40 Women-Centric Movies from Bollywood and Hollywood That Define Empowerment

Sanchi Gupta

It’s great to see that modern cinema has given birth to some wonderful female lead characters. Women aren’t just side chicks or supporting actresses anymore. Many dynamic young ladies are now spearheading the movement of independent filmmaking as well. They write, direct, and act, giving us stories that are instantly relatable and thoroughly entertaining. 

Even in commercial cinema, women’s powerful screen presence and diversified talent are attracting full-house audiences and critical accolades. So, here are some women oriented movies, that have left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of both Bollywood and Hollywood. These female based films not only showcase the immense talent of their leading ladies but also contribute to the ongoing conversation about gender equality.

Sr. No.Movie Name & YearIMDb Rating
1.Bandit Queen (1994)7.5
2.Kahaani (2012)8.1
3.Queen (2013)8.1
4.Raazi (2018)7.7
5.English Vinglish (2012)7.8
6.Dor (2006)7.9
7.Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)7.8
8.Thappad (2020)7
9.Hichki (2018)7.5
10.Chandni Bar (2001)7.6
11.Damini (1993)7.8
12.Mardaani (2014)7.3
13.Bhumika (1977)7.4
14.Mary Kom (2014)6.8
15.Fashion (2008)6.9
16.No One Killed Jessica (2011)7.2
17.Lajja (2001)6.6
18.Ek Hasina Thi (2004)7.5
19.Page 3 (2005)7.3
20.Mom (I) (2017)7.2
21.In A World… (2013)6.7
22.Obvious Child (2014)6.7
23.Appropriate Behavior (2014)6.5
24.Tiny Furniture (2010)6.2
25.Frances Ha (2012)7.4
26.Begin Again (2013)7.4
27.Fish Tank (2009)7.3
28.Joy (2015)6.6
29.Rachel Getting Married (2008)6.7
30.Mistress America (2015)6.7
31.Laggies (2014)6.4
32.Trainwreck (2015)6.2
33.The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)7.8
34.Sicario (2015)7.7
35.Winter’s Bone (2010)7.1
36.Maria Full Of Grace (2004)7.4
37.Camp X-Ray (2014)6.9
38.Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)6.8
39.Tracks (2013)7.1
40.Brooklyn (2015)7.5

1. Bandit Queen (1994)

This movie depicts the life of Phoolan Devi, who had forced marriage at a young age, and the brutalities she faced, which included gang rape. Following these traumatic events, Phoolan joins a gang of bandits and becomes a feared and revered figure known for seeking revenge against those who wronged her.

2. Kahaani (2012)

Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman, travels from Kolkata to London in search of her missing husband, Arnab Bagchi. She seeks help from a local police officer, Rana. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she realizes there is more to it than meets the eye. This is one of the Best Women Oriented Films To Watch.

3. Queen (2014)

Rani Mehra is a young woman from Delhi, whose life takes a drastic turn just a few days before her wedding. When her fiancé unexpectedly calls off the wedding, Rani decides to embark on her planned honeymoon trip to Europe alone, despite her initial hesitation.

4. Raazi (2018)

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5. English Vinglish (2012)

Sehmat Khan, a Kashmiri undercover RAW agent is married off to a Pakistani military officer, Iqbal Syed, under the guise of national duty. She gathers crucial information that aids India during the conflict while grappling with personal dilemmas and moral conflicts. This is one of the best female oriented movies in Bollywood.

Shashi, a homemaker and middle-class Indian woman, often gets mocked by her family for not knowing English. Determined to prove herself, she enrolls in an English language learning course during a family trip to the United States.

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6. Dor (2006)

Zeenat, a woman from Himachal’s husband is accused of murdering a Pakistani man. Meera, the wife of the deceased seeks justice for her husband’s death and decides to testify against Zeenat’s husband in court.

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7. Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

After being sold to a brothel, a young woman Gangubai takes charge of Kamathipura, a red-light district in Mumbai. She rises to become a formidable force in the crime world, known for her wit, intelligence, and resilience.

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8. Thappad (2020)

Amrita is a dedicated housewife, and professional who is content in her seemingly perfect marriage. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when her husband slaps her at a party.

9. Hichki (2018)

Naina Mathur, a woman who deals with Tourette syndrome, aspires to become a teacher despite facing societal prejudices and professional challenges due to her condition. She lands a job at an elite school where she encounters a class of underprivileged and rebellious students. She takes on the challenge of teaching and connecting with her students, each of whom has their own set of struggles.

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10. Chandni Bar (2001)

Mumtaz, a teen girl, becomes a victim of circumstances and is forced to work in a dance bar called Chandni Bar. The story unfolds as Mumtaz, now known as Chandani, navigates the challenges and struggles of her life in the turbulent world of dance bars. This is one of the best women centric bollywood movies.

