Women's History Month kicked off on March 1, and while there's a ton to celebrate all across the board, the stories told by and for women through film have made impressive impacts on the lives of both Americans and people worldwide. With true stories like Hidden Figures and On the Basis of Sex as well as blockbusters like Captain Marvel and Alien, women have led the way. In 1940s baseball games like in A League of Their Own, women have proven time and time again that they're able to persevere and push the limits like no other. In no specific order, these next 20 films are just scratching the surface of the incredible strides that women have made over the years.
The 20 Best Movies to Stream for Women's History Month
1. "Hidden Figures"
Following three women who changed the course of representation at NASA, Hidden Figures focuses on three women—Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)—who worked as mathematicians in the early 1960s. In a time and industry that was dominated by white males, these three women truly had to forge their own path, becoming instrumental in America's space race.
2. "A League of Their Own"
Donning light pink uniforms that the team deemed unsuitable to play in, A League of Their Own follows the Rockford Peaches as they make their way up the ranks in the All-American Girls Professional League, a women's baseball league that existed in real life in the early 1940s. The entire story is based on the creation of this league during World War II, though the specific story told in the film centers around one team specifically, which is led by Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, and Rosie O'Donnell. Their coach is former MLB baseball player, Jimmy Dugan, a washed-up alcoholic who doesn't care much about the team, portrayed by Tom Hanks.
The embodiment of both physical and mental power just might be Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) from Alien. Female empowerment might not be the first thing that pops into mind when thinking about this film; it's probably the fact that an alien jumps out of a man's chest and then stalks a group of people on a spacecraft. Despite this, Ripley steals the movie and is able to narrowly escape death as she eventually becomes the last one on board with the alien.
Despite being seven months pregnant, Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) trucks along on her mission to find the men responsible for a trail of murders. The main plot is that Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) decides to have his wife fake-kidnapped in order to receive the ransom that will be put out for her finding. However, he hires Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), who are pretty lousy at their job and end up murdering quite a few people in the process. Marge, being the casually incredible detective that she is, sets out on her own to catch Carl and Gaear.
5. "Birds of Prey"
Harley Quinn finally got her much-deserved spin-off movie in Birds of Prey, a chaotic ode to the character along with a few other women who joined her, unofficially forming the Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie continues her outstanding portrayal of Quinn, alongside The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). The crew takes on Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) as he searches for a diamond containing important data.
6. "9 to 5"
9 to 5 is an absolute classic starring Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda, who all work at the same office helmed by their boss, Frank Hart Jr., played by Dabney Coleman. Noticing how they're all being treated and paid poorly by him, the three women get together and decide how to make things more equal at work and get back at their boss in the process. It's also where Parton's hit song, "9 to 5," was born, becoming an instant hit and even being nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.
7. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Led by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is based on the real story of Ma Rainey (Davis), who was a blues singer back in the 1920s. Her performance as Ma Rainey earned Davis a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
The film itself focuses on one specific recording session on July 2, 1927, where just about everything goes wrong. Fights within the band, disagreements, and technical malfunctions are just a few of the many things that occur throughout the day, with Ma Rainey attempting to helm the creation of her music.
8. "The Iron Lady"
Earning Meryl Streep her third Academy Award for Best Actress, The Iron Lady focuses on one of the most iconic women in history: Margaret Thatcher. The story weaves back and forth from her present old age to back when she was leading the United Kingdom as its Prime Minister. It documents multiple major points in her career, including her childhood, her first foray into politics, major decisions made as Prime Minister, as well as the bombing of a hotel she was staying at.
Despite not actually being about mermaids, this film tracks the Flax family as they move—once again—to a new state, this time to Eastport, Massachusetts. Cher plays Rachel, a single mother to Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and Kate (Christina Ricci), whose oddities and flirtations around men greatly annoy Charlotte, who is devoted to practicing Catholicism despite actually being Jewish. It's a coming-of-age film, both focusing on the relationship between Rachel and Charlotte as well as Charlotte's obsession with a new neighbor, Joe (Michael Schoeffling).
