Randstad Canada HR Blog

9 Films Featuring Strong Empowered Women

Posted by James Rubec on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 06:41 AM

There are few films that portray women in positions of power. Fewer still which feature powerful women who aren’t using violence to exact bloody revenge or who eventually have their problems solved by the men around them.

Women in power have an unfair relationship with both news and entertainment media. In news media female politicians are judged as much for their pumps, as their policies and in film women are onscreen less often, they have less valued professions and are usually 10-15 years younger than their male counterparts.  

In a study performed by the Centre for the Study of Women in Film and Television, Martha. M. Lauzen PhD, found that, “The majority of female characters are in their 20s (27%) and 30s (28%). The majority of male characters are in their 30s (29%) and 40s (25%).”

It gets even murkier when you look how leaders are portrayed, with male characters accounting for 86% of onscreen leaders and females representing only 14%.

Finding movies where the female characters hold more power than their male counterparts and aren’t seen as a complete joke or caricature are hard to find. Challenging female stereotypes is an important step toward equality and these movies do a great job of it.


9- Films Featuring Strong Empowered Women


The Iron Lady: Meryl Streep plays, Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister with the titular nickname. Margaret Thatcher was the controversial leader of England’s Conservative Party and from 1979 until 1990 was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The biopic showcased some of the difficultly that Thatcher had balancing the immense workload of being a leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations, with her familial responsibilities. The film manages to not diminish her character while showing Thatcher’s more familial side.

The Iron Lady 

Fargo:  The film starring Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson a pregnant police chief, who is investigating a series of gruesome homicides. Marge is not only the hero of the film, but she manages to outwit and outshoot her male foes all while being seven months pregnant. While not shying away from Marge’s femininity it doesn’t make the scenario of a female police chief in America seem farcical.


The Help: Not only does this film feature strong women, it focuses on civil rights and education. The movie’s main character played by Emma Stone has a degree, is single and has returned home from school to become a writer. In doing so she also challenges the racial divide in her community and becomes a published author.


The Devil Wears Prada: If you’re beginning to see a theme of Meryl Streep playing strong female characters, don’t be shocked, we did too. Streep plays the vicious executive director of a fashion magazine empire. While being a stern and at times a cold leader, she undoubtedly holds a great deal of power and moves her character beyond the stereotype of the ice queen executive into well rounded, albeit eccentric mother of two.

 the devil wears prada

Julie & Julia: All Streep, all the time. As she plays the infamous celebrity chef and author of The Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child. Streep’s character barrels past the preconceptions those executives in both the publishing and television world to become a force to be reckoned with in both all the while maintaining a strong relationship with her diplomat husband.

 Julie & Julia

Contact: Jodie Foster plays as PhD radio astronomer who may have found life from another solar system. Her character is smarter than her male counterparts and shares her opinions with great diligence. While Foster’s character displays strong emotions she never plays this off as hysterical and is one of Hollywood’s few female characters that is able to balance emotional realism with scientific excellence.  


Out of Africa: Meryl Streep plays a plantation owner in British East Africa. While in a marriage of convenience, in the early 20th century, Streep eventually sends her philandering husband packing after he gives her syphilis. In the coming years Streep’s character is about the pull her plantation out of debt and begin to reap profit from one of her ex-husband’s untoward business ventures, ultimately however doom prevails and she’s forced to leave Africa for good.

 Out of Africa

Erin Brockovich:Julia Roberts’ plays Erin Brockovich, in the true to life telling of her personal story, moving from an unemployed single mother of two, into a law clerk who almost single handedly wins a decade long court case with a gas company that let a dangerous compound leak into a city’s water supply causing illness and death. Roberts’ character is played close to reality showing a single mother’s struggle with the economic realities of parenthood on minimum wage. 


The X-Files: While being the title of two films, it is the 1990s television show featuring Dr. Dana Scully and Fox Mulder that we’re most familiar with. Scully a forensic pathologist and an FBI agent is asked to reign in an odd-duck paranormal investigating agent, Mulder. Scully is seen as one of the strongest female leads on TV, regularly managing to take down the bad-guy while her male counterpart can barely pull his gun out of his holster while he jabbered on about space aliens for nine seasons.

 x files


Why aren’t more powerful female leaders featured in films? Is it about the money, because it seems to me that all of these films and franchises have fared pretty well? Let us know what you think.

Tags: James Rubec