100 Best Films That Center Womens’ Experiences

Updated May 20, 2024 • Staff

It's time to shine a spotlight on the stories that resonate with women from all walks of life. These ten extraordinary films not only put women front and center but also delve deep into their struggles, triumphs, and journeys of self-discovery. Get ready to be moved, inspired, and captivated as we explore the best films that beautifully capture the essence of women's experiences. These powerful stories will leave an indelible mark on your heart and remind you of the incredible strength and resilience of women everywhere.

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100.

Carol (2015)

Watching Carol is like reading a really interesting book while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. It is one of those movies that you probably heard about during its Oscar run, and have since delayed actually viewing it. Well now that it is on Netflix and other streaming services you have no excuse! It’s refreshingly unique, incredibly charming, and features a kind of story that hasn’t been told very often – a love story between two women. Both characters played by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara attempt to live true to their own principles while facing unjust yet severe backlash from society. If you are open to it, the love story in this will stay with you forever.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Amy Warner, Anita Farmer Bergman, Ann Reskin, Annie Kalahurka, Carrie Brownstein, Cate Blanchett, Chelsea Carnder, Christine Dye, Chuck Gillespie, Colin Botts, Cory Michael Smith, Deb G. Girdler, Douglas Scott Sorenson, Gary Chinn, Giedre Bond, Greg Violand, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Kay Geiger, Ken Strunk, Kevin Crowley, Kk Heim, Kyle Chandler, Liberty Fraysure, Linnea Bond, Michael Haney, Michael Joseph Thomas Ward, Mike Dennis, Nik Pajic, Pamela Evans Haynes, Robert J. Ashe, Rooney Mara, Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Sadie Heim, Sarah Paulson, Steven Andrews, Tanya Smith, Taylor Marie Frey, Todd Haynes, Trent Rowland, Wendy Lardin, William Cross
Director: Todd Haynes
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Carol (2015) on Fubo for free
99.

My Name Is Emily (2017)

Emily (Evanna Lynch), a strange, unique girl does not receive the long awaited letter from her father on her birthday. Sick of worrying, she decides to break away from home to visit him in the psychiatric institution where he stays. The plan requires the help of Arden (George Webster), a boy from school who is ready to drop everything and accompany her on a journey that quickly becomes as adventurous as it is heartfelt. In this film, director Simon Fitzmaurice take will take you on a trip through the beautiful Irish landscape to find nothing else but simple and true love.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Ali White, Ally Ni Chiarain, Barry McGovern, Cathy Belton, Declan Conlon, Deirdre Mullins, Dónall Ó Héalai, Evanna Lynch, George Webster, John Travers, Martin McCann, Meghan Jones, Michael Hough, Michael Smiley, Millie Donnelly, Stella McCusker
Director: Simon Fitzmaurice
Rating: Not Rated

Free Watching Options:

Watch My Name Is Emily (2017) on Fubo for free
98.

And Breathe Normally (2018)

Iceland is a country of vast lands but limited population - only about 300,000 people can call themselves Icelandic. On the other hand, 8 million people have connecting flights through Iceland every year. 

In this setting of mass movement, a single mother dealing with poverty is offered a chance to turn things around - a job as a border agent. One of her first days, she comes across an asylum seeker on a connecting flight from Guinea Bissau to Canada, trying to cross with a fake passport. 

Their stories don’t only intertwine as border agent and asylum seeker, but as two mothers. And Breathe Normally is about struggling with poverty both in Europe and coming from a place like Guinea Bissau. It’s a beautiful, plot-heavy statement on the importance of solidarity and of seeing the human behind the country of origin or race. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ísold Uggadóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Bragi Arnason, Gunnar Jonsson, Kristín Þóra Haraldsdóttir, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson, Sólveig Guðmundsdóttir, Sveinn Geirsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann
Director: Isold Uggadottir
Rating: TV-14
97.

Donkeyhead (2022)

This Canadian drama is directed by, written by, and stars first-time director Agam Darshi. It’s a labor of love about a 30-something woman who takes care of her sick father while trying to become a writer.

Mona (the character) comes from an immigrant Indian family, and she is proudly the black sheep of the bunch. When a visitor greets her with “God is Truth” in Punjabi, she replies in English with “Merry Christmas”, and when aunties catch her smoking she gives them the middle finger. Not to mention she is sleeping with a married man.

And yet the way the movie is made it works as a universal story - one about finding purpose in taking care of one’s parents while navigating complex family dynamics.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Agam Darshi, Huse Madhavji, Kim Coates, Sandy Sidhu, Stephen Lobo
Director: Agam Darshi
96.

Shirkers (2018)

In the early 1990s, Singaporean teens Sandi, Jasmine, and Sophie set out to make the country’s first indie movie. Incredibly, in between college, day jobs, and very limited funding, they manage to do just that with the help of their wise but mysterious mentor, Georges. Shirkers, as the project came to be called, seemed primed to revolutionize the burgeoning Singaporean film industry. It was ambitious and bonkers, unlike anything the country has seen before, and it lovingly contained tributes to the makers' cinematic heroes (among them Wim Wenders and David Lynch). But before it could see the light of the day, before it could even be viewed and edited by the girls who conceptualized it, Shirkers’ raw footage was whisked away by Georges, who fled the country without a trace. 

