It’s Women’s History Month, and I thought I’d do a series of posts related to the topic. I don’t see a ton of movies and am woefully behind on new releases, but I do love period dramas that feature strong female characters, so it didn’t take long for me to compile a list of may favorites films about women in history.
This classic starring Ingrid Bergman is phenomenal. I recommend you watch it in your favorite wine bar on a Sunday afternoon while it airs on Turner Classic Movies, as Mister BS and I did recently.
So, this is in Spanish, but I swear, it’s amazing and worth it. I first saw this in an entry level history class on Colonial Latin America that I took with Mister BS sophomore year of college. It ended up being a turning point in my academic career. It was taught by a young, fun, ex-marine peace activist professor with tattoos who I ended up taking 4 classes with during my college career. This movie tells the story of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun and scholar in New Spain during the Colonial period. A celebrated poet, she was an advocate for women’s education. This film has an explicit feminist vibe to it.
Oh, the costumes. And it’s Kirsten Dunst. And Jason Schwartzman. And Sofia Coppola. I just love it.
Sex. Polticial Intrigue. War. Violence. Two Thumbs up for Cate Blanchett.
The reigning queen of period drama, Keira Knightley, gives a great performance as the Duchess of Devonshire and Ralph Fiennes is every bit as cold and snake-like as Voldemort in his role as the Duke. Though this is a rather sad movie that portrays the limits on women in 18th century Europe, I still think it’s worth watching.
The 1962 dramatization of Annie Sullivan teaching Helen Keller to communicate is very moving. It’s funny how you remember certain events from childhood so vividly for no apparent reason, and this movie is one of mine. I remember when my dad rented this from Blockbuster Video and bought us Burger King and set my brother, sister, and I up in the living room with TV trays to watch this movie. I was maybe in 3rd grade, and was a little put out at being made to watch a black and white movie instead of whatever silly show I’d wanted, and then being swept up in the amazing story. Years later, in college, I was surprised to learn how politically active Helen Keller was as an adult. She was a radical leftist socialist, but that was never mentioned in the lessons when I was growing up.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” A look at how gender roles changed in WWII America. This one reminds me of playing softball every summer as a kid.
Okay, maybe I have a thing for Madonna movies. I am fascinated by Evita Péron and love Argentina. Also, I saw this in the theater with my late grandmother when it first came out. So I love this movie for a lot of reasons.
This movie is based on a documentary about the Magdalene Laundry, an institution for girls run by the Catholic Church in Ireland that was plagued by rampant abuse.
Hilary Swank and Chloë Seivngy star is this movie based on the true story of a transgendered teen. I remember watching this in high school and just being blown away because it wasn’t a topic I had been introduced to before.
Some of these are more historically accurate than others, but all portray the experiences of an actual historical woman. I realize this list reflects my own interests and is noticeably devoid of any films that focus on women’s experiences outside of North and South America and Europe and lacks any films about women of color. These movies are all ones I’ve personally seen and can recommend. Since I’m not exactly a film buff, I’m sure there are many other excellent historical films that depict women in history—what are your favorites?