Strong Female Characters Portrayed in the Movies
These roles represent women as strong and hard-working individuals who must face adversity before tasting the joys of success.
Because there are so many movies that portray women this way, I listed those which came to mind first. They are more recent films (i.e. made within the last 20 years) and listed in no specific order.
Paula Patton, Precious (2009)
In what is perhaps 2009's most heartbreaking film, Paula Patton acts as a teacher and mentor to the title character in Precious. Gabourey Sidibe plays an obese teenager who lives a life of horror in the Bronx. Abused by both her mother (Mo'Nique) and her mother's boyfriend, Precious already has two children by her so-called father figure by the time she's 14. In addition to the family situation, she also endures taunting and harassment wherever she goes because of her weight. As a beautiful teacher at a special inner city school, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) becomes a hero to Precious. Not only does she genuinely care about what's going on in her life, but she wants her to have the same opportunities as other students. Perhaps the most important thing Ms. Rain does for Precious is give her a sense of self-esteem. In the beginning, the overweight and abused teen had no confidence whatsoever. Towards the end of the movie, her teacher has made her believe she's worth something.
Speaking to Buzzsugar about Precious, Paula Patton commented on the movie's potential effects on viewers. "You laugh, you cry, you scream, and at the end of the ride, you're left shaken, but with your heart more open. What's beautiful about this film is that it breeds love."
Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich (2000)
Anyone whose seen this movie can't forget Julia Roberts as the quick-witted character of Erin Brockovich. What makes her role and the movie itself more inspiring is the fact that it's based on a true story. As a broke single mother, Erin Brockovich is hardened to a life of struggle and let-downs. She's used to doing everything on her own since history has taught her not to trust anyone or anything but her own instincts. As a result, the 34-year-old is fiery and extremely determined when it comes to protecting herself and her family. As the story later proves, Erin Brockovich is just as determined when it comes to doing what's right.
After landing a clerical job at the office of her attorney, Erin takes note of a problem occupying the residents of Hinkley, California, where people are frequently falling ill and dying. Brockovich suspects that the large power company servicing the area is abusing chromium, a toxic element which may have poisoned their water supply. While she's barely making ends meet, Erin takes the time to investigate the potential connection and visits the residents of Hinkley. In doing so she discovers a monumental lawsuit waiting to be launched against the power corporation. Though her boss doesn't want to take on such an enormous task, Erin will not budge simply because of what she's seen in visiting the affected families.
Though Erin Brockovich had seen the ugliest side of humanity in her lifetime, her mission to protect these strangers proved that under her hard exterior, there exists a truly genuine and altruistic person.
Ultimately, Erin Brockovich "adds a boost of satisfaction, proving that greed, neglect, and corporate arrogance are no match against a passionate crusader." (Jeff Shannon, Amazon review)
Halle Berry, Monster's Ball (2001)
Berry plays the mother of an obese child in the 2001 film, though it isn't the only hardship her character faces. Leticia Musgrove is also a wife on the verge of losing her husband to the electric chair. Then, while she's barely making ends meet as a waitress, her son is struck by a car. This tragic event brings Leticia to a breaking point, and she feels she can no longer bear the pain and misery that's become her life.
Monster's Ball is themed by racial prejudice in the South, which is where Leticia Musgrove lives with her son. Through fate she meets a man whom nobody would ever expect to help her. Being a single mother and an African American, Leticia endures more painful sequences before she realizing true happiness.
Through her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove, Halle Berry demonstrates the many different emotions experienced by women. She's overwhelmed and scared for her son, though she knows she's supposed to be strong for him. At the same time, Leticia is lonely and longing to be loved. For her inspirational performance in Monster's Ball, Berry won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side (2009)
Based on a touching true story, The Blind Side puts Sandra Bullock in the shoes of Leigh Anne Tuohy. As a well-to-do white woman living in the South, Leigh Anne's family decides to take in a homeless boy who has been abandoned by his mother. An imposing figure whose African American, Michael Oher doesn't exactly fit the portrait of this white picket fence family. Yet the color of his skin has no effect on the way he's treated in the Tuohy home. From the day he arrives, Michael is embraced with open arms. With her role as Leigh Anne Sandra appears determined to make a point--that nobody should be judged by the color of his or her skin. The boy's adoptive mother takes the most active role in supporting and encouraging him. Hoping he will embrace his interest in football, Leigh Anne Tuohy goes as far as to give the high school football coach tips on how to better utilize Michael's skills.
In adopting and raising Michael Oher, the Tuohy family proved that love and a positive environment are all that's needed to motivate someone to greatness.
Bullock's portrayal of this real-life character is moving, to say the very least. Leigh Anne Tuohy showed a heart of gold when she and her family took in this boy. Bullock reenacts the warmth and generosity of this woman with great conviction, and this is what makes her performance so heartfelt. She also does her best to imitate Leigh Anne's southern accent, though those who know her can tell it's a stretch. In her defense, consistently re-creating a native southern accent is next to impossible.
With her role in The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock gives the impression that like her character, she too is loving and kind off camera.
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Hilary Swank really got in shape to play the role of a boxer in this 2004 film. Despite this tough exterior, however, the role of Maggie Fitzgerald was much deeper than appearances told. Swank's character is not a wannabe, and she's determined to prove it. Frankie (Clint Eastwood), a boxing trainer and gym owner, is hesitant to train Maggie, initially saying no and sticking to the answer. The ambitious young woman's persistence pays off though, and eventually the two embark on her trip to the top of the sport. While Maggie has white trash for a family, she misses her father whom she lost when she was young. At the same time, Frankie is estranged from his daughter Kate, though the movie never reveals why. Thus the trainer and his trainee end up filling the voids in each other's lives.
A fragile-looking Hilary certainly steps out of her high-heeled shoes for her role in Million Dollar Baby. In addition to putting on all the extra muscle, she displays the heart and devotion of a real boxer in these circumstances. Her performance undoubtedly required a great deal of work, and the result is admirable. For her portrayal of Maggie Fitzgerald, Swank was awarded an Oscar.