This International Women’s Day we are celebrating some of our favourite family-friendly films that promote female empowerment!


Here are our top 10 films that star strong, driven and compassionate on-screen heroines, many of which were created by talented and accomplished female filmmakers.

1. MULAN (1998) – U

I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter. Can it be, I’m not meant to play this part?

This beloved Disney classic is set in ancient China and tells the story of Fa Mulan. Seemingly unlike other girls her age, Mulan is not interested in romance. Rather, she is adventurous, curious, and rebellious. When her aging and ailing father is drafted into the military to fight against the Huns, Mulan disguises herself as a man and takes his place. 

The filmmakers wanted to create a new type of Disney princess that would be the heroine of her own story, rather than a damsel in distress who is saved by a prince. Indeed, Mulan uses her wit, strength, and courage to defeat the enemy and to save China. 

Mulan is a fantastic film that challenges gender stereotypes, shows young girls that they too are powerful, and reminds viewers that they do not have to follow convention and can instead choose their own path in life.


Based on Eiko Kadono’s novel of the same name, this Japanese animated film is a coming of age story about a headstrong, resourceful and imaginative 13-year-old witch.

As part of her magical training, Kiki must spend a year alone in an entirely new city. There, she befriends a baker, sets up a “Witch Delivery Business”, and delivers baked goods on her broomstick. However, when Kiki begins to lose her magic, she must regain her confidence and overcome her self-doubt to get her powers back.

Kiki’s Delivery Service not only celebrates independence and strength in girls, but it also reminds young girls that it is okay, good, and empowering to embrace their individuality.


3. MATILDA (1996) – U

Matilda Wormwood is gifted, intelligent, hardworking, kind, and more. Her parents are cruel, disinterested, and seemingly couldn’t care less about Matilda’s life and education. Matilda’s life changes when she manages to gain a place at a new school, where she meets her loving and caring teacher, Miss Honey, and the mean and tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

However, when Matilda realises that she can move objects with just her mind, she uses her powers to defend her friends and to fight back against her bullies.

Adapted from Roald Dahl’s revered novel, Matilda shows the power behind young girls and reminds viewers that, no matter their circumstances, they can achieve anything they set their mind to.

4. A WRINKLE IN TIME (2018) – PG

Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel of the same name, this fantasy adventure film tells the tale of Meg Murry, a 13-year-old girl who embarks on a journey through time and space to find her missing father. Along the way, Meg meets three astral travellers – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – who help Meg to complete her mission.

A Wrinkle In Time celebrates female empowerment, inclusivity and diversity. In addition to a largely female cast - including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling – and a female-centric storyline, the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, was the first woman of colour to direct a live-action film with a nine-digit budget and that earned at least $100 million.


5. MOANA (2016) – PG

I wish I could be the perfect daughter.


Adventurous and strong-willed, Moana is the teenage daughter of the chief of the Polynesian island Montuni. Despite her father’s wishes, she must embark on a journey to reunite a mystical relic with the goddess Te Fiti. Along the way, Moana meets a legendary demigod and discovers her own identity and path. 

Moana is a girl that takes the path that she most desires, even when it goes against what everyone else tells her to do. Moana reminds us that there are no limits on “how far we’ll go” and that we too have the power to make our own choices and to carve our own identity and destiny.

6. MAMMA MIA (2008) – PG

Sophie Sheridan is about to get married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem? She doesn’t know who he is. In the hope of discovering her father’s identity, Sophie secretly invites three men from her mother, Donna’s, past to her wedding. However, when Sophie’s secret begins to unravel, chaos ensues.

Mamma Mia! celebrates strong female characters and the relationships that women forge with each other. Donna – played by the illustrious Meryl Streep - is a strong single mother and a business owner. Sophie is independent, curious, confident and unapologetically herself. Both Donna and Sophie have built strong and unbreakable friendships with two other women (can we please join Donna and the Dynamos?).

Although Donna and Sophie’s relationships with the three men are key to the plot, the film concludes by suggesting that the most important relationship is between Donna and Sophie.

What’s more, the movie and musical would not have been created without wonderfully talented women: Catherine Johnson wrote the stage musical and Phyllida Lloyd directed the film.


7. ONE GIRL (2018) – 12A

Directed by Rosa Russo, this astounding documentary follows an ordinary day in the life of four young girls, each living in a different country.

Set in South Sudan, Romania, Palestine and Finland, One Girl highlights the similarities and differences in the girls’ lives. Although their surroundings and circumstances may differ, they share comparable behaviours, intentions, desires and dreams.

8. BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (2002) – 12

This modern British classic tells the story of Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra, an 18-year-old teenager, who is infatuated with football and David Beckham. Jess’s conservative and traditional parents have forbidden her from playing football because she is a girl. Instead, they want Jess to be more like her older sister and to get married. However, Jess is determined to play and follows her dreams, even when it puts her relationship with her parents in jeopardy.

Directed by Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham exposes and overturns gender stereotypes. As a young woman of colour and faith who wishes to pursue a non-conventional career in sport, Jess “bends” her parents’ rules and societal expectations.


9. PERSEPOLIS (2007) – 12

Based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name, Persepolis is an autobiographical animated film that follows Marjane as she comes of age in the 1970s and 1980s during the Iranian Revolution.

Marjane deals with oppressive regimes and cultural alienation at home and abroad in Vienna, social activism, all whilst trying to become a socially and politically conscious and powerful young woman.


10. WONDER WOMAN (2017) – 12

Most superhero films are about men, but not Wonder Woman. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana, a princess of the Amazons who has trained to become an invincible warrior.

When she meets an American pilot who tells her about a raging conflict in the outside world, Diana realises her full potential and destiny and uses her power to save the world.

Wonder Woman is a milestone for women in film. It is the first female-led superhero film in more than a decade and the first one directed by a woman. Wonder Woman is the first female superhero to star in her own movie in either of the DC or Marvel universes. At the time of its release, Wonder Woman held the record for the best opening weekend at the box office for a female director and became the highest-ever grossing film directed by a woman.   

At Leeds Young Film we are passionate about inclusivity and diversity. This year, we are delighted to strengthen the work we have done for many years to support gender equality within cinema by working alongside the Film 50:50 initiative in Leeds which aims to showing and raising awareness of films promoting female filmmakers. So, keep an eye out for our programme launching from Monday 11 March and see which of these above films are part of the #LYFF2019 Programme.