Movies Featuring Successful Women
August 23, 2011 4:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to compile a list of movies about successful women, bonus points for entrepreneurs and business owners.

The plot line doesn't necessarily need to be about her career. For instance, in my favorite movie the lead character dumps her crappy boyfriend, dyes her hair blonde and starts her own PR firm. That's not what the movie is about, yet the movie still has a successful female entrepreneur as the main character.


[posted for a friend]
posted by lohmannn to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Their Eyes Were Watching God - although she's "successful" through her second husband. But truly successful and happy in life with her third love. I love the lead character in this movie (Janie - played by Halle Barry).
posted by Sassyfras at 4:31 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: From this article:

It’s Complicated (2009) — Meryl Streep runs a bakery.
Chocolat (2000) — Juliette Binoche starts a chocolate shop.
You’ve Got Mail (1998) — Meg Ryan runs an ill-fated neighborhood book store.
Steel Magnolias (1989) — Dolly Parton runs a beauty parlor.
The Color Purple (1985) — Whoopi Goldberg starts a clothing shop.
Tender Mercies (1983) — Tess Harper runs a gas station.
Gone with the Wind (1939) — Vivien Leigh runs her husband’s lumber store.
Heat Lightning (1934) — Aline MacMahon runs a gas station.

The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991) — Venessa Redgrave runs a café.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) — Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker run a café.
Bagdad Café (1988) — C.C.H. Pounder runs a family gas station and café.
Mystic Pizza (1988) — Conchata Ferrel owns a pizza parlor.
Mildred Pierce (1945, remade for TV in 2011) — Joan Crawford starts a chain of chicken restaurants.

The Secret Life of Bees (2008) — The Boatwright sisters run a bee farm.
Forest Gump (1994) — Sally Field runs the family farm and bed and breakfast.
Out of Africa (1985) — Meryl Streep owns a plantation.
Places in the Heart (1984) — Sally Field runs her family cotton farm.

Sunshine Cleaning (2008), Amy Adams could choose a scalable model for her biohazard removal and crime scene clean-up business.

P.S. I Love You (2007), Hillary Swank starts a shoe company and has real potential to scale if she chooses a mass-customization model.
Lucy Gallant (1955), Jane Wyman starts a clothing line, deals with investors, manages a board and expands globally.
They All Kissed the Bride (1942), Joan Crawford runs a trucking company and expands. Mildred Pierce (1945), Crawford was running a potentially scalable chain of restaurants.
Female (1933), Ruth Chatterton owns an automobile factory.
posted by Specklet at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead. (i'm totally serious.)
posted by patricking at 4:35 PM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'll add a non-entrepreneurial example (on of my favourite films): Antonia's Line.
posted by Specklet at 4:35 PM on August 23, 2011

Life and Loves of a She-Devil was a British mini series, but the American version, She-Devil, was a film with Roseanne Barr. A dark revenge "comedy", one of the main plot lines is a jilted, sad-sack wife starting her own successful business (with the goal of destroying her husband's life).
posted by kimdog at 4:38 PM on August 23, 2011

Mildred Pierce, mentioned above in Specklet's list, is one of my favorite movies (and the recent miniseries was fantastic, too). I don't know if she's really going to hit your successful woman target, though. Mildred is resourceful and hardworking, and is briefly successful in business because of that, but her lack of successes in her personal life bring everything crashing down around her.

Excellent story that features an entrepreneurial woman, so you should put it on your watchlist, but I really wouldn't call it the story of a successful woman.
posted by phunniemee at 4:39 PM on August 23, 2011

Volver by Almoldovar.
posted by patricking at 4:40 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Baby Boom. You didn't say it had to be a good movie, right?
posted by something something at 4:43 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Working Girl
posted by zizzle at 4:56 PM on August 23, 2011

Some of these might be of interest:

Working Girl (1988) - Melanie Griffith climbs up the corporate ladder (with her brain!)

Woman on Top (2000) - Penelope Cruz cooks delicious food; gets a TV show

Erin Brokovich (2000) - Julia Roberts fights industrial environmental poisoning

Julie and Julia (2009) - Julia Child.

A League of Their Own (1992) - Madonna plays baseball with Geena Davis

Devil Wears Prada (2006) - Anne Hathaway follows her passion to be a journalist; wears high heels in the process
posted by rebekah at 4:59 PM on August 23, 2011

Aliens? I'd say Ripley is pretty successful in that. (Director's Cut of course)
posted by episodic at 5:01 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: Imitation of Life (the 1934 version, not Lana Turner's 1959 version where she plays a famous stage and film actress)
posted by fuse theorem at 5:10 PM on August 23, 2011

Big Business
posted by John Cohen at 5:12 PM on August 23, 2011

Waitress made me want to open a pie shop. The movie is more about a woman in a bad situation striving to make success for herself - and she succeeds.
posted by wondermouse at 5:15 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Coco Before Chanel (2009)--the origins of Coco Chanel. The plot does lead up to her business success, but it's not the only story told.
posted by parkerjackson at 5:40 PM on August 23, 2011

In "Baby Mama" Tina Fey is an exec for a Whole-Foods-esque organization.

