10 Great Movies about “Women Finding Themselves”

I’m not sure that “Women Finding Themselves” is an actual official genre of movies. But it definitely is the name my daughter Maya has given all the movies I took her to see back when I was too poor to hire a babysitter. I think it might have started with Like Water for Chocolate (she was about 7).  But I have to say, it’s my favorite unofficial genre, and always a good reminder that we women are on a journey together in search of a sort of self-freedom and fulfillment that is most often found in nontraditional places—sometimes in love, sometimes beyond love, but always rooted in finding a love of one’s own self, enough love to find the courage to make the hard changes and live a life of one’s dreams.

So here is my list, in no particular order of my favorite “Women Finding Themselves” movies:

1. Like Water for Chocolate At first, it’s seems like it’s about love. But later in my life, when I watched it again, I realized it’s also about freedom from a domineering mother. All the movies on this list will show you different things each time you watch them. But it’s also about finding love!

2. Enchanted April I don’t remember much about this movie other than the slow, summery, languid poetry of women finding themselves among the sound of life on the Italian Mediterranean. This one I should probably watch again!

3. Shakespeare in Love Just watched this one for the second time with my teenager (at her request). Oh, it’s good. Queen Elizabeth played by Dame Judy Dench is epic.

4. Brick Lane Sensual, sweet, gritty, real, it’s the story of Indian immigrants living in London and trying to make a go of it. Sigh. Good love scenes in this one.

5. Orlando OK we are now entering the Tilda Swinton portion of the list. She is the quintessential woman finding herself. Here, she plays a man and a woman who live forever, based on the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name. Worth reading the book and watching the movie, but there is one scene in which she is running in the wet English grass in a black gown and, I think, being chased by a handsome man…. La!

6. I Am Love Tilda again. She’s Scottish in real life, but she plays a Russian who is married to an Italian and so, speaks Italian. What a woman! What an EXPLOSION of desire and passion. Totally awesome movie that stayed with me for days.

7. The Young Victoria The Emily Blunt version of the great Queen of England becoming the Great Queen. So well done and beautiful. I love the scene in which she walks into Buckingham Palace for the first time and skips a bit and says, “I’m free!”

8. The Queen Helen Mirren is also a goddess of the Women Finding Themselves genre. I think I love movies in which a woman has to find herself within the limits of a rigid responsibility (probably because that feels like my life!). So perfect and so strong. It’s hard to look at Queen Elizabeth now without seeing that movie version in my head.

9. Lucia Lucia I rented this movie since I have a daughter named Lucia. It’s a good thing I didn’t let her watch it. It’s about a woman whose husband mysteriously disappears and she goes off to find him (and…finds herself instead…surprise!). It’s got one of the best desert sex scenes ever filmed.

10. Last Holiday OK, it was a toss up between this and The Sound of Music, but it’s hard to pass up any movie with Gerard Depardieu in it. Queen Latifah plays a woman who gets a death sentence from her doctor and decides to live out her fantasy before she dies. It was cheesy, but fun.

By the way, every single one of these movies will make you feel good when it’s over. No depression! No sadness. Well, I guess it depends on your take on things. I Am Love was a bit dark, but I could handle it.

So what have I missed? Any to add to my list? I’d love to know what your favorite movies in this “genre” are!



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23 Responses to 10 Great Movies about “Women Finding Themselves”

  1. Peter January 30, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Actually, these are “women finding themselves getting their groove back (just like Stella) in unusual places, with surprising men.” And that’s one really good way to find yourself. Thanks for the “to Netflix” list, Maria.

  2. april January 30, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    I love movies like these. They helped me get through and over a divorce. First Wives Club, Hope Floats, Something to talk about. Those are mine! Oh and the new Alice in Wonderland.

  3. Brenda Morales January 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Elizabeth, starring Kate Blanchett, has always been one of my favorite girl power movies. Shirley Valentine is another great finding herself movie. I especially love the scenes of Shirley talking to the wal..

  4. renee January 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Decades old and a long-time favorite of mine: Educating Rita. Basically a two-character play, fleshed out into a movie with more to it but the always watchable and lovable Michael Caine and late-of -Harry-Potter fame but here much younger Julie Walters are PERFECT.

  5. Danielle Notaro January 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    1.)Desert Hearts-nice movie with Adrienne Barbeau&Helen Shaver based on the book by Jane Bowles)
    2.)Nine To Five
    3.)Working Girl
    4.)Lovely And Amazing
    5.)Many films by Mike Leigh-Life Is Sweet,Secrets And Lies,Career Girls,Happy-Go-Lucky

  6. Zina January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    What’s Love Got To Do With It; about Tina Turner. Angela Bassett is phenominal!

  7. Laurie January 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    The Waitress.
    Lydia and I watched this 100 times and even made a Mermaid Pie. We can’t watch it anymore, since she’s old enough to ask questions. But it was a favorite for us both.

  8. Judi Hendricks January 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    I nominate Babette’s Feast and Shirley Valentine!

  9. Lisa January 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I’m with the two above who said “Shirley Valentine.”

  10. Kelli January 31, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Eat Pray Love
    The Holiday
    How Stella Got Her Groove Back
    Under The Tuscan Sun
    P.S. I Love You
    The Women

  11. maria (farm country kitchen) January 31, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Thanks for all the great tips, dear readers!!!! This should get me through the winter!

  12. Laurie January 31, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Caroline and Boys on the Side, also

  13. Stephanie January 31, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    I love Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman

  14. schema February 1, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    When in a funk, I like ‘Five Easy Pieces’. It’s better than getting lost in a shopping mall.

  15. Lori February 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Mirror has two faces. Is my favorite

  16. Jennifer May 8, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Last night I was TRYING to find something to watch, but everything that vaguely appealed to me was either about a man , or about a woman who finds her man, or whatever. I literally Googled “movie about a woman who finds herself”, and I found this blog post! Thank you! I watched The Last Holiday, and it was wonderful. LOVE Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, and Gerard Depardieu!

  17. Karen November 20, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Shirley Valentine!! My all time favorite!

  18. Michelle Shaffer November 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    The Bridges of Madison County, Norma Rae, Julia

  19. Mary McDonald November 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    First one that comes to mind is Sabrina (I prefer the remake) and Babette’s Feast.

  20. Rita November 27, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Cold Mountain | Was just thinking about one of my fave movie characters, Ruby Thewes, and was reminded of this post.

  21. GrammiP January 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    The Devine Secrets of the Ya-Yay Sisterhood

  22. GrammiP January 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    The Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

  23. Women Health January 29, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Hello ladies: All of them are fantastic actors or actresses. However this is for you. Our health is our main concern and we want to be as healthy as possible in this new year.

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