From side characters to leading stars, Hollywood has truly come a long way when it comes to actresses. The film industry is not just a man’s world anymore as it once was a couple of decades ago due to actresses proving that they certainly can handle main roles just as well as their male colleagues. Here are the 15 best female-centric movies of all time:
15. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
As one of the earliest stepping-stones of Angelina Jolie’s decorated career, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider verifies that Indiana Jones is not the only revered adventurer in Hollywood. Daring, courageous, and zealous, Croft is undeniably one of Jolie’s most iconic roles.
Apart from the abundance of praise hurled at Jolie for her spectacular performance as the title character, the movie became the highest-grossing film on its opening weekend and even spawned a sequel two years later.
14. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The list would have felt incomplete without the inclusion of Meryl Streep. The three-time Academy Award winner has been consistently setting Hollywood on fire for the past four decades and paving the way for dozens of leading actresses along the way.
Based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel of the same name, The Devil Wears Prada features Streep as dictatorial fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestley who hires timid college graduate Andrea Sachs (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) as her assistant.
13. Atomic Blonde (2017)
From Aeon Flux to Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlie Theron has proved time and again that she is not at all a damsel in distress. Among her action movies, it is none other than Atomic Blonde that amazingly showcased how much of a great leading actress she can be.
Not only the movie gross the $100 million mark at the box office, but it also drew comparisons with John Wick. After all, director David Leitch had an uncredited role as co-director of the latter movie and there are even plans of having a potential crossover movie featuring the two characters.
12. Captain Marvel (2019)
Hyped by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige as the most powerful character in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel was the first female-centric movie of the franchise and one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
Starring Academy Award winner Brie Larson as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, the movie defied expectations and lived up to Feige’s bold claim. Above all, the movie became the 8th highest-grossing Marvel flick.
11. Salt (2010)
Angelina Jolie pops up on the list yet again for her heart-stomping performance in the 2010 action-thriller Salt. CIA agent Evelyn Salt’s life was smooth sailing until she was accused of being a double agent and secretly working for the KGB.
What follows is a series of action-packed adventures for Salt as she leaves no stones unturned in order to prove her innocence. With her loyalty put into question, she stays firm in placing her life back on track.
10. The Hunger Games (2012)
Responsible for putting Jennifer Lawrence on the map, The Hunger Games is a thrill ride that combines science fiction and adventure. Though the adventure does not last long for every participant in the tournament since killing your counterpart is the only way to reach the next round.
Although it is difficult to imagine anyone else but Lawrence in as Katniss Everdeen, it is interesting to note that about 30 actresses were auditioned for the role such as Emma Roberts, Kaya Scodelario, and Emily Browning, Abigail Breslin, Jodelle Ferland, etc.
9. Monster (2003)
Based on the real-life serial killer and street prostitute Aileen Wuornos, Monster is a biopic that is not for the faint of hearts. Though the movie delicately portrays such sensitive topics along with mental illness and crime, all eyes were on leading actress Charlize Theron.
Often cited as her greatest performance to date, the actress gained 30 pounds for the role, shaved her eyebrows, and even wore prosthetic teeth. It all paid off when Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her amazing performance.
8. Wonder Woman (2017)
The DC Extended Universe did have a rocky start and receives much-deserved criticism but it cannot be denied that they have to be given their due credit for making a bold step to have a feature-length movie for their leading female superhero.
Released two years before Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain Marvel, expectations were quite low for Wonder Woman yet it cleansed DC’s horrible track record of disappointing movies and received critical acclaim.
7. Jackie Brown (1997)
It was controversial director Quentin Tarantino’s first venture of casting a female lead in one of his movies and he definitely raised eyebrows when he cast Pam Grier. The actress was a Hollywood veteran but it had been years since she had the main role.
Yet Tarantino trusted her and she did not disappoint. Even with a star-studded cast that had movie icons such as Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, and Robert Forster, Grier stole the entire spotlight and revitalized her acting career.
6. Gravity (2013)
Without a doubt one of the best movies of the year 2013, Gravity is one hell of a space adventure and one of director Alfonso Cuarón’s finest works in recent memory. Nominated for ten Academy Awards and winning seven, the movie is an illustrious masterpiece.
Starring Sandra Bullock as a medical engineer and astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone, she finds herself stranded in space along with her colleague Matt Kowalski (portrayed by George Clooney) and must find a way to get back to Earth.
5. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Who can ever forget Hilary Swank’s stunning performance as aspiring boxer Mary Margaret “Maggie” Fitgerald in the 2004 sports drama movie, Million Dollar Baby. Even when she shared scenes with box office heavyweights such as Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, the actress shined bright.
For the preparation for the demanding role, Swank underwent rigorous boxing training for five hours on a daily basis and even gained 19 pounds of muscle. Million Dollar Baby was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four including Best Actress by Swank.
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Movie-goers have been debating for almost three decades whether or not Anthony Hopkins’ iconic role of Hannibal Lecter was merely a supporting character in The Silence of the Lambs but one thing is for sure: Jodie Foster carried the most weight in the movie.
Best known for playing empowering female characters, Clarice Starling is no exception. The young FBI agent courageously hunts down a serial killer due to an unlikely alliance formed with Lecter and lives to tell the tale. The movie won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actress for Foster.
3. Black Swan (2010)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan magnificently blends madness and creativity. Who would have ever thought that a Ballerina flick would be considered one of the best movies of the year but with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in the lead, the film can do no wrong?
For the preparation for their arduous roles, both actresses trained for six months so they could achieve muscle tone and body shape that resembles professional dancers. Portman went the extra mile by doing ballet, swimming, and cross-training five hours on a daily basis. Her hard work paid off as she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her impressive performance.
2. Aliens (1986)
In an era of John Rambo and James Braddock, Ellen Ripley superbly rose up and proved that action is not a man’s genre. From gun violence to fighting aliens in space, warrant officer Ripley has it all to be a certified action hero.
Frequently cited as Sigourney Weaver’s best performance of her career, the actress paved the way for dozens of female action stars for years to come and even was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her incredible leading role.
1. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
After previously working with Uma Thurman in the 1994 crime flick Pulp Fiction, everyone was excited about director Quentin Tarantino and the actress teaming up again. The result was absolutely fantastic as they came up with Kill Bill.
Portraying Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba, she was once a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and was almost brutally murdered by her former allies. After barely surviving the fatal ordeal, she hunts down every member of the squad one by one and its leader, Bill.
From martial arts to samurai sword dueling, Kill Bill is not only a quintessential Quentin Tarantino movie but also the best female-centric movie ever made.
Did we miss any of the best female-centric movies of all time on our list? Feel free to share your views in the comments below!