12 Real Life-Inspired Movies And Documentaries About Strong Women

12 Real Life-Inspired Movies And Documentaries About Strong Women

We all lack inspiration and motivation sometimes—two things that everyone keeps talking about. There are always those awful days when it seems like everything is falling apart and you’ve got no strength or power to get your shit together and move on.

If you wish to spend the weekend under a blanket, this post is for you. 

Take a bit of time off and watch those inspiring movies with a hot chocolate (or pinot) in one hand to recharge. Then stand back on your feet and conquer the world as it is your oyster. You can do it and you will.

May the force be with you, my lovely ladies.


1.   Maya Angelou: Still I Rise | Maya Angelou

Everybody in the world uses words. Uses “How are you? Fine, Thank you!”, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, pronouns. The writer has to take these most known things and put them together in such a way that a reader says “I never thought of it that way before.” That’s hard. That’s a challenge. And I know many writers, and I’m one, who says “Lord, are you sure you wanted me to do this?”

A chronological narrative of an extraordinary writer, poet, actress, and political activist—Maya Angelou, who can inspire people in myriad ways. As a child, Maya went through a period of not speaking for five years but she read as many books as she could find, memorising all the poetry that she came across. She had the strength to cope with sexual assault as a child and racism, the latter she tried to put beyond as much as she could. One of the most remarkable plays she took a part in was The Blacks, playing the white queen. The play saw six black actors in white masks representing the whites to build the awareness about racism and to show how absurd it was. She also performed a song on the Sesame Street TV show AND read a poem (!) she had written at the Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Straight after watching this documentary, I found myself reading her book I Know Why The Caged Birds Sings. P.S. This documentary is on Netflix!


2.   Hidden Figures | Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson

"You, sir, you are the boss. You just have to act like one, sir."

Set in 1961, this movie is about three African-American female mathematicians working in NASA during one of the greatest operations in United States history—when they raced again Russia to put a man in space. Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, NASA's hero who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury (and not only); Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor Dorothy Vaughan; and Janelle Monáe as NASA engineer Mary Jackson. These three women, known as human computers, beat racism and gender discrimination with grace and determination to do what they were good  at. So, one film but three exceptional women to take an example from. Just FYI, in 2015, Katherine Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a year later, NASA dedicated a building in her honour.


3.    The Danish Girl | Lili Elbe & Gerda Wegener

"I can feel myself getting better when I listen to your pencil. You've always sketched me better than I was. But what you draw, I become. You made me beautiful. And now you're making me strong. Such power in you."

A special fictionalised movie based on a real story, a must for everyone who can’t precisely put a finger on who she/he is. It follows an account of two Danish painters Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne)—born as Einar Wegener. The latter was a transgender and one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery in 1930. The storytelling isn’t 100 per cent accurate but Eddie and Alicia's performances are top-notch. I cried my eyes out watching how devoted Gerda was to the person she loved and how dedicated Lili was to be who she wanted to be no matter what. I’m 100 per cent certain that you would love it.


4.    Erin Brockovich | Erin Brockovich

"Now, I'm smart, I'm hard-working and I'll do anything... And, I'm not leaving here without a job."

Julia Roberts won an Oscar for best actress in 2001 for her leading role as Erin Brockovich. Erin’s story deserves to be seen because she wasn’t royal, or rich, or famous, from the very start. She was an unemployed single mother struggling to find a job that would pay her bills in time. You want to know the rest of the story, eh? Erin dragoons her lawyer to give her a job in compensation for the loss of her case after her car accident. And, somehow, with no formal education in the law, she involves her law firm in one of the biggest lawsuits in American history in 1996. Period. P.S. I was so happy for Erin knowing that it happened for real that I had tears in my eyes at the end of the movie. 


5.    W.E. | Wallis Simpson

"My husband gave up everything for me. I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else. If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That’s my chief responsibility."

Two storylines of two women from completely different eras. When in 1998, an auction of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s belongings creates a great excitement in New York, Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) digs into their romance until she becomes obsessed with their story. Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) was an American divorcée and her intended marriage to King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) caused him to abdicate the British throne. It’s a beautiful love story but a double-edged sword. I wouldn’t say that Wallis’ life was a total fairy tale. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that W.E. was directed by Madonna and that’s just one more pro for watching it.


6.    Woman in Gold | Maria Altmann

"When people see the famous portrait, they see a masterpiece by one of Austria’s finest artists. But I see a picture of my aunt, a woman who talked to me about life while I brushed her hair in her bedroom. Restitution. You see, that’s an interesting word. `you know, I looked it up in the dictionary. ‘Restitution: the return of something to its original state.’ Now, that made me think. You see, I would love to return to my original state. I would love to be a happy woman living in this beautiful city. Like so many of my generation who had to flee, I will never forgive them for preventing me from living here. At the very least, we should be reunited with what is rightfully ours."

