March is Women’s History Month, which means now is an excellent time to stream a movie or TV show that centers the experience of a powerful, in-charge woman protagonist. (Or an incredibly messy protagonist ― we love a deeply flawed heroine!) There are also still a few weeks left to squeeze in a documentary that explores women’s history or reminds us of the steps we still need to take to achieve true gender parity.
To get you started on your streaming, we asked female writers, artists and other creators to share a TV show, doc or movie they recommend you watch ASAP.
Their choices include everything from historical K-dramas featuring gun-toting heroines to a D.C. show on Netflix that one of our contributors said has gotten kinder, queerer and leaps more feminist over the last few years.
Responses have been edited for style and clarity.
“We Are Lady Parts” on Peacock
“This show tells the story of a punk-rock band made up of brilliant, bold, frank Muslim women and the various ways they defy impositions and rules in their quest for musical success. It’s almost ridiculously funny and one of the most memorable shows I’ve watched in years: The protagonists have their own incredible take on what it is to be a woman. They redefine the concept; make it freer, more radical, braver. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” ― Beth Fuller, an illustrator
“Mr. Sunshine” on Netflix
“The toxic stereotype of women — especially Asian American women ― as meek and obedient commodities continues to poison our society. The K-Drama ‘Mr. Sunshine’ on Netflix takes a machete ― or a long-range rifle ― to tear down that stereotype through its heroine.
On the surface, Go Ae-shin is the picture-perfect Joseon noblewoman, but she leads a secret life as a powerful and lethal sniper for a group of underground rebels who fight for Joseon’s independence. ‘Mr. Sunshine’ tells the story of her struggles and triumphs without ever compromising the portrayal of her inherent strength and courage. Watching the series made me want to go out and climb a mountain or go kick some bad-guy behinds. Enjoy and be empowered.” ― Jayci Lee, the author of “A Sweet Mess” and “The Dating Dare”
“‘Veneno’ is a hilarious and moving Spanish-language series chronicling the life of transgender singer and actress Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, better known in Spain as La Veneno, and of Valeria Vegas, the transgender female journalist who befriended Ortiz and wrote her memoirs.
Aside from being an amazing show full of drama and the joys of found family, ‘Veneno’ is a fantastic series to watch for Women’s History Month because it teaches a different kind of women’s history from that typically proffered during these kinds of commemorations. Transgender women like Cristina Ortiz and Valeria Vegas have made a huge impact on LGBT acceptance in Spain, and their history is one that deserves to be celebrated.” ― Alina Boyden, the author of “Gifting Fire”
“Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu
“The show promises at first to offer a soapy, bored housewives approach. From the beginning, the dynamic between Reese Witherspoon’s ‘privileged white lady housewife’ character and Kerry Washington ‘single-parent WOC artist’ seems straightforward in its representation of differential privilege through class, race and motherhood. When the daughters become differently entwined with the two mothers, however, a more complicated set of relationships between generational wealth, belonging and racism emerges. Each scene becomes pregnant with a sort of haunting, latent and necessary rage as the disease between the two families escalates. The result is a complex critique of power through race and motherhood that both hooks you in and leaves you with a new lens for how we construct popular (and racialized) representations of womanhood and home.” ― C. R. Grimmer, the author of “The Lyme Letters”
“She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” on Netflix
“‘She-Ra and the Princesses of Power,’ a reboot of the ’80s series written by ND Stevenson, is a fantastic show filled with strong female characters as well as LGBTQ+ representation. The show has not only made me laugh and tear up, but I could not stop myself from wanting to watch more because of its lovable characters and storyline. Although the show is aimed at a younger audience, it isn’t afraid to explore different kinds of complex relationships and emotions. I find myself getting excited every time they introduce a princess because I know my younger self would have loved to have this show growing up and looking up to these strong characters. ND Stevenson has done a fantastic job reinventing a classic to inspire a generation with this fantastical, empowering and inclusive show.” ― Maxine Vee, an illustrator
“Pride and Prejudice” (1995) on Hulu
“I’ve loved the BBC ‘Pride and Prejudice’ since my mom introduced it to me when I was 12. Based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, the miniseries follows themes of sisterhood, marriage and friendship. I love Elizabeth Bennet’s witty, rebellious spirit; it’s so empowering to see her put her happiness first in a society that expects her to put herself second. Plus, she meets the arrogant Mr. Darcy quip for quip.” ― Angela De Vito, an animator and graphic novelist
