Comedies led by a female cast are becoming more and more common. Last year, we saw an all-female reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise And later this year, we’ll be seeing an all-female version of Ocean’s Eleven, and in the near future.
It’s not easy being a woman in Hollywood. They’re usually marginalized to the roles of nagging wife or voice of reason to contrast with the wacky, zany Kevin Jameses of this world. But here are 15 times that women proved they could deliver the one-liners, let loose and partake in raunchy antics.
For some reason, Hollywood remains sceptical of female-led comedy movies. You’d think hundreds of millions of dollars in box office returns would’ve been enough to convince them by now. Even Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, managed to take on Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the box office and come out with glorious success.
Literally, a movie about two funny women throwing a party opened in theaters on the same day that Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker returned to our screens after three decades. And the two funny women managed to surpass the already-generous box office projections on their opening weekend.
They grossed over $100 million — a testament to the power of Fey and Poehler’s easy, sister-like chemistry. They’re one of those classic comedy duos, like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis or Bob Hope and Bing Crosby — except they’re women!
The 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was extremely divisive, ever since it was first announced. The controversies led to further controversies as moviegoers and film fanatics and feminists and so-called “meninists” all disagreed with each other.
The debates ranged from the relatively harmless, “would a new Ghostbusters movie with a new cast tarnish the legacy of the classic original?” to the extremes like, “are women funny?” The trailer came out and was severely disliked.
Yet when the movie was released, it was revealed that the best jokes were saved for the moviegoers. Thanks to sexists and sceptics, the movie didn’t do well financially and we won’t see the female cast back together for a sequel. But as far as this one stands, it’s one of the best female-led comedies ever made.
13. Enough Said
Enough Said is a romantic comedy about a masseuse who enters into a relationship with a guy who she later realizes is her friend’s ex-husband. On the surface, this may seem like a pretty generic and unspectacular premise — but it’s a spectacular movie.
See, the twist is that both leads are two or three generations older than your typical Shailene Woodley-Ansel Elgort romcom leads. Enough Said stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep) — she doesn’t usually get leading roles in movies but sure has the talent to pull them off — and The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini.
The movie was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, a student of Martin Scorsese who got her first jobs in the film industry working on Woody Allen movies. Holofcener is known for her sweet, heartfelt, and honest comedy-drama movies featuring real, aging women — Enough Said is the best of them all.
Trainwreck was the feature film debut of groundbreaking comedienne Amy Schumer. It’s a romantic comedy about a promiscuous, juvenile, hard-drinking party girl who meets a nice, genuine guy — who also happens to be LeBron James’ doctor.
She undergoes a reflective process of personal growth in order to settle down into her first ever serious relationship. And do you know what prevents this story from falling into the trap of becoming the same formulaic drivel we’ve seen a gazillion times before? It’s Amy Schumer’s voice.
Trainwreck wasn’t written by some privileged Ivy Leaguer with no life experience who once took a screenwriting course and follows a precise mathematical structure in order to oil up the Hollywood machine. The movie is drawn straight from Amy Schumer’s heart, mind, and soul.
She was this character. She was promiscuous and reckless and immature, and she went through that transformation to have a real relationship with someone and it really works in the movie’s favor. What makes a truly great movie — especially a comedy movie — is when it feels inspired and real and fresh, and that’s what Trainwreck is.
11. A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own is best remembered for the Tom Hanks quote: “there’s no crying in baseball!” But it’s really about the women. Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell star as players in an all-female baseball league that gets started up as all the men have gone off to fight in the Second World War.
Baseball movies are predominantly male-focused. Okay, there’s Susan Sarandon as a Minor League groupie in Bull Durham, but that role was somewhat sexualized and two-dimensional. A League of Their Own is the only female-centric baseball movie and it also might be the very best. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and has a strong feminist message.
10. Bring It On
Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, and Gabrielle Union headline this cult classic comedy about rivaling cheerleading squads who go head-to-head in a big championship. The only downside to the movie’s great cast is the retrospectively unfortunate name of Union’s character: Isis.
