Many biopics have one major flaw in common: they usually seem to focus on men. Sure, there have been a fair few inspiring guys throughout history, but what about all of the incredible women? There are far more female game-changers out there than you’d think – we just never hear about them. Hollywood seriously needs to address the gender imbalance in the area – and fast. To help them out, we’ve compiled a list of just some of the amazing women that deserve a feminist biopic. Some lived centuries ago; some are still changing the world today. However, they all deserve to have their story told.
16. Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was one of the most remarkable women in American history. A former slave who escaped her violent owners, Tubman guided dozens of others to safety. She was an abolitionist, a philanthropist, a heroine, and an all-around badass. During the Civil War, she acted as an armed spy and scout for the Union Army. One of the raids Tubman commandeered – that at Combahee Ferry – emancipated over 700 slaves. Why has nobody made a movie about her life yet? The world needs to hear more about Tubman’s brave, selfless, and remarkable deeds. The closest she’s ever made it to the big screen is a brief appearance in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That’s not okay. Luckily, it looks like a change is on the horizon: a biographical movie – appropriately named Harriet – is in the works. It’s about time!
15. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker is another remarkable woman of color who deserves her place in the history books. Her life story is frankly insane and in a really good way. Baker started off as an entertainer, becoming a renowned dancer within the first few years of her career. In 1934, she made history for the first time as the first person of color to star in an internationally distributed motion picture (Zouzou, if you were wondering).
However, this was just the beginning for Baker. When the Second World War hit her adopted country of France, the actress became a prominent agent for the anti-Nazi French resistance. She used her stardom as an opportunity to rendezvous with German soldiers and learn anything she could about her enemies’ movements. In the post-war period, Baker turned her attention to the American Civil Rights Movement. She almost became its leader after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. but rejected the job out of fear for her children’s safety. In short, Baker was one of the most phenomenal women in modern history. Where’s her feminist biopic at?
14. Rosalind Franklin
We seriously need to get justice for the serially maltreated Rosalind Franklin. If you’ve never heard of her, you’re another unwitting participant in one of the biggest cover-ups in scientific history. You know Watson and Crick, those guys who apparently discovered the structure of DNA? They totally stole their findings from Rosalind Franklin’s research. Nobody realized this at the time: Watson and Crick published their findings without crediting Franklin. The generally sexist attitude in the scientific research community at the time meant that nobody even considered that poor Rosalind should get some of the credit. It was only after Franklin’s death that her true role in this scientific breakthrough was revealed. Even now, very few people realize just how important she was: they only remember Watson and Crick. A biopic is just what we need to make more people aware of Franklin’s legacy.
13. Maya Angelou
The late, great Maya Angelou didn’t exactly keep the details of her life secret. She wrote no less than seven autobiographies, revealing an eventful and often shocking tale of hurt, heartbreak, and perseverance. From her days as a single mother to her later years as a lauded and much-celebrated author, there was never a dull moment in Angelou’s long life. She’s basically the ideal subject for a biopic! In fact, you could make an entire The Crown-esque series detailing her exploits over the years. There’s a serious lack of black representation in the entertainment industry – what better way to change that than to start with a feminist biopic of a woman of color? Come on, filmmakers – give the people what they both want and desperately need!
12. Marie Curie
Pretty much everyone is aware of Marie Curie and her work. She was one of the most influential scientists of all time and a woman so dedicated to studying radiation that it ultimately killed her. Curie was the first ever woman to win a Nobel Prize, was the first person to win a Nobel Prize twice, and is also the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. That’s a lot of broken records! Not only did Curie’s research hugely expand our knowledge of radioactivity, her work also allowed X-ray machines to be brought to the front lines in World War I. This remarkable woman changed the fields of physics, chemistry, and medicine forever. So why has her life never been brought to the big screen? It’s a total travesty!
11. Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood isn’t just one of the most revolutionary fashion designers of our time. She’s also a punk-rock activist who’s trying her best to change the world. Her story is a true rags-to-riches tale. Westwood went from being the daughter of a factory worker to one of the most eminent businesswomen in Britain in the space of just a few decades. Her career achievements, romantic entanglements, and various outspoken moments are all perfect material for a punk-infused biopic. Not only would viewers get to witness a true success story, they’d also get an insight into the inner workings of the 1970s punk fashion world. What’s not to love?
10. Eleanor Roosevelt
Wife of a President, human rights activist, LGBT icon… Eleanor Roosevelt was more than just your average 20th-century woman. Her list of achievements is frankly remarkable! She was the longest-serving First Lady in U.S. history, standing by F.D.R.’s side throughout his four terms in office. Likewise, she convinced her husband to remain in his role despite his partial paralysis in 1921. She had close friendships with iconic women like aviation pioneer Amelia Earheart, and allegedly had romantic relationships with both men and women. Roosevelt’s commitment to civil rights was unwavering even in the face of extensive criticism. She was a force to be reckoned with, and her story is one that needs to be told.
9. Grace Jones
Grace Jones’s long and varied career is perfect movie material. Over the last 45 years, Jones has brought her unique style and demeanor to the fashion, music, and film industries. She’s been a star of the New York disco scene, a model for Vogue and Elle, and a striking actress. Jones’s androgynous style started a fashion revolution in the 1980s, popularizing the cross-dressing movement. Echoes of her influence are still felt today: artists such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Lorde all count Jones amongst their inspirations. This fashion icon isn’t done yet, either! The Guardian recently named her one of the top 50 best-dressed people over 50. Just imagine what an artsy masterpiece a Grace Jones biopic would be. It needs to happen!
