8 Movies with Strong Women for March 8th

8 Movies with Strong Women for March 8th

Another movie list for you to stumble on some little gems.

take a break
Take a break and watch a movie or two. Sorry was that not a helpful suggestion?


The Rise of Catherine the Great 1934

Elisabeth Bergner plays Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst on the journey she took to become Catherine the Great. This may be made in the 1930s and it may not be the most historically accurate tale but the women in this film really rule, in all the ways that matter. That may not be the most accurate description. It’s some time since I’ve seen this but I enjoyed it a lot and Catherine is Great ;~) Douglas Fairbanks Jr plays Peter III of Russia.

meet-john-doeMeet John Doe 1941

Barbara Stanwyck plays Ann Mitchell a writer for a newspaper that’s streamlining its costs. A new managing editor is hired and the lay-offs begin. Ann begs for her job as her family depend on her income. Her plea falls on deaf ears so she writes her final column saying she received a letter from a John Doe who was laid off four years ago, hasn’t been able to find work since and is so sick of the way the world works that he’s going to jump off City Hall roof. The piece gets a huge response, Ann keeps her job and a suitable John Doe (played by Gary Cooper) is picked to fill the role.

Ann carefully crafts her everyman John Doe character railing against the injustice, inhumanity and lack of community in the modern world. She does such a good job that the public believe and enthusiastically support John Doe – who begins to believe it all himself. Edward Arnold plays D.B. Norton a rich business man who sees in John Doe the potential to galvanise the masses to allow Norton push his political agenda and serve his own business interests.

my-sister-eileenMy Sister Eileen 1942

Rosalind Russell leads this comedy about two sisters from a small town come to New York to start their careers. Eileen, played by Janet Blair, is an aspiring actor and Rosalind Russell is the older sister, Ruth Sherwood, who dreams of being a writer. Funny and refreshing.

magnificent-dollMagnificent Doll 1946

I had never heard of Dolly Payne Madison before watching this. She was the first lady of President James Madison. She was a very interesting woman apparently and she is played here by Ginger Rogers. I think this film is brilliant. There are a lot of comments on IMDB about Ginger Rogers “missing something” in the role. I don’t see it. I see a great performance of a great woman.

andromeda-strainThe Andromeda Strain 1971

Dr. Ruth Leavitt played by Kate Reid. Honestly, when I first thought of making this list this is the only character that came to mind. I simply love the character of this doctor. There is no mention of any romantic interest. She doesn’t give a damn how she looks or if she’s attractive. The world is in peril and so – obviously – all she gives a damn about is the work she has to do and doing it well. This is such a real character to me. Yes it’s a character in a sci-fi film with the usual slightly ridiculous plot but this is a real woman. She is not defined by her relation to others. She is a person in her own right with a mission of her own that has nothing to do with her sex or sexuality. She’s the reason I love this film. Well she’s one of the reasons – it is also great old school sci-fi.

the-accusedThe Accused 1988

Jody Foster plays Sarah Tobias, a woman who was gang raped by three men in a bar while a crowd cheered them on. Kelly McGillis plays Kathryn Murphy a public prosecutor. Sarah was drinking and acting provocatively so the prosecutors are worried she won’t make a good witness and offer the perpetrators a deal of accepting a lesser charge that will ensure they do time. Sarah is very upset. One of the crowd sees her at a local store and starts harassing her. She ends up ramming her car into his truck to try and get away from him. Kathryn visits Sarah in hospital and decides to go after the men who incited the rapists.

It’s been interesting watching the number of public allegations of sexual harassment and rape. Interesting, sad, disgusting … but encouraging too. I don’t like the way accusations of mere bad or awkward behaviour have sometimes been lumped in with accusations of criminal acts. But part of me does see this as the pendulum swinging far to come to rest at a point of balance.

What The Accused highlights very well is how a victim of sexual crime faces, in a sense, being put on trial themselves. And because of the nature of sexual crime and the issue of determining what was consensual and what the different parties involved believed was consented to, it may not be possible to ever fully end that from happening – to stop someone who has suffered through a horrible crime having to then go through the further indignity of having to insist that no that was not something they agreed to or wanted to happen.

It’s so complicated – and I don’t have answers. The one thing I think could help is if basic criminal law was taught in schools to 15/16 year olds (Transition Year seems like a perfect time for it). I think that if the legislation underpinning assaults and serious crimes (sexual and non-sexual) were understood at a young age then people would be more aware of their rights and responsibilities.

In relations to sexual crimes they would know that:

  • Engaging in legal sexual activity with another requires consent.
  • In order for consent to be valid
    • the person must be capable of giving or withdrawing their consent. So if they are asleep or unconscious or so intoxicated that they don’t know what they are doing and you engage them in some sexual act then that’s not consensual and is a criminal act.
    • the person must be aware of the material facts of what they are agreeing to. So if for instance person A was to go into a darkened room where person B is and A, knowing they had been mistaken for a lover/partner of B, engages in some sexual act with B which B would never have agreed to do with A had they known – A has committed a crime.
    • the person must be old enough to be capable of consent. In Ireland that means they must be at least 17 years old. The consent of someone younger than this is meaningless in the eyes of the law and if you engage in sexual activity with someone under 17 years old that’s a criminal act.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any point during the act and if you continue to engage in the act after you know consent has been withdrawn then you have committed a crime.
  • Consent does not need to be explicitly stated to be valid – it can simply be understood as agreed upon through the actions of the parties involved.
  • If someone honestly believes that the sexual activity they engaged in was consensual then they are not guilty of a crime. In determining whether this is what they honestly believed consideration will be given to all the facts and circumstances of the case.

If you feel it’s inappropriate to add this information here – it might be. I’m sorry I’m not always great at knowing what is and is not appropriate. And yes I think a lot of people know that the above is the law in this area – but a surprising number don’t – or at least don’t seem to. I think this and the basics of all criminal law should be understood by everyone entering adulthood. It could help.

black-rainKuroi ame (Black Rain) 1989

Yoshiko Tanaka plays Yasuko. (I’m just going to quickly grab the description from imdb.com) Mr and Mrs Shizuma, and their niece Yasuko, make their way through the ruins of Hiroshima, just after the atomic bomb has dropped. Five years later, Yasuko is living with her aunt and uncle, and her senile grandmother, in a village containing many of the bomb survivors. Yasuko does not appear to be affected by the bomb, but the Shizuma’s are worried about her marriage prospects, as she could succumb to radiation sickness at any time.

The consideration that Yasuko and all her family show towards each other is so selfless and beautiful – it’s utterly devastating.

Jackie Brown 1997

There is a brilliant poem by Rudyard Kipling, I’m sure you know it –  If, It’s about what it means to be a man as opposed to a child. It’s got everything good and true in it. Does it bother me that this is the definition of a man and not woman? It’s the definition of a real grown-up. Even a little girl I saw that instantly and loved it.

Pam Grier plays Jackie Brown who – in a very tricky world of mostly infants – is a real grown up.

And it’s a good old yarn well told.