12 Empowering And Inspiring Documentaries About Women That Everyone Needs To Watch

These ladies are sure to inspire

The world of documentaries can be overwhelming and seem never-ending. No matter the topic, broad or obscure, there is likely a documentary that has already been made about it.

And while the films are made to bring much-needed awareness, whether that be to true crime or to systematic racism, feminism is another topic worth diving into.

From personal stories to wide-scale investigations, a documentary can offer a first-hand look into the experiences of women from all walks of life. And better yet, said films can shine a light on the people and their challenges that many us know little to nothing about. 

Covering workplace sexism, gender-based violence, mental health, racism—the list goes on—there are a plethora of documentaries that should be essential viewing not just for women, but for all.

Below, we’ve rounded up 12 of the most inspirational, empowering and emotional documentaries that focus on women that every person should add to their must-watch list.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

Based on the life of legendary recording artist and well-known civil rights activist, Nina Simone, What Happened, Miss Simone? follows the life of the cultural icon, examining how depression, abuse, and stardom shaped her into the woman she ultimately became—proving just how closely fame and tragedy can go hand in hand.

Watch it here.

Miss Representation (2011)

Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, and others turn the spotlight on the most pervasive perpetrator of sexism: the media. The documentary draws focus toward how the mainstream media tells women that their worth is measured by their beauty, desirability, and youth—rather than her intelligence, ambition, or character. This mentatility has a damaging impact on the children who grow up seeing these imagesand believing that it represents their value and place in the world.

Watch it here.

Becoming (2020)

Since the Trump election, the world has sorely missed the Obama family. Thankfully, Michelle Obama’s documentary Becoming provides a much-needed dose of humanity and kindness. Sharing the same title as her best-selling memoir, the documentary provides a behind-the-scenes look at the former First Lady’s 34 city book tour and the connections she made and life lessons she learned along the way.

Watch it here.

Heroin(e) (2017)

Oscar-nominated Heroin(e) follows three courageous women as they work to restore a small town in West Virginia to what it was before the opioid drug epidemic took hold. A judge, a fire chief, and a street missionary work together to help their community recover from the devastating effects of drug abuse.

Watch it here.

RBG (2018)

RBG is a biographical documentary following the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as an exploration of the pop cultural fame she has grown to have. Serving as the second female—after Sandra Day O’Conner—to hold a seat in the Supreme Court, the film documenting the hurdles and prejudices that she endured. Her inspiration story is a must-watch.
Watch it here.

Knock Down The House (2019)

Knock Down the House follows the campaigns of four women who ran for Congress in 2018: Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela. Rachel Lears documented the women’s journeys.
Watch it here.

Ladies First (2017)

Ladies First follows 18-year-old Deepika Kumari, born in the Indian village of Ratu, who rises to become the best female archer in the world, despite living in a society amid abject poverty and limited women’s rights. 

Watch it here.

The Hunting Ground (2015)

The Hunting Ground tackles the heartbreaking pandemic of sexual assault on college campuses across the U.S. Each of the women’s stories is horrific, however what happens after is equally despicable. As their school administrations constantly attempt to downplay or cover up crimes to protect their reputations, their focus is to keep tuition money and alumni contributions rolling in. Meanwhile, the survivors face social stigma, victim-blaming, retaliation from their peers, untreated trauma, and roadblocks to pursuing their education.

Watch it here.

Gaga: Five Foot Two (2018)

Leading up to her 2017 Super Bowl halftime performance, Five Foot Two offers an intimate look into the life of Lady Gaga, including the pop star’s daily physical and emotional health struggles. Whether you’re a fan of Gaga or not, the insight into the immense hurdles she’s had to overcome should make this is your next must-watch.

Watch it here.

Period. End Of Sentence. (2018)

Even in 2020, the topic of menstruation is considered a taboo subject by many. Period. End Of Sentence. is the Oscar-winning Netflix documentary that focuses on a group of Indian women who fought for better access to secure sanitary products, and decided to begin manufacturing their own sanitary pads. The film also highlights how important it is for men to be allies, and why the shame surrounding menstruation needs to be put to an end once and for all.

Watch it here.

Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea. (2019)

Chelsea Handler looks deeper at the stark realities of white privilege, and the damaging effect that it has. From how it has impacted culture, to the ways in which it has benefited her own career, Handler takes a microscope to the problems in our society that have stemmed from racial injustice.

Watch it here.

Brené Brown: The Call To Courage (2019)

On a brighter note, Brené Brown’s Call To Courage shares her views on courage and vulnerability. The professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host’s research focuses on topics like shame and empathy, which somehow makes this film a mix between a motivational speech and a stand-up comedy special. You’ll laugh, learn, and hopefully have more than a couple inspirational tips to take away.

Watch it here.

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