On International Women's Day (in particular, but any day is good), make some time to watch some of these movies that celebrate sisterhood in all its glorious shapes and forms. Bonus: they all pass the Bechdel Test, which requires a film to have at least two, named female characters who talk to each other about something other than men.
This story is inspired by life in the deep south of America in the 1960s, when white people were rich, and employed poor black people as servants. (Read our review here.) A group of maids decide to tell their stories to a young white girl who wants to make a difference, and expose the terrible lives they lead. The friendships formed, beween women of different races, classes and personalities, remind us that the differences between us are much less important than the similarities, and that by seeing the world from another person's perspective can lead to unbreakable bonds.
Bend it like Beckham
Football most definitely isn't "just for boys", as Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley prove in this 2002 Britcom. It's true that the two girls almost let a boy come between them, but their respect for each other, realisation that life and their dreams are bigger than a silly crush, and their love of the beautiful game win through in the end.
Mona Lisa Smile
If your parents were open-minded (and rich) enough to send you, as an 18-year-old girl, to university in 1950s America, you were lucky. Parents who would then support the idea of you not getting married, but starting a career and supporting yourself were very rare indeed. This film is mostly about art, what art is, and finding out what you want from life, despite what the world is telling you you want, but it also has a strong thread of the importance of finding strong female friends you can lean on.
A story about mathematicians doesn't sound like it would be the most thrilling thing, but this story of three black American women who worked for Nasa in the early 1960s, a time when racism and sexism were rife, is riveting, informative and joyful. (I have strong feelings about it; I've seen it three times at the cinema...). The film is about the great space race, when amazing minds collaborated to get the first Americans into orbit, one of (wo)mankind's greatest achievements, which would make for a great yarn no matter who was involved. That this true story tells of three members of two minority groups is even more incredible. And that the movie examines the connection between these three women, and the feeling of community witnessed in the all-women departments, ensures its place on this list. (The upbeat 1960s-esque, Pharrell-penned soundtrack only makes this even more awesome.) Werk.
Made in Dagenham
Just as many women across America and Europe are going on strike today to mark A Day Without Women, to stand up for human rights (although many have made the point that only privileged women will be able to afford not to actually turn up to work, otherwise their families will suffer... and so continues the vicious cycle), female workers in 1968 Britain also refused to show up, to stand up for their rights. The women employees at the Ford plant in Dagenham went on strike for three weeks to protest sexual discrimination which meant they were paid far less than men doing jobs requiring the same level of skill. Their action led to the Equal Pay Act being passed, prohibiting inequality of treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment.
Elle Woods is perky, chirpy and blonde: she's a stereotyper's dream, because everyone assumes she's an airhead who only cares about fashion, mani-pedis and her sorority sisters. One part of that is partly true; Elle is a steadfast friend, who would do anything to help a gal pal in need. But she's also street-smart, committed and honest; she works hard to prove herself, and she proves he adage that you really can't judge a book by its cover, especially when that book would do anything in the world to help you follow your dreams.
Sometimes sisterhood is literal. Inspired by true events, this is the story of four young Aborginal Australian girls who form a Motown band, and tour Vietnam during the war there. While tensions develop back- and onstage as the four grow and learn who they are, a love of music and of each other keeps them marching on. (It doesn't hurt that the soundtrack is irresistible!
A great indication of a strong female friendship is when women come through great trauma, tragedy or challenge, and rebuild what they had. And these four funny women definitely do that in what our editor called the greatest film of last summer. Remember, if you have female friends who will stand beside you when you get covered in ectoplasm, possessed by devilish spirits or trolled by haters, they're friends to fight to keep, whatever differences you have.
Sometimes all you need for a beautiful friendship to begin is to find one thing in common you really love. The girls of the Barden Bellas seem worlds apart in terms of upbringing, interests, commitment and musical taste, but they all really love to sing. And from that starting point, despite the odds (and the projectile vomiting, taco grenades and ill-advised crushes), beautiful music and irreplaceable friendship can be made.
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