Films with Female Characters Who Aren’t Here to be Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By Fiona Rose Beyerle

To be honest –  and I hate to say this – but I hate a lot of female movie characters.  You read that right.  Too often, especially in mainstream movies is a female character portrayed as less intelligent, less interesting and less likeable than her male scene partner.  This girl is often painted as what has been coined as a “manic pixie dream girl” which is a character you can find in many films as the female who is unique yet exists as a source of inspiration for the struggling male lead lost in the world.  This is not to say this character herself is not memorable, however, there can and should be so much more to these characters.  

Here are four films in which I find to have incredible female characters that are not existing to please males. Instead, they will make you think “I want to be like her.” 

  1. The Lure (2015)

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska

Language: Polish

Where to Watch: Kanopy, Youtube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

Why This Film Stands Out: This film is utterly insane, and that is what makes it exceptional.  This is the kind of film you see and keep thinking about.  Two carnivorous mermaids named Silver and Golden wash up on a beach and start working in a nightclub with their new musician friends.  Golden and Silver both face different challenges as they juggle life on land, love, friendship and getting what they need.  Combining horror and musical numbers, this film is entertaining beyond measure.  I guarantee you have never seen anything like this as on top of all that, it takes place in an alternative 1980’s Poland.  Give this one a watch for sure.  

  1. Level 16 (2018)

Director: Danishka Esterhazy

Language: English

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, Hulu, Sling TV, Showtime

Why This Film Stands Out:  There are many sci-fi films out there, but few where females take the lead, especially young females.  I am not talking about young-adult dystopian novels because those place a huge focus on romance. When living in a dystopian society, it seems like dealing with relationship problems would be the last thing you would want to stress about.  This particular film takes place in a girls’ boarding school (or so that is what the girls are told).  When Vivien moves up to the final level of the program, she and another girl, Sophia, team up to figure out the disturbing truth and attempt to save the others.  While this film is chilling, it brings up interesting questions for the future of science in society and delivers two female heroines at the same time.  Love it. 

  1. Leave No Trace (2018) 

Director: Debra Granik 

Language: English 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu 

Why This Film Stands Out: Tom and her father Will, a war veteran with mental health issues, live in isolation in the middle of a forest in Oregon, only entering town occasionally.  When a mistake gives their secret life away, they are forced to reevaluate their lives and their relationship as father and daughter.  Tom is an incredibly powerful character and holds her own against her father.  You will be touched by these characters and their story.  

  1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) 

Director: Ana Lily Amirpour 

Language: Persian 

Where to Watch: Kanopy, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Sling TV

Why This Film Stands Out: Three Words: Skateboarding.  Vampire.  Girl.  I kid you not, this is the main character in this film.  Identified only as The Girl, this chador-wearing mythical character skates around an Iranian ghost-town killing men who treat women poorly. This film blends elements of different genres and clearly succeeds in this amazing film that is beyond worth watching.  There is not a lot of dialogue in the film, but instead the story is delivered primarily through unpredictable visuals and is coated with a killer soundtrack.  

Now it’s your turn – who are your favourite female movie characters? Let us know in the comments!

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