10 best movies about famous women • Art de Vivre

10 best movies about famous women

Mar 16, 2023

From famous writers and freedom fighters to Hollywood stars and NASA mathematicians, here is our pick of the 10 best movies about powerful women.

1. The Hours (2002)

The Hours, a 2002 American film starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman, follows different women and traces how their lives are somehow intertwined and how they are affected by Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway. The film is based on the same title Pulitzer-winning novel by Michael Cunningham.

In 1920s England, Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole Kidman) is battling with suicidal thoughts while writing her novel, Mrs Dalloway while in 1950s California, Laura Brown (played by Julianne Moore), a pregnant housewife with marital problems finds comfort from Mrs Dalloway. Meanwhile, Clarissa Vaughan (played by Meryl Streep), a literary editor in New York, is throwing a party for her friend, who is a famous author and tragically dies of A.I.D.S.

The similar but unexpected events that unite these three different women from different decades unravel over three days.

2. La Vie en Rose (2007)

La Vie en Rose, an Academy Award-winning French film for Best Actress starring the French actress Marion Cotillard, is a musical biopic focusing on the life and career of French singer Édith Piaf.

The events that shape Piaf’s life and career are told in an unchronological way engaging the audience in such a way that you can't take your eyes off the screen for even just a second.

Cotillard received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Piaf with critics calling her performance “mesmerising” and “astonishing”.

3. Judy (2019)

Judy is a biographical drama film based on the life and career of Judy Garland. The 2019 film starring Renée Zellweger is an adaptation of Peter Quilter’s play End of Rainbow. The film received critical acclaim for Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland during the last year of her life in England. Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as the Golden Globe Award, SAG Award, BAFTA Award and Critics Choice Movie Award.

Judy is a deeply moving film revealing the hardships that come with being a child star growing up under the bright lights of Hollywood. The film has been praised for its depiction of Garland as a mother and woman battling with mental illness and substance problems rather than a shallow musical legend. It is a heartbreaking story but a must-see nonetheless.

4. Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe playing three African American mathematicians working for NASA during the Space Race with Soviet Russia.

Three African American female mathematicians known as “human computers” prove vital for the greatest achievement of the era, but times are difficult with segregation still being a part of the everyday lives of the African American population.

Henson and Spencer won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

5. Frida (2002)

Frida, a 2002 biographical film starring Salma Hayek in the role of Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo Frida Kahlo, tells the story of how she channelled her frustrations and pain after an injury into her work. The film received six academy award nominations including Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

In several scenes, Kahlo’s real-life paintings were used to lead the way to the actors which makes this film an absolute fan-favourite for art lovers.

6. The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

The Zookeeper's Wife is a 2017 war drama film starring Jessica Chastain and Johan Hendelbergh in the roles of Jan and Antonina Zabinski who in real life were the owners of the Warsaw Zoo.

The Warsaw Zoo rescued hundreds of Polish-Jewish people during Nazi invasion in the late 1930s and the film is based on the same title non-fiction book by Diane Ackerman.

Chastain’s performance as a kindhearted veterinarian received high praise from the audience. Although it is a heartbreaking and heavy film, knowing that this couple did everything in their power to save hundreds of people and animals makes you feel hopeful. It is also interesting to know that all the animals seen in the movie are real animals.

7. Woman in Gold (2015)

Woman in Gold is a 2015 biographical drama film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. The film focuses on the true-life story of Maria Altmann who fled her country, Austria, during WWII and started living in the USA.

In her old age, Altmann decides to bring back a painting of her aunt that was stolen from her family house during a raid by the Nazis. However, the painting titled 'The Lady in Gold' is now known to be 'the Mona Lisa of Austria' as it was created by Gustav Klimt.

The film follows Maria Altmann's legal battle that goes all the way to the US Supreme Court all the while seeking to unite a broken family through art.

Although both Mirren and Reynolds received high praise from the critics for their performances, the audience consensus on Rotten Tomatoes found the film

a disappointingly dull treatment of a fascinating true story. 1

Watch Woman in Gold to judge it for yourself!

8. On the Basis of Sex (2018)

On the Basis of Sex is a 2018 biographical drama film based on the life and early career of the late Supreme Court Justice and equal rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

English actress Felicity Jones takes up the role of Ginsburg who was the second woman to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The film follows the struggles and sacrifices Ginsburg had to endure from her time at Harvard Law School to her Supreme Court nomination. At a time when the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was overturned and the constitutional right to have an abortion has been banned in almost half of U.S. states, On the Basis of Sex serves as a reminder that we still have to battle for fundamental rights.

On the Basis of Sex is a moving, dramatic film that deserves watching now more than ever.

9. Harriet (2019)

Harriet is a 2019 biographical film starring Cynthia Erivo as the iconic abolitionist and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman. The film follows the life story of Harriet Tubman who escaped from slavery and helped hundreds of slaves to escape to become one of America's greatest heroes.

From her escape till during the civil war years, Harriet helps slaves to escape to Canada where she leads her life as a free woman. The film is praised as inspirational by the audience for its depiction of courage and tenacity. Erivo’s moving performance was nominated at Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

10. Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis is a 2007 animated film based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same title by Marjane Satrapi. The film focuses on the story of a young Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s.

In Persepolis, Satrapi reflects the struggles she experienced growing up in an oppressive culture, and how being sent abroad to have a better life has made her alienation towards her country and culture even greater.

When Satrapi is living in Vienna, she doesn’t feel like herself yet she also doesn't want to return to her homeland.

The film won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Feature at the 80th Academy Awards.

Satrapi’s Persepolis is a one-of-a-kind, funny yet thought-provoking animated film.

In today's world, where gender equality and women's empowerment are more important than ever, these movies serve as a powerful reminder of the incredible contributions that women have made to society. They are a celebration of the strength, resilience, and determination of women who have broken barriers, challenged stereotypes, and changed the world. It is through these stories that we can learn, grow, and be inspired to create a better future for all.


For more inspiring films to watch, check out our film critic's selection of the top 10 documentaries to stream in 2023.


Credits for the Main photo: Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex (2018) IMDb

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