Old school movies seemed to be more concerned with producing quality over quantity. The storylines were unique, the acting believable, and the characters were often confident and passionate women, whose strength and determination ultimately led them to greatness. These are the types of movies that remind us of what girl power really means.
So, if you’re in need of a bit of a pick me up, or a reminder to celebrate how powerful and independent the women in this world are, then below are some old school movies you need to watch that celebrate girl power and strong female friendships to the fullest.
Steel Magnolias was first released in 1989 and starred big names like Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis. But it’s not just the cast that makes this film worth a watch, it’s also the story. It’s one about hard work, everlasting friendship, and resourcefulness — aka one that all young women need to see.
Working Girl is another ‘80s movie that is about girl power because the story follows a cunning secretary who refuses to let her boss walk all over her and ultimately steal her ideas. She devises a plan to try and get her best idea back as her boss tries to pass it off as his own. It’s great to watch movies like this because they don’t just portray women as eye-candy, or just as someone’s love interest. Rather, movies like Working Girl are about powerful women, trying to make something of themselves and rage against the patriarchy.
A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is one of those films that proves that a woman can do anything a man can do. In this case, sports. The film was released in 1992, and the storyline follows two sisters who are the first women to join a professional baseball league. It stars Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, was well recieved by critics, and made $107 million off of a $40 million budget. Thus, it was a huge success.
9 to 5
The best thing about 9 to 5, which was released in 1980, is that the storyline revolves around three female employees who decide to stand up against their boss’s blatant sexism which includes office sexual harassment and passing off their ideas as his own. They come up with a plan to get rid of him. Sure, maybe it’s a bit extreme but there’s a rat poison and a kidnapping involved. Whatever. He deserved it, right? This is another film that shows women how important it is for them to know their worth.
Now and Then
Now and Then is a 1995 film centered on female friendship that stars Christina Ricci, Rosie O’Donnell, Thora Birch, Melanie Griffith, Gaby Hoffmann, Demi Moore, Ashleigh Aston Moore, and Rita Wilson. The storyline follows four 12-year-old best friends and their personal discoveries but juxtaposing their current lives with the ones they led as preteens. The movie was created by I. Marlene King AKA the woman behind the Pretty Little Liars TV show. In fact, there were even rumors that this movie was coming to ABC Family as a TV show in 2012. Sadly, Now and Then: the TV show never made it past development.
Thelma & Louise
Any modern feminist knows that Thelma & Louise would be on this list! It is, by far one of the most memorable stories of female friendship and empowerment in a movie. All about women breaking out of the roles required of them by the men in their lives, Thelma and Louise want more and they’re going to get it. Released in 1991, it’s crazy how groundbreaking this Susan Serandon and Geena Davis movie continues to be.
In 2000, the true life tale of Erin Brockovich was portrayed on film. If you’re unfamiliar with her story, she was an unemployed mother who became a legal assistant, and subsequently an environmentalist. Brockovich’s hard work and unwavering determination led her to not only secure a better job for herself but also expose a California power company for wrongdoings.
Mulan is quite possibly the best movie Disney ever graced us with. While other Disney films are great to watch when you’re a child, during your path to adulthood you tend to notice that there was something actually totally effed up with the storyline (Belle clearly had Stockholm syndrome and those princes should definitely not have been kissing princesses while they were asleep!). That’s not the case with Mulan. In fact, Mulan is kind of a feminist icon. She joins the Chinese army to save her father by going undercover as a man. It’s another tale of ‘anything a boy can do, a girl can do, too’ and it was the kind of story we needed more of as children.
At first glance, it may not be obvious why Heathers is on a list about girl power. It’s a dark comedy about high school popularity — but is it really about girl power? Well, we don’t want to give away spoilers — but when you get to the end of the film you can see how Veronica’s arc clearly cements some important ideas of feminism — especially as it pertains to her sick new boyfriend, J.D.
