9 Feminist Films From Around the World on Netflix
We've compiled this list in honor of International Women's Day—but you should be watching them year round.
All screenshots via Netflix
It's International Women's Day and across the world, people are honoring, supporting, and marching for themselves and the women in their lives. Celebrating and supporting women, however, shouldn't stop when a march comes to an end or after you've posted your Insta-collage of incredible women.
Yes, you really can make uplifting women an aspect of nearly everything you do—even the extremely lazy things. What I'm saying is: The next time you find yourself lying in bed staring at a screen for an embarrassing amount of time, you could simultaneously be supporting women.
Luckily for you, I, a woman, have done the work and compiled the following list of the best feminist movies on Netflix from around the world.
Maybe they'll make you consider the gendered distribution of labor or maybe your clicks will just help funnel money to women filmmakers—we're here for it all.
Produced in the Mayan language of Kaqchikel and featuring actors from the Kaqchikel Mayan community, the film Ixcanul focuses on a community of indigenous Guatemalans, for which media representation is rare. The movie follows reluctant 17-year-old María as she gets closer to the date of her arranged marriage with a much older widower who already has three kids.
María, however, becomes smitten with Pepe, a plantation worker close to her age. She soon has her first sexual experience with him and gets pregnant—something she's hoping will derail her arranged marriage. Unfortunately for her, Pepe runs away without saying a word and she's left pregnant with an impending forced marriage to a man she doesn't love.
Though the film doesn't end with a celebratory victory, it does shed light on real issues faced by women in an underrepresented community.
Rani, a Punjabi woman from Delhi, is in the midst of preparing for her wedding when her fiancé breaks with tradition and asks to see her on the day before their ceremony. Once they meet up, Vijay reveals that he doesn’t want to go forward with the wedding because he’s "changed" and, in a classic "it’s not you it’s me" moment, says his life of business and travel is too hectic to accommodate a wife at the moment.
Rani returns home devastated, naturally, but after moping around for only one day, she decides to set off solo on what was supposed to be her honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam. She has a splendid time abroad, where she meets new friends including a woman that works at her hotel in Paris and three men who share her hostel in Amsterdam. (Spoiler ahead) Between clubs, sex shops, and cook-off adventures with her new friends, Rani adopts a self-assured persona that gives her the courage to tell her ex to fuck off when he comes crawling back to her at the end of the film.
We love a woman willing to stand up to gentrification, so naturally we love Aquarius, a film that follows 65-year-old cancer survivor Clara as she refuses to let a development company bribe or kick her out of her Recife apartment. The developers, who plan to replace Clara's home with a large commercial building, have successfully persuaded every other tenant in her building to give up their apartment. When it comes to Clara, however, they try every tactic in the book—from planting termites to renting out neighboring apartments for sex parties—to convince and even force her to leave. Too bad for them, she's not going anywhere.
Much Loved (Morocco)
Much Loved, a film that follows four sex workers in Morocco, was banned from the country for "undermining the moral values and dignity of Moroccan women as well as all the image of Morocco" upon its release.
Filmmaker Nabil Ayouch, however, was hoping that the film would urge his home country to confront both the underlying reasons why some Moroccan women feel the need to turn to sex work (the lack of equal employment opportunities for women, divorce, becoming a widow, etc.) and the conditions these sex workers are subjected to work under. And he may just have accomplished his goal: shortly after Moroccan officials condemned the film, the country released its first official statistics on sex work in what is considered the government's "first official acknowledgement of the existence of a sex industry." Many believe the statistics were a direct response to Much Loved also known as Zin Li Fik in Moroccan Arabic.
Okja (South Korea/America)
Okja, a heart-wrenchingly effective piece of vegetarian propaganda, follows a determined young girl as she fearlessly travels around the world in an effort to save Okja—the super-pig she grew up with—from being murdered in a mass slaughterhouse
Along the way, she's met with multiple attempts to trick her and divert her attention away from rescuing her beloved pet, but she overcomes them all with an unwavering dedication to see through Okja's safety and return home. The movie also passes the Bechdel Test—as we hope most movies with feminist themes do.
Difret tells the story of Hirut Assefa, who is based on Aberash Bekele, a woman who shot and killed a man in self-defense after he abducted and raped her. The film follows her court case—fought and won by Meron Getne (a depiction of lawyer and founder of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) Meaza Ashenaf)i—which set a legal-precendent by outlawing the kidnapping of child brides.
Written and directed by Ethiopian filmmaker Zeresenay Berhane Mehari and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, the film launched alongside an education campaign which asked people to pledge to supporting and protecting Ethiopian girls.
I Am Not Madame Bovary (China)
Chinese indie film I Am Not Madame Bovary follows a woman named Li Xuelian in the aftermath of her divorce—one which both she and her husband agreed upon in order to undermine a Chinese law that makes it illegal for a married couple to purchase more than one property. Soon after their logistic divorce, however, Li's ex-husband marries another woman, slut-shames Li, and says that his motivations for their divorce had nothing to do with bypassing property law.
Li is having none of this. In a rage, she visits the authorities hoping to nullify her divorce so that she can re-do it "properly." The bulk of the movie follows her as she navigates Chinese bureaucracy to get what she wants. Things escalate along the way as she faces corruption, survives sexual violence at the hands of an old acquaintance, and eventually hires someone to kill her ex.
Filmmaker Afia Nathaniel's Dukhtar proves that moms are the superheroes this world desperately needs and probably doesn't deserve.
As her community plots an arranged marriage between her 10-year-old daughter Zainab and a village leader, Allah Rakhi decides that she won't let her daughter suffer through a child marriage like she once did. Instead, she flees her village in the mountains of Pakistan with Zainab and embarks on a life-threatening journey to protect her daughter's future.
This 2014 film follows the story of Marieme, a 16-year-old girl living in the outskirts of Paris, as she is recruited into a tough girl gang and eventually finds her independence. Along the way, we see Merieme struggle to establish her identity as a young woman while she navigates an abusive family situation and a relationship with an older man.
Girlhood deals with themes of friendship, adolescence, sexuality, and poverty, depicting how race and gender shape experiences within each of them.