8 Feminist Movies To Watch on Valentine's Day

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Let's face it, many romantic movies have not aged well. They feature women who are constantly feeling incomplete without men, degrading themselves to get men, and/or letting men treat them like garbage. It can be embarrassing to see how movies in a historically male-dominated Hollywood depict women when it comes to our love lives. And, it’s sad and shameful that not too long ago these depictions were just accepted, or even worse, seen as relatable.

As modern women, we’ve come a long way, baby. The media no longer consists of one-dimensional depictions of women yearning for boyfriends or husbands who will in turn treat them as second-class citizens. We have characters who are developed and deep, with wants and needs outside of their love lives. You know, storylines that were once reserved for men. Even male characters have evolved too, now demonstrating qualities our evolved heroines would actually fall for, no longer just embodying the stereotypical machismo.

So, what movies should you turn to when you want to snuggle up to your significant other and celebrate love without cringing? Here’s a list of the best feminist-yet-still-romantic flicks for your Valentine’s Day movie marathon:

1Ten Things I Hate About You

This modern-day teenage romance is an update of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and practically screams feminism. Starring Julia Stiles as a feminist teenage outcast who loves indie female rock and subverts societal expectations of young women, her Kat Straford inspired a whole generation of adolescent girls to be themselves and fight the patriarchy. Plus, this movie introduced American audiences to the late, great Heath Ledger as the Petruchio to her Kate (or in this case, Patrick) as well as a grown-up Joseph Gordon-Levitt. With a great soundtrack including Letters to Cleo, this movie is cemented in the feminist romance hall of fame.

2Bend It Like Beckham

Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham has a few things going for it. First, there’s diversity with its young Indian female lead, Jess (Parminder Nagra), a rarity even today, and the exploration of her culture from her perspective. There’s the fact that the movie centers around a female athlete — again, another rarity. And, the movie’s central relationship isn’t romantic at all, with the female friendship between Jess and Jules (Keira Knightley) front and center. The romantic subplot between Jess and her coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is very much a B-story plotline, a refreshing change for a female-led movie. When it does take center stage during portions of the film, it adds to the overall plot and serves Jess’ journey, adding just enough romance to merit its inclusion on this list.

3His Girl Friday

If you’re more of a classic movie fan, His Girl Friday is the feminist romance for you. The film stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as a newspaper editor and investigative reporter, respectively — and a formerly married couple. In 1940, the year the movie was released, it was quite rare to have a woman with such a powerful job, not to mention one who is a divorceé (the scandal!). Grant’s Walter Burns discovers that his ex-wife and best reporter, Russell’s Hildy Johnson, is about to marry another man and leave the newspaper (Booo!). After he suggests the two cover one final story together, they get caught up in a case of a man potentially wrongly accused of murder. And, maybe they fall back in love along the way — you’ll have to watch to find out.

4Clueless

This ever-quotable movie (As if!) launched the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd. This modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma centers around Cher, played by Silverstone, a 16-year-old high school student and would-be matchmaker. Cher starts out thinking she has everything figured out and sets out to meddle in — with hope to improve — the lives of those around her. But it’s through this journey that she realizes she actually has a lot to learn, and like a good heroine, she takes steps to become a better person. Of course, the love story between Cher and her college-age ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd) is strange when you think about it in those terms, but the two actors have chemistry, making it a fun, if only slightly creepy, watch.

5Love & Basketball

Another romance centered around a female athlete, the driving force behind Love & Basketball is the smart and strong Sanaa Lathan. While Lathan’s Monica Wright has clearly always had a crush on the boy next door, Quincy, played by Omar Epps, she doesn’t let that relationship stand in the way of what she wants — a career playing professional basketball. When forced to choose between love or basketball, Monica chooses to bet on herself and her dreams, unlike so many heroines before her. Of course, she and Quincy eventually run into each other again (their families live next to each other, after all), but you’ll have to watch the movie to see how that turns out for them.

6Kissing Jessica Stein

Co-written by its leading ladies, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen, Kissing Jessica Stein is an exploration of sexuality and relationships. When Jessica Stein (Westfeldt) grows bored with meeting the same kind of men, she decides to branch out of her comfort zone when she answers a personal ad that speaks to her, placed by Helen (Juergensen). This film came out before the mainstream public had really been introduced to the concept of sexual fluidity, adding to its cultural significance. Watching Jessica try to figure out her own sexuality along with her budding feelings for Helen awakened many people to the fact that sexual orientation, attraction, and love may not be so black and white.

7Always Be My Maybe

Another movie co-written by its stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park (as well as an unseen Michael Golamco), Always Be My Maybe is the story of two childhood best friends who stumble into some romantic chemistry. Wong plays Sasha, a driven celebrity chef who knows what she wants and goes for it. Park’s Marcus is less sure and has kind of stumbled through life while Sasha’s soared. When the two are reunited after years apart, they have to figure out if they can fit into each other's lives as adults. As Marcus’ uncertainty starts to negatively impact Sasha’s plans, she does not take it lying down, making her a female hero for the new age. A bonus is this movie is so funny that I called my fiancé into the room to watch a scene and he was so tickled by it that he sat down and watched the rest of the movie with me, thoroughly enjoying it. If you need a romantic movie that doesn’t skimp on the laughs to entice your honey, this movie is it.

8But I’m a Cheerleader

Another romance for the traditionally underserved LGBTQIA+ community, But I’m a Cheerleader follows Megan, played by Natasha Lyonne, who seems like the quintessential all-American teenager. She’s pretty, a cheerleader (hence the title), and her boyfriend is the captain of the football team — only she doesn’t really like being touched by him. When her “gay tendencies” are discovered by her deeply misguided parents, they send her to a conversion therapy boot camp where she meets Graham (Clea DuVall). At first, Megan doesn’t believe that she’s gay, but while there, she begins to form feelings for Graham. As Megan has the space to discover herself, she realizes there’s nothing wrong with her sexuality and rebels against the boot camp and anyone else who thinks otherwise. Megan’s journey is as much a story about learning to love yourself as it is about the love between her and Graham.

Tags: Dating, Empowerment, Gender Equality, valentine's day

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Written By

Allie Nelson

Allie is a TV producer and writer with credits on Netflix, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, TBS, E!, & HGTV. See Full Bio

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