“‘Broad City’ is a funny, strange and frequently brilliant ode to female friendships. It follows two 20-something queer Jewish women in NYC who haven’t figured out who they are just yet, except that they know they are best friends who love and respect each other deeply. While these frequently messy characters face consequences for their actions ― they lose jobs, partners, roommates and precious counterfeit handbags ― they also exist in a slightly parallel universe where they never, ever face gendered consequences.” — Rebecca Podos, an author and literary agent
“Directed by Rodrigo Bazaes and streamed by HBO Max, this three-part miniseries explores the trajectory and behind-the-scenes life of Chilean writer Isabel Allende. I am a South American scholar, and Allende’s life and career trajectory ― as beautifully portrayed in this show ― resonates with my own, and those of so many feminist writers who are also Latina immigrants. Like Allende, my family and I had to escape Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile in the 1970s and followed a path of exile leading us to several Latin American countries. And like her, I came of age as a Latina feminist in the United States. Allende’s transformation into an icon, as both a novelist and fierce activist, is nicely portrayed in [this dramatization of her life].” ― Anahí Viladrich, a professor in the sociology department at CUNY Queens College
“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” on Netflix
“Legends of Tomorrow started out as a time-traveling ‘Dirty Dozen’ riff, featuring thugs and boy scouts working side by side. But over the course of seven seasons, it’s gotten kinder, queerer and much more feminist. The most recent season uses the device of time travel to talk about all the people who’ve been trampled by history while centering the incredible romance between Sara Lance and Ava Sharpe. It’s been a godsend, and everyone should watch it now.” ― Charlie Jane Anders, the author of “Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak
“The Wilds” on Amazon Prime
“I don’t know if ‘fell in love’ is the right turn of phrase for how I feel about this TV show, but it instantly captured my attention nearly two years ago while on bed rest in my childhood home. We’ve seen many shows and films that capture the aftermath of a plane crash on a deserted island, but ‘The Wilds’ has something much more sinister and compelling under its sleeve. What happens when the plane crash was the plan all along? ‘The Wilds’ focuses on a group of wildly diverse teen girls sent on an ‘empowerment retreat’ who don’t realize their trials and tribulations are all part of an elaborate plan to understand the dynamics of women-led societies. Issues of sexuality, class, interfamily dynamics and race all intersect in this easily digestible show. Season 2 premieres in May, making now a perfect time to catch up on all 10 episodes of the first season.” ― Britt Julious, music critic at the Chicago Tribune
“One of my favorite cringe comedies is Hulu’s ‘PEN15,’ which stars co-creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle — two women in their 30s who play 13-year-olds — as they deal with the awkwardness, insecurities and traumas that come with adolescence. Hilarious and deeply moving, the series highlights the intensity of female friendship and deftly tackles heavier topics such as racism, class, sexuality, divorce and sexism — all from the underrepresented point of view of two girls. I cry-laughed my way through the ‘AIM’ episode, which is a nostalgic trip back to AOL Instant Messenger days, and episodes like ‘Opening Night’ and ‘Yuki’ are rendered so beautifully I’ve rewatched them several times.” ― Victoria Namkung, a journalist and author of “The Things We Tell Ourselves”
“Starstruck” on HBO Max
“I appreciated the algorithm for leading me to this great series, which saved me from the rut of rewatching ‘You’ve Got Mail’ for the seventy-billionth time. Rose Matafeo’s character, Jessie, is a relatable millennial whose growth and pitfalls are refreshing in this genre. She threads the needle between not seeking anyone’s permission and learning when to ask for help. I love that she is very grounded about hooking up with the gorgeous Tom (Nikesh Patel), and their consensual hookups are funny while not being too tongue-in-cheek; a plus for me. There are fabulous supporting characters with complexities of their own. You’ll want a second season, I promise. Also, Episode 2’s opening scene is a masterpiece; a celebration for any woman who has relished the pleasure of a substandard one-night stand.” ― Marissa Maciel, an illustrator and writer
“Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen” on Netflix
“I watched ‘Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen’ when it first came out, in 2020. In that moment, the simple fact of its existence felt vaguely triumphal: a big celebrity-filled mainstream documentary about trans history, privileging the voices of trans women and trans people of color? Perhaps we were finally stepping past the brutal years of bathroom bills and late-night jokes, the cruelty of debating which women counted as women. Perhaps, in finally admitting to a history of trans lives, we might be better able to imagine a future.
