Silver Screen Heroes

by Katherine Griffin


When it’s time to kick back with a film, sometimes it’s great to see working women in action—figuring out how to succeed regardless of obstacles like clueless bosses, sexism, and other obstructions. Here are some of the best.

9 to 5 (1980) • Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin band together to push back against a disrespectful, harassing boss. (Sound familiar?)

Working Girl (1988) • Melanie Griffith is a secretary whose boss (Sigourney Weaver) steals her idea. Griffith is so incensed that she pretends to head honcho Harrison Ford that she’s the department head—and eventually gets the credit she’s due.

Fargo (1996) •
Frances McDormand plays pregnant police chief Marge Gunderson, the moral center of this dark but funny crime film set in the snowy Midwest. In investigating (and solving) a kidnapping and multiple homicides, Gunderson proves herself smarter than the perpetrators as well as her law-enforcement colleagues.

Erin Brockovich (2000) •
The riveting story follows an unemployed California single mother who becomes a legal investigator and turns up evidence to prove a major utility has been exposing local residents to contaminated water. Julia Roberts plays Brockovich.

Up in the Air (2009) • Recent college graduate Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) wants to make her mark, but is paired with a vain, shallow corporate downsizer (George Clooney). Clooney’s character thwarts her at first, but she earns his respect and he helps her move on to the job she really wants.

Joy (2015) • Jennifer Lawrence won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Joy Mangano, a divorced mother who struggles against domineering family members to start a business based on a mop she designed. She gradually develops independence and strength, and her invention becomes the basis for a multimillion-dollar company.

Hidden Figures (2016) • This new film is based on the true story of three African American women—two mathematicians and an engineer—who worked for NASA in the segregated South in the 1960s. (One, 97-year-old Katherine Johnson, was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her contributions to the space program.) The film stars Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.

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