Women's Day: Pop the corn and enjoy watching these strong women protagonists on screen

From actress Natalie Portman’s portrayal of ambitious ballerina Nina Sayers in the Black Swan to young Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga as real-life chess champion Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe, these strong women-centric films are sure to inspire you on International Women’s Day.

On International Women’s Day what better way to celebrate than by bringing together the important women in your life and watching a film that will inspire all of you.

Get hold of your best friend, your mother or your sister after a day of doing something special on Women’s Day, and consider watching a movie that is going to make you sit back, think, analyse, discuss, celebrate womanhood and bring you closer.

YS Weekender brings you 5 films you should consider watching on International Women’s Day, which have a strong female lead.

The Help

Based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel of the same name, The Help’ is a period drama film starring Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Allison Janney in leading roles.

A poster of 'The Help'

The movie is about Skeeter, an aspiring author (played by Emma Stone) who aims to highlight the racism that is prevalent in her hometown Mississippi through her interviews with African American maids and the struggles they face on a day-to-day basis.

Skeeter herself belongs to a predominantly white family and has been raised by a black maid during her childhood. Her maid Constantine Bates was a person she cherished and loved, and she could never quite understand why her mother chose to let her go.

As she grows up, she comes to learn the bitter truth behind Constantine’s firing. Perturbed and hurt by her mother’s past actions, she decides to do something about it, and writes a book to show the world the cruelty and humiliation that maids like Constantine have to go through.

During her research and documentation period she meets Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) two maids who are best friends and are working for some of the richest socialites in town. She forms a strong bond of friendship with them, and promises them a brighter future, free from slavery.

The Help is a movie that is sure to inspire you, and touch your heart. The famous lines from the film include ‘You is Kind, you is smart, you is important’ which Aibileen says to young Mae Mobley, the child she looks after.

Directed by Tate Taylor in 2011, The Help received four-Academy award nominations, including Best Picture, and Best Actress for Viola Davis, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.

Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich is a film with an extremely strong female character. It is the true story of a woman with the same name, who despite her lack of formal education fought against the energy corporation ‘Pacific Gas and Electric Company,’ when she discovers that the company is polluting the water supply in her hometown.

Played by Julia Roberts, in a strong leading role, the movie shows Erin’s persistence, determination, and willingness to fight for her rights. As a single mother, she faces many struggles but she perseveres till the end.

A scene from Erin Brockovich

The movie released in 2000 and was a huge box office success. The director of the film Steven Soderbergh

won Best director at the Academy awards, while Julia Roberts won Best Actress.

The popular lines from the film include “None of us can take anything with us when we are gone, it’s what we leave that’s going to matter.”

And here’s another line for women on International Women’s Day. “Life is full of challenges, how you handle these challenges is what builds character. Never be afraid to be who you are.”

Queen of Katwe

A biographical drama film by director Mira Nair ‘Queen of Katwe is an inspiring film. It is about Phiona Mutesi a young girl from a slum in Uganda who learns chess and goes on to become a “master” in the game. The film is based on the real life of chess champion, Phiona Mutesi.

For young Phiona life is not easy as her mother is a corn seller and struggles to make ends meet.

A scene from the Queen of Katwe

One day she meets Robert Katende an older man at a missionary programme who teaches her how to play chess. She goes on to play chess at a number of local schools, and wins a series of competitions.

Phiona soon gets to the level where she is able to represent Uganda at the World Chess Olympiad in Russia. She is determined to win.

Her motivation in life is to help her mother and younger brother and lift them out of a life of poverty. The movie shows the game of chess invariably teaches her how to win the game of life.

The cast comprises a number of leading stars such as Lupita Nyongo, David Oyelowo and Madina Nalwanga. It won an award for best film by the reputed ‘Women film critics circle’ in 2016, on the same year in which it was released.

Women across the world love the lines in the film like, “Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. Where is that for you?" This is what chess teacher Robert says to young Phiona.


Frida is a biographical film, which was released in 2002, and directed by Julie Taymor. It showcases the professional and private life of the Mexican surrealist artist, Frida Kahlo. The film is based on the book by Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.

Starring Academy Award winning actress Salma Hayek as Frida and Alfred Molina as her husband Diego Rivera, it won awards at the Oscars such as Best Makeup and Best Original Score.

A scene from Frida

The story follows the journey of artist Frida Kahlo, following an accident she suffered at the age of 18. During this time, her father gifts her a canvas and a set of paints for the first time, that she discovers her passion for painting. She turns her struggles into art, and her pain into beauty.

After a dysfunctional marriage with muralist Diego Rivera, she gets into a number of affairs with men and women and the most controversial one is with Soviet revolutionary, Leon Trotsky (played by Geoffrey Rush.)

A popular line from the film is “At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can.”

Black Swan

A 2010 psychological thriller, Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky is not a film for the faint hearted. It tells the story of Nina Sayers (portrayed by Natalie Portman), an ambitious ballerina who has her heart set on winning an audition by the New York City ballet company, and being cast as the ‘White Swan’ for the popular ballet sequence ‘Swan Lake by Russian composer Tchaikovsky.

However, when her ballet teacher Thomas whom she has trusted and worked with for a number of years casts Lilly (portrayed by Mila Kunis) as the Black Swan, Nina is shattered.

A poster of Black Swan

The White Swan is to play a dual role embodying both the black swan and the white swan, however Thomas explains to Nina that she fails to embody the malicious black swan but is outstanding at portraying the innocence fragility and flawlessness of the White Swan.

Nina, then goes down a self-destructive path where she gets obsessed and consumed over wanting the role and doing everything to try to change Thomas’s mind. The film shows the struggles that ballerinas face behind the scenes to achieve the precision of steps onstage.

Natalie Portman has done a spectacular job in this film, and has won Best actress at the Academy Awards for her portrayal of Nina Sayers. She is the epitome of the hero archetype in Literature.

The film also received five other nominations such as Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Picture.

One of the most famous lines in the film is, “Perfection is not just about control, it’s also about letting yourself go. Surprise yourself so that you can surprise the audience.”

(Edited by Asha Chowdary)


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