Several female-driven movies like Black Widow, Cruella, and Resident Evil are set to hit theaters this 2021. But if you can no longer wait for the theatrical releases of these films and badly need some inspiration from strong female characters, then you have Netflix to turn to for help. The streaming giant has an amazing selection of movies featuring female leads who take risks, seek the truth, fight for what is right, and survive unimaginable hardships in life. Continue reading for a list of the best movies with strong female leads on Netflix.
Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan, Mudbound stars Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan as two household matriarchs who develop an unconventional friendship right after World War II. The Dee Rees-directed historical drama earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Original Song, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Blige.
#2 Marriage Story
Directed by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story tells the story of a married couple, an actress (Scarlett Johansson) and a stage director (Adam Driver), going through a coast-to-coast divorce. Laura Dern, who plays Johansson’s divorce lawyer in the movie, won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 92nd Academy Awards. Both Johansson and Driver also earned Oscar nods for their performances in the film, which was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score.
#3 She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee’s first feature-length film, She’s Gotta Have It follows Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), a Brooklyn-based artist in her late twenties who is struggling to define herself and divide her time amongst her friends, her job, and her three lovers: cultured model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell), protective investment banker Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), and b-boy sneakerhead Mars Blackmon played by Lee himself. The comedy-drama film earned positive reviews from critics who praised the movie for showing that a woman can be a sexual being without belonging to a man.
#4 Gerald’s Game
Based on Stephen King’s 1992 novel of the same name, Gerald’s Game stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as a married couple who tries to spice up their marriage in a remote lake house. When the husband dies of a sudden heart attack following a kinky game, the wife is left handcuffed to their bed frame and must find a way to survive and break free, all while battling her inner demons. Gugino’s career-defining performance in the psychological horror thriller was well-applauded by critics.
#5 Enola Holmes
Starring Millie Bobby Brown in the titular role, Enola Holmes follows Sherlock Holmes’ teenage sister who sets off to find her missing mother while outsmarting her famous detective brother and helping a runaway lord escape a dangerous conspiracy with her extraordinary sleuthing skills. Debuted on Netflix in September 2020, the Harry Bradbeer-directed movie was hailed by critics and viewers alike. While a sequel has not been officially announced, both Brown and Bradbeer have already expressed interest in developing a follow-up.
#6 The Incredible Jessica James
Rom-com The Incredible Jessica James follows Jessica (Jessica Williams), a fiercely independent woman trying to get over a recent break-up. Jessica’s best friend Tasha (Noël Wells) sets her up on a blind date with Boone (Chris O’Dowd), who happens to be recovering from a recent divorce. The two hit it off unintentionally and together, they figure out a way to make it in a “post-relationship” world. While the James C. Strouse-directed movie has a typical storyline, Williams’ outstanding performance made the plot feel new.
#7 Pride & Prejudice
An adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of the same name, Pride & Prejudice centers on five sisters from an English family of landed gentry who deal with issues of marriage, morality, and misconceptions. Keira Knightley stars in the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet, the eldest of the siblings who face mounting pressure from her parents to marry. Sparks fly when Elizabeth is introduced to the rich and handsome Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). But Darcy’s overly reserved personality threatens the blooming relationship.
Though the movie is one of the many live-action adaptations of the beloved novel, great performances from the cast and modern filmmaking sensibilities made the period piece fresh and enjoyable to watch. The Joe Wright-directed film received four Oscar nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Knightley.
A coming-of-age comedy film, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean “Dumplin’” Dickson (Danielle Macdonald), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston) who signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest. Things escalated when other contestants follow her footsteps, ultimately revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. The Netflix original movie was directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Kristin Hahn.
Written and directed by Sian Heder, Tallulah stars Elliot Page as the titular character, a young woman who unexpectedly takes a baby from her irresponsible Beverly Hills mother and pretends the child is her own. Without a place to stay, Tallulah asks for help from her ex-boyfriend’s mother (Allison Janney), telling her the baby is her granddaughter.
The film was inspired by Heder’s personal experience of working as a babysitter for hotel guests in Los Angeles, when she was once required to look after a toddler whose neglectful mother had come to a Beverly Hills hotel to have an extramarital affair.
