Commercial movies are pretty much a guy’s world, and if you don’t believe me, check out the depressing statistics at seejane.org. The good news is that you don’t have to settle for whatever is hot at the multiplex this week, because you have the whole spectrum of formats, including streaming and DVD/Blu-ray, to choose from. So why settle for the undifferentiated girlfriend or girl in the refrigerator when you can watch women who have their own stories to tell? In that spirit, here’s a selection of five movies that will have you ready to fight for world peace, calculate space shuttle trajectories, and become an ace primatologist, maybe all at once!
Battle of the Sexes (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2017). Emma Stone stars as Billie Jean King, founder of the WTA tour and winner of a 1973 media-event tennis match that, rather surprisingly, served to answer the question of whether women tennis players (and by analogy, all women) should be taken seriously as professionals and paid accordingly. Extra bonus points for a strong ally role from Alan Cumming as Ted Tinling, a gay fashion designer who provided counsel and moral support to King as she navigated unknown territory.
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016). Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book about black female mathematicians at NASA, Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe as, respectively, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Extra bonus points for the way this film models survival skills for the non-white, non-males among us, like maintaining your dignity in the face of oppression, choosing your battles wisely, and knowing when to take a chance.
Jane (Brett Morgen, 2017). Lacking an academic background in primatology (or anything else—she was working as a secretary when Louis Leakey recruited her to work in Tanzania), Jane Goodall had no choice but to take note of what she saw before her, an approach that, among other things, allowed her to prove that humans were not the only primate tool-users. Extra bonus points because this documentary is constructed primarily of footage shot in the 1960s and long believed lost thus offering an unexpected look at Goodall’s formative years.
Made in Dagenham (Nigel Cole, 2010). Sally Hawkins stars as a British factory worker who rises to the occasion in 1968 when the female workers at a Ford plan strike for equal wages. Extra bonus points for Rosamund Pike as the wife of a Ford executive who supports the strike, in part because she recognizes that the political and economic system that allows the women factory workers to be paid less than male workers also results in her diminished life opportunities (compared to a man of equal accomplishment) following university graduation.
Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017). Currently the second highest grossing film of 2017, Patty Jenkins’ superhero film with a difference stars Gal Gadot as the title character, who speaks multiple languages, refuses to wear confining clothes just because that’s the “normal” thing to do, and is dedicated to the formidable goal of defeating the God of War himself. Extra bonus points for Robin Wright as Antiope, General of the Amazon Army, and the whole Amazon crew for their balletic methods of combat (Wonder Woman earned a SAG nomination for outstanding stunt ensemble). | Sarah Boslaugh