1. Wonder Woman (2017)
After one male-led superhero movie after another, we were ready to see one of our own on the big screen. Yet nobody could have imagined the actual impact Wonder Woman would have or predicted the reception it would get.
The audience reaction was so powerful, it moved women to tears. We never realized how starved we were for scenes that were once reserved for male action movies.
Finally, we had an all-women training montage. We got a shot of Robin Wright riding into battle sporting a glorious smirk, all muscle and sinew and battle scars. We had Diana (Gal Gadot) striding into (the aptly named) No Man's Land, the triumph of discovering—then owning—her powers evident on her face.
Thanks to director Patty Jenkins, the movie has a decidedly female gaze and perspective: When Wonder Woman nails her superhero landing, a close up of her jiggling thigh fills the screen. It may seem like a tiny detail but to women everywhere, it was everything.
When our hero digs her heel into the mud to hold her ground against a hail of bullets that threatens to stop her in her tracks, she is every woman who has ever had to push against a world determined to hold them back.
The highly anticipated Captain Marvel introduces us to one of the most powerful supers in the MCU: Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). Cocky as they come, she has an endless supply of spunk and has no trouble holding her own against the formidable Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) or Jude Law's beautiful golden irises.
Flashbacks tell us that prior to turning into a superhero (courtesy of a blast from an energy core of alien origin, of course), she was already a force to be reckoned with, a tough US Air Force fighter pilot who could Top Gun it with the best of them.
She comes into her full power when the Supreme Intelligence mocks her for being a mere human. Wrong move. It's her humanity that's the source of her true power—the very human and very female ability to get back up no matter how many times you get knocked down. The superpower? That's just gravy.
That's why when she tells Jude Law's Yon-Rogg, "I have nothing to prove to you," it resonates with all of us. It reminds us that you don't need superpowers to be powerful. So to you, Captain Marvel, we raise our hand in salute. You glow, girl!
3. Ghostbusters (2016)
When news of an all-female Ghostbusters remake starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones broke, the online vitriol that greeted it was unprecedented. The biggest gripe? That nobody needed to see an all-female remake of a classic movie. Emphasis on the all-female part.
It didn't matter that the movie was produced by the director and one of the stars of the original or that three of the living OG Ghostbusters (and a bust of the fourth one) made cameos, effectively giving the remake their seal of approval, the haters were determined to hate, even before the movie hit theaters.
But forget all that toxic testosterone-fueled fan rage, the beauty of the remake is that it has given a legion of little girls female action heroes to look up to. They get to see themselves in the four beautiful, diverse, and funny women busting ghosts and having a blast (literally and figuratively).
That battle scene where the four face down an army of spirits in Times Square is empowered and empowering in its all-female kickassery and display of solid sisterhood. And the sight of Kate McKinnon whipping out her double proton pistols in a move once reserved for traditional male action heroes is peak girl power.
It's a shame that all the hate has killed any plans for a sequel. We have half a mind to GoFundMe one. After all, the last time we checked you didn't need to have a Y-chromosome to strap on proton packs, catch ghosts, or lick a pistol before shooting it.
4. BuyBust (2018)
In BuyBust, Anne Curtis busts out of her usual roles to tap into her latest persona: AnneTough. Playing the newest member of an anti-narcotic elite squad, she shows she can shoot it up and punch it out alongside the likes of MMA Fighter Brandon Vera.
Stripped of all glam, Anne prepared for the role by training with the Philippine Ranger Scouts and packing on serious muscle power. The poster, where she's bloody, bruised, with a busted lip and one eye swollen shut, shows just how much this part was a far cry from any of her previous roles. And boy does she make it her own.
In one of the major action sequences, where she singlehandedly fights off a horde of angry Barangay Gracia Ni Maria residents, she out-John McClanes John McClane and schools him on how to die hard..est. And when she finally faces off with the Big Bad of the movie, then a mere minutes later with the Bigger Badder, she proves why the last man standing is a woman.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The title may be Mad Max but make no mistake, this is Imperator Furiosa's (Charlize Theron) movie. It's Furiosa who defies Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), smuggles the wives out of the Citadel, and ultimately saves the day. This is her and the wives' journey from the beginning. Max is just along for the ride.
Despite having the same DNA as the earlier Mad Max movies—set in the same bleak post-apocalyptic world, with the same solitary hero—Fury Road stands out in how it explores feminist themes.
Even the Green Place, the promised land Furiosa and the wives are headed for, is run by an all-women tribe. Because, of course, it is! Have you seen what the men have been up to in this movie? Max (Tom Hardy) and, to some extent, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) are the only exceptions to the rule.
That's another theme Fury Road addresses, the importance of male feminist allies. In one memorable scene, Max proves himself the ultimate feminist ally when, after shooting and missing twice, he gives Furiosa the gun and offers his shoulder…no, not to cry on…as a rest to steady Furiosa's weapon.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Rey (Daisy Ridley) isn't the first strong female character in the Star Wars galaxy, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) coming before her, but she belongs to a whole new breed altogether. She is a next-gen female lead character, a product of today's zeitgeist and cultural climate.
She is independent, capable, and brave. She's the alpha female to Finn's (John Boyega) beta male. She can steer the Millennium Falcon just as well as Han Solo (Harrison Ford) can, winning her the ornery pilot/smuggler's respect. Most important of all, she's more than a match for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Her Force face-off with him during the interrogation scene is impressive, but it's their lightsaber battle later on that has the most powerful moment in the movie. When Luke's lightsaber flies past Kylo Ren straight into Rey's hand, it's the big hero moment we've all been waiting for.
It proves once and for all that yeah, the Force is definitely stronger with this one.
Thanks to Rey, little girls all over the galaxy can see themselves wielding a lightsaber and using the Force, too. She has inspired a generation of young female Star Wars fans, the same way Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) inspired little boys many lightyears ago.