Today we thought we'd share some of our favorite female-led sports films because who doesn't love inspirational, unapologetically awesome leading ladies?!
In all seriousness, media portrayals of females can strongly impact young girls who tend to be most impressionable in their youth, so films that highlight strong, empathetic, capable young women are always winners in our book.
The way women are captured in film and TV is a powerful thing. The big screen is a pervasive tool that is meant to capture and reflect back the society it is a part of. Every time a woman is depicted as a mere decorative side-character, an attractive prop to inflate the ego of her leading counterpart, a young girl is reminded that this is her role as seen through the eyes of her society. The message is cemented that these are the cards she has been dealt, this is the mold that has been left for her to fill.
Conversely, the same holds true when young girls are presented with depictions of themselves as smart, thoughtful, interesting and multi-dimensional individuals. It becomes a form of validation for a young girl's ambition to see an example she can identify with, a version of herself where she is the main character of her own story, not necessarily for her looks or relationship with a man but because she has her own story worth telling. So here's to more Jesminder's, may there be many more like her in the years to come.
If you're ever in need of some motivation to feel like the unstoppable lady boss you are, or if you just want an excuse to watch some thoroughly enjoyable movies on your couch with some popcorn, here are a few of our favorite athletic movies featuring fierce female leads!
(In no particular order)
1. A League of Their Own (1992 - Penny Marshall)
This film revolves around the real-life all-girls professional baseball team started during World War II and tells the story of the creation of the team during the height of the War. During this time since most of the male baseball players were sent off to battle there was a shortage of players so recruiters began to look at female players for substitutes. Dottie & Kit, two rival sisters get scouted to come to Chicago to try out for the team and end up with an alcoholic Tom Hanks (Jimmy Dugan) as their coach! As is to be expected during the time period the all-girls team is met with plenty of jeers and incredulity upon their arrival but that does nothing to dampen their spirits. The film shows their journey, both as a team and as individuals, to the World Series, and is full of laughs and deeply riveting clashes. If that wasn't enough to get you interested Madonna aka the Queen of Pop is in it too.
2. Million Dollar Baby (2004 - Clint Eastwood)
Good ol Clint, back at it again with some phenomenal directing. Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman are an unbeatable trio in telling the tale of a relentless young woman named Maggie who's determined to become a professional boxer. Maggie (Swank) shows up to Frankie's (Eastwood) studio demanding he help train her, and Frankie who comes across as harsh and unwelcoming is at first extremely resistant, but Maggie insists. Eventually he succumbs and thus begins their enchanting journey into the depths of the boxing world. As Maggie's talent grows so too does their bond. It's a deeply moving film and definitely a must watch in our humble opinion with some incredible acting.
3. Center Stage (2000 - Nicholas Hytner)
This story revolves around a group of teenagers who enter the prestigious American Ballet Academy where they're all under immense pressure (both physically and mentally) to train to the bone in hopes that they'll be asked to join the American Ballet Company. The movie doesn't showcase the life of a ballerina as all glitz and glam, it sheds light on the immense athleticism and dedication it takes to survive in the ballet world. The three female leads, all equally different and complex, go through their own personal journeys throughout the film. The story is captivating and the dancing scenes interwoven throughout are a joy to watch.
4. Bend it Like Beckham (2003 - Gurinder Chadha)
Jesminder Bjamra (aka Jess) comes from a traditional Indian household where her mother only sees soccer as a medium through which girls can show off their legs. Despite the lack of support from her family she continues to harbor her passion for soccer (or football if you like), and often vents to her beloved David Beckham poster in her room. She meets a girl from a professional soccer team who wants to scout her to join their team. Does she make the team? Does she ever meet her insanely handsome idol David Beckham? Well that's why the movie exists people, we're not telling.
5. Ice Princess (2005 - Tim Fywell)
A break from the soccer scene, this story revolves around the studious, well-to do young girl named Casey who, instead of following in her mother's footsteps and going to an Ivy League wants to follow her passion of ice skating. Though essentially everyone in her inner circle discourages her from doing so she is able to find strength from her own belief in herself and her personal drive. It's by no means an easy journey, but through it she deepens her passion for the sport and finds there is no better catalyst to fulfill her dreams than her own desire to achieve them.
6. Shes the Man (2006 - Andy Fickman)
Another soccer tale, where Viola, a brash, fearless, passionate young girl wants to make her professional soccer dreams come true. She finds just the perfect opportunity when her twin brother Sebastian makes the cut for a renown soccer club and is unable to attend. Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy in order to prove to the world that she's just as deserving as any of them to be a part of the team. Did we mention Channing Tatum's in it?
So there you have it, a few of our favorite sports films that exemplify dynamic, independent young women. By no means are we saying these films are perfect but they highlight that girls can be powerful leading roles and signal a break from the average male-dominated sports films where girls are made to be simple side characters. They're also a ton of fun to watch people!
A few honorable mentions -
Serena (2014 Susanne Bier)
Secretariat (2010 Randall Wallace)
The Cutting Edge (1992 Paul Michael Glaser)
Whip It (2009 - Drew Barrymore)
Blue Crush (2002 - John Stockwell)
Motocrossed (2001 Steve Boyum)
Gotta Kick it Up! (2002 Ramón Menéndez)
Stick It (2006 Jessica Bendinger)
What are some of your favorites from this genre? Any that we missed? Let us know in the comments!