Our Top 20 Girl-Powered Movies of the Last Decade To Watch Amid Quarantine
Updated: Apr 25
Maryam and Nivaal Rehman | Toronto, Canada
It's no secret that, as filmmakers, we love watching movies that other people have created. In fact, our love for movies came even before our love for filmmaking. We enjoy watching all kinds of genres of films (except horror movies!), as long as there is a good storyline, good character development, and a healthy dose of suspense to keep us interested (ok maybe sometimes we like suspense a little too much - like in the Mission Impossible films). One thing that we have noticed however, is that the films we enjoy most of all, are those with a strong female lead, and those that feature girl power, which inspires us to overcome our fears and achieve our dreams. In the past decade, we have watched many films, but we're narrowing down a few that we found the most empowering, so that if you haven't already, you have the perfect list to binge-watch, while also getting motivated and empowered. Especially amid COVID-19, a lot of us are spending time at home, and this is the perfect way to spend some of your screen time!
Please also keep in mind that we know there are so many more incredible girl-powered movies out there that are not on this list, but these are our favourites out of the ones that we have had a chance to watch. Also, since this is a fairly lengthy read, we recommend skimming through to see the titles of the films on our list, and reading the descriptions/explanations of the films that interest you.
Without further ado, here is our list of our favourite Girl-Powered Movies of this Decade!
1. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Produced by: Walt Disney Pictures
This one is quite special. Not only was this a movie we absolutely loved, but it was also the first film we ever watched in theatres. We remember we used to prefer spending time outdoors playing in the park (we literally spent hours there), visiting our friends, or reading books throughout our childhood, and we would watch movies on TV only occasionally when we were home. However, when this movie came out, we really wanted to watch it. When we did watch, we were blown away by the vibrant set, the storyline, and especially Alice's strong character. We watched it in 3D too, which made it even more extraordinary. The story was not exactly the same as the books we had read, but it was incredibly interesting and kept us hooked until the end. Alice was definitely one powerful hero, who everyone depended on to save Wonderland. Not only did she save Wonderland, but she did so while slaying dragons, defeating the Red Queen, and staying strong despite all the hardships she faced.
For two little girls, this story was a great example of what women are capable of, and while there aren't real dragons and evil queens in the real world, there are other barriers that women have overcome. Seeing this movie empowered us immensely, because it showed us just how powerful women are.
2. Tangled (2010)
Directed by: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Produced by: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios
The Disney Princess movie we had all been waiting for. Tangled was iconic, and while we didn't watch it right when it got released, we watched it many, many times afterwards. There was still a prince, but the way that the story was told was unique, and Rapunzel had a lot more control over what was happening with her own story than previous Disney films. We loved her personality, her powers, and her pet chameleon - Pascal, was a fantastic addition! The film was funny, beautifully told, and we adore it to this day.
3. Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)
Directed by: Susanna White
Produced by: StudioCanal, Relativity Media, Working Title Films, Three Strange Angels
Ok, this one's a classic. We did not even know this movie existed until we watched it years after its release on Netflix, but we enjoyed watching it just as much as the original. This film features more than one strong female character, and that is what made it so great. Not only was there Nanny Mcphee, but also the characters of Megsie Green and Celia Gray, who helped just as much as the rest of the little boys in saving the day. This was one of those films that was so fun to watch, and had an unpredictable storyline which always kept us on our toes because we had no idea what was going to happen next!
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 (2011)
Directed by: David Yates
Produced by: Warner Bros. Pictures and Heyday Films
The last of the Harry Potter films came out in 2011, and it belongs on this list because of the incredible amount of girl power that was shown not only in this film, but in all the Harry Potter films (and books!). Hermione Granger is the epitome of feminism, and so many girls our age and older look to Hermione as an inspiration because of her determination, her intelligence, and all the times she helped Harry and Ron save the day (we could also argue that without her, Harry and Ron would not have been able to do all that they did to save the Wizarding World from Voldemort). Not only is Hermione an incredible girl-powered character, but there are so many others. For example, Proffessor McGonagall, who keeps Hogwarts safe and leads the way to prepare the school from the Death Eaters. Throughout the movies, she is a strong leader and motivating teacher for all the students too. Molly Weasley is also a very strong character, and her strength is especially seen in this film as she defeats Bellatrix Lestrange once and for all (she did it to save her daughter, but it was also the perfect revenge for all the harm Bellatrix caused before). Overall, this film was filled with emotion, and so many girl-power moments from various female characters. Read about more amazing female characters from the series in this article: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/best-female-harry-potter-characters
5. Brave (2012)
Directed by: Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews
Produced by: Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures
This film was a dream come true. The fiery red-head Merida playing the lead was the strong, powerful and independent princess so many people had been waiting for. Her spirit, determination and of course, her bravery, were the perfect attributes of a role model for girls and women around the world. The best part? There wasn't even a prince. For the first time, a Disney princess had no prince at all who added to the story, or who swooped in to save her at the end. Now, don't get us wrong - there's no problem with the Disney Princes, who are all charming in their own ways, but it's nice to see a change of storyline, and a new kind of princess added to the long list of classic Disney Princesses that we know and love.