I thought I was witnessing the moral arc of the universe grinding toward justice. But watching it now, in 2022, while trans youth come under fresh attack, while state legislatures try to rewrite American history, and fascism comes back into fashion and reproductive rights roll back, it delivers a very different message. It doesn’t say: Here is a history; it says, here is a history of the fight, which is ongoing. It says: ‘Oh, are you new here?’ It says: ‘The only moral arc is the one we make, again and again.’ Happy Women’s History Month.” ― Alix E. Harrow, the author of “The Ten Thousand Doors”
“Secrets of Playboy” on A&E
“‘Secrets of Playboy’ is by no means a perfect docuseries, but still, it’s worth watching with a critical eye. Over 40 years of abuse and exploitation committed by Hugh Hefner and the Playboy empire against women and girls is put under a microscope, relying almost entirely on testimony from many of those women. The Playboy legacy becomes theirs to shape.
The mythology around Hefner’s glitzy conglomerate remained intact for decades because it used the glamorous uniformity of the Playmates to distract from the abuses of power going on behind the scenes. Ex-centerfolds, girlfriends and employees of Hefner speak frankly across the series’ 10 episodes about Playboy’s violent culture of drugging, assaulting and coercing women and underage girls ― all while taking credit for stoking the sexual revolution and performing allyship with queer communities and the Civil Rights Movement.
From the dark history of the Playboy Clubs that peaked in the 1960s to the early-aughts ‘reality’ show ‘The Girls Next Door,’ each episode manages to be unfathomably bleak and impressively informative.” ― Sara Tardiff, news reporter at Teen Vogue
“One of the most powerful and inspirational films I’ve seen in recent years was the 2018 documentary ‘RGB.’ It showed the incredible influence a single person can have on the course of our world. Deliberately and methodically, Ruth Bader Ginsburg altered the perception and future for women” ― Suzanne Redfearn, author of “Moment in Time”
“Writing with Fire” on BBC Storyville and PBS on March 28
“This doc was shot over the course of five years and tells the story of Khabar Lahariya, the only news source in India run by Dalit women, one of the most oppressed groups within South Asian society. Armed with their smartphones and a fire to uncover India’s most corrupt and dark secrets, these journalists are a testament to the passion, power and rage that burns inside of Dalit women. From interviewing sexual assault victims to exposing illegal quarrying, the journalists at Khabar Lahariya are bringing the truth to the masses through their YouTube channel (which is still active!). Unwittingly, the documentary also tracks the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the insurgency of Hindutva across the nation. It is a powerful, witty and amazing documentary, which deservedly also secured an Oscar nomination.” ― Kaneeka Kapur, the founder of Pardesi, a platform that empowers South Asian women around the world
“Losing Ground” on Criterion Collection
“Kathleen Collins’ previously-thought-lost film, ‘Losing Ground,’ would simply be a gem for being a narrative for focusing on a Black woman discovering herself and experiencing a range of emotions, including joy. Yet Collins’ film does more than that and gives us Sara, who has a full character arc and is a character that the audience can become emotionally invested in. ‘Losing Ground’ is a fine example of the complexities of a Black woman on screen that I’m overjoyed was finally able to see the light of day once more, thanks to the efforts of Collin’s daughter Nina Lorez Collins.” ― Carrie McClain, a writer, editor, media scholar and contributor for sites including But Why Tho, WWAC and Black Nerd Problems
“Ricki and the Flash” on Tubi
“Few things in this world bring me more joy than ‘Ricki and the Flash,’ Diablo Cody’s 2015 film about an aging aspiring rock star named Ricki Rendazzo (née Linda), played by none other than Meryl Streep. When we meet Ricki, she has long abandoned her nuclear family in the Midwest in pursuit of her artistic dreams. She’s broke, supporting herself by working shifts at a Whole Foods-esque grocery store while playing gigs at the local watering hole with her band, The Flash. Then she gets word that her daughter, Julie (played by Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer), has attempted suicide in the wake of a bitter divorce, and she returns home, where she must deal with her ex-husband, her children, and their long-standing resentment of her.
Ricki’s character is complex in a way that women ― and particularly women over 40 ― are rarely allowed to be on screen: She’s simultaneously empathetic and selfish, hopeful and cynical, open-minded and Republican. And she’s navigating the kinds of conflicts that have plagued women for centuries but which culture has rarely taken seriously: whether to raise children or make art, whether to chase youth or embrace age, whether to love a man or love herself.