10. "Black Panther"
While Black Panther obviously focuses on T'Challa, the Black Panther, the women featured in this film make their presence well-known, supporting T'Challa and exhibiting their strengths in the process. For one, there's Shuri (Letitia Wright), T'Challa's younger sister who's basically a genius and is able to create almost anything technological that her brother needs. Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) is a fearless fighter who also works as a spy for her country of Wakanda and Angela Bassett portrays the Queen of Wakanda, Ramonda, whose children are T'Challa and Shuri.
11. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a long, complicated title that perfectly matches the character of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), whom the film is focused on. Hayes pays for three billboards to display an ad not for something to be sold, but as a call to action directed towards the Ebbing Police Department, which has been unable to find the man who murdered her daughter.
12. "Julie and Julia"
Telling two true stories in one film, Julie and Julia tracks two women in different time periods as they explore the role that cooking has in their lives. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, who became famous later in life for her iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as her television show. On the other hand, we have Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a young woman in the early 2000s who decides to blog her way through each recipe in Child's cookbook, gaining a following through the process.
13. "The First Wives Club"
If you haven't seen the entirety of The First Wives Club, there's still a fair chance that you've seen its iconic scene, which features Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn plummeting down the side of an apartment building while on a window-cleaning cart. Aside from that scene, the story follows three old friends—Annie (Keaton), Brenda (Midler), and Elise (Hawn)—who reunite following the death of their college friend, Cynthia (Stockard Channing). The three decide to wreak havoc on Morty (Dan Hedaya), Brenda's ex-husband who has moved on with a much younger woman, portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker.
14. "On the Basis of Sex"
Based on the real story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (portrayed by Felicity Jones), On the Basis of Sex follows Ginsburg as she first makes her way onto the law scene. It's a particularly rough journey for her, as women were not being taken very seriously in the profession at the time. Specifically focusing on the landmark case that changed the course of her career, Moritz v. Commissioner, Ginsburg takes it on with her husband as it deals with gender discrimination.
15. "Little Women" (2019)
A story that has been remade quite a few times on film, Little Women is based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, which is based on the author's experiences growing up. Its latest iteration was particularly well done, as it was directed and adapted by Greta Gerwig, who gathered a stacked cast lead by Saoirse Ronan as the iconic Jo March.
16. "Captain Marvel"
The Avenger who has long been hailed one of the strongest and underrated of the bunch, Captain Marvel is all about that very character and how she received her life-altering powers. Following a bit of her life as the pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), we get a better sense of who she is as a person and how that person remains true to herself even after sustaining a massive blast and becoming a superhero.
17. "The Color Purple"
Based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, The Color Purple follows Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg) in the early 1900s as she endures abuse, racism, and sexism but is able to seek comfort in Shug (Margaret Avery) and Sofia (Oprah Winfrey). The film also touches on poverty and sexuality, creating a story that shines a light on a number of different issues that African-Americans faced both in that era and in the present day.
18. "Erin Brockovich"
Julia Roberts stars as Erin Brokovich in the film with the same name, a true story about a woman (Brockovich) who starts working at a law firm for Ed Masry (Albert Finney) and discovers a case that catches her attention. Though not a lawyer herself, she ends up getting invested in the case and is able to figure out that the Pacific Gas & Electric Company is responsible for causing illnesses in a number of residents in California. Roberts ended up taking home the Academy Award for Best Actress and the film was also up for quite a few other nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Telling the real story of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the film tracks the Tejano singer from her childhood to the massive success she saw later in life. Jennifer Lopez plays Quintanilla-Pérez in a beautiful ode to a woman who had such an incredible influence yet was murdered at the young age of 23, sending shockwaves through her fanbase and those who greatly respected her work and artistry over her short years. The film was even added to the Library of Congress for its cultural significance in the years since its release.
Still a fairly new movie as Kristen Stewart is currently in the running for her first Academy Award for Best Actress, Spencer focuses deeply on Princess Diana during the Christmas weekend of 1991. It's more so a psychological drama than just a drama as it pays careful attention to Diana's every move and facial expression, with Stewart doing an incredible job of nailing each tiny mannerism perfectly. It's a snapshot of a woman who knows she doesn't fit in—and doesn't want to give in to—the Royal Family and their constricting ways.