products of rape. And she's trapped repeating yet another year of middle school within an indifferent system. Precious' new teacher, Blue Rain (Paula Patton), is the first person to ever get through to her. After she learns to read, Precious begins to take control of her life in other ways.
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Moana (2016)

After growing up with dainty Disney princesses, Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) — and her strong build — will come as a cool Polynesian breeze of fresh air. The daughter of a chieftain, Moana knows it's her destiny to stay on the island and govern. But her dream is to explore the open sea, something her people haven't done in generations.
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Patti Cake$ (2017)

Patricia Dombrowski (Danielle Macdonald) wasn't born on the wrong side of the tracks — she was born on the wrong side of the river. She's stuck in a rundown town in New Jersey, and spends her days taking care of an ailing grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) and an alcoholic mother (Bridgett Everett) who sings karaoke in a bar and mourns her failed singing career. Her only emotional outlet comes through rapping. Patti Cake$ is a refreshing depiction of a plus-size woman being in a relationship and chasing after her dreams.

It's a dream come true for Macdonald as well, who worried about her own place in Hollywood “As a bigger girl,” Ms. Macdonald told The New York Times, “where was I meant to find something that would fit?” In a world where actresses are expected to be extremely thin, Macdonald says she gave herself a pep talk and said, “This situation is what it is. Find a way to work around it.” So she found one.
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Fun Mom Dinner (2017)

Fun Mom Dinner stood out for Refinery29's Anne Cohen. Then she realized why she liked it so much: The movie had no fat jokes. In the film, Bridget Everett plays a tough, strong, and yes, overweight, mother of three. While Bridget's character elicits laughs, the jokes are never about her body.
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