Mostly, though, ‘Ricki and the Flash’ is a whole lot of fun. In addition to several rollicking covers of classic rock songs, there’s an original song by Jenny Lewis, another multifaceted woman worthy of celebration, complete with a raucous group dance number. Sometimes, I think of ‘Ricki and the Flash’ as a spiritual sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’ (even though I adore ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’). It’s what happens after Meryl Streep gets off the Greek island and realizes she’s in debt and sort of unhappy. Life unfolds in the way that it does for a lot of women. It gets thornier and heavier and uglier, with plenty of musical numbers and margaritas to help ease the pain.” ― Rebecca Brill, a writer whose essays have appeared in The Paris Review Daily and VICE, and the creator of the Twitter account Sylvia Plath’s Food Diary
“Cousins” (2021) on Netflix
“I recommend the movie ‘Cousins,’ directed by two Māori women, Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, set in New Zealand – or Aotearoa. It’s a lush and poetic film based on Patricia Grace’s 1992 novel about the diverging lives of three cousins after one of them was taken from her family by her white father in the 1940s and forced to grow up in an orphanage, part of the ‘stolen generation.’ The film explores Māori women’s fight to preserve Indigenous land, the enduring ties of family amid colonialist policies, and the complicated struggle of Māori women against patriarchal traditions like arranged marriage. Most of all, it’s visually ravishing and incredibly moving.” ― Leta Hong Fincher, the author of “Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China”
“Aside from being hilarious and entertaining, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut ‘Booksmart’ is a beautiful reminder for women at any age to embrace the multidimensionality within us. In the film, two besties make it their mission to avoid partying in high school so that they can stay focused, get into an Ivy League school and become the next feminist icons. Without spoiling anything, they realize that their plan worked against them, getting them typecast into roles that weren’t necessarily true to who they are at their core. And so, they become determined to find redemption the night before graduation.
One of the harsh yet true experiences of being a woman is that people underestimate your intelligence. So often, that leads to placing achievement and accolades on a pedestal in order to prove everyone wrong and stake a claim on our worth. In the process, we can also sometimes overlook or fear sharing the other aspects of ourselves ― being fun, adventurous and sexy ― in order to be taken seriously. This film reminds us to embrace the journey and all of the different versions of ourselves that come alive during the process.” ― Bruna Nessif, author of “Let That Shit Go” and the host of the “Return to Self” podcast
“Mosquita y Mari” on Netflix
“‘Mosquita y Mari’ is a tender coming-of-age indie film about two young Latinas living in Los Angeles who are slowly discovering their sexuality and their complicated feelings toward each other. The movie was written and directed by Indigenous queer filmmaker Aurora Guerrero back in 2012 and it was such a groundbreaking film at the time. It feels even more relevant now.” ― Lilliam Rivera, the author of “We Light Up the Sky”
“Knocking” on Amazon Prime
“I recommend this psychological thriller from Frida Kempff and Emma Broström about trauma. The movie opens with our main character, Molly, resting on a beach. In her last moments of tranquility, her girlfriend throws herself into the sea. The next time we see Molly, she is checking herself out from a mental ward.
She settles into her new apartment alone but begins to hear strange knocking and the sounds of a crying woman coming from the air vents. Convinced the woman she hears is being abused, she desperately, manically searches for the source of the noise by soliciting help from the men who inhabit the apartment building, sure that one of them is responsible. The film heightens the devastating effects of gaslighting and the path women traverse to gain ground in helping survivors of abuse, especially when paired with navigating the pain of their own lives after trauma.
No one around her believes her. What makes this film powerful to me is how much I related to it. In moving through the world, I’ve had to teach myself, over and over again, to trust my own gut, to advocate for myself when I know something is crucial or important when otherwise, my experience, pain or knowledge is so easily dismissed ― whether interpersonally or in the workplace due to structural power imbalances.” ― Elle Nash, the author of “Animals Eat Each Other,” “Nudes,” and “Gag Reflex”
“Inspired by a little-known true story, spies from all over the world team up to stop the demise of freedom as we know it. Starring Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing, you get the luxury of watching badass perfect angels ― I mean women ― in the roles that traditionally have gone to men. Essentially, it’s an action movie you can finally connect to. Society loves to push the false narrative that women can’t hold their own, and ‘The 355’ proves repeatedly that is simply not true. It was honestly the best action movie I’ve seen ― you can tell the stans of the ‘Ocean’s 11’ and the Borne franchises to fight me on that. Not literally, though; I’m not an international spy, I’m a comedian with mommy issues and a bad back.” ― Harper-Rose Drummond, a comedian and the host of the “Tea Time Podcast”