As we brace for October’s changing tide, we remember how important it is to look to the past as we step forward into this new season. Reliving important and empowering moments of history is part of what is so beautiful and special about film, and movies seem to find a way into our lives when we need them the most. That’s why we asked our friends over at Light Layer Productions, an LA-based production company that hires women, celebrates women, and shines a much-needed spotlight on women’s stories, to round up their favorite films featuring women throughout history, as portrayed by badass women from the present day. In light of the current state of our country and consciousness, these powerful women-led films feel like required viewing now more than ever.
In a time when the country needed to be reminded of the importance of diversity, Hidden Figures hit the screen. With heels on, dresses ironed, and pencils sharp, the women of Hidden Figures portray a side of American history that needed to be relived, focusing on an untold true story that was often swept under the rug. “To be the best” – that is what America wanted to do when they sent John Glen into space. Yet to be the best, they needed these hidden figures to make it happen. Thank you Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson.
The world stood still when JFK was shot, but Jackie Kennedy had to keep going. As the film chases Natalie Portman portraying the iconic First Lady, we are given a rare and profound opportunity to get closer to Jackie. We bear witness to a woman that has been to hell and back, but we also see strength, emotion, and beauty. Continually flashing back to the moments before JFK’s death, we watch Jackie re-live this trauma as she navigates the media’s obsession with portraying vulnerable women as unstable. Though the odds seemed against her, she perseveres and keeps pushing forward, as the world watched in awe.
It hasn’t even been 100 years since women earned the right to vote in the United States. Suffragette is a daring drama that reminds us the fight for equality has not stopped since this movement. As the suffragettes in the film shout, “Vote for women,” so do I: it is nostalgia that strikes a nerve, reminding us that we need to maintain our power and right to choose. By basing the characters off of historical superheroes who fought and fought for freedom, it’s easy to connect our modern day movement with what these women were doing. Fictional or not, we stand beside all women who fight for basic human rights.
It was never enough, especially for Tonya Harding. The kicker? We’re still talking about her story more than 20 years later, and it has arguably gotten more relevant with age. The underlying theme of class struggle hits the big screen in I, Tonya, with Harding’s vibrant and charismatic demeanor brought to life by the effervescent Margot Robbie. We see through Harding’s story how fickle fame is, and how volatile the loss of it can be.
Meryl Streep understands more than most what it means to work in a male dominant world, so could there be anyone better to play the most admired, yet possibly most loathed, prime minister in England’s history, Margaret Thatcher? Streep’s sheer coolness and composure consume the screen in an uncanny resemblance to The Iron Lady, and the film itself reminds the world of the myriad struggles that women have to go through to break into politics. Though Streep isn’t dressed in iron, you can feel her magnitude. Her award-winning performance vibrates with the need for change.
Looking at these women in history and the women who portrayed them, each iconic film reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go, calling upon us to channel the irrepressible strength of the women who came before us as we greet the passing of time and face the future, whatever it may hold.