When you Google search ‘chick flicks’ you might be looking for a movie with top-notch female characters, or top-notch films by female directors, or for the classic girl movies that make into every chick-flick article. I’ve compiled lists of all three.
These strong girl movies are full of real women, real stories, real acting, real filmmaking and real character.
Movies with strong and complex women characters
Bombshell (2020) directed by Jay Roach I watched this only last week, and although I didn’t know what it was going to be about, I can’t wait to watch it again! Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie lead this film in their stellar performances as news anchors at the American Fox News in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. Bombshell will infuriate you, but it’s sickeningly good.
The Hate U Give (2018) directed by George Tillman Jr. This film was my all-time favourite of 2018 and pretty much my favourite film of the decade. It is the devastatingly realistic story of Starr Carter, an African-American teenager who witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend by a police officer. Pressure then appears from multiple communities as she tries to balance what’s right with her own mental and physical health. An emotional and breathtaking performance by Amandla Stenberg.
The Handmaiden (2016) Directed by Park Chan-wook The Japanese occupied Korea in the 1930s. A young woman is hired to be a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. But the maid’s secret role is to help a swindler seduce the heiress, make her elope with him, steal her fortune and shut her up in an asylum. Not one of your typical chick flicks, but still a roaring thriller.
Brooklyn (2015) directed by John Crowley In this beautiful film, Irish immigrant Eilis (Saiorse Ronan) struggles to find her feet after moving to New York in the 1950s. She falls in love with Italian Tony, but has to choose between him and her family life back home when a tragedy calls her back to Ireland.
La Femme Nikita (1990) directed by Luc Besson Anne Parillaud plays Nikita, a criminal whose skills see her recruited as a spy and assassin for the government. But as she starts to fall in love, the precarious life she leads starts to fall in the same direction. This is one of the more action-packed strong chick flicks, but still centres a complex woman character.
The Favourite (2018) directed by Yorgos Lanthimos I was supposed to see this with my great-aunt and mum at the cinemas, but after seeing it, I’m glad my great-aunt couldn’t make it that day. The Favourite is a tragic black comedy starring Olivia Coleman as the Queen of England in the 1700s, whose rule is aided by her friend Sarah (Rachel Weisz). When a new servant arrives at the palace (Emma Stone), she spies an opportunity to advance her social position and become the new favourite. Hilarious, rude, and nasty.
Lady Bird (2017) directed by Greta Gerwig Christine McPherson (Saiorse Ronan) rechristens herself Lady Bird in her senior year at high school. She goes through a tumultuous final year, trying to balance relationships, family, her own development, career planning and school life. Lady Bird is an original re-imagining of the classic coming-of-age story shared by many popular girl movies.
The Florida Project (2017) directed by Sean Baker This touching film stars Bria Vinaite as a young mother, living in a motel owned by the kindhearted Bobby. Their main concerns aside from scratching a living are looking after the kids living in and around the motel, including her young daughter Moonee. Moonee and her mates get into various shenanigans and fantasy worlds that shield them from the harsh realities of life. As chick flicks go, this one is pretty raw and visceral, and almost documentary-like in its cinematography.
Rafiki (2018) directed by Wanuri Kahiu This Kenyan film tells the story of Kena and Ziki, two young women in Nairobi who live different lives. The pair meet when their fathers run against each other in a local election, but despite the rivalry and disdain of the community, Kena and Ziki fall in love, differing from traditional girl movies but no less beautiful.
Queen (2013) directed by Vikas Bahl Traditional Bollywood chick flicks take a step back in this modern Bollywood film. Young Rani decides to go on her honeymoon alone after being left by her fiancée just before their wedding. What follows is an epic journey where she rediscovers herself and the world. (Also see Dangal for another great Indian film depicting women at their strongest!)
Thelma (2017) directed by Joachim Trier This dark, Danish thriller shows the downward spiral of university student Thelma after she starts experiencing random seizures that affect the outside world as well as herself. Check out my friend’s review here.
2019 Chick Flicks not to be missed
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) This epic movie is still in cinemas, so catch it while you can! This is one of the classic chick flicks that was originally adapted from the book into the 1994 film. Critics are raving about this but my high school English teacher didn’t rate it, so I’m not sure what to expect. I still want to read the book first before seeing it! Little Women has an all star cast of Saiorse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep. If that isn’t enough to tickle your fancy, then I don’t know what is!
