Wonderwall.com is taking a look at our favorite girl-power movies to stream, from one with a protagonist who proves getting into an Ivy League law school is totally achievable to another who slays terrifying vampires because it’s her destiny. Let’s start with “Legally Blonde,” which celebrates its, like, major 20th anniversary on July 13, 2021. We love Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods! What starts off as an emotionally driven tactic to win her jerk ex-boyfriend back turns into an incredible journey of self-discovery as Elle not only gets into Harvard Law but dominates in court. Her daily pink attire, unapologetic sense of self and unmatched intelligence are just a few of the reasons this former sorority girl is a feminist hero. “Legally Blonde” is available to stream on Netflix, Apple TV and YouTube.
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“Cadet Kelly” on Disney+
Growing up in Manhattan only to be forced to enroll in a military academy because your stepfather-to-be is basically the new principal over there? Yeah, not the most ideal situation. 2002’s “Cadet Kelly” stars Hilary Duff as Kelly Collins, a kind, carefree teenager whose entire life is turned upside down when she begins attending the George Washington Military Academy. Making matters worse, she develops a long-standing rivalry with Cadet Captain Jennifer Stone (Christy Carlson Romano) — though in spite of the challenges that come her way, Kelly tries her hardest to remain resilient and make the best of a terrible situation.
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“Clueless” on HBO Max, Hulu & Amazon Prime Video
One of the most quotable girl-power films on our list? That’d be 1995’s “Clueless” — aka one of the best adaptations of Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Alicia Silverstone stuns as Cher Horowitz, an incredibly affluent and popular teenager who resides in Beverly Hills and takes it upon herself to make over new student Tai (Brittany Murphy). However, as Tai begins to climb the social ladder at Bronson Alcott High School and becomes superficial and mean in the process, Cher begins to wonder if she’s created a monster. While the ’90s nostalgia alone is reason to give this great film yet another watch, it’s Cher’s wholesome transition from selfish to selfless that really keeps us coming back.
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“A Cinderella Story” on HBO Max, YouTube & Apple TV
OK, we admit it — we can’t get enough of early ’00s Hilary Duff movies! While 2004’s “A Cinderella Story” might seem like a typical fairytale romance in which the female heroine relinquishes her agency in hopes of landing the guy, Hilary’s Sam Montgomery actually subverts this expectation. Through it all, Sam remains authentic — she’s afraid of what pen-pal-popular-guy Austin Ames (Chad Michael Murray) might think of her, but she remains true to herself regardless. She knows who she is and she isn’t willing to lose sight of that… for any boy.
“The Devil Wears Prada” on Hulu, Starz & Amazon Prime Video
While there’s been much debate over the years as to whether or not Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) is the real villain of 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada” (we, ahem, don’t think she is) — this film shows what it means to be a strong woman in a cutthroat industry. Anne Hathaway’s Andy lands a job at prestigious Runway magazine only to feel reduced to nothing by her cruel boss… but instead of running away, she stands up and rises to the occasion. We see her grow from a meek and uncertain recent college graduate into a woman of power who learns more about who she is and what she wants out of her personal and professional lives.
“Josie and the Pussycats” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
2001’s “Josie and the Pussycats” is iconic for several reasons (hello, they’re practically style icons), but among the most notable is the way this spunky trio (Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, Rosario Dawson) sticks together through the good and the bad. After realizing that they’re being used in a larger scheme to negatively influence American youth, the ladies take it upon themselves to protect those at risk — even if that means potentially losing everything they worked so hard to get.
“Pitch Perfect” on HBO Max, Hulu & YouTube
A comedy about the rise and rebrand of an all-girls a cappella group? Count us in. 2012’s “Pitch Perfect” — the first installment in the series — stars Anna Kendrick as Beca Mitchell, a rough-around-the-edges college student who finds herself roped into joining the Barden Bellas, an all-female a cappella group. While she initially despises having to be a part of it, she soon develops bonds with the women around her and eventually realizes that while being alone might sound better, oftentimes having a solid group of (girl) friends holds more value than expected.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Amazon Prime Video
Before Sarah Michelle Gellar took on the role on TV, Kristy Swanson was the original Buffy Summers in the movie. 1992’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — Joss Whedon’s film that inspired the creation of his critically acclaimed series — stars Kristy as the titular teen who finds out about her life-altering destiny: that she’s a vampire slayer, a girl with superhuman strength who’s tasked with protecting those around her from the undead. Buffy sacrifices a lot because of her newfound reality and is forced to grow up much quicker than she ever imagined. If being a resilient young woman isn’t indicative of girl power, then we don’t know what is.
