In recent years the development and growth of the “mean girl” phenomena has seemed to take center stage in local schools and news stories across the country.
While unfortunately, there is some truth to this modern terminology describing the challenges and competitiveness of female relationships, it is even more important to celebrate the positive aspects of these bonds. There is nothing like the fierce love and loyalty of a sister or a girlfriend to support, encourage and sustain us through the best and worst moments of life.
So, I have compiled a list of films that I have seen which celebrate the unique and necessary relationships between sisters and girlfriends. While it is a long list it is by no means exhaustive and includes both classic and modern titles.
39 FILMS FEATURING SISTERS AND GIRLFRIENDS
(In no particular order)
This recent surprise hit focuses on a bunch of collegiate female misfits who reluctantly join the campus all-female acapella glee club. The remaining members are determined to avenge their humiliation from the year before, but the newest members aren’t too fond of the rigorous training they are subjected to, in hopes of winning Nationals. Despite their differences, the girls eventually learn to respect and trust each other.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexuality, language, and drug references.
Confession time. Who didn’t want to become part of The Pink Ladies the first time they watched Grease? Though too cool for school and somewhat rebellious they take innocent international student Sandy under their collective wing mostly thanks to Frenchie’s tender heart. Still, despite Rizzo’s jealousy when Sandy dates the leader of their male counterparts the T-Birds, the girls stick together through Sandy’s breakup, Rizzo’s pregnancy scare, Frenchie’s utter career failure and other misadventures.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual references, language, teenage smoking, and drug use
Three models living in New York City decide to pool their earnings to rent a swanky apartment. They hope to lure rich men into their lair with the end goal being marriage. These charming gold-diggers stick together, even when down to their last penny and despite the lack of integrity in the wealthy men chasing after them. But when real love comes calling will they stick to their agreement?
A unique Western which features a group of women with few other options. They are recruited to become wives for a group of men out west where women are scarce. Although they have a male trail guide and cook, for the most part, the arduous journey across some isolated and dangerous territory forces the women to work together, to accomplish tasks usually left to men and to defend themselves along the way. It’s a harsh trip with only the hope of a marriage and better life at the end of it. It’s an honest if not brutal look at what women are truly capable of when forced to rise to the occasion.
Sing along with me now, ” We are the members of the All-American league…” Two sisters join an all-female baseball team during WWII. Aside from Tom Hanks, you can’t get a more female-centric film than this one. Not only do we get to see the ups and downs of the sisters’ relationship, but we get to watch a whole team of women play a sport which was traditionally played by men. This is the ultimate girl power film!
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Carole Lombard is a classic film actress most famous for her comedies. This is considered one of her lesser dramatic films. But I find it to be a beautiful story about an older sister willing to cover for the mistake of a younger sister, which costs her a plum nursing job. Being the oldest sister myself, I can relate to the protective love and care which would motivate such a sacrifice.
As a woman who cannot relate to the feeling of comparing yourself to your more beautiful sister or friend? Inspired by a true story, this follows career minded Ruth and her beautiful more out-going sister as they move to Greenwich Village in New York. Ruth desperately wants to be taken seriously as a reporter. And Eileen? Thanks to her guileless beauty she keeps picking up stray men who follow her home. There are two versions of this film and I prefer this non-musical one.
If this film doesn’t take me right back to my high school days… Two longtime friends decide to return in triumph to their ten-year class reunion. They concoct a false life for themselves to prove that they are not the same unpopular girls who were picked on all those years ago. Let’s be honest, who of us has not been tempted to make our life appear better than it is. This is just pure candy-sweet fun.
Content Note: Rated R mainly for profanity. Some sexual references.
The story of two identical sets of twins who get mixed up at birth. One set is raised in the country and the other by wealthy parents in the city. It’s a comedy of errors enhanced by Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. It doesn’t really get better than two sets of sisters, does it?
Who doesn’t love this Louisa May Alcott classic? The story of the four March sisters has been translated to film several times. It’s a charming tale of family, love, and loyalty which is so large that it encompasses their next door neighbors as well. Having two sisters of my own I can relate to the closeness and also the bickering caused by differences among the sisters. Still, their family bond is stronger than any pettiness or misunderstandings.
The story of four sisters, their bond and their individual forays into romance. Two of them find themselves in love with the same man but they don’t let it ruin their relationship. One of the things I love about this film is that three out of the four sisters were played by actual real-life sisters from the musical Lane family.