But that’s a small price to pay to enjoy what Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus calls “surprisingly fun to watch, mostly due to its high energy and how it humorously spoofs cheerleading instead of taking itself too seriously.” The Los Angeles Times called Bring It On a “smart and sassy high school movie that’s fun for all ages.”
The movie has since spawned an endless line of sequels, both theatrical ones and straight to DVD ones, but none of them have managed to capture the same magic as the 2000 original.
The spy movie genre is very male-centric, and so are its parodies. The whole genre is basically James Bond. Whether it’s rip-offs, homages, or straight-up Bond movies, that’s the benchmark for the spy genre. Parodies of spy movies, from Austin Powers to Johnny English, always have a male lead, because James Bond is a man. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
But Paul Feig likes to think outside the box — it almost always involves going outside the male box to the female box. The director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and last year’s Ghostbusters saw there were no female spies beyond the ludicrously sexualized Bond girls or the ones stuck behind a desk. ‘
So, he wrote a character called Susan Cooper, a regular woman with a simple desk job at a spy agency. She’s the voice in the charming British gentleman spy’s head, so she’s the real hero. He’s just the face of it.
She goes into the field and proves that despite being a woman, she’s an even greater spy than Jude Law and Jason Statham — great in the movie, but relatively incapable spies. Oh, and also, it’s a really funny movie.
Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne (the villain is a woman, too — this movie is a feminist’s dream), and Miranda Hart deliver their lines with such gusto — and most of them feel totally improvised. Let’s hope they manage to get that sequel off the ground.
8. Pitch Perfect
Imagine the pitch (no pun intended): a jukebox musical about a college a cappella group. Ugh, right?
But it’s a testament to the talent and likability of Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks, and so many other excellent female performers that they managed to spin this simple and thin premise into something truly special that spawned a huge fan base and a whole trilogy of movies.
And Pitch Perfect isn’t just funny in the way that a fat girl being attacked with a burrito from a moving bus is funny. It’s also a satire. It makes satirical statements about feminism, male-female relationships and interpersonal relationship in the workplace — and by extension, in society.
That’s a tall order for a comedy about college students who sing. But Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 pull it off like magic. And with any luck, we’ll get more in Pitch Perfect 3.
7. Blue Jasmine
The beauty of Blue Jasmine, one of Woody Allen’s finest later films, is that it can be enjoyed either as a drama or as a black comedy. It tells the story of a wealthy Manhattan socialite whose lifestyle is taken down a few pegs.
When her husband is arrested for illegal practices, their assets are seized by the feds, and she’s forced to move into her sister’s grubby working class existence in San Francisco. Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award for Best Actress in her role, as she played the character unabashedly.
She didn’t water down Jasmine to make her more likeable or easier to digest. This is not the story of a strong and resilient woman who refuses to be broken down by the devastation in her life.
This is the story of, according to some critics, a “shrill narcissist falling apart” who finds herself “in a crisis of self-flagellation after living in denial for years.” And it’s damned incredible.
6. Bridget Jones’s Diary
In 2001, Renee Zellweger finally gave us a real woman on screen. Something refreshing after decades of pencil-thin, ridiculously beautiful, perfect little twentysomethings taking all the limelight, making women feel bad about themselves.
Finally a woman in her thirties came along, worried about her weight, clumsy, frequently embarrassing herself, and unable to hold down a relationship. She struggled to find a man and then, all of a sudden, she had two and couldn’t decide between them.
The critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes calls her “a sympathetic, likable, funny character.” Bridget Jones is less of a fictional character and more of a mirror. We all worry about our weight, we all hate to be humiliated, and we all struggle in relationships.
Finally, Hollywood wasn’t glossing over issues and romanticizing single life. This was something real.