“Hidden Figures” on Disney+, YouTube & Apple TV
Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, 2017’s “Hidden Figures” follows the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — three extraordinary Black female mathematicians who played an integral part at NASA during the space race in the early 1960s. Despite their contributions, however, the women were hidden in the background to serve as “human computers” while the male engineers got all the glory.
“The Joy Luck Club” on YouTube, Apple TV & Google Play
While “Crazy Rich Asians” has been recognized for bringing Asian American actors and actresses to the forefront of mainstream movies in recent years, it’s important to remember the impact 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club” had on representation in the ’90s. Set in San Francisco, the film — which was adapted from Amy Tan’s 1989 novel of the same name — follows the tumultuous relationships between a group of first-generation Chinese American women and their immigrant mothers.
“Thelma & Louise” on Tubi, Pluto TV & YouTube
In 1991’s “Thelma & Louise,” what begins as an innocuous fishing trip quickly turns into a cross-country flight from law enforcement. The film stars Thelma (Geena Davis), a quiet housewife, and Louise (Susan Sarandon), a headstrong waitress, who find themselves on the run after Louise shoots a man who tries to sexually assault Thelma. The women, who’d never previously been involved in anything like this, soon begin to lean into their new life of crime.
“On the Basis of Sex” on YouTube, Google Play & Apple TV
Starring Felicity Jones, 2019’s “On the Basis of Sex” chronicles the experiences of the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she advocates for equal rights. After agreeing to take on an unprecedented tax case, she quickly realizes that it has the capacity to potentially change the appellate court’s — and the country’s — perception of gender equality.
“Little Women” on Hulu, Starz, Sling TV & Amazon Prime Video
There’s a lot to be commended about Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” but one aspect that particularly stands out to us is the relatability of Saoirse Ronan’s Jo March. Throughout the film, we see Jo remain headstrong and independent in the pursuit of her career. Despite Laurie’s (Timothée Chalamet) profession of love, Jo bravely admits that perhaps marriage and tradition don’t necessarily apply to her — and that maybe that’s OK. Ultimately, she’s a pillar of what it means to be a woman who is more than sufficient without a man, or any romantic partner, for that matter.
“Lady Bird” on Netflix
We’re pretty big fans of Greta Gerwig, OK?! 2018’s “Lady Bird” stars Saoirse Ronan once more, only this time, she portrays Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson — a Sacramento-based teen who longs for life on the East Coast. We watch as Lady Bird comes of age in her senior year of high school — from losing her virginity to applying to prestigious colleges regardless of their financial feasibility. Amidst all this, we see Lady Bird’s tumultuous dynamic with her mother (Laurie Metcalf), which delicately teeters between hostile and heartwarming — as most mother-daughter relationships do at this time.
“Bridesmaids” on Peacock, YouTube, Apple TV & Google Play
In need of a film that’s equal parts hilarious and empowering? Look no further. 2011’s “Bridesmaids” stars Kristen Wiig as Annie Walker, a single 30-something whose life couldn’t be further from where she wants it to be. After finding out best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married, she’s sent into a tailspin — she begins to feel increasingly insecure after meeting Lillian’s beautiful, lavish friend Helen (Rose Byrne) — and soon finds herself competing for Lillian’s affection. Of course, as the film progresses, we begin to see the ice thaw between Annie and Helen as their mutual respect and understanding for one another begins to take precedence over their meaningless competition.
“Moana” on Disney+
You know we had to include this one on our list! In addition to being an absolute visual masterpiece, 2016’s “Moana” is one of the few Disney movies that doesn’t revolve around a love interest for the young heroine — which is incredibly refreshing, to say the least. Voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, Moana, a girl from a small village on a Polynesian island, embarks on an at times dangerous journey of self-discovery against her father’s wishes. She stands up to a demigod, overcomes her fears and finds a way to help her people on her very personal quest.
“Wonder Woman” on Amazon Prime Video
“Wonder Woman,” 2017’s Patty Jenkins-directed superhero flick based on the DC Comics heroine, explores the origin story of Diana, Princess of the Amazons. In an effort to protect the lives of the innocent, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince boldly departs the familiarity of her idyllic island home of Themyscira and joins forces with others to fight against a common enemy.
“The First Wives Club” on Hulu, Starz & YouTube
After reuniting under rather grim circumstances, old college friends Elise (Goldie Hawn), Annie (Diane Keaton) and Brenda (Bette Midler) soon realize the ways in which their ex-husbands took them for granted. As a result, they make a promise to one another to get back at their former spouses. 1996’s “The First Wives Club” reminds us of the importance of developing and nurturing bonds with your girls — and how those connections alone can save you from some pretty devastating times.
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