10 Biographical Movies about Inspiring Women

A queen judged on decisions she was too young to make, a pilot’s journey by air still has researchers looking for her remains and how far will one woman go to set the record straight in the courthouse! Women have left their mark in multiple fields throughout history! To this day, they continue to make history and cement their legacy in male-dominated fields.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most outstanding performances by actresses playing women who have made an impact in a variety of endeavors, including politics, sports, entertainment! Our list includes moves across a variety of genres released since the turn of the century.

The Rosa Parks Story – Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was an African-American activist who is forever remembered for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama. On the bus journey, she was asked to give up her seat in favor of a white male. She was detained after she refused. She received a fine and was found guilty. She went on to become the face of the civil rights movement to end racial segregation on buses. Rosa Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.

Starring Angela Bassett, this 2005 biographical film captures Rosa’s early exposure to racial segregation, her schooling, and her membership in the NAACP. Angela Bassett received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie in 2002.

Marie Antoinette – Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French revolution and the storming of the bastille prison. As it was at the time, she was married and made queen by the age of twenty. She was known for her lavish lifestyle, elaborate spending, and famously thought to have said the words “let them eat cake.” She was imprisoned and tried for conspiring against the revolution. She was found guilty of child abuse and later executed at the guillotine.

In Sofia Coppola’s film ‘Marie Antoinette,’ Kirsten Dunst plays Marie Antoinette. Her character shows different stages of her life, commencing with her marriage to King Louis XVI. She lives a life of extravagance and pleasure after leaving her home at a young age. As she aged, she was often criticized for not being able to produce an heir on several occasions, prompting her to focus less on her social life and more on her family and her role as queen. Oscar Nominated actress Kirsten Dunst (‘Spiderman’, ‘The Power of the Dog’) takes on the role of Marie Antoinette.

Also in the period film genre is Mary: Queen Of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.

Watch ‘Marie Antoinette’ on: Apple TV+  |  Amazon

Erin Brockovich – Erin Brockovich 

Erin Brockovich is Consumer Advocate and Environmental Activist. Despite her lack of legal knowledge, she initiated a victorious lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of people who had been exposed unknowingly to harmful waste in their water supply. She continues to fight falsehoods that end up compromising public health and safety.

The film titled, ‘Erin Brockovich‘, stars Julia Roberts is based on Brockovich’s story. Released in the ear 2000, actress Julia Roberts won an academy award for her performance in this role. The movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Brockovich mentions on her website,” the movie was true and probably 98% accurate.” 

Watch ‘Erin Brockovich’ on: Apple TV+  |  Peacock  |  Amazon Prime Video

On the Basis of Sex – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has made a significant contribution to law and women’s equality. She took on the task of pursuing gender inequality cases in a methodical and conservative manner. Ginsburg worked towards the rights of women, workers, and civil rights. In 2021, she was honored with a statue in Brooklyn. She came to be known as ‘Notorious RBG.’

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is played by Felicity Jones in this biographical drama. The story follows Ginsburg as she progresses through her law career. She is faced with a number of challenges along the way. Unable to find work as a lawyer, she begins to teach law. The Moritz v. Commissioner case is highlighted in the film.

Watch ‘On the Basis of Sex’ on: Apple TV+  |  Amazon Prime Video  |  Sony LIV

Bessie – Bessie Smith

‘The Empress of the Blues’, Bessie Smith was one of the most famous blues singers in the 1920s. She started her career as a dancer and shared the stage with legendary blues singer Ma Rainey. Due to racial segregation at the time, Bessie and her touring band would stay in the railroad car. She would go on to be signed by Colombia records and leave her mark on the blues, swing, and jazz genres of music. In 1994, the United States Postal Service released a commemorative postage stamp commemorating Bessie Smith.

In 2015, HBO released a television film ‘Bessie,’ starring Queen Latifah as the titular character. A biographical drama that covers her rise to fame. The story is based on real events, including her struggling for work, starting her own show, and dealing with racism. Queen Latifah received an Emmy nomination for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie and won the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2016 for her performance.

