Do you ever need help psyching yourself up to conquer the world or just make it through the workday? I know I sure do, and this is one of those weeks when I’d really love to feel as though my life is set to an upbeat soundtrack not to mention feel my to-do lists are capable of being tackled in montage form. Although I have nary a spare second (between plotting a cross-country move, planning a marriage and searching for jobs), my psyche is demanding that I carve out a few hours to indulge in empowering, Motown-pulsing movies tonight. Making the time almost seems like the easy part, however, because very few films of this ilk are actually geared toward my demographic (a.k.a., that pesky 49.76% of the population that is female). While there are thousands of go-get-’em-tiger movies for men (such as, every single “Rocky,” sports movie or war flick), it’s hard to find films about women that get the “you can do it” attitude just right. The few movies led by females often focus too heavily on the romantic stories or don’t pay love interests any attention at all. I used to think the latter was what it took to make a good girl-power movie, but I’ve since changed my mind; negotiating the waters of sexual politics is key to any female’s coming of age, and learning to love yourself with or without a man is a crucial part of becoming a woman. With this in mind, here are my top movie picks for when you want a little girl power in your life…
- “Blue Crush” (2002) – If you think this surfing flick is just an excuse to watch girls in bikinis, you’re wrong. It follows a young woman struggling to single-handedly raise her younger sister, win one of the world’s biggest surf competitions and hold down a day job. She has to deal with tricky issues of self-doubt and the love/work balance, and we get the added bonus of unique insights into the sport of surfing while she’s at it.
- “Legally Blonde” (2001) – Reese Witherspoon made the character of Elle Woods iconic for her ditzy air and fashion knowledge, but when you really watch this film you see it isn’t about hair dye and the color pink at all…It’s about a girl who follows a man to Harvard Law and finds she’s got a whole lot more passion for justice than she does for him.
- “A League of Their Own” (1992) – I had to put this one on my list because it’s not only directed by a woman, but it features a star-packed cast of the same gender. Centering on a women’s baseball league in the 1940s, this flick is worth re-watching whenever you want to see some examples of just how strong women can be both physically and mentally.
- “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002) – Here’s another female-driven sports movie, which unlike “A League of Their Own” is set in near-present day and focuses on a young woman’s struggle to balance her desire to become a professional soccer player with her Indian parent’s traditional expectations. This story of female friendship and athleticism transcends time, ethnicities and cultures, making it a must see.
- “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006) – Despite the fact that it is set in the fashion world, this flick is just brimming with powerful women: I mean, need I say more than Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway? To top this all off, it is impeccably edited and has a great soundtrack, which I think accounts for the fact that I’ve watched it 25 times and counting.
- “Mamma Mia!” (2008) – This movie is all kinds of wrong and fabulous at the same time. First off, it’s a musical, so there’s that…But, when it comes down to it this flick is about a girl taking her life into her own hands on the eve of her wedding. I don’t think I need to tell you much more, however, because how can you not feel empowered while listening to Abba songs?
- “Akeelah and the Bee” (2006) – As you watch this inner-city girl train for the National Spelling Bee, you’ll fall in love with her and get the feeling that anything is possible. Cap this off with great performances from Laurence Fishburne and newcomer Keke Palmer, and you just might get the sensation that your vocabulary is i-m-p-r-o-v-i-n-g.
- “Center Stage” (2000) – Centered on an underdog overcoming the odds and carving out a place for herself in the world of professional dance, this flick is my sleeper favorite for whenever I need an empowering boost. Although the main character may seem too wide-eyed and lovesick for some, I think she embodies the female quest for professional fulfillment, romance and independence perfectly. For more about this flick, see this rundown of my favorite dance movies.