6. Frozen (2013)
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Produced by: Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures
This one became an international sensation not just during the year of its release, but all the way until the release of the second Frozen movie which came out last year. Our favourite part of this story was the special bond between Elsa and Anna. As sisters ourselves, we were overjoyed to see the power of the love between sisters, and were so empowered by both Elsa and Anna's characters.
7. Maleficent (2014)
Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Produced by: Walt Disney Pictures and Roth Films
What we really enjoyed about this movie, was that it looked at the story of "Sleeping Beauty" from the angle of another character. Being able to dive into Maleficent's journey and her connection with Aurora's father made viewers (including ourselves) empathize much more with Maleficent's character. In the original story, much of Maleficent's motivations behind her evil actions are hidden, but this film reveals why she does what she does, or is as "evil" as she is. Angelina Jolie did a stellar job playing this role, and so did Elle Fanning as Aurora/Sleeping Beauty. It was also great to start seeing live-actions of some of our favourite stories from our childhood.
8. The Theory of Everything (2014)
Directed By: James Marsh
Produced By: Working Title Films
This is one of those films that leaves you thinking for years after you have watched it. Based on the true story of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Hawking, this film highlights how Jane supported Stephen Hawking through his illness and cared for her husband during their thirty-year marriage. It was a story we had never known of before the film, and while the film glosses over some of the logistical struggles Jane had when taking her family of three children and her husband to physics conferences abroad and other harder parts of their life together, it is the perfect personification of the phrase "behind every great man is a great woman." There were so many moments when Jane enabled Stephen to continue giving his tremendous knowledge to the world and searching for "The Theory of Everything." For example, Jane insisted that Stephen would live despite doctors giving him six months when he was initially diagnosed, and then when she got him a computer to talk for him when doctors had said he would never be able to speak again. It gave us a lot to think about, and learn more about the life of an extraordinary scientist, but also about the woman who supported him despite all odds, and played a huge role in the process of him becoming successful in his pursuit of discovering new things about the universe and giving the world the gift of his discoveries.
9. The Hunger Games Mocking Jay Part 2 (2015)
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Produced By: Lionsgate Films, Color Force, Studio Babelsberg
Just like the Harry Potter Series, the entire Hunger Games series was iconic, and we loved all the books and movies, but since the final film was released in 2015, we're putting it here to represent our love for the entire series. We were in middle school when this was released, and many dystopian films and books were being released for young adults at the time. In our school, it was all anyone would talk about. Our classmates and us read all the books. We all watched the movies. We even went on school trips to watch the Hunger Game films. Katniss Everdeen's character is iconic to this day, and Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of the rebellious, strong and brave character is so empowering. Everdeen not only cares about others, but is also a fearless leader and game-changer who stands up against the status quo, and represents all of her people. The lessons from this series are all about Girl Power, and how incredible women are.
10. Cinderella (2015)
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures, Kinberg Genre, Allison Shearmur Productions, Beagle Pug Films
This live-action of Cinderella was one of the most beautiful Disney films we have ever seen. The costumes, the sets, the cinematography, and the music were all so wonderfully put together, and the magic could truly be seen throughout the film. Cinderella usually does not have the best reputation among other strong female characters, but this remake truly showed Cinderella's kindness, her compassion, and her strength as she faced her stepmothers and stepsisters. We also think that when it comes to girl-power, we need to be inclusive of all different kinds of girls, and also respect those who are not always going out and conquering the world and fighting for independence. If we are truly to progress towards a world with more equality, women need to support each other regardless of their dreams. Cinderella is a timeless story which should not be shunned because it portrays a girl with different dreams than the so-called typical Feminist dreams of independence and liberation from men. We loved everything about this film overall, and the storytelling was brilliant.
11. La La Land (2016)
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Produced By: Summit Entertainment, Marc Platt Productions, Impostor Pictures, Black Label Media
Ok we have to admit that we had to search up more about this film online to completely understand it. The first time we watched it, we were stunned and in awe of the beautiful way the film was presented, but were not entirely clear about the ending. We think when it comes down to it, it was a film about dreams, and how people go about realizing those dreams in different ways. Watching Emma Stone's character pursue her dreams throughout the film was a wonderful experience.