This film about the strength of Southern women and their friendships is a classic. M’Lynn, Truvy, Ouiser, and Clairee see each other through thick and thin and do not hesitate to adopt newest member Anelle into their circle when it is clear she is in need of some help. Steel Magnolias highlights the emotional bonds and strengths of women in the best way.
Based on the story of three women who dared to challenge the status quo at NASA. Their determination, persistence, and bravery not only prompted much-needed change but also made the space launch of astronaut John Glenn possible. Their accomplishments are inspiring. But their friendship is also an inspiration. When the world and even their loved ones stood against them, their support and encouragement of each other gave them the strength to break down the walls of race and sex in a male-dominated field.
Who doesn’t love this classic film about a pair of renegade girlfriends who go on a wild road trip? This is one of those films which highlight the special, unbreakable bond between girlfriends who stick together through the good and the bad.
Content Note: Rated R for profanity, violence including an attempted rape scene.
This is a more obscure classic film that I love. It follows three very different women who enlist in the Women’s Army Corp during WWII. There is what I would call a friendship triangle which creates conflict among them, but ultimately their work together reveals their individual strengths and they come to respect one another. This is a film which portrays the complex emotional responses women have about each other. From jealousy and competition, to sacrifice and protective instincts, this movie covers it all. Plus it highlights the work women were doing during wartime which is often overlooked by history.
Two identical twins separated at birth meet at summer camp and hatch a plot to switch places so each can spend some time with the parent they have never known. Despite a rough beginning, they work together, coaching each other in how to deceive their parents when they swap and then later when they decide to reunite their parents. That’s the trouble with sisters, they are dangerous when they decide to work together!
Responsible Jane is the perpetual bridesmaid who is in love with her boss. But when her gorgeous sister Tess arrives in town and Jane’s boss falls in love with her, suddenly Jane finds herself in the unenviable position of planning her sister’s wedding to the man of her dreams. Misunderstandings and Tess’ immaturity have kept these two sisters from a closer relationship, but spending so much time together for the first time in years will either draw them closer together or drive them further apart
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for mild profanity, sensuality.
When her young teenage sister falls for a man twice her age and an artist at that, Judge Margaret Turner takes an unusual approach. She orders that artist, played by Cary Grant, to date her sister in the hopes that she will get tired of him. Although Margaret acts more as a mother than a sister, there is still a sweet relationship between the two. And this film highlights Shirley Temple in a more mature role as a teenager than the young child most people are used to seeing onscreen.
Two sisters of an impoverished family compete over the same man. Rose and Cassandra couldn’t be more different. Cassandra falls in love with Simon, but Rose decides to marry him for his money. Although Rose is the eldest sister, Cassandra is definitely more mature, but no matter what these sisters go through, there is an understanding and real love between them.
Content Note: Rated R for two brief scenes of female nudity.
When a mutual friend’s suicide (thanks to her husband’s betrayal) reunites them, three old college friends decide to get payback on behalf of their deceased comrade. Since none of them are on the best of terms with their own husbands, they decide to form the First Wives Club and take their estranged spouses for every penny they can get. It’s scary what women can accomplish when they work together!
21. THE WOMEN (1939)
Famous for having an all-female cast (even the dog is female), this film definitely shows the pros and cons of female friendship including the fierce loyalty as well as the catty gossip. When wealthy Mary’s husband leaves her for a younger woman who works the perfume counter (oh, the horrors!), her friends show their support and judgment in various ways.
If you haven’t seen this classic about a group of actresses all living in the same theater boarding house, you really must make the effort. In some ways, it mimics The Women, but is less of a comedy and much more a realistic look at the complex relationships women form, especially when they are in competition with one another. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy), this talented cast is a joy to watch.
A great southern tale about two women closer than sisters who keep each other’s secrets. I also love how this tale highlights the special friendship that forms between two women decades apart in age. I myself had an elderly friend and they are such rich sources of information and wisdom.
Content Note: Rated PG-13. Scenes of domestic violence, suggested cannibalism, racial and sexual language.
The charming tale of four very different friends who are all magically able to fit into the same pair of jeans. And if you’ve ever tried on a pair of jeans, ladies, you know what a miracle this is! Whether together or apart though it’s not the jeans which bind them, but their love and acceptance of one another.