#10 Someone Great
A romantic comedy about love, loss, growth, and the everlasting bond of female friendship, Someone Great follows a music journalist (Gina Rodriguez) who decides to go on a last hurrah with her two best friends (Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise) in New York City after her boyfriend dumps her right before she is due to move to San Francisco to take her dream job. While lacking originality, the movie is full of charm and relatability, thanks to the amazing chemistry between its trio of leads.
#11 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Set in the aftermath of World War II, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society follows Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a London-based writer who forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war. Despite her editor’s reservations, Juliet visits the island herself to get a better picture of what it was like during the occupation.
A co-production between the U.S., U.K., and France, the period drama is based on the 2008 novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
#12 The Old Guard
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name by Greg Rucka, The Old Guard stars Charlize Theron as Andy, the leader of a group of tight-knit immortal mercenaries that has protected the mortal world for centuries. But when their extraordinary abilities are exposed during an emergency mission, the team must come together more than ever to eliminate those who seek to replicate and monetize their power. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the superhero movie received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the action sequences and Theron’s performance.
#13 To the Bone
Written and directed by Marti Noxon, To the Bone stars Lily James as a 20-year-old woman who battles anorexia. After spending the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various recovery programs that only made her several pounds lighter every time, she is sent by her dysfunctional family to a group home for youths led by a non-traditional doctor (Keanu Reeves).
Surprised by the unusual rules in the group home, she must discover for herself how to confront her addiction and attempt self-acceptance. Acclaimed by critics, the drama film is described as an insightful and empathetic look at anorexia, which is made more perceptive by Collins’ exceptional performance in the lead role.
#14 Lost Girls
Based on the book Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker, Lost Girls stars Amy Ryan as the real-life activist Mari Gilbert who launches her own investigation into her daughter’s disappearance and inadvertently discovers a wave of unsolved murders of young female sex workers committed by a mysterious serial killer. Aside from Ryan’s well-applauded acting, the mystery drama film also features powerful performances from Thomasin McKenzie, Gabriel Byrne, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, and more.
#15 Nappily Ever After
An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas, Nappily Ever After depicts black female empowerment in a fresh way. Smart and socially conscious, the movie stars Sanaa Lathan as Violet Jones, an advertising executive who has been with her doctor boyfriend (Ricky Whittle) for two years. Tired of waiting for him to propose, Violet breaks up with him. But after an accident at a hair salon makes her realize that she’s not living life to the fullest, a soulful barber helps her piece her life back together.
#16 Falling Inn Love
An original Netflix film, Falling Inn Love stars Christina Milian as Gabriela Diaz, an owner of a San Francisco-based design firm who teams up with Kiwi restoration expert Jake Taylor (Adam Demos) in renovating a rustic New Zealand inn that she won in a contest following her breakup from her non-committed boyfriend. The story takes an interesting turn near the end of the project when Gabriela refuses to leave Jake, the inn, and the New Zealand community that nurtured her creative side.
#17 Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
A modern retelling of the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser stars Shannon Purser as the title character, the biggest loser in high school who must team up with the most popular girl (Kristine Froseth) to win over their crushes following a case of mistaken identity. While this original Netflix movie is a love story at its heart, the best relationship featured in the flick is the friendship that develops between the two female leads. Directed by Ian Samuels from a screenplay by Lindsey Beer, the film also stars Noah Centineo and RJ Cyler.
#18 Love, Guaranteed
Another original Netflix film, Love, Guaranteed follows Susan Whitaker (Rachael Leigh Cook), a struggling attorney who tries to save her small Seattle-based law firm by taking a high-paying case from Nick Evans (Damon Wayans Jr.), a charming well-heeled client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees love. But as the case heats up, so do Susan and Nick’s feelings for each other. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the romantic comedy was inspired the real-life lawsuit brought against Molson Coors who claimed in their advertising that their beer was brewed using “pure Rocky Mountain spring water.”
#19 Charlie’s Angels
A continuation of the Charlie’s Angels franchise, this 2019 movie centers on Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott), the inventor of Calisto, a sustainable energy source that will change the way people use power. When the trailblazing technology falls into the wrong hands, Elena turns to the Townsend Agency for help. The private detective agency tasks its agents Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) and Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) to retrieve Calisto before it can be transformed into a weapon of mass destruction, all while recruiting Elena in the process.