8. Marsha P. Johnson
The story of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking. Back in the late 1960s, Johnson was a prominent gay rights activist who was instrumental in the 1969 Stonewall uprising. However, Stonewall was just the beginning. Johnson continued to participate in rallies, protests, and instances of direct action for decades, demanding equal rights for LGBT individuals and raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Likewise, she set up the first shelter for gay and trans people, the S.T.A.R. House. However, Johnson’s life was cut tragically short in 1992, when she was found dead in the Hudson River. While a short film, Happy Birthday, Marsha, has been made to document Johnson’s role in the Stonewall riots, a full biopic of this legendary activist is yet to materialize. It’s perhaps needed now more than ever.
7. Sally Ride
Sally Ride is a feminist icon who needs a whole lot more love than she currently receives. She was a trailblazer on a number of levels, most famously thanks to being the first American woman in space back in 1983. However, after Ride’s death in 2012, it was revealed that she was also the first known LGBT astronaut. Her obituary revealed that psychologist Tam O’Shaughnessy had been her partner for 27 years. So, not only was Ride living proof that women could go far in STEM fields, she was also proof that LGBT individuals can do the same. Now that the world knows just how remarkable Ride was, it’s surely time to give her the biopic she deserves.
6. Aretha Franklin
How on earth has the film industry failed to produce a biopic of living legend Aretha Franklin? Well, maybe because it likes to sideline women of color… Something which obviously needs to change. Franklin has had a rich and fulfilling life that is an inspiration to women everywhere. She’s one of the best selling artists of all time and is a bona fide soul icon. In total, she’s won a staggering 18 Grammy Awards over her 60-year career. Franklin’s life hasn’t always been easy – she lost her mother at the age of 9 and first became pregnant at the age of just 12. She was a mother-of-two by age 14 and had to entrust her children to female relatives to pursue her career. Franklin is a domestic abuse survivor, a recovering addict, and an incredibly strong woman. Apparently, MGM is in talks to finally create this much-needed biopic, and Aretha has asked Jennifer Hudson to be in lead. This is AMAZING news.
5. Gloria Steinem
What better subject for a feminist biopic than one of the most influential women’s rights activists in history? Gloria Steinem has been championing the feminist cause since the late 1960s and is still active now at the age of 83. Her path through life has been a sometimes rocky one. In childhood, Steinem faced the double blows of her mother spending time in a sanatorium and her father leaving the family. As an adult, she had to fight to make her voice heard in a world so dominated by men. However, Steinem battled through misogyny to become one of the most prevalent outspoken feminists of our time. Her legacy has done much to improve the plight of women, and we’re sure her personal journey will be documented on-screen someday. It sure should be, anyway!
4. Hillary Clinton
Let’s be honest: whatever you think of the woman herself, Hillary Clinton’s life story would make a great movie. It’s got the inspirational message of Clinton’s huge success in the male-dominated field of law. Of course, you’d have to cover her years as First Lady and the huge work she did in advocating women’s rights worldwide. On a more dramatic note, there’s the personal turmoil she endured during the Lewinsky scandal and her husband Bill’s other affairs. Then, of course, there’s Clinton’s dramatic and heartbreaking loss in the 2016 Presidential election. This biopic would be a rollercoaster ride of emotions with an ultimately empowering overall message. Hillary is an inspiration to all ambitious women out there.
3. Zelda Fitzgerald
While pretty much everyone has heard of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the intriguing tale of his wife Zelda is often overlooked. Zelda’s husband nicknamed her “the first American Flapper.” Whether this is true or not, Zelda certainly became a figurehead of the 1920s Jazz Age. She led a tumultuous and often destructive life: alcohol, pills, and alleged infidelity rocked her marriage to Scott. Still, Zelda was a creative soul like her husband and produced both written and painted works. A diagnosis of schizophrenia impacted her later years, as did the deterioration of her marriage. While hers is a fraught and ultimately tragic tale, Zelda’s life would make one pretty dramatic movie. She deserves just as much attention as her husband!
2. Patti Smith
It doesn’t get much more rock-and-roll than Patti Smith. This musician, poet, and artist has made waves with her punk-rock style and unabashed activism for over 45 years now and it doesn’t look like she’ll be stopping anytime soon. Smith’s journey from clean-cut religious schoolgirl to a rebellious rock star is a fascinating one, and it’s not without its personal tragedies. Her numerous love affairs often ended in less than harmonious ways, and the sudden death of her husband in 1994 inspired the then-retired Smith to return to the music industry. She’s a complex character with some surprising anecdotes up her sleeve. Why not showcase Smith’s fascinating life on the silver screen?
1. Audrey Hepburn
While Audrey Hepburn’s acting career was itself successful enough to warrant a biopic, this remarkable woman was so much more than just the face of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sure, her days in the entertainment business were pretty impressive. Hepburn remains one of the few people to have won an Emmy, a Tony, an Academy Award, and a Grammy. However, her charity work later in life is something that’s criminally overlooked. In 1988, Hepburn undertook her first field mission for UNICEF. Over the next five years, she traveled to Ethiopia, Turkey, South America, and Vietnam to engage in humanitarian work. Even when she knew she was dying of cancer, she visited Somalia at the height of its famine. While we should, of course, remember Hepburn’s great on-screen work, we hope to see a biopic one day that covers all of her many achievements.