Meet You At The Movies: 10 Summer Films Starring Inspiring Leading Women
The last movie I saw in a theater was pre-empted by 35 minutes of previews of summer movies. All but one of them were action films that were violent, male-dominated and not at all my cup of tea, or bucket of popcorn. This list is a different kind of preview.
At Take The Lead, we understand that you need to take some time off just for fun. So we are curating an unofficial list of movies by, for and about women that you may find inspiring or at least entertaining.
Why does it matter who makes the movies, stars in the movies and pays to go see them? Because it’s about the representation.
Women and Hollywood report that women are 51 percent of moviegoers, according to the Motion Picture Association of America 2018. On the top 100 grossing films of 2018, women represented 4% of directors, 15% of writers, 3% of cinematographers, 18% of producers, 18% of executive producers and 14% of editors, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director. Only five women have ever been nominated (Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Bigelow, and Greta Gerwig).
On the top 500 films of 2018, movies with at least one female director employed greater percentages of women writers, editors, cinematographers, and composers than films with exclusively male directors, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Films with casts that were from 31-40% minority received the highest median global box office receipts, while those with majority-minority casts posted the highest median return on investment.
Some of these 10 women-centric movies we have chosen are already in theaters, some are slated for summer release, all meet the criteria of featuring the stories of leading women in the spotlight.
“Booksmart.” A comedy for women of all ages. Caralena Peterson writes in Ms., “The opening scene includes snapshots around Molly’s room—showing what is essentially a shrine to strong female change-makers like Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Gloria Steinem. Later on, in the room of the other protagonist Amy, played by Kaitlyn Dever, hand-made posters that were obviously used in various protests line the walls. ‘Science Not Silence,’ they screamed. ‘Black Lives Matter.’ ‘My Body My Choice.’ The main plot of the movie is the girls struggling with this paradox. Molly’s absolute sureness in herself comes crushing to a halt when she realizes she only accomplished one half of the ‘work hard, play hard’ equation. She was under the impression that she had crossed the finish line in first place, as valedictorian and a soon-to-be Yale University undergrad. That finish line moves when she realizes that two girls with a reputation for partying also got into Yale and Harvard, and a guy she had always written off as a jock was going to Stanford.”
“Dora & The Lost City of Gold.” Not only is this a feature film version of the beloved childhood character favorite of Dora The Explorer, it is an all Latinx cast with a Latina teen as the powerful protagonist who battles the jungle and all kinds of evil to save her parents. Oh. And she also battles high school as well.
“Knock Down The House.” This documentary is in limited venues and also on Netflix. Mashable reports, “Rachel Lears’s moving documentary Knock Down the House chronicles the merited campaigns of four progressive women candidates — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Amy Vilela, and Paula Jean Swearengin — during the 2018 midterm elections. The trailer above traces the poignancy of their run for Congress. We already know the ending to this story, but clearly, it’s the journey that matters here.”
“Late Night.” What could go wrong with Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson in the lead roles with female director Nisha Ganatra? Vulture reviews, “Even though it deals head-on with such issues as workplace diversity, sexism, and the craven nature of network television, Late Night takes place in its own kind of fantasy world. It’s a world where a woman is the host of her own late night network TV talk show, and she’s been in that position long enough that people are starting to worry that she’s too much of a relic of a bygone era. It’s a premise writer-producer Mindy Kaling must sell in order to get to Late Night’s rich central dynamic: Two women at different ends of the entertainment industry power structure. And since Late Night is such a zippy, comfortable watch, we’re more than wiling to go along with it — I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in that world? Directed by Nisha Ganatra with gleaming prime-time plasticity that will be familiar to anyone who’s seen an episode of The Mindy Project, Late Night is a romantic comedy between two women and their work.”
“Lion King.” I do not know anyone who is not thrilled from this movie, a live action, AI, VR remake of the animated version each one of us has seen likely 10,000 times. And Beyonce, after all, is Nala. And that means she is singing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” Wired reports:” The Lion King is the next installment in Disney’s series of reworked animation classics, which includes not just The Jungle Book but also live-action updates of Cinderella and Aladdin. The film’s Bambi-meets-Hamlet plot, in which an African lion cub named Simba flees his savanna-ruling family after his father’s death, is nearly identical to the 1994 megahit that remains the highest-earning G-rated movie of all time. James Earl Jones reprises his role as the murdered king Mufasa, joined this time around by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, and others. If you’ve seen the trailer, there’s one other obvious fact: The new Lion King rides an atomically thin line between CGI animation and live action.”
“Overcomer.” We know we’re going to cry at this one. Hannah Scott is a black teen cross country runner who pushes herself with the help of a white basketball coach, who mentors her.
“The Farewell.” Pretty sure we are going to love this since we love Awkwafina. It is the true story of director Lulu Wang and her own grandmother, who has terminal lung cancer and her family will not tell her. Variety reviews, “However universal its basic premise, as a window into another culture — or, for those with Chinese roots, a reflection of one’s own — “The Farewell” presents without necessarily explaining behaviors that aren’t always intuitive. As a result, mileage will vary according to viewers’ personal frame of reference. First- and second-generation immigrant stand-ups love to riff on much of the behavior seen here, which may help white audiences navigate some of the nuances, like what it means to be called “skinny” by one’s elders or Nai Nai’s trust in tai chi and vitamins over modern medicine.”
“The Kitchen.” Ok, so this is a violent mobster movie, but the three main female characters are the mob bosses. With Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss and Tiffany Haddish in a film written and directed by Andrea Berloff, it looks more original than female characters plopped into male roles. According to Entertainment Weekly, “The upcoming crime drama is set in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and based on the Vertigo comic-book series. The flick follows three 1970s housewives who — in the event of their mobster husbands’ incarceration — take Irish Mafia matters into their own hands, dealing with the competition more viciously and voraciously than anyone expected.”
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? This looks like the ultimate second act mother movie with Cate Blanchett starring as the brilliant architect who let motherhood erase her career, and as it says in the movie trailer, “she was so focused on her family, she forgot about herself.” That changes when she takes a job in Antarctica. According to Variety, “this is based upon the 2012 novel by Maria Semple. It follows the architect Bernadette Fox who goes missing just prior to a family vacation to Antarctica. The story is narrated by Bernadette’s 15-year-old daughter, who attempts to track down her reclusive mother.”
“Wild Rose.” What could be better than a rise to stardom story you can sing along to? Rolling Stone reports, “A young, single, Scottish mother of two, recently paroled from prison, harbors dreams of country-music stardom in Nashville. Don’t be fooled. Wild Rose is anything but the same old underdog story. And chances are you’ll fall fast and hard for breakout star Jessie Buckley. This classically trained Irish singer and actress was a runner-up on a BBC singing competition and won roles in film (Beast) and TV (War and Peace, HBO’s Chernobyl). She’s a skyrocketing talent — and the full range of her gifts are on display here.”
So head to the movies to support women-centric films and help the entertainment industry move to gender parity, a Take The Lead mission for 2025.
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