To mark International Women’s Day, here’s our pick of the best streaming boxsets and movies starring - or directed by - female talent.
Hollywood has been grappling with gender equality in how it does business, from the studio lot to the boardroom, ever since the #MeToo movement erupted in 2017. It’s been a long time coming, especially considering the wealth of talented women working both in front of and behind the camera.
To mark International Women’s Day, celebrated by the UN and several countries around the world on 8 March, we dove into Amazon Prime Video’s catalogue to find streaming gems either made by exceptional female talent or that deal with women’s issues.
Best of all, Vodafone UK Pay Monthly mobile customers can enjoy them all by adding Amazon Prime Video to their plans for a low monthly fee.
Zero Dark Thirty
On-screen espionage and special operations has largely been a male-dominated affair thanks to the escapades of Monsieurs Bond and Bourne. Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is one of several recent dramas that changes that.
This atmospheric and foreboding film dramatises the hunt for Osama bin Laden, ably maintaining an air of suspense even though we all know the outcome. It follows the manhunt through the eyes of a fictionalised CIA analyst played by Jessica Chastain.
She delivers a nuanced performance combining steely determination and pathos, as her character observes – and is implicated in – unspeakable acts while pursuing the most wanted man of the century.
Kathryn Bigelow’s recent rise to the top tier of the directorial pyramid will surprise some, but it shouldn’t given her portfolio of work. One of her most memorable films is Point Break, a cult 1991 action film that deftly and unexpectedly marries frenetic scenes of derring-do with almost philosophical character building. So much so that it has become a touchstone for the genre, with other filmmakers both parodying Point Break and paying homage to it in equal measure.
Having said that, this machismo melodrama with machine guns shouldn’t, like other action films of its era, be taken too seriously. If nothing else, it’s worth comparing Keanu Reeves’ emotive acting here with his later, more stoic performances that he has become infamous for.
On paper, this TV series sounds like a female-centric Lord of the Flies, crossed with a dash of Lost, as it follows a group of teenage girls stranded on a remote island after a plane crash. While conspiracies and flash-forwards are a part of the show, at its core it revolves around the wildly disparate group of girls and their struggles with each other as well as Mother Nature. The ensemble cast deliver eminently relatable performances that help pull you in.
On The Basis of Sex
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was only the second female judge ever to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court and her path to the highest court in the land wasn’t easy. On The Basis of Sex follows a young Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones, as she struggles to establish her legal career in a post-war America rife with sexism and eventually taking on the trailblazing anti-discrimination lawsuits that would make her name.
While this film doesn’t escape all the tropes and conventions that afflict historical biopics, On The Basis of Sex is far better than most with its focus on Ginsburg’s far-reaching lawsuits and Jones’ grounded performance.
Joan Allen is one of the best actresses alive never to have won an Oscar. This is all the more shameful given her commanding performance in The Contender, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.
Allen plays a US senator whose bid for the vice-presidency quickly becomes embroiled in a quagmire of dirty tricks and misogynistic machinations by her political opponents. While the narrative climax fails to do justice to the expertly plotted build-up, The Contender is still one of the most potent and memorable political dramas committed to film.
If you can’t get enough of chicanery and subterfuge in the halls of power, then this film based on actual events should be up next on your watchlist. While the case of former CIA officer Valerie Plame is notorious in popular histories of the deeply controversial Iraq War, the concurrent case of GCHQ whistleblower Katherine Gun is far less well-known.
Whatever your views on that war, Official Secrets is worth watching as A-lister Keira Knightly brings conviction and charisma to her portrayal of Gun as she struggles with the burden of illicit knowledge and the consequences of following her conscience.
All film genres have their tropes and cliched conventions and horror is no different. From the pretty, promiscuous girl killed in the first act to the virtuous, virginal ‘final’ girl who outwits and outlives the film’s killer or monster, many horror movies are replete with the same recurring stereotypes.
The Babadook quietly subverts some of those tropes, as it follows grieving single mother Amelia. She and her son slowly become undone by the presence of a seemingly innocuous pop-up storybook and the malevolent presence lurking within it. No matter how you think this unnerving film will end, you’re almost certainly wrong.
Films depicting female leaders are uncommon; female leaders with an ethnic minority background especially so. Whale Rider follows Pai, a young girl struggling for acceptance and recognition of her leadership ambitions within her coastal patriarchal Māori community. While Whale Rider is a feel-good movie, it delivers its uplifting narrative without ever falling into the trap of being cloying or saccharine.
Many of the recent clutch of DC superhero movies have fallen flat, largely because they fail to understand what truly drives their superhuman characters and portray them as convincing, relateable individuals.
While Wonder Woman is nothing special narratively speaking, it rises above its stablemates with its effective portrayal of the central character. Wonder Woman isn’t just skilful in combat, she’s also hopeful, compassionate and unselfish.
Just as importantly for a motion picture, director Patty Jenkins doesn’t settle for other characters telling you this in dialogue, but actually shows these qualities in action.
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