Throughout history, the big blockbusters have tended not to feature enough leading female roles, but over the past decade, there has been a notable shift. The 2010s saw the release of loads of incredible film and television roles featuring strong, brave, brainy, and brilliant women. With so many incredible actresses to choose from, it’s no wonder there’s been a shift. Whether you’re after a ‘girl power’ pick me up, something inspirational to watch with your friends, or just fancy reminiscing over the best of the decade, here are our favorites.
Jessica Chastain, in Molly’s Game, is the ultimate high-powered icon. Based on a true story, Molly, also an Olympic skier, is responsible for running an exclusive high stakes poker game for more than a decade before finally being arrested by the FBI. Riddled with tense pauses and drama aplenty, this film is an absolute must-see for fans of exquisite uninterrupted monologue. Chastain narrates much of the film, with an air of grace and authority in her delivery. The screenplay for Molly’s Game is so beautifully written that it deserves to shine, and Chastain is just the actress to deliver that. Molly is a multi-faceted, challenging, and totally believable character, with more depth than many of the more traditional leads that tend to monopolize poker films. With more famous films, like Mississippi Grind and Hell or High Water, relying so heavily on male poker players being the fallen woman’s hero, it’s truly refreshing to see a woman like Molly making it for herself. It would be a welcome surprise to see Molly’s Game stand the test of time and go down not just as a thoughtful record of one of the games best characters, but also as one of the greatest films on the subject.
His Dark Materials (Television) 2019
The BBC often blesses Brits with some great television, but rarely do they reach the dizzying heights of the recent adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Lovers of the book will likely be delighted both by the casting and by the faithfulness to the storyline. After 2007’s retelling of this beloved story in a badly received film, that shied away from many of the more difficult themes in the book, it was quite nerve-wracking sitting down for the first of this eight-part series. However, unlike the film adaptation, the program doesn’t shy away from tackling a whole host of difficult ideas and Lyra (Dafne Keen) leads us through this complex web with aplomb. Whether it’s the corruption of authorities, moral quandaries, or questions about theology, Lyra’s character remains, brave, determined, and, most importantly, endlessly likable throughout. At only 14 years old, her skillful and believable acting can’t help but make you wonder what Dafne may go on to do in the future. For now, we’re hoping for a similarly faithful retelling of one of Pullman’s other beloved books.
Hidden Figures (Film) 2016
It’s considerably easier to create a feminist masterpiece when you have a true story that’s so incredible to work with, and that is very much the case for Hidden Figures. The film is set in 1960s Virginia and follows the story of three pioneering African American women, whose calculations were integral to the success of several historic NASA missions, the most famous being John Glenn’s successful orbit of the Earth. The women, Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Mary (Janelle Monae), and Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) are talented and incredibly intelligent mathematicians and engineers but have to suffer discrimination throughout their life in segregation-era America. Instead of focusing on purely the genius of the main characters, as so many films in this vein do, director Theodore Melfi instead shows the viewer how these women worked together to overcome adversity and bring together a community. Although the timeline has experienced tweaks and some sequences of events have been altered, the overarching themes and the sheer brilliance of all three leading actresses make this film one of the most groundbreaking of the decade.