1 How to Marry a Millionaire
This choice will probably be controversial. No doubt there are people who confuse a list of films about women with a list of feminist films. I don’t care about that. I care that films portray a wide variety of women’s experiences and a wide variety of women. There are women who want nothing more than to marry a rich man, and I am not going to judge them and tell them that their experiences are not valid or cannot be the subject of stories.
Plus, this movie is fun. It stars Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall and uses its stars wonderfully. There are three little winks to the audience about the identity of each of the stars, and I found that delightful. It’s a light, fluffy film about what women say they want in relationships and marriage, and what they really want. It also questions whether or not we should choose spouses intellectually or emotionally.
Some people may be surprised by this film’s inclusion in the list. After all, the title of the movie is Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, while he did receive top billing for this movie, the protagonist is clearly Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton. Terminator tells the story of a cyborg, a machine covered with human tissue, that is sent back in time to kill a woman named Sarah Connor, whose son will lead the human resistance against the machines. It’s a great action film, and I like the journey that Sarah’s character goes through in the course of this film.
Many people talk about how men find it difficult to relate to female protagonists. Relate may not be the right word. They can understand them, sympathize with them, and even like them, but they do not identify with them the way they do with men. In large part, they do not have the opportunity to practice putting themselves in the woman’s position. This is a good opportunity.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by John Patrick Shanley, this film tells the story of a Catholic school in the early 1960’s. The head nun begins to suspect that the priest may be molesting a young boy at the school, the first black child to attend. This film is very much driven by its characters, played masterfully by Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. Viola Davis appears in only one scene, and yet she is completely unforgettable. (She was robbed for Best Supporting Actress, imo.) Each one of the cast were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.
It’s a film that requires and inspires thought about a wide variety of subjects, including about the nature of faith, doubt, and certainty. Characters that seem one dimensional and stock at the beginning of the film show surprising variation and complexity by the end of the film. It’s also a great film to share with others because, like members of a jury, every person sees the events of the film in a slightly different way. The playwright even said that the final act of the play takes place after the curtain call, when the audience tries to come to a consensus over what actually happened.
See this film and then pass it on.