There is no movie role more synonymous with exceeding expecations than Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The seemingly ditzy sorority girl heads to Harvard Law to win back her ex-beau and ends up kicking ass in the courtroom instead.
With their father off fighting in the Civil War, the women of Little Women have to depend on each other. The principle character, Jo, is strong-willed and unconventional—she refuses to conform to the time's usual gender roles and stereotypes.
Sally Field won an Oscar for her turn as Norma Rae, a cotton mill worker who successfully attempts to start a union (but not without quite a few road blocks along the way). The best part? This courage wasn't fictional—the film is based on a true story.
The Help is a novel turned film all about empowering women. Whether it was seeking revenge (in the form of a sh*t pie), exposing wrongdoings with the written word, or coming together in the face of discrimination, the leading ladies were powerful and frankly, pretty badass.
The best way to describe Steel Magnolias is big hair, and even bigger hearts. The southern-set late '80s classic is all about strong female relationships in the face of hardship and adversity.
Erin Brockovich is a single mom who fights back against a gas and electric company that's poisoning an entire community. Julia Roberts's portrayal of this real-life woman earned her an Oscar.
She's the Man
Most people remember She's The Man for the comedy. But Amanda Bynes' character Viola is a pretty kick-ass female. After the girls soccer team is disbanded and she's forbidden from trying out for the boy's team, she poses as her brother Sebastian to prove that girls can play just as well, if not better, than the boys.
There's no denying the stigma that surrounds teenage pregnancy. Quirky comedy Juno, however, portrays a different side of the difficult situation. Juno, played by Ellen Page, remains empowered and retains her sense of humor even in the face of judgment from her peers, parents, and strangers.
The vast majority of Disney Princess flicks feature some sort of helpless situation, whether it's an evil stepmother, a poison apple, or a year-long curse—situations that are almost always fixed by a Prince. Mulan, however, tells a more powerful story. Mulan poses as a man so that she can fight for her country and save her father.
Gracie Hart (or Gracie Lou Freebush, as you may remember her) can throw a killer punch, keeps her cool undercover, and solves an FBI case even after her superiors abandon their posts. Not to mention, she charms the judges—and her fellow contestants—at the Miss United States pageant.
Diana is a producer at ELLE.com. She previously wrote for MarieClaire.com. Diana is a Syracuse grad and a Chicago native, and therefore a pro at dealing with cold weather. She's also an Anglophile, which means she love all things British—especially Downton Abbey, London, and Will and Kate (and Prince George!)
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