Remake of "The Women" - Meg Ryan is cool but Annette Benning rocks.
posted by bunderful at 5:40 PM on August 23, 2011

Having a job=playing baseball--isn't the same as owning a business.

Friends with Money--clothing designer Frances McDormand
Please Give--Catherine Keener and husband own a vintage store
Flawless-- Demi Moore is an executive in a diamond firm

No Reservations-- Catherine Zeta-Jones in the remake of Bella Martha, chef
posted by Ideefixe at 6:04 PM on August 23, 2011


Kill Bill 1&2 (it makes sense in the end)

Legally Blonde (as a light hearted one)

Doc Hollywood (she's not the main character, but it's still you-go-girl)
posted by floweredfish at 6:05 PM on August 23, 2011

Okay, if Aliens makes the cut, then count in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome where Tina Turner's character is the ruler of Bartertown.
posted by XMLicious at 6:12 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like "Sliding Doors" with Gwenyth Paltrow. Despite the British accent.
She loses her job but starts her own PR business. It's also a good "parallel universe"-type movie.
posted by foxhat10 at 6:26 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: On re-reading, "sliding doors" actually sounds like the description in your question! :)
posted by foxhat10 at 6:28 PM on August 23, 2011

Solid Gold Cadillac is a1956 comedy about a woman who starts off with ten shares in a company and ends up wielding considerable power, mostly through "womanly" methods.
posted by sardonyx at 6:38 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Great answers all around. Marked a few that stood out - may return to update the "best answers" as I work my way through the ones I haven't heard of.
posted by lohmannn at 6:41 PM on August 23, 2011

Something New, which is not only centered on a successful woman, but is centered on a successful black woman.

Roger Ebert wrote:

The movie is, astonishingly, told from a point of view hardly ever visible in movies: African-American professionals. Kenya's father (Earl Billings) is head of his department at Cedars-Sinai. Her mother (Alfre Woodard) is a pillar of black society, and of course her daughter made her debut at a black-tie Cotillion. Her brother is a lawyer for a movie studio. Her family and friends are not thrilled by the notion that she might date a white man....The movie has frank dialogue about race -- not platitudes about how we're all really the same, but realistic observations about race in modern America.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:09 PM on August 23, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama - Reese Witherspoon plays a successful fashion designer.
posted by kingfishers catch fire at 7:24 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fargo - where a somewhat heavily pregnant police woman solves a murder through dogged persistence.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:17 PM on August 23, 2011

The Stepford Wives
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:44 PM on August 23, 2011

The Associate - Whoopi Goldeberg runs a super successful company by posing as an old white dude.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:37 PM on August 23, 2011

The Stepford Wives

Baroo? You must mean the craptastic remake with Nicole Kidman, or otherwise we have very different definitions of success.
posted by phunniemee at 9:44 PM on August 23, 2011

Vera Drake (at least starts out with the title character as a modestly successful entrepreneur; later event are not so "successful")
posted by Orinda at 10:14 PM on August 23, 2011

The Bells are Ringing-- Judy Holiday runs an answering service
posted by brujita at 10:41 PM on August 23, 2011

9 to 5, especially Lily Tomlin's character. Not an entrepreneur, but she pursues success in the business world. The movie doesn't earn many points for realism, but it's pretty hilarious.
posted by sigmagalator at 11:38 PM on August 23, 2011

Aaja Nachle (Come dance) -- Madhuri Dixit plays a successful New York choreographer who comes back to village India to start a dance troupe and save a local landmark. She is irresistible, and a mesmerizing dancer, as she always is, but also (1) 40 years old and (2) masterful, very much in charge, which you do not see so often in a heroine.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 2:18 AM on August 24, 2011

Disney's Secretariat is all about Diane Lane's superhuman business prowess. Seriously, it's about 10% magical horse story and the rest is all about her smart decisions as a race horse owner.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:52 AM on August 24, 2011

The Stepford Wives

phunniemee Baroo? You must mean the craptastic remake with Nicole Kidman, or otherwise we have very different definitions of success

I read "successful" in the sense of an entrepreneurial character background, not in the sense that they succeed at the plot of the movie. And the whole point of the Stepford wives is that they were too successful for their husbands' egos to handle.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:36 AM on August 24, 2011

In "Stranger than Fiction" Maggie Gyllenhaal's character runs a bakery.
posted by of strange foe at 9:11 AM on August 24, 2011

Kiki's Delivery Service.
posted by emeiji at 8:23 PM on August 24, 2011

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