A heart-rending story of Maria Altmann (née Bloch-Bauer) played by Hellen Mirren for the silver screen—from being a wealthy member of Viennese society to turning into a refugee who had to escape her motherland in order to survive when it was occupied by the Nazis in 1938. Neither leaving her parents nor running away from Austria to the United States was easy to do for Maria and her husband Fritz but they had no choice. Following Maria’s memories and flashbacks, this movie goes back and forth in time, showing us how with the help of her lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), Maria tried to recover five family-owned paintings by Gustav Klimt, which were looted during WWII, as well as other belongings. What’s the end of the story? You have to watch it, you know.


7.    Wild | Cheryl Strayed

"It took me years to be the woman my mother raised. It took me 4 years, 7 months and 3 days to do it, without her. After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods."

Based on a book about a real story, this movie follows the journey of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon)—a heartbroken and troubled young woman, who hiked more than a thousand miles (approx. 1700 kilometres) of the Pacific Crest Trail, alone. She wasn’t any close to being a professional hiker when she started and promised herself to stop anytime she feels like it. Yet here we are, looking at the movie based on the book she wrote after completing this 94-day walk. By the time the three-month-long solo journey was over, Cheryl managed to heal herself and found a better way to cope with grief. The real Cheryl Strayed makes a cameo appearance at the beginning when she drops Reese Witherspoon at the motel, who, by the way, did an amazing job playing her. That’s not it yet: most of the soundtracks we hear during the film are Cheryl's favourites that she listens to in real life.


8.    Amelia | Amelia Earhart

"Everyone has oceans to fly. As long as you have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?"

Amelia Earhart, portrayed by Hilary Swank, was a woman who never stopped dreaming. She was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Apart from this, Amelia also set many different early aviation records, formed an organisation for aviatrices, wrote best-selling books, before her disappearance somewhere near Howland Island in 1937. Many rescue operations were undertaken yet her disappearance is still a mystery.


9.    Grace of Monaco | Grace Kelly

"Maybe I'm naive, but I believe in fairytales. I do, I believe they can exist if we really want them to. If, if we're prepared to work hard enough. I believe that the world will not always be full of hatred and conflict if we're willing to sacrifice enough."

This movie tells a story of talented Hollywood actress Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman), who chose that career path despite her parents’ disapproval and had her debut in a small role in 1951. Her filmography includes To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant and High Society with Frank Sinatra. Unfortunately for her fans and movie directors, she had to give up her career several years later when agreed to marry Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. But Hollywood missed one of its greatest actresses of the century, and that’s why, not long after she became a Princess of Monaco, Alfred Hitchcock called Grace, almost begging her to consider taking the lead role to play a troubled thief in his new film Marnie. However, the public outcry in Monaco made her say no to her dearest friend Hitch.


10.    The Iron Lady | Margaret Thatcher

"It used to be about trying to do something. Now it's about trying to be someone."

The Iron Lady is a recollection of memories of Margaret Thatcher, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the first woman to be elected at the time when only men ruled the world. She wanted to make a difference in the world and to make her family happy. And yes, she was successful. Rather, very successful at building her career, but she paid a price. People didn’t always agree with her tactics as well as her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, 1st Baronet, had a nervous breakdown not long after her big election. Watch the movie for Margaret’s story and Meryl Streep’s brilliant performance.


11.   Julie & Julia | Julie Powell & Julia Child.

"353 days to go. A horrible day at work. An old grandma who looked as if she wouldn't harm a fly called me a pencil-pushing capitalist dupe. But then I came home and cooked chicken with cream, mushrooms and port, and it was total bliss."

That’s one lightweight yet inspiring comedy based on real life of two chefs/writers portrayed by Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Out of boredom, Julie Powell (Amy) decided to start a blog about the only thing that made her happy—cooking. And she does it in style, using Julia Child’s (Meryl) famous cookbook as a source of recipes. So, here we go—365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen. A small heads-up: don’t watch this movie on an empty stomach, as it will be extremely tough.


12.    The Duchess | Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

"I’m sure you are full of the best intentions, Mr Fox, but I dare say I would not spend my vote, if I had it, of course, on so vague a statement. One is either free or one is not. The concept of freedom is an absolute. After all, one cannot be moderately dead, or moderately loved, or moderately free. It must always remain a matter of either or." // Quote from the movie

Her Grace was one of the most influential women of her day and truly the high emblem of the era. On her 17th birthday, young Georgiana (portrayed by Keira Knightley) was married to the society's most eligible bachelor, the 5th Duke of Devonshire. It was a marriage arranged by her parents, which didn’t exactly work the way she assumed it would. Well, as they used to say, the Duke of Devonshire must have been the only man in Great Britain who wasn’t in love with his wife. I won’t give you any more spoilers; you just have to watch it to know what happens. Besides all the drama, this film can inspire anyone whose profession is related to fashion. The Duchess of Devonshire was England’s female leader in style and the society beauty icon! A must-watch on our list.


Previously on staff at Allure Russia, Irina moved from Moscow city to New Zealand. So what does Irina do when she isn’t testing beauty products and writing reviews? Eating avos and nailing the perfect VSCO filters!