In some ways, the 2010s belonged to women in Hollywood. The last ten years saw a renewed resurgence of conversations about diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. Actresses and filmmakers sharing their stories of sexual assault or exploitation became among the first to usher in the #MeToo movement and change the way the public talks about gender violence and discrimination. Yet, for all the many strides these past several years, there continues to be a lack of women behind and in front of the camera and throughout several branches of craft and technical fields of the business.
Women characters have yet to reach on-screen parity with their male counterparts, actresses’ careers have impossibly shorter shelf lives than their male co-stars, and women still face a daunting wage gap throughout the industry. There’s a lot of work left to be done on and off the screen, but for now, let’s celebrate a handful of the amazing stories and performances that did make it to the big screen:
Photo credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories
10. Elaine, "The Love Witch"
As much a style icon as she is a character (maybe even more so), Anna Biller’s colorfully retro spell-caster Elaine (Samantha Robinson) took viewers on a charming tale of love, lust and ruination in her 2016 movie “The Love Witch.” Channeling a 1960s-inspired style, Elaine enchanted men (and some women) with her wardrobe of pastel pink, bold red or lacy black ensembles, a softly coiffed hairdo, a large statement necklace and bright sky blue eyeshadow lined with winged tips; by comparison, her homemade love potions looked much less appealing. Biller’s use of old-school cinematic and fashion aesthetics made “The Love Witch” one of the standout horror movies in the last decade.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
9. Amy, "Gone Girl"
Well, we can’t all be role models. In the case of Amy (Rosamund Pike), she’s the mastermind behind a grotesque ruse. After the former perfect good-girl-gone-bad disappears, her husband (Ben Affleck) is questioned and suspected by an outraged public and her family, but the real answer behind Amy’s disappearance is much darker than any of the movie’s characters ever imagined. Pike gives a delightfully chilling performance that’s haunted audiences ever since David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s book first made it into theaters.
Photo credit: The Weinstein Co.
8. Carol and Therese, "Carol"
There’s no heartache like heartbreak, and in the case of “Carol,” Todd Haynes beautifully captures the longing, the heavy sighs, and many tears of two lovers kept apart by a homophobic society. Over holiday shopping, Therese (Rooney Mara) falls for the mysteriously glamorous Carol (Cate Blanchett), and the two embark on a passionate affair before social concerns and Carol’s jealous husband interfere. Thanks to the deeply absorbing story from Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt” and the stunning performances from its lead actors, “Carol” has quickly become a modern-day classic.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures
7. Lisa, "Support the Girls"
If only there were more managers like Lisa (Regina Hall) in the world. As the on-duty boss in Andrew Bujalski’s workplace dramedy “Support the Girls,” Lisa not only fulfills her managerial duties at the sports-bar restaurant but also serves as her employees’ confidant and caretaker. She makes sure the people in her life are taken care of, no matter what they need, even as she’s increasingly pushed to her limit by their various demands. Hall gives an excellent performance among an ensemble that includes Shayna McHayle (also known as rapper Junglepussy), Haley Lu Richardson and Dylan Gelula.
Photo credit: Vice Films
6. The Girl, "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night"
An understated avenger clad only in a chador, a striped t-shirt, jeans, a skateboard and eyeliner, the unlikely hero of Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian Western “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” preys on men who underestimate her vampiric powers and helps another woman escape from bad guys. Known only as “The Girl” (Sheila Vand), she looks as if she’s listlessly floating along on her skateboard in this stark black-and-white, neo-noir-tinged horror movie.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
5. Dina, "Girls Trip"
Bursting onto the scene in this unforgettable role as everyone’s rowdiest friend, Tiffany Haddish more or less runs away with “Girls Trip” with her energy, comedic delivery and outrageous performance opposite co-stars Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah. As the unruliest of the “Girls,” Haddish’s Dina is the life of the group’s party in New Orleans. She’s not afraid of a little gross humor or over-the-top behavior, and her character is there to be both the fairy drunkmother of the group and the friend who’s unafraid to tell off a guy.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
4. Rachel Chu, "Crazy Rich Asians"
When we first meet, Rachel (Constance Wu), she’s in the middle of teaching a lesson about game theory to an auditorium full of college kids. Later that night, the accomplished professor agrees to meet the difficult family of her boyfriend (Henry Golding), not realizing that he’s the son of one of the richest families in Singapore. Not only will Rachel have to justify her love for her fiancé against doubters, but she’s also forced to also win over her disapproving potential mother-in-law (Michelle Yeoh) and endure some mean-girl behavior from other women in and around the family. Rachel’s a conflicted character who’s unsure if she can ever measure up to their impossible expectations. Her fight to love who she loves feels brave and daring, a reaffirmation that we too are worthy of such love, no matter our social status.
Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios
3. Rey, "Star Wars - Episode VIII: The Last Jedi"
Taking the lead from Luke and Anakin Skywalker, Rey (Daisy Ridley) became the first female character to lead one of the “Star Wars” movies. After the underwhelming development of Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) in the prequels, Rey felt like a fresh overhaul, closer to her more daring predecessor, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the original trilogy, now a general in the latest movies. She’s the caring yet impatient antithesis to the Dark Side’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and their evolving dynamic has been one of the most talked-about developments in the series. Rey will have one more episode before the decade is out with the last entry to this current trilogy, “Star Wars - Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
2. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, "Hidden Figures"
Based on the true story of some of NASA’s first Black women scientists, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), “Hidden Figures” brought this underseen chapter in history to the fore, introducing a generation of young girls (and women) to a trio of real-life heroes. In the recent push to tell stories from underrepresented communities, not all have been successful, but thanks to the moving performances of Henson, Spencer and Monáe, “Hidden Figures” even raised the profiles of its subjects
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
1. Furiosa, "Mad Max: Fury Road"
When audiences showed up to George Miller’s latest entry into the “Mad Max” franchise, few anticipated the many twists and turns taken by the normally male-driven dystopian franchise. While Max (Tom Hardy) is still a central character, he was outshone by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a new road warrior who liberated women held captive for breeding by an evil warlord. The action-fueled sequel did not disappoint when it came to impossible car stunts and eye-popping visuals, and many viewers were enthralled by Furiosa’s feminist quest to search for a better life for her and for others.