This brilliant retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma in a high school setting stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a cool high school chick. She takes on an unpopular girl and makes her popular. She then gets jealous of her protege’s newfound popularity, fails at driving, falls in love with her stepbrother, but it’s all good. It doesn’t matter what Cher does.
You could watch her do just about anything for an hour and a half, thanks to the way Silverstone — annoying but funny ina loveable way. The engaging plot only serves to make Clueless an even more enjoyable experience.
If dark comedy is your thing, check out Alexander Payne’s movie Election at your nearest convenience. It stars Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, a seemingly goody two-shoes honor student running for class president.
She’s cute and smart and uptight, but she has a dark side. She has an affair with a teacher named Dave, gets him fired and divorced from his wife — and she gets off scot free. She’ll also stop at nothing to clinch the school election. Tracy faces adversity from Jim McAllister, a social studies teacher played by Matthew Broderick.
As Dave’s best friend, he resents Tracy for ruining his life. So, Jim gets a popular jock to run against Tracy in the election, hoping she’ll fail. What follows is a chaotic and layered portrait of the dark, seedy underworld of the flashy high school life we usually see in movies.
Simply put, Juno is a beautiful movie. It’s sweet, heartfelt, emotionally affecting, and it has a comic warmth to it that puts a smile on your face. Its premiere received a standing ovation, about which famed film critic Roger Ebert said, “I don’t know when I’ve heard a standing ovation so long, loud, and warm.”
It’s about a teenager — Juno MacGuff, played by Ellen Page — who gets pregnant, and of course, is relentlessly judged by society and her classmates. The movie depicts her ensuing struggles.
Juno is a fantastic character. Ellen Page herself summed it up perfectly, calling Juno “honest, but original,” and “completely devoid of stereotype.” She added, “Girls haven’t had that sort of character before. We don’t have our Catcher in the Rye.” It’s true, and Juno MacGuff is as good a female Holden Caulfield as any.
What makes Juno special is that it feels so real, and that’s because the writer, Diablo Cody, collected stories from her own adolescent experiences.
She went through a lot of what Juno does in the movie — a close friend of hers got pregnant in high school. She also spoke with and a bunch of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. So, in short, it feels real because it is real.
2. Mean Girls
Made right between Lindsay Lohan becoming a promising young star and going completely off the rails, Mean Girls is the definitive high school movie. And unsurprisingly, since it was written by Tina Fey of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, it’s really funny.
It might be hard to remember a time when Lindsay Lohan was still a sweetheart, but you only need this movie to jog your memory. She’s the best lead to take us through this story and this world, as we root for her and feel for her. The movie also features early appearances by Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried (as a ditsy, clueless, yet lovable fool who believes she can forecast the weather with her boobs).
And Fey also found roles for her SNL buddies Amy Poehler and Tim Meadows (and they both nailed them, of course). Aside from this terrific cast and Fey’s endlessly quotable script, the story is also really strong.
It’s about friendship and the struggles of trying to fit in at a new high school when everyone is almost tribally separated into cliques and how it’s more important to be true to yourself than to be popular. There’s a lot of good messages in the movie, and the humor is very inclusive – it doesn’t hurt anyone – and that’s where the movie’s universal appeal comes from.
Bridesmaids was where it all started. It broke new ground in a way that few movies do. Without Bridesmaids, we wouldn’t have had the recent resurgence of female-led comedy movies that gave us The Heat, Pitch Perfect, the new Ghostbusters, Bad Moms, Spy – well, you get the point. It’s the movie that propelled Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Rose Byrne to superstardom.
Bridesmaids was the movie that proved that women can be just as funny, raunchy, and endearing relatable as men. Bridesmaids proved that women could write a screenplay that was just as funny as one written by a man, too, and it proved that only women can write real women. Could a man really have written the role of Megan? Melissa McCarthy’s role of Megan was such an inspired and original creation – no man could’ve come up with her.
They can write a great manic pixie dream girl, but only women can write truly great women that $270 million’s worth of people want to see, so Hollywood simply needs to give more female writers a chance.