Strength comes in many shades. There is physical strength, which is what most people think of when they hear the word in relation to female characters. But while kicking faces in and taking names is one kind, strength takes many forms. It takes strength to raise a family on your own, strength to be independent in a world designed to keep women subjugated. To protect your children from harsh truths and hard times. To go against societal norms and love that fish man. Below is an eclectic collection of strong women on film, in all forms that strength can take.
5) A Home of Our Own (1993)
This was one of Kathy Bates’ more underrated roles, but it was an important one. Bates starred as Frances Lacey, a single mother of six children who moves from Los Angeles to head north to a new life. While driving, the family comes across an old, dilapidated house. Frances immediately knows that it will be theirs, truly a home of their own. The plot is not a complicated one. It’s the performances of the actors, most specifically Bates, that make this such a memorable film. It’s like the film version of Roseanne, with a much more traditionally likable lead. Bates, as per usual, plays a hard-as-nails, sarcastic, strong-willed woman who is just trying to do her best to do right by her family. A Home of Our Own is a film for anybody who has ever hit rock bottom and must scratch and claw their way back to the top. The Lacey Clan never makes it to “the top,” per se. But they do end up realizing that home is much more than wooden beams and plastered walls. For the Lacey’s, home is each other.
4) The Shape of Water (2017)
Sometimes being independent is not about not relying on somebody else. Sometimes, it’s just about being comfortable and happy by yourself. That is how Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) spent the majority of her life. As a mute, she never talked to anybody and she barely communicated at all, except to her coworker/best friend and her gay, artistic flat-mate. She was perfectly content living a quiet life, though. That is until she discovered a top-secret experiment at the lab she worked as a cleaning lady at. The experiment in question turned out to be a silent, mysterious, fish-like creature. It isn’t a monster, but it’s different than anything Elisa, or anybody else for that matter, has ever seen. At first, Elisa is just curious but she begins to form a bond with the creature and decides to take it upon herself to help it escape the lab. If breaking a sea creature out of a government lab isn’t strong and independent, we don’t really know what is.
3) Enough (2002)
Sometimes enough is enough and it’s time for a change. Such was the case with Slim (played by Jennifer Lopez), a waitress who meets and falls in love with a wealthy contractor named Mitch (played by Billy Campbell). At first, things are peachy. She’s in love with the man of her dreams and settles into a quiet, suburban life. But that dream soon turns into a nightmare when she discovers the type of man Mitch really is. At first, he’s just verbally abusive. But then he starts throwing hands. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t know who he’s messing with. Slim begins to realize she has had enough and she starts to fight back. Enough isn’t a great film, but it does a good job of showing that things are not always what they seem and, sometimes, it can be cathartic to watch a woman take down her abuser.
2) Dolores Claiborne (1995)
When one thinks of Stephen King adaptations of which Kathy Bates stars, Dolores Claiborne is usually not the first one to come to mind. This is a shame, as Bates’ performance in this film is both heart-breaking and powerful. Bates stars as the titular character who is accused of murder…decades after being accused of another murder. The fact that Claiborne actually committed the crimes of which she was accused, yet the audience is still firmly on her side, speaks to both the story and of the performance of Bates. In the film, Dolores Claiborne is a broken, beaten down, tired, old woman. But she is also brave, strong, resilient and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe, even from herself.
1) Kill Bill (2003-2004)
Her name is Beatrix Kiddo, but she is known simply as The Bride. She is a trained assassin who, after retiring from the business, just wanted to settle down and enjoy a quiet life with the man she loved. The man that loved her wouldn’t allow it, though, so he slaughtered The Bride’s new husband and all of her friends in a small, isolated wedding chapel. His name was Bill and he took everything near and dear to The Bride’s heart and shattered it, before putting a bullet in her head. But The Bride did not die and four years later, she emerges from her coma and looks to exact revenge on all of those responsible. More than anything though, she is going to find Bill. And then she is going to kill him.
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