11. Damini (1993)

Damini, a woman from an affluent family, witnesses a brutal crime involving her brother-in-law. The crime involves the rape of a maid, and she decides to fight for justice despite facing strong opposition from her own family.

12. Mardaani (2014)

Shivani Shivaji Roy, a senior inspector of the crime branch in Mumbai, takes on the case of a young girl who goes missing, only to discover that she has been kidnapped by a human trafficking ring. Shivani goes on a mission to rescue girls.

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13. Bhumika (1977)

The film traces the journey of Usha, a talented actress, from her childhood to adulthood. It explores her relationships, marriages, and the challenges she faces in the film industry, as well as her struggles with personal identity and societal expectations.

14. Mary Kom (2014)

This film is based on the life of Mary Kom, a renowned Indian boxer and Olympic bronze medalist. It chronicles her journey from childhood to her rise as a successful boxer on the national and international stage.

15. Fashion (2008)

Meghna Mathur, a small-town girl, dreams of becoming a successful fashion model. She faces the challenges and trials of the fashion world, from the initial struggles to the glamorous lifestyle that comes with success.

Aksi Read: Bollywood Movies With A Female Lead

16. No One Killed Jessica (2011)

The film revolves around the high-profile murder case of Jessica Lal, a model and restaurant worker, who was shot dead at a party in Delhi. The accused, Manish Bharadwaj, was acquitted by the trial court due to a lack of evidence and influential connections. The injustice sparked outrage among people leading to a movement for justice led by Jessica’s sister, Sabrina Lal.

17. Lajja (2001)

Vaidehi, Janaki, Maithili, and Ramdulari, four individual women, face different forms of oppression, discrimination, and violence, and their stories intersect to shed light on societal norms that perpetuate injustice against women.

18. Ek Hasina Thi (2004)

Sarika Vartak, a woman falls in love with a charming but deceitful man named Karan Singh Rathod. Unaware of his criminal activities, Sarika becomes implicated in a crime committed by Karan and ends up being framed for his misdeeds. After being wronged and imprisoned, Sarika transforms into a determined and resourceful woman seeking revenge.

19. Page 3 (2005)

Madhavi Sharma, a journalist works for a newspaper’s Page 3 section. She covers the high-profile social events, parties, the dual lives of celebrities, and the hypocrisy and insecurities they live with.

20. Mom (I) (2017)

Devki Sabarwal, a mother seeks justice for her stepdaughter Arya, after she becomes a victim of a brutal assault. Unable to get justice through legal means, Devki decides to take matters into her own hands to ensure her stepdaughter receives the justice she deserves.

21. In A World… (2013)

A struggling vocal coach finally starts making her mark in the movie trailer voice-over industry, only to realize that the biggest competition she faces is her own arrogant, famous father who happens to be eyeing the same big project she hopes to win.

22. Obvious Child (2014)

Aspiring comedian takes her slices of life to set the stage on fire with her raw and fearless jokes (there’s a description about used underwear that you’ll remember forever). One day, this witty and unapologetic young lady finds out that she’s pregnant and must learn how to step into serious adulthood while discovering independence, kindness, love, and well, some more laughs at the reality of life. Jenny Slate killed it.

23. Appropriate Behavior (2014)

Shirin belongs to a traditional Persian family. She is also secretly bisexual. An event marks the beginning of a closeted rebellion that may lead to the discovery of new identities and experiences she seeks. Desiree Akhavan has written and directed this film. She plays the lead role too. Her sharp observations and authentic talent go beyond words.

24. Tiny Furniture (2010)

Girls star, Lena Dunham, plays Aura, a fresh film school graduate who returns home to her mother, a successful photographer living in New York. Aura is pretty much aimless and believes that her degree is useless too. Soon, she steps out into the real world and goes through a series of unsuccessful jobs and romances. Where will her unsettled life finally take her?

25. Frances Ha (2012)

This modern delight is shot entirely in black and white. It follows the story of Frances, a young dancer who isn’t really all that good at dancing. She falls out with her best friend, Sophie, when she decides to move to a fancier apartment. This setback takes Frances on a journey from Chinatown to Paris, during which she learns about friendship, ambition, failure, and much more. Her dreaminess and happy oblivion will make you smile.

26. Begin Again (2013)

Gretta gets cruelly dumped by her long-time boyfriend after he finds fame and fortune in the music industry. As she has always been his biggest inspiration and songwriting partner, she finds herself alone and heartbroken in the big city. Things change for the better when she meets an ex-record label executive who is taken with Gretta’s musical talent. What they begin is a musical journey that rewards wonderfully.

