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Women Empowerment Movies Filmed in California
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Women Empowerment Movies Filmed in California

All you have to do is hit play and have a feminist marathon with these ceiling-smashing showstoppers.

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5 min read

July 19, 2021

Let’s hear it for the ladies! If tales of iconic female leaders get you in the mood to smash the patriarchy, chances are the silver screen can do just the same. And luckily, there are so many movies out there right now that celebrate womanhood in all its shapes and sizes; you don’t even have to go past Netflix’s home page. These are stories of rousing triumphs, tales of adolescence and everyday rebellions, celebrations of wins that show how far we’ve come while highlighting how far we have yet to go. 

Since we believe that every day should be International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up a selection of women empowerment movies for you. All you have to do is hit play and have a feminist marathon with these ceiling-smashing showstoppers.

California Movies With Strong Female Leads 

Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan as a young woman haunted by a traumatic past. Photo courtesy of Promising Young Woman.

Promising Young Woman

Directed by: Emerald Fennell 

Promising Young Woman is not your typical female revenge movie—it’s a mirror forcing us to confront ugly realities about our society and, in turn, ourselves. This unorthodox, and at times uneven, but always a compelling mix of thriller and Black comedy is a feminist masterpiece that ticks every box. While Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut often conforms to the tropes of girl power movies, it also takes ample pride in upending most (if not all) expectations. Promising Young Woman was filmed in L.A. in just 23 days, and the results are magnificent.

Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, a medical school dropout on the brink of 30, still living with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jenniffer Coolidge) and working at a coffee shop to her own boredom and the puzzlement of her manager—played by Laverne Cox. With no personal or professional ambitions, significant others, or standard interests, Cassie appears to be nothing like the strong female leads we expect to see on the silver screen. But appearance, as it turns out, can be rather deceitful.

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The soundtrack features a parade of deliberately chosen bubblegum pop songs by the likes of Paris Hilton and the Spice Girls. Yet the original score written for the movie is puzzlingly heartfelt, following you everywhere until substituted with ominous Dolby thumps every time justice is smack-served. And did we mention how intoxicating the violin cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” is? That alone should get you to watch Promising Young Woman.

If you’re interested to know what exactly this justice is, we’re afraid we’ve said too much already. Just add it to your summer movie list, you’ll thank us later. 

Set between 2002 and 2003 in Sacramento, Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story of a high school senior and her strained relationship with her mother.

Lady Bird 

Directed by: Greta Gerwig 

A one-of-a-kind female empowerment movie, Lady Bird paints a magical portrait of adolescence. The movie is set in Sacramento and centers on Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson played by Saoirse Ronan, a high schooler unfazed by the fears that most teenagers have. She insists on being called by her given name of Lady Bird—given to her by herself—fearlessly pokes her crush on the shoulder, asking him to a dance, and moves around the world with the sort of confidence only a young kid would have. 

And though the film flirts with the idea of being a tale of coming-of-age, it’s more interested in exploring the jagged relationship between Lady Bird and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Marion is an overworked nurse whose blunt pessimism is an amusing juxtaposition to her daughter’s dreams of moving to the Big Apple, “where the culture is” according to Lady Bird. Every single scene between this mother-daughter duo is eclectic, with their inability to communicate evoking feelings almost any woman can relate to.

With tiny details in Lady Bird, Gerwig proves how to make a good movie great. Her usage of the Dave Matthews Band, vividly drawn characters like Timothee Chalamet’s floppy-haired electronics skeptic, or accurately depicting suburban California, the director turns her keen observations into colorful puzzle pieces.

Directed by Olivia Wilde, Booksmart stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as high school girls who set out to party. Photo courtesy of Booksmart.

Booksmart 

Directed by: Olivia Wilde 

Their fake IDs are only used to get them into the library, and Malala is the secret code word—yes, we do mean Yousafzai. Booksmart tells the fast and feminist tale of academic overachievers Amy and Molly, who share amongst themselves a Yale admittance, a summer to be spent in Botswana before attending Columbia, and (one might say) a bit of a superiority complex. The know-it-all yet inseparable duo of best friends feel good about keeping their heads in the books; until they discover that those who didn’t forfeit their partying rights got into prestigious colleges too.

As the realization that the pair might have missed out hits—and it hits hard—Amy and Molly decide to cram four years of high school partying into one night; an unforgettable adventure that shows the giddy highs and bittersweet lows of being a teenager.

The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against the energy corporation PG&E.

Erin Brokovich 

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

The hard-to-believe yet entirely true story of Erin Brockovich—a foul-mouthed ex-beauty queen who won one of the largest settlements in U.S. history—is a woman empowerment movie everyone should watch. Brockovich is played by Julia Roberts, who seizes the role with fire in her eyes and injects this character with all the layers, energy, and drive she can muster. With Robert’s true-star performance and one rollercoaster of a story, you’re truly in for a wild ride.

Written by Savannah Grant and directed by Steven Soderbergh, Erin Brokovich skips all the courtroom tropes and instead zeroes in on a woman’s journey of self-discovery brought about by a passionate conviction that a serious wrong should be righted.

Uma Thurman stars as the Bride, who swears revenge on a team of assassins and their leader, Bill, after they try to kill her and her unborn child.

Kill Bill: Vol 1

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a place that might look and sound like planet earth—but it isn’t. It’s actually a girl-power universe where laws of economics, police, work, physiology, and gravity don’t apply; a world shaped by Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western and Asian martial-arts dreams. Brutal but addictive, Kill Bill: Volume 1 proves once again that whenever you need a rush of cinema adrenaline, Tarantino’s your guy.

The film begins with a logo from a 1970s Hong Kong production company Shaw Brothers, hinting at more movie references ahead than a semester of film school. The heroine’s (played by Uma Thurman) yellow jumpsuit alludes to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, the Kato masks are probably paying homage to Lee’s Green Hornet. The director even cast a veteran Japanese action star Sonny Chiba as a legendary sword craftsman and the iconic Chiaki Kuriyama in her killer-schoolgirl persona. Tarantino’s revenge movie eventually tells viewers that Kill Bill is, in fact, a tribute to Uma Thurman’s survival energy.

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