12. Zootopia (2016)
Directed By: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Who didn't love this movie? It was such a fantastic story, following Officer Judy Hopps, a bunny following her dream of becoming a police officer in "Zootopia," a city which is far from the rural town she's from. What we love is how strong Judy's character is, and how she sticks to her goals of solving a really difficult case, and not only proves she can become a great officer, but also makes other minorities (prey animals) in the city feel that they have the power to be anything they want to be just like predators. It is a metaphor for anyone who feels like they do not belong in a space because they are different, but how ultimately, we can all overcome challenges and achieve great things through persistence and determination.
13. Moana (2016)
Directed By: Ron Clements and John Musker
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Moana was the newest addition to the Disney princesses, and we ADORE her. She was also well-received around the world for being a princess that more girls could see themselves represented in. Her story is powerful in so many ways, and what we admire about the society she grows up in, is that she will succeed her father as Chief. Moana, like other Disney princesses, has a curiosity and bravery that causes her to save her people, and become an exceptional role model for all who watch her.
14. Wonder Woman (2017)
Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Produced By: DC Films, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films, Tencent Pictures, Wanda Pictures
If there's one film on this list that checks all the boxes for what constitutes a "Girl-Powered" film, it's Wonder Woman. It was awe-inspiring to follow Diana's character throughout the film, from her life in Themyscira to her journey to ending the World War that is happening. She stood up for what she believed was right, no matter what the consequences may be, and her battle against Ares which occurs over time is Girl Power at its finest.
15. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Directed By: Bill Condon
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Silver Screen Partners IV
This is another one of our favourite live-action remakes. Emma Watson's performance as Belle (with a Feminist spin) was incredible, and the film's success at the Box Office reflected how much everyone enjoyed this film. We had so much fun watching this that we even created a video on our YouTube channel at the time discussing our favourite Girl-Powered moments from the film. You can watch them here:
16. Black Panther (2018)
Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Produced By: Marvel Studios
Black Panther was an incredible film for representation in general, but the strong female characters of the film brought it to a whole other level. We were so empowered by the unique strengths possessed by each of the women, and we felt that their part in the movie was so important that it truly would not have been the same without them. Particularly, the characters of Nakia, Shuri, Okoye and Ramonda contributed to the story in a way that really showed how powerful and amazing women are.
17. Ocean's 8 (2018)
Directed By: Gary Ross
Produced By: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Smoke House Pictures, Larger Than Life Productions
What we loved the most about this movie was that it really showed a different side to women, who are so often represented only for their beauty in the suspense/action/thriller genre of films. There were 8 incredible women featured in the film, who all had unique talents and strengths to bring to the task at hand. Although we did not support what they were doing (a heist), this is the subject of most suspense/action films, and to see women pulling off something like this with a strong and independent team for a change was really exciting.
18. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucamar Productions, Marc Platt Productions
We were so happy to hear about this timeless story coming back, and it was a pleasure to watch too. As usual, the set and costumes and cinematography were all absolutely stunning. The character of Mary Poppins is wonderful because of how much control Mary Poppins has over making things right, and how she supports the Banks children without overtly revealing her tactics to save the day. And yet, everyone knows that Mary Poppins is making everything better. This movie was an awesome blast to the past, but also unexpected and fun to watch, especially because it was a continuation and not merely a remake of the previous film.
19. Noelle (2019)
Directed By: Marc Lawrence
Produced By: Walt Disney Pictures
After waiting for our first semester of university to be over before getting Disney Plus (we get too distracted if we have any streaming services during the semester), we finally got it over the winter holidays. One of our favourite originals on Disney Plus by far, is Noelle. We watched it on Christmas eve, and it was the perfect film to watch then. We loved how it put a feminist twist to typical Christmas stories, and we won't give too much away, but all we'll say is that you will definitely cherish it as much as we did. The way that Christmas was incorporated and different references to classic Christmas stories were made in different parts of the film was all incredibly creative, and it was a joy to watch.
20. Little Women (2019)
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Produced By: Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Pascal Pictures, Di Novi Pictures
This was one of the last films we watched in the past decade, and the last film we watched in theatres during this past decade as well. Simply put, it was one of the best versions of "Little Women" we have ever seen. We cannot even begin to describe how incredible the movie was! We grew up reading Little Women, and watching different versions of it, but Greta Gerwig’s retelling of the story is unique and necessary especially now, as women around the world continue to fight for gender equality. This film does justice to all the characters and leaves you with an understanding of them like never before. The whole film was beautifully crafted, and it felt like we were peaking into the lives of real people, and all the joyful, sad, and emotional moments of their lives were flashing before our eyes. We were blown away by Greta’s script, her direction of the film, and the brilliant acting by the whole cast. Take your mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, friends, or literally anyone you know to see this film. It’s a masterpiece with an unforgettable story you simply can’t miss out on seeing.
And there you have it. Our lengthy, but passionate list of our top 20 girl-powered movies from the past decade. Let us know which ones you have watched and whether you see any new ones that you will watch now! Stay safe, and stay healthy everyone :)