If there’s one movie Steven Spielberg will be remembered for, it’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial, his 1982 classic about an alien being lost on Earth, desperately seeking a way home. Generations of young boys found themselves in Elliot (Henry Thomas), who copes with the trauma of his parents’ divorce by befriending E.T., embarking on the adventure of a lifetime complete with flying bicycles. It’s the ultimate sci-fi movie, an instant classic that cemented the director’s place as an auteur and visionary. It even has a ride at Universal Studios.
And it was written by a woman.
For much of Hollywood history, “mass consumption” has been synonymous with “designed to appeal to a white male audience.” Women’s stories, on the other hand, were “niche,” of little importance or interest, because they arguably couldn’t possibly reach a wider audience. (Not true.) Why should men care about the concerns and inner lives of women? But the irony is that many of our most deeply held pop culture archetypes have actually been covertly guided by women, often working behind the scenes on movies and TV shows we’ve come to think of as for and about men.
Our current reckoning with the systemic sidelining of women and people of color in Hollywood requires an overhaul of what we think we know about movie and TV canon. That means making space for stories and voices that have traditionally been overlooked, but also revisiting old classics and mining them for new perspectives. Women can and should tell their own stories — but that doesn’t mean they don’t have more to offer. They always have.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re taking fresh eyes to some of our most memorable and most quotable movies and TV shows.