The Men Don’t Get It: Movies About Strong Women

Leading ladies and stories about resilient women feature prominently in this selection of female-centric titles.

By Yong Shu Chiang        24 March 2022

From a victim to a woman taking control.

Anyone who’s watched Ridley Scott’s terrifying Alien movie (1979) and its James Cameron-directed sequel Aliens (1986) will have noted the transformation that Ripley, and the actress behind her, Sigourney Weaver, undertakes in order to become a no-nonsense space action heroine.

Strong female characters also abound in 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where screen legend Cheng Pei Pei is joined by veteran Michelle Yeoh and then-rising starlet Zhang Ziyi in a tale about women warriors fighting for their identities in the martial-arts world.

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures (2016) takes three women who lived in the segregated American South and follows their dream to help send a man into space. Thelma & Louise (1991), meanwhile, follows two best friends as they take the road less travelled to escape from their unhappy lives, and the men who wronged them.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) is a spell-binding science-fiction time-travel thriller where the most heroic soldier is a character played by Emily Blunt, who more than holds her own next to Tom Cruise, while the unforgettable Spirited Away (2001) sees a brave young girl overcome incredible odds in order to save her soul and that of her parents.


Available now, Disney+

Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn

Following the harrowing events of the first Alien movie, Ripley (Weaver), awakens from suspended animation to find herself in a medical space station. Despite her account of the events on her ship, where a deadly alien species wipes out her entire crew, her employer has decided to colonise a planet near the spacecraft where the alien was first encountered. Before long, contact with the colonists is lost, and Ripley is persuaded to investigate the situation with a squad of marines and exterminate any hostile lifeforms.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Available now, Apple TV, HBO, Netflix

Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Cheng Pei Pei

Two chaste would-be lovers, a frustrated female warrior and a rich man’s daughter all feature prominently in this wuxia epic directed by Ang Lee. The great Wudang swordsman Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and his dear friend Shu Lien (Yeoh) are caught up in a caper when a mysterious masked thief, who is actually Jen (Zhang), the Governor’s daughter, steals Mu Bai’s fabled sword, the Green Destiny. When Jen’s accomplice, a merciless woman named Jade Fox (Cheng), shows up to help her, the death count starts to rise.

Spirited Away

Available now, Netflix

Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

A young girl and her parents are driving through the countryside, heading to their new home, when the father decides to take a shortcut. They hit a dead end and find a tunnel that leads to what appears to be a deserted town. But then they chance upon a food stall and the parents decide to have a meal. So begins Hayao Miyazaki’s modern animated classic tale, which sees the girl Chihiro (Hiiragi) and her parents trapped in a spirit world, where she encounters witches, a boy named Haku (Irino), and numerous supernatural beings.

Thelma & Louise

Available now, Google Play Movies, Apple TV

Stars: Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Brad Pitt

Two best friends go on a vacation in the country to escape their humdrum lives. However, the weekend road trip for a little fun and escapism turns into a life-defining experience as things don’t go exactly to plan. Thelma (Davis) is an unhappy housewife while Louise (Sarandon) is a low-wage waitress. Their trip takes a desperate turn when Thelma meets a man at a bar, who later tries to rape her. As they meet more people and get into more trouble, the ladies arm themselves and are confronted by law enforcement.

Edge Of Tomorrow

Available now, Netflix

Stars: Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise, Brendan Gleeson

A public relations officer (Cruise) in London finds himself at the forefront of a war against alien invaders when he is forced into combat. Against formidable foes, the reluctant soldier named Cage dies during a battle in France, only to reawaken back in London, unscathed, but with memories of his earlier experience. Caught in a time-loop, he slowly figures out that he needs to find an all-action female war hero, Vrataski (Blunt), dubbed the “Angel of Verdun”, and together locate and kill the one alien that controls all the others.

Hidden Figures

Available now, Disney+

Stars: Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae

During the Space Race in the 1960s, as the United States struggles to keep up with the Soviet Union, three African-American lady mathematicians, Katherine (Henson), Dorothy (Spencer) and Mary (Monae), join NASA as it gears up to send astronaut John Glenn into space. At a time when segregation is still practised, the women face multiple obstacles to prove their worth. They overcome systemic discrimination and later make vital contributions to try to keep Glenn’s mission on track, and bring him home safely.

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