Mona Lisa Smile
The 2003 film Mona Lisa Smile is definitely one of the most obvious girl power movies. The storyline follows a fiercely independent art professor (Julia Roberts), who challenges her students into thinking that they deserve more than the roles traditionally required for them to take on in the ‘50s. With other powerhouses like Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the cast alone is enough to empower young women to want to be more.
One of the reasons Calendar Girls is a movie with such a strong storyline about girl power is because it is a bunch of regular women who decide to pose nude for a calendar — and that takes guts. They’re not young or impossibly beautiful. And the reason for them wanting to pose nude is to raise money for a local hospital. Talk about good intentions! It’s a film about embracing your sexuality and loving your body just the way it is, but it’s also one focused on friendship and selflessness — all of which are good things.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was released in 2005, so it’s a little later than some of the movies that made it on this list. Still, even 12 years after the fact, this is still a must watch for young women embarking on life. The story follows four female best friends, all of whom are incredibly different, and how they try to stay involved in each other’s lives even despite their differences. They all are dealing with different issues and struggle with self-esteem, but it’s their friendship that keeps each other grounded. Let’s face it, when you’re that age — good friends are the #1 thing you need to keep you on a good path and we could all learn a little something from this sisterhood.
Charlie’s Angels is a 2000 film (though there was previously a TV series in the ‘70s of the same name and with the same concept). It’s about three women who use their skills to fight crime. Sure, they’re guided by a MAN named Charlie (it’s not perfect) but they’re all unique, special and fierce as f*ck. They don’t shy away from their sexuality, and although their sex appeal is actually one of their weapons, they also can kick some ass physically!
10 Things I Hate About You
10 Things I Hate About You has all the typical high school stereotypes: there’s the mysterious bad boy, the jock, the beautiful, naive popular girl, and then there is Katarina Stratford. Kat’s a passionate feminist who doesn’t fit into any mold and doesn’t want to try to fit in. And it is this female heroine that makes this film deserving of a spot on this list about girl power. She is sarcastic, she knows what she wants, she doesn’t conform and she had no intention of living up to anyone else’s expectations. She’s basically a feminist icon. Kat forever.
Pretty In Pink
A John Hughes classic, Pretty In Pink is the 1986 movie about a woman (Molly Ringwald, of course) torn between two very different classes, two different guys and two different lives. While there’s nothing really girl power-y about the movie itself (although she does go to prom alone!), it’s the main character Andie who is a role model to women everywhere. She is in charge of everything in her life and through her hard work and self-acceptance, she can make anything happen for herself.
Double Jeopardy is not a happy story about friendship like many of the other movies previously mentioned, but it is about girl power because despite the main character, Libby Parsons‘ fight against her personal injustice. After being humiliated, framed and tried for a crime she did not commit, Libby is put through absolute hell. But it doesn’t break her. Rather, she gets stronger and more determined to prove her innocence — and maybe get a little revenge while she’s at it.
What’s great about Clueless is that it doesn’t buy into stereotypes, and while many films portray the privileged, pretty, popular girl as a stuck up, downright bitch, the main character, Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone is not that way. In fact, she’s pretty sweet, well-spoken and thoughtful. She also doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. At times she may be bossy (which hello, can be a good thing), but she’s also brilliant. She doesn’t judge her girlfriends and she doesn’t judge herself. Every quote she speaks is pretty much dripping with girl power and we love it.
The First Wives Club
The First Wives Club is a 1996 movie about three women whose husbands divorce them to be with younger women. But, rather than fall apart, these women realize they deserve so much better. The story is about women who turn their heartache into something beautiful as they embark on a path that started off being about revenge and ends up being about self-discovery and #squadgoals.
Legally Blonde was the first in a series of films about a sorority queen who decided to follow her ex-boyfriend to law school. While it doesn’t necessarily start as a guide to feminism, Legally Blonde winds up being a thought-provoking feminist narrative. At the film first appears to feed into stereotypes, Elle Woods is the stereotypical “dumb blonde” who could never get into Harvard. But she does. Lo and behold, it’s actually her ex-boyfriend who was wait-listed and underestimated her because of her looks. Natch — she saves the day (and finds some fiercely loyal friends along the way, including an unlikely one).