Also consider watching ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ (2020) starring Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, and late actor Chadwick Boseman, and Whitney (2015) starring Yaya DaCosta.

Watch ‘Bessie’ on:  Amazon Prime Video  |  HBO Max  |  Hotstar

Frida – Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who is known for her paintings of self-portraits, friends, family, and still objects. She started painting after she became bedridden due to an accidental crash. Her ‘Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress’ in the 1920s is what really garnered her attention.

A movie based on her life was released in 2002 starring Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina. The movie journeys through her accident, the inspirations behind her artistic pursuits, activism, and her relationship with Diego Rivera. Salma Hayek was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in this film.

Watch ‘Frida’ on: Apple TV+  |  Amazon Prime Video  |  HBO Max

Amelia – Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart is one of the most well-known female pilots in the aviation industry to this day. In addition to her receiving the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for her solo flight across the Atlantic ocean, she supported the Equal Rights Amendment and has written journals about her flying experiences and achievements. She was a founding member of Ninety-Nines, a new women’s aviation organization. Along with her aircraft, she vanished while attempting to fly across the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

The film begins with an established Amelia Earhart in the world of aviation, recounting her campaign to make a name for herself in the male-dominated profession. The plot progresses from her many flying escapades to her quest to fly around the world. Two-time academy award Hillary Swank takes on the role of the pilot Amelia Earhart. Mira Nair directed the film.

Aviation fans will also like ‘Blue Swallow,’ a film based on the life of Park Kyung-won, the first Korean woman civilian pilot.

Watch ‘Amelia’ on: Apple TV+  |  Disney+

Mary Kom – Mary Kom

Mary Kom is an Indian professional boxer who represented the country at the Olympics. She is a six-time AIBA Women’s World Champion and has won the Bronze medal in the London Olympic games in 2012. Mary Kom was honored with the Padma Vibhushan award in 2021.

The film follows the life of Indian fighter Mary Kom, who defied the odds in the field of women’s boxing and women’s sport in India. From street fights to the Olympic circle, battling stereotypes and domestic hardships, the movie narrates her various trials. Almost quitting boxing after the birth of her child, she debates if she still has what it takes. Priyanka Chopra underwent rigorous training to play the role of Mary Kom.

A few other female sports biographical movies include  ‘I, Tonya’‘Queen of Katwe’, and ‘Fighting with My Family’.

Watch ‘Mary Kom’ on: Apple TV+  |  Netflix

The Iron Lady – Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was the first female prime minister in the United Kingdom. She was dubbed the “Iron Lady,” a moniker that came to symbolize her strict leadership and discipline. In her youth, she studied chemistry and even worked as a chemist before turning to politics. She got a seat in the British parliament in the year 1959. Margaret Thatcher served three terms as British prime minister and went on to write many memoirs.

The film is structured around a series of flashbacks in Margaret Thatcher’s life. The movie depicts her ambition to stand out in a male-dominated House of Commons, her choice to run for the party’s leadership, and different events throughout her tenure as Prime Minister. Meryl Streep imbibed the role of ‘The Iron Lady’ in the 2011 movie directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The two have worked together on ‘Mamma Mia!’ as well.

Watch ‘The Iron Lady’ on: Apple TV+  |  Amazon Prime Video  |  HBO Max  |  Netflix

The Runaways 

The Runaways was an all-female rock and roll band in the 1970s. The band members consisted of Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, and Jackie Fox. In a male-dominated rock and roll era, they pushed boundaries and established that women could dominate the rock and roll music scene. The band broke up in 1979. Joan Jett was ranked 87th in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 guitarists and went on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

The Runaways‘ recalls the band’s formations and journey to success along with their record producer Kim Fowley. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll get a fresh face as these young musicians perform on stage. The ensemble cast includes Dakota Fanning playing Cherie Currie, Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, Riley Keough portraying Marie Currie, Stella Maeve as Sandy West, and Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford.

Watch ‘The Runaways’ on: Apple TV+  |  Netflix  |  Lionsgate Play


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