Top 10 Feminist Moments in Rom Coms



Top 10 Feminist Moments in Rom Coms

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
Even in this genre, there are a lot of feminist moments in rom coms. For this list, we'll be looking at the most empowering moments in some of our favorite romantic comedies. Our countdown includes “Clueless,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” and more!
Even in this genre, it’s possible to find inspiring moments for female empowerment. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Feminist Moments in Rom Coms.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most empowering moments in some of our favorite romantic comedies.

#10: Respecting Personal Choices
“Clueless” (1995)

On the surface, the protagonist of “Clueless” may seem like a materialistic anti-feminist nightmare. But if you dig deeper, you realize that much of what Cher Horowitz does throughout the film is actually in the name of empowering the women around her. One of the ways this is most evident is the way in which Cher and her friends discuss their level of sexual experience. Though it’s a major plot point that Cher is a virgin, it’s obvious that she’s not feeling pressure from those around her to catch up to her peers. And while one of the movie’s iconic lines does come by way of an insult about her virginity status, we know that she’s not going to do anything until she’s comfortable.

#9: Kat Giving Bianca Advice
“10 Things I Hate About You” (1999)

Kat from “10 Things I Hate About You” is one of the few characters in popular rom coms from the ‘90s who is an overt feminist. In fact, it’s something that’s used against her in the film, as she is often made to seem man-hating and, for lack of a better word, shrewish. In many ways, this isn’t a feminist film with lots of aspects that seem problematic in retrospect, but what redeems it is Kat herself. Because beyond her tough exterior, she really does have the interests of women at heart. In one memorable moment, she reminds her sister to stay true to herself and that she doesn’t always need to live up to the expectations of others.

#8: Toula Getting an Education
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002)

The entire premise of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” hinges on Toula’s overprotective Greek family who treats her like she doesn’t have any agency despite her being a grown and accomplished woman. Near the beginning of the story, she makes the decision to go to college even though it’s patently against what her father wants for her. Throughout the whole movie, she works hard to assert her independence, while still respecting their wishes and traditions. In fact, the film does a great job of showing how you can carve out your own path while still showing your love for your family.

#7: Torrance Dumping Aaron
“Bring It On” (2000)

For Torrance Shipman from “Bring It On,” her relationship with her older boyfriend Aaron isn’t exactly what her world revolves around. She clearly spends much more time thinking about cheerleading. But the audience is aware from early on that he is obviously not worthy of her affections, and it all comes to a head when Aaron tells Torrance that he doesn’t think she’s captain material. Torrance ends up asserting herself when she goes to visit Aaron at his college dorm and tells him just how little she cares about him, and in turn about their relationship.

#6: Jane Saying No to Jake
“It's Complicated” (2009)

“It's Complicated” was written and directed by the prolific Nancy Meyers, so it’s no surprise that it features a strong female character. While early in the film Jane succumbs to a relationship with her ex-husband who clearly didn’t treat her well, as time goes on she gains the confidence to actually do what’s right for her. Now that she finds herself in the position of being the “other woman,” she’s forced to contend with what she truly wants. In the end, even though it would be easy to get back together with her ex, she stands her ground and finally moves on from what was clearly a toxic relationship.

#5: Jess Playing Football
“Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)

In “Bend It Like Beckham,” Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra comes from a traditional and very conservative Indian family who thinks that her desire to play football (aka soccer) isn’t befitting of a girl. Her mother tries to get her to take up different interests, but Jess knows what she really wants. She ends up rebelling against her family to go after her dreams, even getting a scholarship to an American school because of her prowess on the field. Though she has a hard time being honest with them, in the end, it pays off because she’s able to live the life she had always imagined.

#4: Iris' Speech to Jasper
“The Holiday” (2006)

When we first meet Iris (played by Kate Winslet) in the Christmas movie “The Holiday,” she’s a sad woman learning that the man she has been in love with for ages is getting engaged to another woman. Throughout the story, he continues to string her on, keeping her on the hook despite obviously not having any intention of giving her what she wants. By the time the story is about to wrap up, though, Iris has learned a thing or two about gumption and gives Jasper a speech telling him to get out of her life. We can’t watch this scene without being inspired!

#3: Bridget Quitting
"Bridget Jones’s Diary" (2001)

The audience knew it was a bad idea for Bridget to get involved with her boss, Daniel Cleaver, who was obviously a total cad from the start. Their totally inappropriate workplace flirtation is hard to witness a couple of decades after the film was released. But after being treated pretty abysmally by him, Bridget finally gets it together and quits her job, leaving Daniel in the dust. Now we don’t think she should have had to leave her workplace because of the way he treated her, but considering she did have another job lined up, it was probably for the best to get out of there.

#2: Sally Saying She's Not a Consolation Prize
“When Harry Met Sally...” (1989)

There are a lot of troubling things going on when you look back at “When Harry Met Sally…,” which was released in 1989. It’s more and more clear that Harry treated Sally badly, especially after he emotionally detached from her after they slept together, despite how close they had previously been. She stands up for herself and calls him out on his behavior. When Harry tries to come crawling back to her with apologies, Sally makes sure he knows that she doesn’t want to be a consolation prize just because he can’t find anyone else. Of course, they do end up together, but Sally made sure it was under the terms that she wanted.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Donna Wanting an Abortion, She Asserts Her Right to Choose.
“Obvious Child” (2014)

Lara Jean Staying True to Herself, She Doesn’t Change Despite Her Popular “Boyfriend.”
“To All the Boys I've Loved Before” (2018)

Rachel Standing up to Eleanor, She Stands Her Ground with Her Future Mother-in-Law.
“Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)

Viola Going Undercover, She Dresses as a Boy to Play Soccer.
“She's the Man” (2006)

Frances Buys a Villa, She Decides to Change Her Life After Her Divorce.
“Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003)

#1: The Whole Movie
"Legally Blonde" (2001)

We know, we know, we’re supposed to pick a specific moment, but how could you possibly choose from all the great scenes in "Legally Blonde?" At first Elle Woods is wholly committed to getting her boyfriend Warner back after he dumps her because she isn’t serious enough. To prove her worth, she manages to get into Harvard Law School. But her goals soon shift and getting the guy is no longer what’s driving her because she becomes passionate about succeeding in her own right. Not only that, but she actually befriends the girl who Warner is currently dating, rather than letting them be pit against each other. In the end, Warner certainly doesn’t come out on top.