#20 The First Wives Club
Based on the best-selling 1992 novel of the same name by Olivia Goldsmith, The First Wives Club stars Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler as three middle-aged divorcées who reunited for the first time in nearly 30 years at the funeral of their college friend. After learning that their friend took her life over the marriage of her ex-husband to a younger woman, the trio make a pact to get back at their exes who also left them for younger women. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the Hugh Wilson-directed movie developed a cult following and helped revitalize the careers of the three leads.
#21 Mr. Right
An action rom-com, Mr. Right centers on an over-optimistic young woman (Anna Kendrick) who discovers that her new boyfriend (Sam Rockwell) is a former professional hitman who kills the people who hire him instead of the intended targets. Despite the movie’s tonal jumble, critics praised Kendrick’s performance as well as her undeniable chemistry with Rockwell.
#22 Lila & Eve
Directed by Charles Stone III, Lila & Eve stars Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez as two grief-stricken mothers who join forces to avenge the deaths of their murdered children after local authorities fail to take action. Despite being a typical female vigilante thriller, the movie is made remarkable by the amazing performances of the two leads.
A welcome female-fronted take on classic action thrillers, Close stars Noomi Rapace, a female bodyguard hired to protect a young wealthy heiress on the run from assassins after an attempted kidnapping. Rapace’s character is based on Jacquie Davis, one of the world’s leading female bodyguards, whose clients have included J. K. Rowling, Nicole Kidman, and members of the British royal family.
A Golden Globe-nominated film, Burlesque centers on Ali (Christina Aguilera), a small-town girl with a great voice who moves to Los Angeles to follow her dreams to become a performer. She lands a job as a cocktail waitress at the Burlesque Lounge, a once-majestic theater owned and run by a former dancer named Tess (Cher). With the help of a savvy stage manager and a gender-bending host, Ali eventually makes the leap from bar to the stage and helps restore the club’s former glory.
#25 About Ray
Also marketed as 3 Generations in some countries, About Ray follows the 16-year-old titular character (Elle Fanning) who decides to transition from female to male. As Ray pursues his true identity as male, his mother (Naomi Watts) and lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon) must learn to accept him for who he is while tracking down his biological father to get his legal consent.
#26 A Bad Moms Christmas
A sequel to the 2016 comedy movie Bad Moms, A Bad Moms Christmas follows the three moms from the first film (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) as they deal with their own mothers (Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon) who unexpectedly visit them on Christmas. As if creating the perfect holiday for their families isn’t hard enough, the three under-appreciated and overburdened female leads have to do it while hosting and entertaining their own respective moms.
Based on the novel Whatever Makes You Happy by William Sutcliffe, Otherhood stars Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, and Felicity Huffman as three suburban mothers who show up to the New York City homes of their adult sons unannounced. A grounded and soulful comedy, the Cindy Chupack-directed film explores Otherhood, the stage after motherhood when a woman has to redefine her relationship with her children, friends, partner, and herself.
#28 Step Sisters
An original Netflix film, Step Sisters follows Jamilah (Megalyn Echikunwoke), a black sorority girl and the captain of the highly regarded step team who plans to attend Harvard Law School. But to get the college dean’s backing for Harvard, she must teach a band of hard-partying white sorority girls the art of Greek stepping and help them win a competitive dance competition.
#29 The Bounty Hunter
The Bounty Hunter stars Gerard Butler as Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler), a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who learns that his next target is his reporter ex-wife Nicole Hurley (Jennifer Aniston). Milo thinks the job is going to be easy, but Nicole manages to get out of his radar to chase a lead on a murder cover-up case. Soon after their reunion, the always-at-odds duo play an escalating game of one-upmanship, until they suddenly find themselves on the run for their lives.
#30 A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish
The fifth installment of A Cinderella Story film series, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish follows an aspiring singer-songwriter (Laura Marano) whose dream of making it big is stalled by her father’s death. Left in the care of her cruel stepmom and two stepsisters, Kat works as an elf at a Christmas tree lot where she starts to fall for the handsome new Santa (Gregg Sulkin) who, unknown to her, is actually the son of a billionaire.