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Woah. Where to begin with this movie. The film world is raving about it, and evidently for good reason. Portrait of a Lady on Fire was nominated for the most prestigious award in film, the Palme D’Or. It was also nominated for Best Actress, Best Director, the Jury Prize and the Grand Prix at Cannes, and 12 other awards to boot. In France 1770, Marianne has been commissioned to paint the portrait of reluctant bride Héloïse, but must do so secretly, without her knowing.
Vai (Nicole Whippy, Marina McCartney, Becs Arahanga, Matasila Freshwater, ‘Ofa Likiliki, Dianna Fuemana, Sharon Whippy, Miria George, Amberley Jo Aumua) Vai is an expressive anthology of vignettes by First Nations Pasifika women spanning seven countries. Each episode tells a day in the life of Vai in different stages of her life. Vai is a seven year old in Fiji, an eleven year old in Tonga, a teenage schoolgirl in Kuki Airani (the Cook Islands), a New Zealand-born Samoan uni student struggling to make ends meet, a young mother fighting against purse seine fishing, a woman reconnecting with her ancestors in ceremony, a grandmother farewelling her granddaughter in Niue, and finally an elder showing her newly born great-granddaughter their sacred family site in Aotearoa. Vai screened at the Sydney Film Festival, and you can read my review here.
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) A new Netflix original, one of Marriage Story’s leads is Scarlett Johansson. She gives an incredible performance as an actress going through a divorce that exacerbates the strains of her marital relationship. Her character is complex and original, and supported by her ruthless lawyer (played by Laura Dern). Marriage Story received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay at the recent Academy Awards, and deserved it in my opinion!
Booksmart (Olivia Wilde) This is a hilarious film about two high school top achievers who realise they may have missed the parts of the high school experience that don’t involve straight As. Best friends Amy (Kaityln Dever, Unbelievable, Beautiful Boy) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein, Lady Bird) seek to experience all the partying they missed on the eve of graduation. This is another of the coming-of-age chick flicks, but is still original, funny and warming.
The Farewell (Lulu Wang) When Billi returns to China after learning of her grandma’s terminal diagnosis, she struggles to accept her family’s choice of keeping the matriarch in the dark about her illness. The family stage an impromptu wedding for them to see grandma before she goes.
Captain Marvel (Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck) If superhero girl movies are more up your street, then Captain Marvel is for you. Captain Marvel is the first female superhero movie Marvel released, after its thirteen superhero predecessors – about time! In 2020 we’ll get another taste with Black Widow showing the origin story of Scarlett Johannson’s character of the same name.
Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda) This semi-autobiographical doco looks back at the life of genre-defying director, photographer and artist Agnès Varda. The film, which compiles clips from her life and films premiered just a month before she died. It is screening at the 2020 Sydney Film Festival. Here’s where you can buy tickets.
Must-see strong chick flicks of the ages
Of course, there are some chick flicks you can always come back to, and watch again and again. These are timeless, raunchy, exciting and beautiful. You’ve probably already seen these awesome flicks, but I’ll include précis anyway.
Thelma and Louise (1991) Two friends (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) embark on a road trip in this classic film about freedom and friendship.
Dirty Dancing (1987) On a holiday camp with her family, Frances is recruited by the center’s dance troupe when one of their members has to have, and recover from, an abortion. The tension mounts as Frances has to learn the moves and keep her relationship with the dance instructor a secret. Dirty Dancing is one of the most popular chick flicks!
Mamma Mia (2008) A daughter plies her mother for more information about her unknown father in the lead up to her imminent marriage, in this filmic version of the ABBA musical.
Mean Girls (2004) A newcomer to an American high school learns about teenaged womanhood and what it means to be a Mean Girl when she is absorbed by the unpopular clique. However, her membership with the Mean Girls compromises her friendship to her original schoolmates and forces her to reconsider who she is. Mean Girls, along with Clueless, is one of the classic chick-flick girl movies.
The Sound of Music (1965) Yes, it’s nearly three hours long, but it’s an absolute classic. A young nun escapes the convent to work as a governess for a strict single father with seven children. As her charges warm to her, the tension in wartime Germany affects her relationship to the family in this filmic rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
Doubtless, you’ve seen some more amazing chick flicks that I haven’t seen or included in this article, so please share them in the comments! What are your favourite girl movies to watch?