To celebrate International Women's Day, we've selected the best movies featuring fearless females determined to trace their own destinies. Catch them anytime at SBS On Demand.
SBS Movies

4 Mar 2016 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2017 - 2:45 PM

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Venus and Serena

USA, 2012
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Directors: Maiken Baird, Michelle Major
Starring: Venus Williams, Serena Willams
What's it about?
Through the prism of one year in their lives, this documentary exec-produced by Alex Gibney explores the sisters' irresistible ascension to the top, but also touches on the controversies surrounding them, and their battles with ageing and health issues. Featuring exceptional archive footage, and interviews with tennis players John McEnroe, Billie Jean King (Battle of the Sexes), and even Anna Wintour and Bill Clinton, Venus and Serena is a must-watch for any self-respecting tennis lover.

SBS On Demand: 'Venus and Serena' charts the making of two champions



Iran, 2006
Genre: Comedy
Language: Persian
Director: Jafar Panahi
Starring: Sima Mobarak-Shahi, Ayda Sadeqi, Shayesteh Irani
What's it about?
Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (This is Not a Film, Tehran Taxi) won the Silver Bear for his 2006 movie, which follows a group of young Tehran women determined to attend a match to be played at the Azadi stadium between Bahrain and Iran, the victor of which will qualify for the World Cup. Since women are banned from watching, they attempt to buy tickets and enter disguised as men. The movie was filmed during the actual Iran versus Bahrain match in Tehran in 2005, but was banned from being shown in Iran. 


Cutie and the Boxer

USA, 2013
Director: Zachary Heinzerling
What's it about?
This charming Oscar-nominated documentary explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of eccentric New York couple, renowned 'boxing' painter Ushio Shinohara and his illustrator wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own through her "Cutie" illustration work. This is a moving portrait of a couple wrestling with the eternal themes of sacrifice, disappointment and ageing, against a background of lives dedicated to art.


At Five in the Afternoon

Jury Prize


Iran, 2003
Director: Samira Makhmalbaf
Starring: Agheleh Rezaie, Abdolgani Yousefrazi, Razi Mohebi
What's it about?
Three years after her 2000 award-winning film Blackboards, writer/director Samira Makhmalbaf won the Cannes Jury Prize for At Five in the Afternoon, her powerful and beautifully photographed portrayal of post-Taliban Afghanistan, and how women fared in its conservative society. It follows a young woman, Noqreh, who believes passionately that her gender should not bar her from becoming the president of her country, and who, unbeknownst to her father, starts attending a school for women and wearing Western clothes. 

Watch interview with Samira Makhmalbaf


Reign of Assassins

China, 2010
Director: Chao-Bin Su
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Woo-sung Jung, Xueqi Wang
What's it about?
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's badass icon Michelle Yeoh stars in this highly entertaining action-packed mind-twister as Drizzle, the most deadly and ruthless assassin in Ancient China. After a life of theft and murder, she seeks to atone for her ways and starts a new life in the capital as a modest shop owner. But her old gang are hot on her trail after she had betrayed them by trying to return the remains of a mystical Buddhist monk to its rightful resting place.



Iran, 2001
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Starring: Nelofer Pazira, Hassan Tantai, Ike Ogut
What's it about?
Nafas is a reporter who was born in Afghanistan, but fled with her family to Canada when she was a child. However, her sister was accidentally left behind. When Nafas receives a letter from her sister announcing that she's decided to commit suicide, Nafas travels to Afghanistan to try to save her. A visually magnificent, but emotionally horrifying view of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Winner of the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes in 2001, and nominated for the Palme d’Or.  

Kandahar ★★★★½ Review


The Battle of the Sexes

UK, 2013
Director: James Erskine
What's it about?
Forty years after the historic tennis matches between feminist icon and champion player Billie Jean King and noted chauvinist, provocateur and former pro Bobby Riggs, director James Erskine looks back at the circus that surrounded the 1973 event and its legacy in advancing the rights of female athletes in a fascinating and entertaining documentary. Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs will be played by Emma Stone and Steve Carell in an upcoming biopic due to be released later in 2017.

The Battle of the Sexes ★★★½ review
First look at Emma Stone, Steve Carell in sports biopic 'Battle of the Sexes'



Iran, 2009
Director: Sabine El Gemayel
Starring: Amir Aghai, Mobina Aynehdar, Nayereh Farahani
What's it about?
Niloofar is a twelve-year-old girl whose dream is to read and write, but she lives in a village where education is only for boys. As she approaches puberty, her father makes plans for her to get married to an older man, who had his own daughter killed for loving a boy – Niloofar's uncle, Aziz. Terrified, she runs away, with the help of Aziz. A narrative about the soul-crushing restraint of rural traditions and growing up female in a world where gender inequality rules.


Girls Rock!

USA, 2008
Directors: Arne Johnson, Shane King
What's it about?
At Rock'n'Roll Camp, girls ranging in age from eight to eighteen are taught that it's OK to sweat, scream and wail on their instruments, and that "it is 100% okay to be exactly who you are." The documentary follows death metal fan Laura; ex-homeless addict Misty; and Amelia who writes rock songs about her dog Pipi. What happens to the girls as they are given a temporary reprieve from being sexualised and pressured to conform is truly moving.


A Five Star Life

Italy, 2013
Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi
Starring: Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Fabrizia Sacchi
What's it about?
A Five Star Life is the delightful story of one woman's quest for personal and professional fulfillment set against some of the most stunning cities and opulent hotels of the world. Stylish and independent, Irene is a single career woman in her forties with a job to die for. As a luxury hotel critic, she evaluates the standards of the world's finest establishments. But when her usual support network collapses, she is forced to reexamine the choices she's made in her personal life. 


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