A Judy Garland classic which means, of course, it is also a musical. Four sisters experience the trials of growing up while also preparing to leave the only home they’ve ever known. This film is also famous for introducing the Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Watching Judy sing it to her youngest sister, is a little piece of melancholy magic.
This Jane Austen tale about sisters who experience different paths to romance is, of course, a classic. The real debate is over which small or big screen version of the story you prefer.
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Two sisters work as hotel hostesses in order to send their youngest sister to a posh boarding school. But the youngest sister has no desire to get a ritzy education and shows up at the hotel where the oldest two work. Somehow all three wind up in a wacky murder plot while trying to hide the dead body in various places at the hotel.
28. THE HELP (2011)
The Help explores the gamut of female relationships, from friendship to mother and daughter, to sisterhood and even those of female caretakers. It is a realistic look at how women relate to each other, protect each other, encourage each other and even outgrow one another sometimes.
A progressive art teacher played by America’s favorite Julia Roberts arrives at an all-girls college and shakes up the status quo. Even though the ladies are there for a higher education, most of them have no intention of using it beyond landing a wealthy husband. But when their traditional roles and expectations are challenged how will it impact their relationships?
29. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (multiple versions)
Another Jane Austen classic about five very different sisters in need of suitors. Jane and Elizabeth share the closest bond with Lydia and Kitty bonding more through their shared silliness. Poor Mary is the odd duck of the family.
Two estranged sisters with a difficult past are brought together by the appearance of the grandmother they never knew existed. I appreciate films that feature reconciliations in relationships especially those between sisters.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for some profanity, sexuality, and violence.
31. CLUELESS (1995)
A modern-day reimagined version of Jane Austen’s Emma. Cher and friend Dionne take clueless Tai under their wings. Although this is more of a romance than a sister film, I love the friendship between Cher and Dionne.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual conversations, teen drug and alcohol use and swearing.
Two words: Girl Power! I love this film about a trio of James Bond-style female action heroes who kick butt and still retain their femininity. It proves women can be fierce and succeed in a male-dominated film, while also enjoying the best things about being a woman.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and innuendo.
I love this unique film with Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara who form an unlikely team. Reese is a policewoman who must act as unofficial security detail to Vergara’s mob boss widow. While neither one trusts the other at first meeting, the must work together to elude the killers on their trail.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual language, some profanity, and violence.
War films generally focus on the men in the field. But this one features female combat nurses. These women tend to the injured in the middle of a war zone during WWII. They face many challenges and must make many sacrifices. They prove they are just as courageous as the men fighting at the front.
This movie details the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. Even as adults I don’t believe mothers and daughters ever really have an equal friendship because a mother never loses her protective instinct towards her children. I do appreciate how Vivi’s friends try to give Sidda a different perspective of her mother. Plus, it’s just fun to watch a group of longtime friends sit around and reminisce together.
Two likable gold diggers who are on the prowl for rich men to marry manage to charm almost everyone they meet on their transatlantic cruise. Marilyn Monroe plays her usual sexual yet innocent character with Jane Russell acting not only as her friend but also as her babysitter. Despite their avaricious intentions, they are utterly likable ladies.
Reese Witherspoon’s film debut. It is a tragic coming of age story about two sisters in love with the same man. Parts of this story are similar to the one in I Capture the Castle. It proves that the bond between sisters is stronger and more eternal than most.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for mild sexuality, violence, and profanity. There is a gruesome scene at the end where one of the characters loses an appendage.
A real tear-jerker. Jess and Milly have been best friends for most of their lives. When Milly is diagnosed with aggressive cancer, it tests their friendship in ways they never expect. Drew Barrymore as Jess is seriously the best friend ever! Her love for Toni Collette’s Milly is loyal, understanding, patient and forgiving. I dare you to watch this and not cry.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexuality and language. One of the characters has an affair.
An updated and reimagined version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Sisters Kat and Bianca could not be more different. Poor Bianca yearns for a little romance, but her father won’t allow it until older sister Kat starts dating. Kat, however, has no interest in going out with a guy. In the original, there was didn’t seem to be any love lost between these sisters. However, in this version, they genuinely care about each other despite their differences.
These 39 films only scratch the surface of some of the great films about sisters and girlfriends! What are some of your favorite films which celebrate women?
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