The potentially pioneering film was never to be seen again—that is, until 20 years later when it resurfaces in near-mint condition (sadly, the audio could not be recovered). Fascinated by the journey of the lost film and mystified by Georges’ motives, Sandi decides to remake Shirkers as a documentary. The result is an artistic and personal interrogation into what made their small beloved film possible, how its loss affected the people behind it, and how this all led to Shirkers, the documentary, which is a testament to how art always prevails in the end. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Georges Cardona, Jasmine Ng, Jasmine Ng Kin Kia, Sandi Tan, Sophia Siddique Harvey
Director: Sandi Tan
Rating: TV-14
95.

Parallel Mothers (2021)

Whether or not you’re familiar with director Pedro Almodóvar’s body of work, Parallel Mother stands as a gorgeous melodrama, a striking story about motherhood and our ties to the past. On one level, it’s a simple but engaging drama about a misunderstanding that ensues between two women. But on another, it’s a deep dive into a nation’s cruel history, as well as an observation of people’s commitment to never letting that part of themselves go. 

The film references Almodóvar’s past films but it also works as a standalone, a perfect starting point for moviegoers interested in exploring his oeuvre. Of course, Penelope Cruz continues to be a powerhouse, each line delivery an emotional gut punch, while relative newcomer Milena Smit is stirring, a true revelation, as her director calls her.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Agustín Almodóvar, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Ana Peleteiro, Arantxa Aranguren, Carmen Flores, Chema Adeva, Daniela Santiago, Inma Ochoa, Israel Elejalde, José Javier Domínguez, Julieta Serrano, Milena Smit, Penélope Cruz, Rossy de Palma, Trinidad Iglesias
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Rating: R
94.

Fire (1996)

In this powerful exploration of suppressed desires and societal constraints, Fire delves deep into the lives of two women trapped in loveless marriages. Radha's husband has banished all desires from their marriage due to Radha's infertility, while the newlywed Sita knows her husband still sees his lover. As they live their stifling lives being dutiful wives and taking care of their paralyzed matriarch on their own, they begin to find solace in each other—eventually igniting a forbidden romance that challenges what they thought living truly was. The performances by Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi are captivating, as they find renewed passion in each other's arms even as they question how tradition doesn't hold a women's benefit in mind. Fire is a bold and groundbreaking film that provokes reflection on love, freedom, and the courage to defy societal norms.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Alice Poon, Avijit Dutt, Javed Jaffrey, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Laurence Côte, Nandita Das, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Ranjit Chowdhry, Shabana Azmi, Vinay Pathak
Director: Deepa Mehta
93.

Nowhere (2023)

While not its only cause, the increase of conflict and civil wars has spurred a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, taking dangerous journeys to a hopefully safer place. Nowhere, now on Netflix, showcases one possible journey. Escaping a future totalitarian Spain, the film is centered on leading lady Anna Castillo, whose excellent performance pulls most of the tears here. With her character Mia’s ingenuity, she maximizes her shipping container’s resources and takes steps to ensure her survival. While some of the backstory can feel thin, after all, for most of the runtime Mia has only herself to talk to, this new one-location survival film is a thrilling addition to the genre. It’s a chilling reminder of what could be happening to the millions of refugees seeking safe haven around the globe.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Anna Castillo, Antonio Buíl, Emma Sánchez, Irina Bravo, Kaabil Sekali, Lucia Soria, Mariam Torres, Said El Mouden, Tamar Novas, Tony Corvillo, Victoria Teijeiro
Director: Albert Pintó
Rating: R
92.

Ballerina (2023)

Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller
Actor: Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Yeong-ok, Kim Young-ok, Kwak Jae-min, Lee Jae-joon, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Yu-rim, Shin Se-hwi
Director: Lee Chung-hyun
Rating: R
91.

Kokomo City (2023)

The idea of representation in movies is often limited to superficial gestures of putting on screen people who look a certain way. Kokomo City is a reminder of cinema's possibilities when one really tries to queer filmmaking itself, with genuine queer voices driving a production. This documentary is messy and incredibly playful in its style—in ways that might read to some as lacking cohesiveness, or as tonally inconsistent. But the way director D. Smith is able to capture the dynamic energy of a series of conversations makes these powerful, funny, tragic anecdotes and dialogues feel truly grounded in people's everyday experiences, and makes the plea for protection of trans lives all the more urgent.

Throughout Kokomo City, this collection of individuals goes off on various tangents that never become difficult to follow. They speak about the nature of sex work, hidden desires felt by traditionally masculine male clients, and various degrees of acceptance within the Black community. And between these statements alternating from impassioned to emotional to humorously candid, Smith injects cheeky cutaway footage, layers text on screen, and plays an eclectic rotation of music throughout. It's about as real and as three-dimensional as these trans lives have ever been shown on screen.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, XoTommy
Director: D. Smith
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Kokomo City (2023) on Fubo for free

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