Actresses at the top of their game. The following ten films feature more girl power than the Spice Girls could ever manage.
The Spice Girls might have coined the phrase but the ladies in the following ten films exhibit far more Girl Power than Sporty, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Posh. From recent films such as Hard Candy, Erin Brockovich and Million Dollar Baby to classics like Carrie and Aliens, this top 10 features great female characters performed by the very best actresses at the top of their games.
As a companion piece to our Top 10 Dominant Women in Hollywood Film, this top ten contains some of the finest and most memorable female characters to ever grace the cinema screen. Top 10 Girl Power Films is a list of films where the protagonist is a woman who demonstrates the strength of the human spirit when the odds are stacked against her. In these films, they are the heroes.
10. Hard Candy (Slade, 2005)
Ellen Page shows off her acting talent as a young girl who gains revenge over the man responsible for the disappearance of her friend.
9. I Spit On Your Grave (Zarchi, 1978)
Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) is a New York short story writer who goes to the country to write her first novel. A gang of men, allured by this sexually attractive young woman who has suddenly appeared in their sleepy town, plan and carry out a brutal and prolonged assault. Jennifer survives the attack and slowly recuperates. She then plans and carries out a systematic revenge attack on each of the men who assaulted her with devastating consequences.
8. Million Dollar Baby (Eastwood, 2004)
Clint Eastwood’s boxing trainer Frankie Dunn doesn’t train girls. But when Hilary Swank’s Maggie won’t take no for an answer he finds more courage, determination and skill in this girl than any of his male students. Hilary Swank delivers a powerhouse performance.
7. Run Lola Run (Tykwer, 1998)
Poor Franka Potente has to help her boyfriend out of a pickle not once, not twice but three times. Tom Tykwer’s stylish film tells the story of how Lola attempts to raise cash to save her boyfriend from a crime boss in three different ways. Using flashback and flash-forward, the film shows how various events impact on the eventual outcome not just for Lola but for the people she interacts with as well.
6. Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)
A career best for actress Jodie Foster sees her play FBI trainee Clarice Starling who faces off against Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lector (the marvellous Anthony Hopkins) when she is tasked to help track down serial murderer Buffalo Bill.
5. Carrie (De Palma, 1976)
Brian De Palma’s masterpiece Carrie sees Sissy Spacek brilliantly portray the reserved but determined Carrie White. Carrie is a horror film that is suitably frightening but appeals to a large audience thanks to its story of a young girl who is trapped by the school children that bully her and the mother who represses her. When she discovers telekinetic powers (the ability to make objects move without touching them) she is at first interested if a little scared of their potential. But when her mother pushes her too far, and the bullies cause her one humiliation too many, Carrie is forced to use her special powers to devastating and destructive effect.
4. Erin Brockovich (Soderbergh, 2000)
Julia Roberts delivers one of her finest performances as unemployed single mother of three Erin Brockovich in this true story from director Steven Soderbergh. Getting a job as a clerk in a law firm, Erin comes across files pertaining to a pro bono case involving medical records in real estate files. Investigating she finds that contaminated water supplies are the cause of serious health problems in town’s around Pacific Gas and Electric sites. Although she has help from lawyer Edward Masry (Albert Finney), it is her own determination and will power to make right what she knows is wrong that enables her to take the case to court and ultimately win.
3. Thelma and Louise (Scott, 1991)
Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) are two assuming women who finds themselves on the run after killing a rapist. Ridley Scott’s film was nominated for six Academy Awards and has remained a critical and commercial success since its release in 1991. Davis and Sarandon deliver fine performances prior to the memorably iconic ending.
2. Working Girl (Nichols, 1988)
Melanie Griffith’s fine performance brings Mike Nichols very-1980s feminine revival story to life. She plays Tess McGill, a New York administrator living in a wholly materialistic, male-centric world. Treated as an underling by her bosses and her boyfriend, the sexy but deceptively intelligent Tess ditches them both to swap her secretarial role for an executive position.
When she gets a new job working for financial executive Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), she is immediately encouraged by a fellow woman achieving career success and inviting Tess to share her business ideas. But when Katherine breaks her leg while on holiday and asks Tess to house-sit, she finds out Katherine is secretly passing her ideas off as her own. So while her boss is away Tess senses her opportunity to make her mark and sets about achieving the success she always dreamed about.
1. Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
Most will agree that the character of Ripley so brilliantly portrayed in the Alien films is a clear winner here. You could pick any one of the first three Alien movies for first-rate performances from Weaver and brilliant characterisation of a woman who sees all fall around her while she continues to battle and survive a seemingly unstoppable and monstrous creature. Interestingly, in each of the films following the plight of Ripley, she is outnumbered by men yet prevails as one of only few survivors. In Alien, she is the only one to make it out alive; in Aliens she sees a whole team of marines (most men) get destroyed with only one remaining alive; and in Alien 3 she is surrounded by a horde of convicted prisoners (all men) who find themselves alien fodder with Ripley’s guile and courage being their only chance of survival.
Your turn – what are your favourite girl power films and characters?
Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.
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