ByElise Jost, writer at
"It's a UNIX system! I know this!" Twitter @elisejost
Elise Jost

Though the first ever Women's Day was held in 1909, the United Nations recognized March 8 as International Women's Day not so long ago in 1975, adding to each year a specific theme, such as "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030" this year.

To celebrate, we've compiled a list of films from the past year that feature strong, complex, and endearing female characters, from indie dramas to blockbuster movies to Academy Award nominees. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below!

14. 'Hidden Figures'

The three actress headlining , Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, deliver wonderfully sassy lines with incredible energy. The movie itself is about women breaking the glass ceiling, based on the true story of the black women whose talent allowed NASA to be the first to send a man to the moon.

13. 'Zootopia'

As far as powerful role models for children go, look no further than 's Judy Hopps. The film, which won Best Animated Feature this year at the Oscars, features a young bunny eager to prove herself in the big city — the perfect kind of inspirational saga.

12. 'The Handmaiden'

A British novel adapted by Korean film master Park Chan-wook, is a visual masterpiece. An erotic tale of a Japanese Lady in the 1930s and her Korean handmaiden, it's a must-see miles away from the heavy action movies we're used to from Korea.

11. 'Elle'

Many feel Isabelle Huppert should have won an Oscar for her role in , and for good reason: In this disturbing story about rape, the iconic French actress delivers one of the best performances of her career.

10. 'Certain Women'

A film about women, featuring a talented roster of actresses and directed by a woman: is a quiet success. Featuring Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, the movie delves into the everyday lives of women and how they handle their independence.

9. 'Personal Shopper'

Another one of Kristen Stewart's forays into independent cinema, is part glamour, part horror. Stewart plays a personal shopper navigating the fashion milieu with ease until she starts getting text messages from her dead brother.

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8. 'Arrival'

There's no better example of a woman stepping in to save an all-male team from going in circles than , one of this year's (and maybe this decade's) best science-fiction films. While it's a shock that Amy Adams didn't get an Oscar nomination for her role, she's a delight in the movie — and the ending will make your jaw drop like few other movies this year.

7. 'Rogue One'

Though the final women to men ratio in the dialogue is far from satisfying, Felicity Jones was the perfect choice to play 's Jyn Erso. The movie is also one of Disney's most subtle movies yet that beautifully complements the existing canon.

6. 'Ghostbusters'

Whether you liked the remake of — and despite the disgusting comments that were made about it online — there's no denying that the movie features a talented cast and that it stirred the pot on conversation about female heroes in cinema.

5. 'Moana'

followed in the footsteps of Disney heroines such as Judy Hopps, and there's not a single mention of a potential love interest. Instead, the movie focuses on themes of growing up, finding your purpose, and finishing what you've started. From the gorgeous beaches to the catchy music, it's a true Disney masterpiece.

4. 'Jackie'

There was surprisingly little Oscars buzz around Pablo Larraín's , in which Natalie Portman achieves a remarkable impersonation of the former First Lady. Closer to a character study than a biopic, the movie provides an intimate look at Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination.

3. 'Finding Dory'

Even in Finding Nemo, Dory was one of the most relatable and beloved characters, thanks to her adorable, if mildly irritating tendency to forget everything. With , Pixar gave her her own movie, in which she goes on an emotional quest to understand her identity.

2. '20th Century Women'

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig all shine in this touching drama about a woman raising her son alone in the late '70s, who decides to bring two other women on board her family adventure.

1. 'Beauty And The Beast'

isn't out just yet, but as far as female characters go, Belle has always been an iconic role model. With Emma Watson playing her in the live-action version, she's been modernized in hopes to set a new standard for Disney princesses.

Who's your favorite female character of the past year?


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