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27. Fish Tank (2009)

This story is about a bold girl from a messed-up home who strives to make it big in the hip-hop dance scene. She’s passionate but somewhat lost, her drunk and partying mother only adding more trouble to her life. She wants to escape to fulfill her dreams but must be completely ready before she takes the big leap. Oh, and there’s a twist that’ll shock you.

28. Joy (2015)

Spanning across four generations, this is the story of Joy, a woman who builds a massive business dynasty and becomes a matriarch figure. She lives through many stages of her incredible journey to power from innocence to betrayal. Her unwavering strength and determination get her past the lows till she’s on top. With a stellar performance, Jennifer Lawrence adds another feather to her cap.

29. Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Kym makes it back home for her sister Rachel’s wedding straight from rehab. She’s been seeking help for her addiction for over a decade and harbors a deep guilt that stems from a horrible tragedy. Feeling isolated and judged pushes her to evoke outbursts and confrontations with her family and friends, ruining the festive and happy vibe of the wedding.

30. Mistress America (2015)

Tracy Fishko is a lonely college freshman who finds herself bereft of the socializing, metropolitan high life she had imagined to lead. But things take an exciting turn when she gets in touch with her adventurous future stepsister who enjoys an extravagant lifestyle. Together, the two become fast friends and explore the glamorous side of town.

31. Laggies (2014)

Megan is a happy-go-lucky 28-year-old girl who has career goals and lives each day without worrying about her prospects. At her 10-year high school reunion, she realizes that her life hasn’t changed since graduation while her friends embrace adulthood. She goes into a panic when her boyfriend proposes marriage and escapes the situation by befriending a 16-year-old teenager, Annika, and moving into her home for a week. There she meets Annika’s single dad who falls for her innocent charm. Soon, Megan learns that living while lagging might not be the best thing for her.

32. Trainwreck (2015)

Brainwashed by her dad, Amy believes that monogamy isn’t real and two people aren’t supposed to be together forever. This results in a lifestyle of back-to-back flings, binge drinking, and hungover mornings that are far, far away from any kind of commitment or stable routine. All’s good in freedom heaven till she meets and falls for a charming sports doctor she has to interview.

33. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander in this dark and edgy thriller. She is a punk computer hacker who is approached by a journalist to investigate the sudden disappearance of a woman 40 years ago. Will they be able to team up and solve the mystery?

34. Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt plays a brilliant and idealistic FBI agent who gets enlisted for a top assignment by an elite government task force to aid in the growing war against drugs at the US-Mexico border in this critically acclaimed crime drama. The events of the ordeal constantly challenge her belief system but she must adapt to survive.

35. Winter’s Bone (2010)

A young girl must find her drug-dealing father when he absconds after getting out on bail. She takes care of her younger siblings and their mentally ill mother but faces the risk of losing the family home if he doesn’t return. She sets on a mission to track him but her attempts remain futile as her kin maintains strange silence and offers no help. Will she be able to survive this ultimate test?

36. Maria Full Of Grace (2004)

Maria Alvarez separates thorns from the flowers at a rose plantation for an income. She lives in a rural setup with 3 generations of her family. One day, she sees a way out of her constant struggle with poverty when she’s presented with the opportunity to work as a drug mule. This leads her into the dingy world of drug trafficking. Will she escape these dire circumstances and find light at the end of the tunnel?

37. Camp X-Ray (2014)

A woman from a small town joins the military with the hope of finding a bigger purpose in life. She is assigned as a guard at Guantanamo Bay where she strikes an unusual friendship with one of the inmates. The story progresses as their ethical bond finds meaning amid aggression and hostility as they stand at opposite ends of the war.

38. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Martha narrowly escapes from a dangerous cult and tries to heal from her traumatic past by moving in with her sister’s family. But the line between reality and dreams remains blurred for this young woman as she struggles to deal with her haunting memories. She doesn’t reveal the truth behind her disappearance and stays discreet, making it worse for herself and those involved.

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39. Tracks (2013)

This stunning film follows Robyn Davidson as she leaves city life behind and makes her way through a vast Australian desert, traveling 2000 miles with a dog and 4 camels. During her epic journey of self-discovery, she meets a photographer who tags along to document her adventures.

40. Brooklyn (2015)

Eilis Lacey is an innocent Irish immigrant who leaves her motherland to seek a new life in America, the land of opportunities. Her bout of homesickness and desperation is soon ended by a romantic venture that encompasses her completely. She adapts to her new surroundings quickly but can’t change a past that still lingers. Eventually, it comes down to one choice that will define her life ahead.

Go girls, These women centric movies will evoke a sense of empowerment in you.

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